Nick Schroeder

Nick Schroeder

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A Show of Support — Able Baker's 'Selvedge' Sees Painting Through a Totally Different Grain

In a show that feels both formally radical and historically reverent, Selvedge — on view now at Able Baker Contemporary — grapples with the practice of painting through a new lens. The nine women’s works shown in this exhibition — including Portland painter and muralist Tessa Greene O’Brien, who began curating it last November — share in their effort to sublimate the process of painting through methods and practices associated with textile-making.

This allows an innovation into the form that these welltrained painters deploy affectingly, but the idea itself is hardly new. O’Brien makes studious mention of historical influences, most notably the Support/Surfaces art movement originating in the south of France in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Bound together by political disenfranchisement, Support/Surfaces artists sought to deconstruct the medium by isolating and modulating its core components of medium, support, and surface, sloughing off historical references, representation, or intentional expressions of sentiment.

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Maria Molteni, Tennis Panties, 2016, sewn cotton, athletic mesh, fringe, tennis balls

 

Ranging in age from 21 to sixty something and each coming from a strong pedigree, it may nonetheless be a stretch to say this show’s artists share political sentiments as strong as their forebears. On the other hand, any consideration of textiles as a fine art form intersecting with the capital-e Establishment history of painting (clumped together as it is by innumerable male idols) is political in its own right. To employing the medium and process of textile- and fabric-making imbues the show with the historical weight of the labors of women the world over — from those working from factories in Iran during the Shah’s rule to the African-American slave women quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, to women working in textile mills in colonial New England.

Given that historical weight, viewing Selvedge is surprisingly an enjoyable, often playful affair. Maria Molteni’s Untitled (Painted Tennis Net), a 13-foot climbing rope with cargo/tennis knots and vibrantly neon-green acrylic paint, registers as a sort of aesthetic mashup of the works of Alex Da Corte and ‘70s French artist Daniel Dezeuze. Erica Licea-Kane’s series of acrylic pigment on acrylic fabric are busy and linear, their tight webbing striking a balance between earthy mosaics and De Stijl arithmetics. And the light, inventive works of Maine College of Art grad Isabelle O’Donnell nod toward, among others, Portland artist and educator Elizabeth Jabar’s work in this field.

MarthaTuttle Weather

Martha Tuttle, Weather (3), 2017, wool, silk, dye

 

The handwoven, tactile pieces of Martha Tuttle are some of the shows most inviting highlights. A series titled Like Water I Have No Skin merges wool, silk, and natural dyes in muted, serene color fields, as does the painterly and arrestingly calming Weather (3), a structure of light, free-hanging fabric bound together by weights and pins. Gauzy and ethereal, it’s one of the best representations of the show’s conceit, effortlessly conveying how simple layered textiles can change the way artists approach the medium of paint (and vice versa). Similarly, Beth Kleene’s 4 Eyes in the gallery window, a 50” x 44” tapestry of bright orange acrylic, ink, and hand-dyed cotton fabric, fuses the Portland artist’s typically splashy and jewel-like paintings with the quiet hypnotic finesse of 20th-century quilt work.

A collection of odder, smaller, and less serious-seeming works is peppered along a “salon wall” in the main floor, helping to further articulate the act of textile work through the lens of painting. Notable among them are Cassie Jones’s vibrantly distinct series of acrylic, felt, and staples on panel. To non-artists — and I mean this as a mark of distinction — Jones’s pieces might look as if they’re ripped right out of a Teletubbies episode, but that’s a testament to their playful execution, imaginative coloration, and brilliant deployment of shape and contour. I’m told Jones doesn’t make work like this anymore, but their inclusion here is another helpful illustration of the show’s ideas.

Susan Metrican WormThroughHere

 

Susan Metrican, Worm Through Here, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 50” X 40”

O’Brien perhaps too modestly includes only two of her own pieces here. A gifted painter and muralist whose use of color typically dazzles, her stuff in Selvedge first seemed to me to be uncharacteristically dowdy and dark. But both pieces — the rugged coveralls-as-color field trick of Bonanza and the dyed canvas cushion flecked with different blots of paint she’s titled Painting for Bella — are impossible to assess without imagining the sweat put into them, and smartly add a bit of grit to the overall palette. After all, having produced a dazzling show that honors art traditions having as much to do with labor as invention, she’s definitely done the work.

 


Selvedge, mixed media group exhibition | Through August 5 | At Able Baker Contemporary, 29 Forest Ave., Portland | Thu-Sat 1-5:30pm |  www.ablebakercontemporary.com

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Published in Art

Getting Off the Map — The Magical Properties of Jared Fairfield's 'The Protecting Cloak'

Island life is fuckin’ tight. There are no goddamn computers, feral children run naked through the woods, and everyone eats unidentifiable foodstuff from a giant clawfoot tub in an abandoned plot.

‘kay, that’s not totally true, but the difference between life on Portland and its peripheral islands is stark. And as anyone smart enough to know knows, once the shittiness and banality of city life piles up (it does), that once-innocent escape feels like a world you never want to leave.

And the thing about The Protecting Cloak, the new full-length by Peaks Island-dwelling experimental musician Jared Fairfield, is that once you begin to listen, you never cease to want to listen. It’s like the other night in that hot tub when a dude showed me his tattoo of an Ouroboros running up and down his thigh. Fairfield’s gorgeous album swallows its tail and breathes again, and over the course of its 14 songs and 33 minutes, you forget where it begins or ends. Or if it ever began or ended at all.

