By Anders J. Nielsen
Tricky Britches at Arootsakoostic – photo by No Idea Productions
Arootsakoostik, the ninth annual outdoor music festival in New Sweden, ME, is growing in the natural way (see our coverage of previous years here). What began as a project of passion for Aroostook County native Travis Cyr, has blossomed to include two new events: the Eurekakoostik pre-festival showcase July 10th, and the A-Roots Ramble April 3rd and 4th; both will be held at the Eureka Hall in Stockholm, ME.
Each year, Arootsakoostik pulls musicians from around the state to perform at the band shell at Thomas Park in New Sweden. “In the 9 years since Gardenstock [the original name for the fest] we have grown slowly and organically. We’ve experimented with multiple stages, we’ve featured music in the woods, all the while maintaining an incredibly talented roster of artists and pure intentions every year,” Cyr told me in a recent interview. Now, the festival is spreading its roots out to include the Eurekakoostik showcase the day before in nearby Stockholm. The showcase will feature 4-5 bands playing 60 minute sets at the indoor Eureka Hall, which also features a great food and beer selection. “The idea of a two day festival has always been around us, but is just taxing on our small team. By teaming up with Eureka, we can essentially fill the weekend up with music,” said Cyr, who has been booking shows for the Eureka Hall for the last few years, “For those who wish to explore the County and get up here a bit early for the fest, it gives them another incentive.”
For Cyr, the location is the key to the whole project. “It’s beautiful up here, spacious, relaxed. I believe the remoteness of it is a big part of the charm. For many playing the event, and more and more those spectating, coming to AROOTS was their first time this far north in Maine,” Cyr said, referring to the nearly five and a half hour drive from Portland, “It’s not like there are a lot of venues for all these bands to play in Aroostook County, which was a huge factor why I began doing what I do up here in the first place. I am certain people feel community and a part of something when at AROOTS.” The community feel has become apparent even in the formatting of the shows, particularly in the A-Roots Ramble, which models itself off of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble and the Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Revue. For those unfamiliar, the Ramble style will feature two days of collaboration between musicians including Dark Hollow Bottling Co., Dominic & the Lucid, Tricky Britches, Jacob Augustine, Putnam Smith and the man himself, Travis Cyr. “The idea again is just a celebration of music between a mutual set of friends/musicians. Our intentions are for these shows to be real loose, format wise; everyone playing their songs, for and with each other,” Cyr told me, “I will sit in with DHBC, Tricky Britches will back me for some songs, maybe I will play mandolin with Jacob Augustine, maybe Jacob Augustine will play with the Lucid. The idea is to encourage collaboration, and have fun.”
Cyr may be a bit removed from most Maine musicians, but his intentions and goals are true. “I do not feel much recognition or acknowledgement by the Portland music scene. I like to think of this all as a Maine scene. We are all living, writing, working, performing, creating in the state of Maine.” With all the festivals Portland is offering this summer, perhaps it is that which sets him apart that is his greatest strength. “Certainly being so far removed from “society” up here, I’m not a very familiar face/name in the big city. That’s OK, I love all this space up here, and I’ve never been much on trends.”
When the July heat has set upon us, you’ll be grateful for an excuse to get out of the “big city” and out into the County, ahem, country. It’s a weekend of roots, folk, Americana and rock way out, just east of the boonies. Anybody wanna carpool?
A-Roots Ramble at Eureka Hall, Stockholm, ME April 3rd and 4th 2015
Eurekakoostik at Eureka Hall, Stockholm, ME July 10th, 2015
Arootsakoostik at the Thomas Park bandshell, New Sweden, ME July 11th, 2015
Oh no — is HillyTowncore becoming a thing again? We’ll slow down that descent soon and promise that we’ll be expanding our coverage as the winter hibernation of Portland starts to shake-off and new releases come our way.
For example, check out the new Haru Bangs Mixtape; or dare we consider the indie hip-hop scene in Portland and the debut of the Micodin, Consolation Prize, and Dynamo-P trio of The Craftsmen?
Maybe the early classic of High Spirits Summer Singles from earlier in the year will warm you until the real thaw starts here in Portland?
