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The Loop

Published: 2010/09/30
by Will English

October in Maine : Come for the Foliage, Stay for the… live music ?!!

Historically, Maine’s out-of-the-way location, small population, and lack of viable venues have combined to make our nation’s 23rd state an impractical stop for many touring musicians. As a result, music fans that live in the ‘North Country’ but want to see their favorite bands play live have come to accept long drives to New Hampshire or Boston as part of the deal. October 2010, however, is an aberration that finds numerous high-profile acts descending upon Maine. For a few short weeks locals can revel in the glory of seeing a multitude of musicians perform in their own backyard, and leaf-peepers from southern New England traveling north for a glimpse of the fall foliage will find ample reason to stick around after the sun goes down.

Harry Brown hosts numerous weekend camping events every year on his farm in Starks. The largest of those muddy and disheveled soirees, the Harvest Ball, runs from the 1st-3rd and will feature headlining sets from Melvin Seals & JGB (Friday the 1st) and the stalwarts of Maine’s music scene, pop-funksters Rustic Overtones (Saturday the 2nd).

Contrary to most musicians, guitar mavens Leo Kottke and Charlie Hunter always seem to have Maine on their radar. Having performed in Maine just last year, the light-touring Kottke returns on Thursday the 7th to showcase his unique finger-picking style at Jonathan’s, an upscale dinner/theater venue in the southern beach community of Ogunquit. Hunter, meanwhile, kicks off a week-long mini-tour in support of his new solo album, Public Domain, with a show at The Asylum in Portland. Although The Asylum is a rundown, non-descript, dimly lit basement with a bar, in the glow of the guitarist’s infectious enthusiasm and hearty jazz chops the place takes on the cozy feel of a Prohibition-era jazz joint. Charlie and his 7-string guitar will be there on the 22nd, flanked by frequent accomplice drummer Eric Kalb.

Soulive is another act that consistently shows Maine some love, making the trek north to play at least once a year. Having recently outgrown The Asylum, the band is booked for two weekend gigs (the 8th and 9th) at Port City Music Hall (PCMH), a 550 person venue with fantastic sound that has drawn numerous national acts into the market since they opened in Portland in 2009. Kras and the Evans brothers are sure to play numerous cuts from their new album Rubber Soulive, and guest appearance from saxophonist and Maine native Ryan Zoidis (Lettuce, Rustic Overtones) seems likely as well.

Maine is lucky to have SPACE Gallery, a “non-profit contemporary art space” located in the heart of downtown Portland. Deerhoof brings their special brand of melodic indie-rock to the unique venue on Monday the 11th, and glam-pop rockers Free Energy roll into town the following night (that’s the 12th) in support of their new James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) produced album. Those attending either show should expect a late night (even by SPACE standards) as each band headlines a triple bill.

Maine’s music scene might change for good with the re-opening of Portland’s historic State Theater. A Depression-era movie theater turned seated performance venue, Maine’s music scene took a big hit when the badly outdated 1500 person theater closed in 2006. The renovated and now up to code venue re-opens on a high note on Friday October 15th with a sold-out performance by My Morning Jacket, who visit Maine for the first time since they played the old State Theater in late 2005. Not content there, the venue has elicited help from moe., who will round out the weekend’s festivities with a performance on the 16th.

Saturday the 16th also marks the final date of the unfortunately titled “Sorry For Partying Tour”. The tour, which features The Brew, Kinetix and Roster McCabe, concludes at the normally staid Unity Center for the Performing Arts in Unity.

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