Those who’ve kept their ears real low to the ground surely remember Fairfield as the recording artist he was many years back, when his bright-sounding, falsetto-laden psych-folk would surface on the L’Animaux Tryst label among other astral planes. What differs at this point — even from 2015’s Worldless, a more straightforward (by his standards) pop record — is Fairfield’s commitment to pure woozy ambience, a decommissioning of the folkisms of his own musical past. Released on Portland label Pretty Purgatory, Worldless was similarly drenched in hazy synths and twinkling effects, but the album still seemed firmly rooted in the vocabulary and atmosphere of folk psychedelia. Put another way, it still seemed like it belonged to the world. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but the way The Protecting Cloak strips away the tired appurtenances of the form, embracing a pure ethereal formlessness in their wake, it feels so liberating — sexy, even — to get away from it. It’s as if the transcendence Fairfield was seeking finally occurred.

As a result, the world he creates here is wistful and vulnerable, yet nothing is unpleasant. Fragmented slide guitar patterns construct the arc of “Drifted Night,” as Fairfield’s autotuned vocals gleam in the fore. Those enthused by the more recent murky post-folk deconstructions of Justin Vernon could enjoy what’s happening here, but so would noiseniks who get off on the nostalgic aural playgrounds of Grouper, Philip Jeck, Dedekind Cut or The Caretaker. He folds vaguely rainforesty timbres into a supremely chill palette for “The Gift Giver”’s patient interstitial dub. The stereo synth waves of album-best “Voice in the Water” blurs toy sounds and nocturnal textures with a yearningyet-indecipherable autotune refrain. Only the title track, with its muted slide-guitar-ish synth and twinkling carousel melodies, contains wisps of the folk world he’s left behind.

I’m cheating a bit here, because I saw Fairfield perform recently, and even though I was sober(ish), it transported me. What the dude played (dudes, actually — he’s taken to collaborating live with fellow keyboard player James Marcel) was a heady set of vocal-heavy, post-ironic (that is, unironic) R&B-inspired tracks that were drippingly lovely to witness. This album isn’t that, but the spirit and vibes are all there, and it seems like a necessary stepping stone to that world. And a reminder that the one we’re presently in isn’t always as worth writing about.


The Protecting Cloak | By Jared Fairfield | cassette & digital | Released by Wilt.Press | www.wilt.press

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Art Of Protest — Every Decision Counts in Mainer's Participatory Film 'The Maribor Uprisings'

In 2017, the stakes of organized dissent seem exceptionally high. The 214 people charged as part of the anti-fascist protests on January 20 — a/k/a the DisruptJ20 action during the inauguration of Donald Trump — have been hit with felony charges and currently face up to ten years in prison. These blanket charges — levied onto some without evidence that they did anything more than show up — are the most severe repercussions for nonviolent political protest in recent history. In early parts of 2017, GOP legislators in more than 20 states across the U.S. have introduced bills intended to suppress organized protest, which the U.N. has stated are “incompatible with U.S. obligations under international human rights law.”

 


But as times change, so do the tools at our disposal. When anthropologist Maple Razsa set out to make The Maribor Uprisings, he had little idea what political life in 2017 would be like. As it turns out, the Mainer’s groundbreaking film about a series of Slovenian political demonstrations in 2012 could serve as a valuable experiential tool for audiences who have never witnessed a protest first hand.

 

The film is comprised of on-the-ground footage that Razsa, along with co-director/producer Milton "Milo" Guillén and others, shot during a series of civilian protests in Maribor in November of 2012, when Slovenia’s second-largest city revolted en masse against its mayor, violent police forces, and a corrupt political elite.

 

Using organizational tactics that mirror those deployed at Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere, Razsa and Guillén facilitate the screening, guiding the audience through a series of collectively made decisions throughout the film that steer their trajectory through protests and direct action within Maribor. Audiences decide, for example, whether to follow activists as they escalate the demonstration by rolling a bale of hay to be torched outside City Hall, or to stay back with the more peaceful protesters in Liberty Square. In each case, audience members are required to face not only the content of the film, but one another.

 

Each of the film’s decisions leads to other crossroads and talking points, the paths and discussions of which change with every screening. Like life, Razsa says, it’s impossible to “undo” a decision in the film. And though audiences shouldn’t expect a choose-your-own-adventure style “wrong choice,” part of the experience of the film is collectively processing the consequences of decisions made in the heat of action.

 

Razsa, a Maine-raised documentary filmmaker, writer, and anthropologist, has had ties to Slovenia since he was a teen, when an exchange student classmate convinced him to travel there as a high school exchange student. As he tells it, Razsa arrived to former Yugoslavia a year before the war started, and he spent his time there “watching the country fall apart.”

 

Now an Associate Professor of Global Studies at Colby College in Waterville (where co-director Guillén also works at a photography and video journalist and educator in the Communications department), Razsa identifies Maribor as one of an early wave of modern revolutionary protests across the globe which began with the Arab Spring, and which continues with insurgencies in the U.S., from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock.

 

While the particular circumstances in each protest surely differ — the anti-globalization protests of the turn of the century to Standing Rock's protracted sit-in — they share common themes of citizens pushing back against systems of inequality, through government corruption, and ecological destruction.

 

But from a technical standpoint, the modern wave of protests also share the emergence of video as a tool to make movements, protests, and narratives of oppression visible to a wider public. Maribor is a prime example of this, as its biggest uprising occurred when protesters posted videos of a mass of citizens calling for the resignation of Mayor Franc Kengler to Facebook and other social media, resulting in the protest captured in the film.

 

The Maribor Uprisings may be unconventional, but it’s a film Mainers should expect to hear a lot more of. And for a production ostensibly about Slovenia, it has deep local ties, not only from the Maine-raised Razsa but the hand of veteran editor Mary Lampson of Dresden, who has edited documentaries as influential as Barbara Kopple’s Harlan County U.S.A. (1976), about a labor strike in a rural Kentucky coal mine, to Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’s climate change doc This Changes Everything (2015).

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INDIRECT ACTION Maple Razsa facilitates a screening of The Maribor Uprisings

“The conceit of the film is that you can’t go back,” says Lampson, who moved to Maine from New York in 1978. “If you make this choice you have to follow it to its logical conclusion.”