But let’s take a moment to say hello again to our friends at AFRAID.
Continue reading AFRAID drops new album — playing Poland Street show on Friday
Maybe you’ve noticed that one our featured albums for the last week has been Don’t Mean, the newest release from the Portland Dirigimus Cooperative noise-onslaught of Zach and Max Hansen, alongside Ian Gierhan and Sam Landry — better known as the four piece Mouth Washington.
Don’t Mean is everything you’ve come to expect from the band (and that’s still a great thing), and you’ll be able to hear live cuts from the new album tomorrow night at their album release show at SPACE, starting at 8 p.m.
Continue reading Mouth Washington album release show and tour starts tomorrow night at SPACE
AFRAID – SINISTER VIBES
Honesty time — we’re huge fans of (nearly) everything that comes out of Jakob Battick’s mind (some of the later Jakob Battick and Friends albums still seem a bit too down still). And the AFRAID trio of Ryan Cutler, James Marcel and Battick isn’t any different with their upcoming release Sinister Vibes.
Continue reading AFRAID kicks off East Coast Tour to support debut LP
One Longfellow Square (courtesy photo)
Interview by Bryan Bruchman
Things have changed a lot over the past few years at One Longfellow Square. The non-profit arts venue in downtown Portland has transformed from a respected but often low-key listening room to a vibrant stop on the ever-growing Portland nightlife scene. Looking at their calendar, one thing sticks out as a clear indicator of the newer directions in their schedule: for the past year, The Live And Local has been bringing local musicians who we may be more used to seeing at other rooms in town to the venue every Tuesday night for the low price of $5 (including HillyTown favorites like Butcher Boy, Lisa/Liza, BABE, Herbcraft, Afraid, If and It, and more). We talked to the current programmer of this series, Savanna Pettengill – who also happens to be a photographer with a show up at Think Tank thru April, is a member of the Bakery Photo Collective, is the resident visual performer with Waco Sparkler, and works at Kurier – about the series, OLS, and the state of the Portland music scene, all ahead of tonight’s Winter series closing show with Methuin Muir, Aleric Nez, and The Orchards. Following the interview, you’ll find an exclusive announcement of the One Longfellow Square Live And Local Spring 2015 Season schedule!
Continue reading Interview: OLS Live And Local Spring 2015 Season
Words by Jeff Beam / Photos by Andrew Foster
Lady Lamb @ Port City Music Hall – 3.13.15 – photo by Andrew Foster
On Friday the 13th, Port City Music Hall hosted Portland ex-pat Lady Lamb (RIP “the Beekeeper”) for her highly-anticipated record release show (we went record shopping with her the night before the show). After is Aly Spaltro’s 2nd full-length studio release upon moving to Brooklyn a few years ago. The 15-song monster has received rave reviews from the most prestigious music publications (Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, NPR), but Lady Lamb is perhaps most celebrated in her home state. This was most apparent with the lead up to her sold-out release show, with Lady Lamb gracing the cover of both the Portland Phoenix and the MaineToday Entertainment Magazine.
Henry Jamison @ Port City Music Hall – 3.13.15 – photo by Andrew Foster
Lady Lamb wasn’t the only artist on the bill with a homecoming. The first act of the evening was Henry Jamison, my former bandmate in The Milkman’s Union. While Henry is originally from and currently lives in Burlington, VT, he went to college at Bowdoin and experienced crucial formative years in the Portland music scene. Performing both solo and accompanied by Ben Davis from Cuddle Magic, absent from his set were any songs from his Milkman’s Union days, with the exception of “Lover’s Tree” from the Telos EP. Instead, the crowd (already at maximum capacity) was treated to an array of newer compositions, all featuring Henry’s ethereal charm. Few artists have his lyrical command and execution, especially not when coupled with his sharp sense of melody and his musical aptitude. The city of Portland was blessed to host this musician for as long as it did.
