It was just a few weeks ago but it feels like much longer. I finally got around to going through my photos from a full day and night of music in lovely Belfast, Maine, at the Free Range Music Fest on April 24. Some personal show highlights included Good Kids Sprouting Horns, The Class Machine (more on them here soon), Brown Bird, and the surprise guest horn section for Tiger Saw! Check out the full photo gallery from the festival below and read on for two takes on the fest, from Katie Fuller and Eternal Otter Records‘ Will Ethridge. All photos by Bryan Bruchman.
A recount of the Free Range Music Fest, as seen by Katie Fuller:
On Saturday, April 24th, we spent some time on the mid-coast, checking out bands congregating for the first annual Free Range Music Festival. After a beautiful drive from Portland, we caught Good Kids Sprouting Horns entertaining a mixed crowd in the basement of the Waterfall Arts Theatre. The three-piece Bangor outfit hit Geno’s this past Thursday night [ed. note, make that a couple weeks ago]. I’d never seen the three play before, but they’ve got an infectious blend of fuzzy guitars, keyboards, and drums, and it’s nice to see some indie rock coming out of the further reaches of the state.
After Bryan finally reigned me in from getting totally side-tracked by the cassette collection for sale at Wild Rufus Records, I finally managed to sneak in for the last few songs from Class Machine, a two-man outfit from the Belfast area who collectively shred. The drummer, with a guitar strapped to his chest, ripped some seriously virtuosic guitar solos, while the bassist belted out vocals that at least had a small contingent of dancing ladies swooning. These guys later came to SPACE on May 10. [ed. note: again, more on this later!]
Around lunch time Bryan and I ventured over to Rollie’s, an old Belfast establishment, and joined Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson of South China. A couple in town specifically for the festival allowed us to squeeze in and join them. Morgan Eve and David from Brown Bird and Jon Donnell from The Traveling Trees finally crammed in our cozy corner booth. And so, we munched on fries and sipped on beers with one of the festival’s bigger name bands. Morgan Eve, David, Jeremy, and Jerusha had to take off for sound-check, but were kind enough to share some extra tickets to their packed perfomance at The Colonial Theatre. The four haven’t played together in a while, but after a set that got the crowd on its feet for an encore (and included a great rendition of Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter), the they scratched their heads to come up with one more song, which they obligingly got through much to the crowd’s delight. It was a stellar ending to a great day of music on the mid-coast.
This is the first year that Belfast has hosted the festival. Meg Fournier of budding venue Roots and Tendrils (and a founder of the festival) is confident that it could be a long-standing tradition: “Basically, we were simply floored by how well the first year of the festival went. We had absolutely no idea what to expect and were truly inspired by the outcome. The musicians were wonderful, the vibe in the crowd was amazing, the weather was beautiful. We’re already excited about next year and have great ideas about how to improve the event and make it even better.
And now a word from William Ethridge, who arrived earlier and caught some of the acts that Katie and myself missed out on…
The first annual Belfast Free Range Festival took place on a gorgeous spring day. We followed the coastline up from Portland to our idyllic destination – our very first trip to Belfast. After stopping at Wild Ruckus Records to pick up our Festival Passes (which had sold out in advance of the weekend), we headed down to Roots & Tendril to see our first act of the day, Wesley Hartley & the Traveling Trees.
Wesley Hartley is probably best known for his time as the lead singer/songwriter in the now-defunct Dead End Armory. Although that band always had distinct country influences, Wesley has really brought his Texas-roots to the forefront with the Traveling Trees. This is authentic country music, and Wesley fully inhabits the emotional setting of his songs. The band itself is also excellent – the drummer stands through the whole set behind a drum kit stripped down to the essentials, and I can easily imagine the whole gang marching right out the building and heading south, without ever missing a beat. Traveling Trees, indeed.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat and hanging out down by the shore, we returned to Roots & Tendrils for a set by Belfast-natives Uke of Spaces. The band is made up of a husband-and-wife duo, Dan and Amy, trading in beautifully lyrical psych-folk. They are definitely kindred spirits with Portland’s Big Blood (in fact, Big Blood’s own Caleb & Colleen were upfront, singing along to the words), and perform songs about seashores and the power of tea, among other topics. Amy had to periodically leave between songs to tend to the couple’s newborn, allowing for Dan to indulge in some of his spastic bluegrass tunes. The freewheeling set was also enhanced by the Roots & Tendrils’ incredible acoustics- it felt like I was sitting in a giant wooden record player.
After picking up a vinyl copy of Uke of Spaces’ “Flowers in the Night” from Wild Ruckus Records, we took a walk to the Waterfall Arts Community Building for a set by Bangor buzz-band, Good Kids Sprouting Horns. We arrived mid-set, and it took a minute to adjust to the sonic intensity of their guitar, drum, casio keyboard sound. However, they managed the sometimes difficult task of maintaining nuance while still cranking their sound past 11. I actually found their quieter moments most intriguing, as it gave their songs more emotional room to breath as they steadily built to the cathartic denouement. Good Kids Sprouting Horns will be releasing an album through [dog] and [pony] soon, and I look forward to hearing it.
Our next stop was at the Colonial Theater for Boston’s http://www.davidwaxmuseum.com. The band makes no secret about being influenced by traditional Mexican music, and their best songs sound like a cross between Vampire Weekend and a mariachi band. Other times they leaned more towards a country-sound, with less success. However, their set was consistently engaging and they had a strong stage presence. They performed as a duo for this performance, but will be making a return to Maine soon with their full line-up. It will probably be your best chance to see a band incorporate a donkey-jaw into their percussion.
We moved a few rows closer for the next band to take the stage, Aly Spaltro’s Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. After months of exclusively playing the electric guitar, Aly made a rare return to the acoustic. However, the songs were as good as always – even when a bug flew directly into her mouth during “Solar, Solar System”, she pushed through the song between coughs. After she was finished, she confessed that she had a fear of breaking into a coughing fit during a song, and she was glad that happened in Belfast “because you’re all friends.”
And that was the spirit of the Belfast Music Festival – a great day of music with friends, even if we were strangers visiting for the first time.
There were still a number of great bands to see (including Brown Bird & Tiger Saw), but we had to get back to Portland before too late. After all, we figured we got more than our money’s worth for a $12 pass. On the ride home we listened to Wesley Hartley and the Traveling Tree’s “Narrow Gauge Quad Trains”, and talked about returning to Belfast soon.