 

Audiences might feel compelled to choose the more dynamic or cinematic choice, but unlike most entertainment, the film is designed to hold audiences accountable for those decisions. “What’s so interesting is that it’s not just somebody’s fantasy,” says Lampson. “These things really did happen.”

 

Maribor had a secret screening at the 2016 Camden International Film Festival and had a private test screening in Maine last spring. Since then, it’s received a warm reception at the Toronto festival Hot Docs, and is featured at this week’s Maine International Film Festival, its premiere screening the evening Saturday, July 22, at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville. The film returns to Portland in late summer, as Razsa facilitates a screening in Congress Square Park on September 15. Other area screenings will be announced shortly.

 

The Phoenix spoke with Razsa via Skype in Athens, Greece, where he was conducting research for a book on the way activists have welcomed refugees to Europe over the last few years.


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YOUR FACILITATORS Maple Razsa and Milton "Milo" Guillén [Photo courtesy Colby College/Andrew Kist]

 

How have screenings of The Maribor Uprisings been in Slovenia compared to other parts of the world?

 

Well, I would separate the screenings we’ve done in Slovenia from other places. When screening to Slovenia, we’re screening to people who are or were part of it, so they have a totally different perspective on the film that is specific to them.

 

When I started this project, I was worried that the first questions I would get would be where the hell is Maribor? I was worried that people would not get what this was about, that it would feel like too specific a story. That has not been the case. Maybe it’s partly because of the form, or partly because we’re in such a period of protest, but people have very easily read the project through their own experiences and places. Especially in the bigger, more cosmopolitan places we’ve shown, like Denmark or Toronto, we’ve gotten people from protest movements from around the world who are in the audience. People are making comparisons to Gezi Park [in Turkey] or Tahrir Square in Egypt, or the Montreal students’ protests of the last couple years. Black Lives Matter in New York for sure was a big topic of comparison.

 

That’s been one of the heartening things. Usually, you show a film and people ask questions about the site, the documentary, what’s going on there now — further background. But most of the questions have been more like How would I respond? How would this connect to our world? I don’t know if that’s in part to the invitation of imagining yourself there making those decisions, or if it’s because the film is in an unusual form, but it’s really nice to see people connect to the material that way.

 

So people actually identify themselves as having taken part in protests like Black Lives Matter or Tahrir Square?

 

Yeah, absolutely. Some of the most powerful moments in the film happen in the interactive space in the theater as people are talking to each other, as much as when they are watching the film. In the screening in Copenhagen that we had [, there was a decision to go toward conflict with the police or try to fight and hold this square or to regroup and try and find safety. And a woman from Turkey who was part of the Gezi Park protests spoke up and said, “Well, what happened [for us] when people moved toward only militant tactics [was that] a lot of women didn’t feel safe anymore and it became much more of a male protest. So I would ask that we regroup and think about how we can keep everyone involved.”

 

A similar thing that happened with Black Lives Matter protesters in Brooklyn. They were like, it’s never safe for us to go toward the most violent parts of the protest so I’d ask that people show solidarity and retreat to this space. And so there’d been like a straw poll first, and it looked like everyone wanted to stay and fight. But once there’d been those interventions of people drawing on their own experience, the audience swung the other way and decided to go on the other path. So some of those encounters would be very important.

 

I think for many people, this is just entertainment. They choose what sounds like the most exciting thing. But as soon as someone starts saying no, this is a lot like my real experience, it’s like, Oh, this isn’t just a game. It’s really neat to see that.

 

In America obviously, there are constitutionally protected rights to protest, and in various other parts of the world there’s a shiftier understanding of that.

 

Yeah, but in the New York screening, though. We had a couple of people who are defendants in the J20 prosecutions. There are 200 people who have been charged as a group and they’re facing upward of 75 years in prison. They were talking about why the selective prosecution of some people serves to criminalize the whole protest sometimes. And that was very similar to what happened in Slovenia. It’s interesting that even in the U.S. you see parallels to this stuff.

 

What dates from the 2012 uprisings does the film cover?

 

The film gives you a little pre history — there had been two earlier uprisings that had been violently suppressed by the police — and then you enter live action in real time at the start of the third uprising in November. There were some smaller ones afterward but this was the largest and most confrontational of the uprisings — November 3, 2012.

 

How typical is the running time for a screening?


It runs about 70 to 90 minutes. That’s with a little bit of discussion folded into it.

 

From what I understand, one of the factors that led to the series of uprisings was a sort of public-private partnership that the mayor of Maribor made with a company that enforced speed radar systems. There were suddenly all these minor traffic violations that were extorting money from Slovenians. How much was that a part of the public consciousness when the uprisings occurred?

 

Yeah, that really blew up. Everyone I had spoken to [in Slovenia] talked about that as the last straw. It was a pretty dramatic story of corruption. Like, 70,000 automated speeding tickets issued in the first couple weeks — basically, one for every vehicle in the city. And when people found out that 90 percent of the proceeds when to the private contractor and not to the city, they got very upset. And then they heard that the mayor was on the board of the organization, and then finally they heard that he was about to run for this national body called the National Council, and members of Parliament have parliamentary immunity so they can’t be prosecuted. He would have gotten immunity if he had been elected. They heard this was happening, and people put it on Facebook and then mobbed around the building calling for his resignation, and for him to leave the building and not to be given this parliamentary immunity that protected him from corruption charges. And then the police beat people. There was a lot of violence against people who gathered there, and then it started to snowball as people got angry about that.

 

Could you talk about some of the ground rules you lay down before screening the film?

 

Yeah, absolutely. There’s a script that [Portland writer, actor, and filmmaker] Ian Carlsen and I developed, so that if someone else is going to show the film without one of the directors present would know how to run it live. First, we give a little bit of the background to orient people to the fact that this is a protest that’s one in a series of global uprisings from the Arab Spring through to Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. Then we say that’s all out there in the larger world, but we wanna turn now to this room and what we’re going to do together. And we talk about how basically directly democratic and anti-authoritarian practices were common to this whole period of uprisings, from Occupy and all these others, and we’re going to use a few of them in the theater to make decisions. And the first one is that you decide collectively, together, and that there’s no going back from those decisions. Once you make a decision, that’s the path you’re on, and like in life, there’s no going back.