Cuddle Magic @ Port City Music Hall – 3.13.15 – photo by Andrew Foster
Cuddle Magic took the stage next, and I’ll start by saying that they are perhaps the most impressive band I’ve ever seen. No exaggeration. The Brooklyn-based, New England Conservatory-bred sextet has a level of command and control that is matchless in the indie scene. Highly disciplined and intelligent people singing & playing a wide array of instruments (vibraphone, horns, circuit-bent keyboards, upright bass), with an emphasis on dynamics, percussion, and interlocking patterns, with the ability to be both minimalistic and grandiose at the same time. Why Cuddle Magic isn’t a national household name is a mystery to me.
Lady Lamb @ Port City Music Hall – 3.13.15 – photo by Andrew Foster
And then, Lady Lamb. Flanked by TJ Metcalfe on bass and Derek Gierhan on drums, Lady Lamb ripped through a muscular set that featured many of the new compositions on After, while also throwing in some classic Beekeeper jams. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with/seeing Aly play many times, but this was without question the tightest I’ve ever heard her with a band. A 30-show tour looms in the near future, but the trio already sounded like true road warriors, seasoned from playing night after night. The crowd at Port City was raucous, delighted at the chance to welcome back their local hero, returning from conquering the world. It was a celebratory atmosphere, and overall, the evening was a massive victory for Lady Lamb, as well as for the Maine music scene. Due to the ceaseless ascent, her next big headlining show in Portland will almost certainly take place at the State Theatre. Lady Lamb will keep rising to new heights, but she’s always be a Maine musician at heart.
Check out a few videos and the full photo gallery from the night:
Fur at PICNIC 2014
Tara and Brian Cohen, along with Greg Bazinet — maybe you remember them from The Rattlesnakes (RIP)? — just dropped a bit of an exclusive for us at HillyTown about their new(ish) band, Fur.
Continue reading Portland’s Fur finalizing their debut LP
Welcome to HillyTown Goes Record Shopping — our regular feature where one of our staff members visits one of the many record shops around the city of Portland with musicians to find out just where their eclectic and personal tastes come from. This week we visited the Portland Bull Moose location with the one and only Aly Spaltro aka Lady Lamb — who will be playing a welcome home show at Port City Music Hall tonight starting at 8 p.m.
Photos by Grace Hager
Too busy listening to her newest release, After, to buy tickets? Sorry, but we have bad news for you (but great/regular news for her): the show tonight is completely sold out.
Continue reading HillyTown Goes Record Shopping with Lady Lamb
By Dylan Martin
Great Western Plain at Silent Barn in Brooklyn. Instagram photo by Bryan Bruchman
Welcome to the first edition of Hilly Town’s revived Friday Roundup, as written by a recovering local music journalist who’s looking to get back into the game for some reason (I actually do miss it, and I always like working with people like Bryan Bruchman). So I’m a little out of touch, but I think this roundup can help give you an idea of what’s happened in the past week, between the daily posts by Kevin Steeves here and articles written elsewhere on the interwebs.
Here’s the first piece of evidence showing how out of touch I am: Lady Lamb dropped “the Beekeeper” part of her name, and I had no idea until I read this Q&A the Portland Phoenix did with her this week (we’ll have more on her later). Also within the pages of Portland’s last-standing alt-weekly this week: my former colleague Jakob Battick, a longtime non-fan of Lady Lamb, finally comes around to “getting it” in his review of her newest album, After. The Phoenix also has a nice profile of Great Western Plain, a band I got to see in its early days before bassist Mike Powers realized that they’re “really bad at being in a band.”
Another former colleague of mine, Ben McCanna, has been running an excellent, prolific photoblog called Post Mortem that documents the heavy music scene in Portland. His most recent post includes a mosaic of photos from a Port City Music Hall show headlined by local stoner rock band Murcielago and a few other shows that same night. The blog is going on a semi-hiatus because of a death in the family (my sympathies, Ben), but it has a great backlog of vivid photography that can keep you occupied for quite some time. And if that isn’t enough, check out Ben’s hilarious photo collection of high school sports coaches losing their minds.
