By Anders J. Nielsen
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