 

The second one we use is “take space, make space,” which is the idea that if you’re someone for whom it’s easy to speak and often is invited to speak, then hold back a little and make room for people who speak less. And in that spirit, as facilitators, we try to draw people present who are from underrepresented communities into that discussion too — women, people of color, etc. And then we point out to people that for some people in the audience this will be a kind of entertainment and it will seem like fun and interesting, and for other people it will bring back very real and frightening experiences of the police and protest, and to hear each other out and listen and be aware of those differences and respectful of them in the theater.

 

How many different crossroads and voting points are there in the film?

 

It depends on which path you’re on, but basically six or seven. But I would say that on each pathway, there are two moments that dramatically put you on a different pathway. The others are a little like sidebars, but there are basically four significantly different paths through the material.

 

In a recent piece for POV magazine, you talked about potentially formatting this to an online version, but you were reluctant to do that. Why?

 

We’re still entertaining the idea because we’d like the material to be more widely accessible. I’d like to prepare an educational version with a set of readings and a syllabus. I think it would work very well with a classroom, where you’d be able to watch together able to reproduce some of these dilemmas in the classroom and argue about them with a little bit more of an advanced reading with it. But I’m reluctant to lose something about this format. I like the way that the form mirrors the content, which is that you’re forced to be together with other members of the public and make decisions collectively. That parallels the kind of decisions that protesters always have to make in the streets, and to me, to lose that or reduce it to an individual experience, makes it more game-like and takes away what I think of is that political element. So I’m not closed to it, but for now we’re still kind of reluctant to do that. But if the right kind of host came up, we’re still open to it. But you can understand my reluctance.

 

Sure. And you are writing scripts for hosts for screenings that may not include yourselves?

 

Yes. We were just at a film festival in Romania. We got the first draft of the script done so that they could run it themselves. They did a couple of screenings in Transilvania with that script we developed. Now it’s ready to go to student groups and those sorts of things who can’t afford to bring in a director to facilitate.


Upcoming Screenings of The Maribor Uprisings

July 22, 9:30 pm | Maine International Film Festival | Railroad Square Cinemas, 17 Railroad Square, Waterville | www.miff.org

September 15, 9pm | Congress Square Park, Portland | www.congresssquarepark.org

Look for other potential screenings in the fall at www.mariboruprisings.org

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Recipe for a Nothingburger — Trump's 'High-Quality' Son and Other Senior Officials Implicated in Russian Collusion

Reports were blistering Tuesday as a flurry of seemingly damning evidence linked the Trump campaign to Russian officlals looking to collude and influence the 2016 election.

This week, none other than Maine GOP Senator (and possible 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Susan Collins has called on Donald Trump Jr. to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in light of ongoing reports that the President's eldest son met with a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin in June of 2016, with the understanding that he would be receiving compromising information on Secretary Hillary Clinton during the election.

According to reports, the June 3 email to Donald Trump Jr. came from Rob Goldstone, one of his father's former business contacts in Russia, who had been been contacted by a Russian government official and was offering compromising material.

The documents offered by the Russian officials “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email from Trump's business associate Rob Goldstone, according to a report in the New York Times. It added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Donald Trump Jr.'s reply came within minutes, reading: "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

Additional reports from the Times went on to report that a meeting occurred on June 9 between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chair Paul Manafort in the Trump Tower office of Donald Trump Jr.

In an article published Tuesday by the media site Vox, Matthew Yglesias writes that the most alarming line of the email exchange referred to the Russian government's support for Mr. Trump. "Trump Jr. does not even seem slightly confused by this reference," writes Yglesias. "Goldstone says he wants to set up a meeting that is part of the Russian government’s support for Trump’s campaign, and he simply takes it in stride, the way anyone takes in stride any reference to an ongoing thing that they are aware of."

"This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior-level members of the Trump campaign meeting with Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton," Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner, DVa., told reporters Tuesday.

On Monday, Colin Woodard of the Portland Press Herald reported that Senator Collins is calling for Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and former campaign chair Paul Manafort to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I certainly believe that our Intelligence Committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting,” Collins told reporters in Washington Monday afternoon. Collins is one of 15 senators currently serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a group that also includes Maine Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. She is the first Republican senator to call for Trump Jr. to testify, which would tip the balance in the committee to 8-7, presuming all Democrats vote alongside her.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Donald Trump's personal lawyer released a statement to the Guardian regarding the meeting between his son and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer with ties to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, reading simply: "The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting."

On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released the entire email chain with Rob Goldstone about the Russian meetings. President Trump released a statement Tuesday about the proceedings via White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency."

In July 2016, a month after he was offered compromising information on Clinton, Trump Jr. rejected claims of a Russian effort to boost the Trump campaign in an interview on CNN. "This just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this," Trump Jr. told CNN's Jake Tapper. "It's disgusting. It's so phony."

Later, Trump Jr added: "If Republicans did that it would be disgusting and that's what you're going to see in a Clinton administration. They should be ashamed of themselves. And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father's campaign did that they'd be calling for people to get the electric chair."

Last week, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus called the Trump Jr. emails “a giant nothingburger.”

In June, it was reported that Manafort had failed to disclose $17m in funds given to his consulting firm over two years by a Ukranian political party connected to the Kremlin. In February 16 of this year, Donald Trump was asked in a press conference if anyone from his campaign had had connections with Russia during 2016. The exchange is printed in full on this page. Right over there, actually.

