It’s been about a month since the inaugural All Roads Music Festival happened in Belfast, ME (May 16, 2015). HillyTown photographer Conall O’Brien was there to catch the action, and we checked in with festival director Meg Shorette for her thoughts on the experience, and to find out what lies ahead.
Interview by Bryan Bruchman.
HT: First, what led you to launch the festival?
MS: In a way, the opportunity to do this festival sort of found me. I started my nonprofit, Launchpad, last fall with the intention to run statewide, artist-led events and programs, but we were still in our early stages in January when the Belfast Creative Coalition approached us to bring a spring music presence back to Belfast, Maine. I wrote down everything I loved about indie music, festivals and “the scene,” and also everything that really bummed me or artist friends/colleagues out about them. Our intent was to make sure All Roads Music Festival had as many “Pro” column elements as possible.
What were your guiding principles in booking musical acts to perform?
I set out to book bands that I felt were making a difference in the Maine and regional music scene. I guess that could mean a lot of things, really. Artists who are working actively to not only promote themselves but consciously making choices to collaborate, innovate and re-invent make me excited about working in the arts in Maine right now. I think music supporters fans feel the same way. I don’t think we really had any “You Can’t Play Here If….” rules but bands that are creating their own music were definitely on our radar.
How was the turnout/audience response? Did it meet or exceed your expectations?
When you bring hundreds of people together like we did, it’s hard to know what the “vibe” will be but I could not have asked for a better community of musicians and music fans (of all ages). We exceeded our expectations for attendance and received so many kind emails and notes from attendees and musicians the days following the event. It was such a humbling experience.
There are obvious similarities to the discontinued Belfast Free Range Festival (some of the same venues, an afterparty at Three Tides, etc.), but what we’d like to know is how All Roads differs, and what it brought to Belfast in a music festival that perhaps Free Range wasn’t, if anything.
Free Range had a great model and part of that is how Belfast as a town is set up. There are so many venues that you transform into a pop-up music space for a day and that’s a great asset, so we really wanted to continue that with All Roads. I think both event organizers had our eyes on supporting indie and emerging talent but a goal of All Roads is to really focus on artist development. In 2016, musicians can expect many more panels, networking events and professional development opportunities being offered on festival weekend. One thing we consciously did was stagger sets so that musicians and attendees could move around the festival to see their friends perform or support bands they had just met rather than being forced to choose. That’s a model I hope to maintain.
Will this be an annual event? Or at least, is is happening in 2016? And/or will there be other All Roads events happening in Belfast or elsewhere?
All Roads will be back in Belfast in 2016. We are already working with Belfast Creative Coalition to add some really get components in our second year. Controlled growth that makes sense for the mission is the name of the game.
I think my entire team would love to do a few showcases throughout the year in different areas on the state but we don’t have anything currently lined up.
What was the most memorable performance of the festival for you personally?
For me, it’s a tie. The energy at the Spencer Albee show at the Colonial Theatre was incredible. At the closing part at Three Tides & Marshall Wharf, watching Spencer Albee, Jeff Beam and Spose all take turns jumping on stage for songs with Dominic and the Lucid pretty much summed up the day for me-I’m so lucky I get to work with these people.
Any dream bookings for next time?
Hmm…Murcielago & Maine Youth Rock Orchestra/Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra collabo?
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with HillyTown readers about All Roads or any other projects coming up?
We are prepping to launch EMERGE, the nonprofits first funding support program (cash money for creatives). EMERGE is a program of Launchpad that will be dedicated to providing assistance toward the growth and development of the independent artists, musicians, filmmakers of all types working in New England. The program administers contributions from supporting individuals and organizations. The program is divided into 3 separate funding opportunities and windows: Music, Film, and Visual Arts. Check it out!
All Roads Music Festival photos by Conall O’Brien