You know that shuttered flower shop near the Nickelodeon theater? Turns out, it’s being turned into a music venue, to showcase local talent! And it’s being started by none other than Ken Bell, the former owner of The Big Easy. As first reported by the Bangor Daily News, the 300-capacity venue at 25 Temple St. will be called the Portland House of Music and Events (HOME), and it will open on May 25, with plans to host music of all genres.
Sidebar: Bell lost ownership of The Big Easy over a lease dispute in October 2013, but it was reopened by new owners in 2014 as a comedy club, as noted by the Portland Press Herald. My question: is the venue still open? Because signs seem to point to no. Also, the venue’s website has since been changed into a spammy-looking WordPress blog with three posts in January, including one with the headline, “A SCINTILLATING RECIPE FOR SUCCESS—FOUR FOODS TO HELP IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE.” UPDATE: Krister Rollins pointed out on Twitter that the venue is now operating as a nightclub called Studio 55.
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is a terrible song, but it’s also now the harbinger of death for musical creativity, thanks to a new court ruling. Portland’s best blogger of all time Alex Steed has a little blurb from Zach Jones, a longtime local musician who’s now in Los Angeles, on why the “jury’s decision could send us all down a slippery slope.” Here’s a sneak peek:
As a songwriter and musician, I wear my influences right on my sleeves and I don’t care who sees it. Proudly displaying my musical influence is part of my own identity. When I write a song that ends up sounding like something Paul McCartney would have written, it makes me happy. I embrace it. Should I run in fear from that now? What does this mean?
Here’s another good question:
Also of note for dedicated Hilly Town readers: Mama’s CrowBar might close apparently. The Press Herald has the full story on the popular Munjoy Hill dive bar and why it could close before October (spoiler alert: sounds like a dispute with the landlord). The bar had been the home of the Scratchpad Reading Series, an event that was once run by HillyTown. My only memory of the the place: sitting next to a pug at the bar. Isn’t that reason enough to keep it open?
SPACE Gallery’s blog, formerly known as “Have Faith In Worthless Knowledge,” has posted a new Q&A with Norwegian musician Jenny Hval. Jenny played at the venue on March 10 and was touring with St. Vincent just before that. Go through the archives and you’ll find a slew of other interviews and posts about SPACE happenings.
In case you haven’t realized that this blog is up and running again, here are some Hilly Town posts from the past week that you might have missed. This includes our preview of national artists coming to Portland (Spoon and Sufjan Stevens are on the list!), the first article in our new series that looks at the record-shopping habits of local musicians (Leveret, one of my personal faves, is featured) and a roundup of the latest local music to surface on Bandcamp.
Other Hilly Town posts from the past month:
Portland Downtown Boys date announced — wait, Portland Downtown Boys date announced?!
Pretty Purgatory release a new 7-inch with Jacob Augustine and Bad Braids today
Sunset Hearts are back in action tonight
Jacob Augustine Opened For Timber Timbre @ PCMH [2.27.15]
HillyTown Q&A: Lisa/Liza’s Liza Victoria
The Lone Bellow and Odessa Played PCMH [2.23.15]
This Weekend In Videos
Song of the week:
Leveret’s “Oscillator,” because hot damn.
Pardon our excitement, but it’s been over two years since Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys came to Portland. The group (which features members of the What Cheer? Brigade) played an extremely intimate show at Flask with Rattlesnakes side-project Fur, and the (currently dormant) trio The Outfits.
Continue reading Portland Downtown Boys date announced — wait, Portland Downtown Boys date announced?!
Yes, that’s a brand-spanking-new music video for “Salvation” from the seemingly boundless mind of Portland’s Jacob Augustine — which means just one thing — brand new music.
Continue reading Pretty Purgatory release a new 7-inch with Jacob Augustine and Bad Braids today
Yes — the past few weeks have been filled with an onslaught of announcements of national acts coming to Portland (thanks to Lauren at the State Theatre and other bookers). Here are a few national acts coming to our city this spring and summer that we think you should check out — unless it’s a sold-out show (looking at you, Neutral Milk Hotel).
Or, at least the ones announced so far; after all, there is supposed to be a series of shows coming this year to the Maine State Pier with only a few announced so far.
Continue reading The HillyTown Portland National Preview