Bully Mammoth Don't Play to the Base With 'Let It Bully'

As adult projects go, Bully Mammoth is as worthy as any. Their new LP, titled Let It Bully, is antisocial, stubbornly repetitive, and lacks immediate payoff. But the same could be said about gardening, studying for the bar, or running a meme farm. And those are great projects too.

Now four years down, the Portland noiserock trio still make burly, lumbering, viscerally loud music. On Let It Bully, they’re as huge-sounding as the name suggests, but the base pleasures of rock music doesn’t seem to tempt them.

The restraint is appreciated. This tense, dense, sweaty album gives us 10 lengthy, tortuous tracks, rarely seeking release or resolve and virtually never slipping into a standard 4/4 beat. Opener “Eyelid Flex” lets the band fling all its limbs at once, offering a ridiculous showcase by octopodal drummer Derek Gierhan over five minutes of snaking, angular post-rock. Like “Eyelid Flex,” most songs build from brawny, repetitious riffs, which the band bend and pummel into various other ideas. Sometimes, Bully Mammoth offer no real reward — just a “dumb” riff done to death. On the dizzying “League Pass,” it can sound like someone drunkenly trying to twist a shovel into the earth by its handle in the middle of the night.

But patience is rewarded elsewhere. You’ll recognize the gleaming sharp guitars shooting over the din in “Gold Plated” as a glorious conceit designed by ‘90s post-punk artists and later deployed ad nauseam by bands like the Foo Fighters. The meditative “Lifters” both chills and complexifies the album’s otherwise pulverizing energy, the band simmering on a lovely, eminently listenable post-rock meditation like something out of Blonde Redhead or Rodan.

Balanced at track seven, “Lifters” redirects the album’s fierce front half into an unexpectedly thoughtful and melodic denouement. “Every Second Well Spent” adds twinkling guitars, skittering drums, and — whuzzat? — some sweet saxophone blasts courtesy of Henry Redman, a truly colorful finish. The post-rock tradition of pinning the album’s most sprawling, atypical track to the penultimate slot is here upheld: the jazzy, nine-minute, “Couch” is an emotional bedrock for an album with an A-side so aggressive you’d never expect it needed one. It sends us down a Slint-ish rabbit hole toward hard-fought explosions in the spirit of Fugazi or Unwound. Closer “No Sympathy for Second Times” returns Gierhan’s electrifying drumwork and even allows an honest-to-god guitar solo. These songs rather rule.

Frontman Samuel Rich throws us four distinct singing voices over the album. One’s a shouted, sandpaper-y sneer that sounds whiskeyed-up and fully vocally fried. Another’s a weird, syrupy murmur. A third builds the first into a full-throated low-end shriek (thankfully lacking the contrived emotionality of adolescent screamo hardcore). And the fourth is a kind of non-annoying gothic pomp he pulls out on songs like “Borrowed Relief,” the album’s only imaginable radio-track. None of them sounds particularly comfortable, but each is a strong choice, and the variation gives Bully Mammoth a distinct range of styles. [Ed. there are actually two singers here - Rich and Kevin McPhee. The band do not credit vocals or instrumentation in their press materials, but the author feels like he should have known this anyway.]

Another thing you should know: This band is peculiar. I don’t mean that as a euphemism — they’re quite “good” at what they do — but I could imagine the experience being bizarre, unpredictable, and confusing for listeners, even ones who like heavy music. They’re also one of the more “masculine”-sounding bands in town — masculine here meaning antisocial and willfully obscurant rather than tough, angry, or patriarchal, if you’ll allow me that. Everything is super low-end and compressed, giving most of the album a sort of sick, swampy vibe that sounds good, but feels even better whenever they push through it. It requires patience. It’s barreling, but never propulsive. Sometimes it sounds lumpy, if you can understand that.

Let It Bully is an impressive album and one I enjoy, but I find I’m running out of places to listen to it or people I’d want to listen to it with. Isn’t there a meme for that part of adulthood?


Download Let It Bully at bullymammoth. bandcamp.com. Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Buck This Genre — Tall Horse releases the achingly good 'Howl Mouth'

For a genre obsessed with freedom and the open road, country music can be pretty rigid. There's very little wiggle room among its adherents and players, and beyond the generational trend of deploying watered down hip hop beats beneath country anthems, there’s typically very little opportunity for cross-pollination.

So it's refreshing as hell when a band playing in the constraints of country music carves out new ground. Sure, some puritans will hold their nose. But Howl Mouth, the new album by the trio Tall Horse whose resumes are stacked with indie-rock accolades, are making some of the most interesting and rewarding countryinfluenced music in the state.

Portland's a small enough city to be able to gather influences influences. It's impossible to imagine this band existing without the work of Wes Hartley, whose projects the Traveling Trees, Dead End Armory, and Splendora Colt, have set the bar for Maine-based punk-bred country music. But this group might have cohered better over time than any of those were able to.

Howl Mouth is one of the few local records whose production is good enough to highlight. Laid down at Penumbra Recordings in South Portland, Jayson Whitmore's spacious, shimmering recording allows the band to fully stretch its limbs, adding an element to these songs as vital as any of its spare, smart instrumentation.

On opener "We Were Friends When We Were Kids," the band let melodies drone until they sound like the very aches they describe. On the lurching, waltzy ballad "Sew Me Up," guitars steep and simmer on the low end, letting Devin Ivy's nifty drumwork flicker in the foreground. Throughout, Dominic Grosso's basslines lurch and throb like distant scattering thunderclouds, resonating in shapes of varying depth and darkness.

On "Fucked Up," the album's midpoint and arguable peak, bandleader Nick Poulin sounds more in his element than any Tall Horse song we've heard before, embodying the ecstatically mournful chorus with peerless vocal work. If there's one material difference between this album and 2014's Glue, it's Poulin’s natural evolution as a frontman. His adenoidal drawl will have listeners recalling singers that have touched them in moments past — be they Hartley, Jim James, or Wayne Coyne — but Whitmore treats Poulin's voice as carefully as a delicate instrument, harnessing something that might otherwise register as an affectation of the genre and turning it into a powerful emotional asset.

Refreshingly for an alt-country band, Tall Horse lets their songs veer out of lane a good amount. Howl Mouth would sound lovely on a desert road, but there's unmistakable elements of urbane indie weirdness, langourous post-rock flourish, and far more than their genre's typical comfort level with noise. There's a soft, understated instrumental bridge halfway through "Skin Deep" that takes several listens to properly assert its majesty, its three diffracted soundscapes meeting and exploding into a final congregation. Even the radio-friendly pop song "Juggernaut," which could be mistaken for a fan-favorite Shins song, descends into signature Horse weirdness to its completion. And “Howl Mouth” is as finely executed a closer as these things get, Poulin diving fully into the stakes of his narrative.

In an era of populist Americana and reckless individualism, country music should be experiencing a heyday. But its tired fascinations and market-researched melodies have instead left it one of the most tired forms of musical expression. Galloping in and out of the genre, Tall Horse have made a record its fans should rightly appreciate. It's a fine, richly rewarding soundtrack for the long, open road in front of you, and the one unfolding in your head too.


Tall Horse Howl Mouth CD-release party | with Ossalot + Purse + $300 | July 8 | Sat 8:30pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | www.space538.org

Tall Horse Cover

8 Days a Week: MTV Criticism, Comedy Duos, and Kurosawa Classics

THURSDAY 6

EVERYTHING IS COMPLICATED | Among the many forums the world needs is one where sensible, woke-ass people can talk in person about how bizarre, amazing, and fucked up pop music videos can be. Wait, we got that. This evening, journalist Nadia Prupis and art critic Jenna Crowder (of the Maine arts journal The Chart) return with their series MTV Crits!, dissecting videos by Mykke Blanco, Grace Jones, Jenny Lewis, and Double Duchess, this time through the lens of gender. Moderated by the illustrious Portland artists Terrence Wolfe and Julien Langevin.

| 6 pm | FREE | étaín boutique, 646 Congress St., Portland | http://etain.shoplightspeed.com/

 

STORIES TO GO ROUND | Last week in these pages, theater writer Megan Grumbling profiled Portland's Theater Ensemble of Color, who tonight perform Lived Experiences, an original sketch show of funny and jarring scenes inspired by those from their own lives. See the second of two consecutive evening performances in the public forum of Congress Square Park.

| 6 pm | FREE | Congress Square Park, Portland | http://teoc-maine.weebly.com/

 

YOUTH ATTACK | There's one park in America tonight where you can hear the voices of Anna Kendrick, Russell Brand, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake, and Gwen Stefani. Blessings, it's here — the 3D-animated film Trolls gets a screening as part of the summer film series tonight at Bug Light Park, a place which itself sounds like it would make a good kids' film. Next week's screening is The Princess Bride, a film you'll need a decent seat for, so hit this early to scope the grass situation.

| 6:30 pm | FREE | Bug Light Park, South Portland

 

FRIDAY 7

THROUGH THE FIELDS | If you’re here on an Airbnb excursion, traveling through the city’s bars and restaurants on a long spiritual quest to explain how beer tastes to your girlfriend, take a moment tonight to observe the usual traditions of the locals. It's Friday — First Friday — and the streets are alight in celebration of the works of Maine's visual artists. Some off the beaten path we'd recommend include the bunch of "Jazz Paintings" by Kimberly Convery, a signature Portland artist who seems to be making a bold stylistic leap at the Old Port wellness spa Akari (193 Middle St.). Another real one, the illustrator Sophia Cangelosi, shows works exploring the overlap between self- and social perception in a show titled "Windows" at Pinecone + Chickadee (6 Free St.). And from a bit up north, the abstract color field painter Peter Herley shows some large, abstract, and oddly comforting canvases in "Subtle Moments" at the Oak Lofts Gallery (72 Oak St.)

 la ca mn seven samurai magnificent seven 20160913 snap

ENDURANCE TEST |

The 1954 classic Seven Samurai receives a doting one-night-only screening in the Old Port tonight. The folks at Kinonik, a modern theater in the old Movies on Exchange space near the college bar strip, grabbed hold of a 16mm print of the Akira Kurosawa film, in which a small village hires mercenary samurai to help protect them from marauding bandits. It is, as you've heard, one of world's greatest films, and its 207-minute running time will keep you insulated from the marauding bandits of the Old Port on a Friday night.

| 7 pm | $7.77 | Kinonik, 10 Exchange St., Portland | https://www.picatic.com/sevensamurai

 

SATURDAY 8

 

RISE & DINE | There's no choosing between longtime bakeries Scratch and One Fifty Ate in South Portland, and their bagels and sandwiches have long been part of Portland's mornings (and mornings after). We recommend you take lunch out there today, follow it up with beach time, and then hit the neighborhood block party WillardFest, a celebration of the culture of the idyllic village neighborhood of Willard Square.

| 3-6 pm | Free | 49-59 Washington Ave., Portland

 

FIND YOUR PEOPLE | In solidarity nationally, Portland's version of World Refugee Day includes a community dinner of dishes from refugees' home countries, with concentrated doses of movement and visual art. Produced through Catholic Charities, this event is free, but donations are appreciated to help keep up their vital work.

| 4-8 pm | Free | Cheverus High School, 267 Ocean Ave., Portland | www.ccmaine.org/WRD

 

BEST EFFORTS | More vitality to take part in at Bayside Bowl tonight, where a sprawling party called Take Back Hope collects a panoply of artists raising money for the organization Hope Acts, which serves immigrant populations and those in recovery. Among them are kaleidoscopic indie-rock band SeepeopleS, grizzled country songwriter Joel Thetford, dynamic prog-rock unit Five of the Eyes, and many more. With Bayside's newly embellished complex, there'll be plenty of rooms to explore if you want to take a band or two off.

| 5:30 pm | $10 | Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., Portland | www.baysidebowl.com

 

LEGENDS | On a recent episode of the BET show 'Rate The Bars', in which rappers discuss and evaluate rhymes from other rappers without foreknowledge of who they're reading, Raekwon the Chef of the Wu-Tang Clan topped gave top marks to Busta Rhymes, Biggie, and his own material; and mediocre grades to anonymous lines of the RZA's and Vince Staples. He swoops through town with a crew tonight to play with local rapper ill by instinct and Stann Smith.

| 8:30 pm | $25-27 | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | www.portcitymusichall.com

 

CHILL HORSE | Suddenly one of Portland's music-scene veterans, the alt-country trio Tall Horse have reason to celebrate tonight, as they steady a new album for public consumption titled Howl Mouth. Given the band's propensity for soggy sounding records, it's impressive that their shows can inspire solidly upbeat, even rowdy behavior. Studies support that listening to depressing, heavy, or otherwise torturous music can put you in a pleasant mood, so we should cherish the bits of melancholia bands like Tall Horse serve us. They play with Ossalot, Purse, and $300, each a Portland band with adventurous ideas about how to play music.

| 8:30 pm | $8 | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | www.space538.org

 

SUNDAY 9

 jeanandjohn

FAMOUS DUOS | Maybe one day we'll hold the comedy duo Jean Grae and John Hodgman with in the same distinction as Abbott and Costello, Cheech & Chong, and Kid 'n Play. The hilarious union of former rapper and a bookish former writer for the Daily Show, we're lucky their uniquely original comedy act rolls through this fair, fair city. The Brooklyn-via-Cape Town artist and performer Jean Grae took a roundabout path toward comedy, and she's a terrific foil for the bookish fortysomething writer and Massachusetts boy Hodgman. They deploy a carnival wheel to help steer their variety show tonight, which can lead them to riff on topics such as "What Did You Dream Last Night?", "Jean's Hair," and "John's Privilege." The Jean and John show is recommended stuff.

| 8 pm | $25 adv, $30 door | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | www.portcitymusichall.com

 

MONDAY 10

 

SOMETHING CLICKS | The celebrated photographer and educator Rose Marasco, whose work is thought to be the most iconic and influential of all Maine fine art photographers, delivers a free lecture on her process and career this evening at the Maine College of Art. Marasco taught at the University of Southern Maine for 35 years, and while having an accomplished career as an educator doesn't always translate to an artist's facility talking about her work, we fully expect this presentation to be informative and special.

| 5:30 pm | Free | Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland

 

HEARD | Last week's collection of readings at Word Portland was abruptly upended for unknown reasons, though it might have to do with the influx of visitors tearing up the city over the long Fourth weekend. But this week, they're back, featuring word usage by local masters Janan Scott, Duncan Whitmire, and Emily Jane Young. Don't be that person talking through it on the back couch.

| 9 pm | Free | LFK, 188A State St., Portland

 

TUESDAY 11

 

BASIC NIGHT | There has been much complaint lately about the absence of small venues in Portland, the sort where bands playing their first handful of shows can accrue some performance chops. That's why Empire's Tuesday night 3 for $3 series works so well. It's a low-stakes, high reward type of night. This one, in particular, merges the psychic MoMe, the astral and accordion-driven shanty songs of Boat Dares (from Portland, Oregon), and the edgy action of locals Lacuna.

| 8:30 pm | $3 | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | www.portlandempire.com

 

FIND A FRIEND | Since this is shaping up to be an all-purpose comedy issue, we'd be remiss not to hype an appearance by Tim and Eric tonight. The Adult Swim sketch comedy duo have been friends for nearly 25 years since first meeting as undergrads, and have produced some of the country's most distinctive, particular humor in the digital era, and expanding their aesthetic to film and music videos as well. Little-known fact interesting to possibly me only: Eric Wareheim was once a member of the Philadelphia vampire-punk band Ink & Dagger, whose music weirdly still holds up some 20 years later. Expect this 10th Anniversary Tour to showcase many of the duo's capacities in various sharpnesses.

| 7 pm | $45 | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | www.statetheatreportland.com

PINCH YOURSELF | One of the first things you noticed about My Morning Jacket are the vocals. The signature high-pitched nasal lamentation of singer/songwriter Jim James has mellowed a bit over the seven albums and 20 years since the project started in Louisville, Kentucky. And while James has admitted to having once felt self-conscious about the pitch of his pipes, there's no disputing that they're a source of pride now. His band plays the present-day iterations of their longtime blues, rock, and psych journey tonight on the edge of town at Thompson's Point.

| 7 pm | $45 | Thompson's Point, Portland | www.statetheatreportland.com

 

WEDNESDAY 12

INFLECTIONS | At Blue tonight, hear the emergent folk group Josephine County, an offshoot of the Americana machinations of players Erica Brown and Matt Shipman. The two normally play as the group Darlin' Corey, and for this project are joined by the flautist Hanz Araki and singer Colleen Raney, giving their music a decidedly Irish feel.

| 7:30 pm | by donation | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland | www.portcityblue.com

 

THURSDAY 13

 

MONEY AND THE SACRED | Next week's summer delights include an unlikely appearance from '80s guy Eddie Money, whose life has taken him to Portland to play Aura. Also, a forum about indigenous Gwich'in women's fight to protect the Arctic Refuge from corporate oil drilling convenes at the Maine College of Art. Titled "Solidarity From Maine: Protect the Sacred Arctic Refuge, the event features an appearance by director and activist Miho Aida.

| 5:30 pm | FREE | Maine College of Art, 5 Monument Sq., Portland

A Man and His Logo — Spose drops fifth album 'Good Luck With Your Life'

For the generation in and entering their thirties, self-employment is a dream. Having watched parents toil in cubicles (and factories and restaurants) during the Reagan and Clinton years was hard, not just because we didn’t get to see them, but because we knew they were so unbelievably bored as they were doing it. Today, the memories of that boredom haunt our work lives, which combined with our generation’s other merriments of more debt, more distraction, and greater income inequality, converge on us and our self-worth in some terrifying pincer move.

On Good Luck With Your Life, the fifth album by Spose, aka 31-year-old Ryan Peters, there is a palpable thrill of having escaped that fate. At many points on the album, pride surfaces as a joyful celebration of self-sufficiency, of escaping a sort of work-a-day existence Peters knew firsthand and was motivated to defeat. Only occasionally does it veer into bootstraps-y, “I-built-this-myself” rhetoric, and even then, it’s more self-consciously corny than mean-spirited.

It’s also the rapper’s first album produced entirely by Portland beatmaker God.Damn.Chan, whose work here gives Spose a depth and swagger over its 13 tracks that can make previous albums sound like a different era. On “Another Man’s Logo,” an early album track that carries a similar swagger to Drake & Future’s “Big Rings,” Spose throws down something of an origin story, telling us about how far he’s come since “bumping Odelay” and working for a boss who’d complain when he showed up for work with his clothes wrinkled. “Got no other man’s logo on my polo,” runs the chorus. On the next, “All You Need Is You,” the rapper explains to an abstract lady character who asks him for advice. “You don’t need any fuckin’ crew,” he argues. “All you need is balls to go out and risk it all.”

It’s far too much of a political point to wish for Spose to uphold some sort of class consciousness orthodoxy in his lyrics, and besides, it’s fun to hear him weave fundamental rap traditions like boasting into a genuine awareness of working class hardship. All in all, Spose does a fine job mixing the boastful with the woke. By all accounts, the dude has worked incredibly hard for this, and he deserves to revel in the success. On the other — and this doesn’t seem lost on him — not all artists face the same obstacles, of course. It’s easy to imagine a good-looking, charismatic white guy from Maine might have marketing opportunities other rappers don’t.

image1

The album’s title track reprises the 2010 hit “I’m Awesome” maybe a bit much, with Spose rapping in lazy braggadocio. But for those radio-friendly shallownesses, other tracks can reveal a pretty remarkable amount of detail from Peters’s life. “I’m from Maine but I don’t hunt or tow guns, but if the mic’s in my hand I make it pop pop pop,” he says. In tracks like “Ayup” and “Listen Up Bub,” he connects Maine tropes and stereotypes with the specific choices artists take to get where they need to go. “I’d rather die than fry inside a cubicle. I watch the kids ‘til five, then I hit the studio.” Spose can be comically self-deprecating, boastful, and painfully sincere, often in the course of one track.

Similar to “Thanks, Obama” from 2015’s Why Am I So Happy?, “Pretty Dope” builds a song out of a jokey list of ideas, opinions, and punchlines. If Jay-Z showed up to his video, he tells us, that’d be pretty dope; ditto “if we didn’t kill the Cherokees and Seminoles.” Other rap game fantasies involve cameos by Beyonce, Wyclef Jean, and Kendrick Lamar; on the other side, world peace, fair pay for teachers, gun control. Like Buzzfeed listicles, these type of Spose tracks can seem engineered for reaching young people. But that’s also a demographic I can imagine listening hard to Peters, who is, after all, a dad, and at this point surely a role model to a lot of young Maine dudes finding their way.

On tracks like “Another Man’s Logo” and the standout “Buy Now,” it truly seems that Spose may have found his man in Chan. The producer’s one of the strongest foils for the rapper we’ve seen yet, and the latter especially shines as one of the most musically satisfying Spose tracks I’ve ever heard. Jazzy and drippy, Spose raps relaxed between an electronic bass line and several sax samples, the track’s complexity giving the rapper a ton to work with. A standout both musically and lyrically, the Spose who spat richer-than-you lines five minutes prior takes a seat for one laying out pretty solid critiques of a rigged economic system, ending with a touching interlude of (presumably) Peters and his child, who tells him “let’s get started making designs.”

As much as any other Maine artist, Peters has succeeded in creating a self-sustaining universe where his art can live. Other people make albums, but every move Spose makes feeds into the ongoing mythology of PDANK, his record label, like some modern coastal Maine rap version of Middle Earth. As someone who loves basketball and sex and money and weed, Spose is too smart not to care about hard shit too, like politics and family and how difficult people work, and so for reasons that should be clear, Good Luck With Your Life is a little more anxious and less joyful than Why Am I So Happy? The glut of boast tracks may get tired at times, but there’s no way he’s running out of ideas. And now that he’s making albums with a full-time producer, especially one this capable, it kind of feels for the first time like Spose isn’t out there working this hard all by himself.


 

Spose + God. Damn.Chan + Shane Reis | Good Luck With Your Life release party | June 23, 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | $15 adv, $18 day of | www.portcitymusichall.com

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

8 Days A Week: Decolonization Lessons, Coal Studies, and Girl Talk

THURSDAY 22

SOLAR OBLIVION | President Trump says he loves coal miners. He’s also said, at various points along the campaign, that he loves “the Hispanics, the Evangelicals, the Mexican people, the wounded warriors, the generals, the Saudis, the Mormons, and the poorly educated.” As voting blocs go, those in coal mining country are pretty high up there, and the 24 percent increase in American coal production over last year at this time (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration) might suggest those folks might feel rewarded for voting GOP. Regardless, it’ll probably be another 15 to 20 years before coal ceases to serve as a political wedge in campaign electioneering, and maybe another 35-40 before farmers in Ohio can no longer grow soybeans because of intense and prolonged droughts, so you better strap in. For a lot of Americans in Appalachia and the Rust Belt, digging up coal has been, of course, the primary means of getting food on the table for generations. And you can’t exactly blame them for feeling pride about it. But the fact remains that this thoroughly nonrenewable resource is the single biggest source of air pollution in the United States. A new and high-profile documentary titled From the Ashes explores the legacy of coal country in America and tries to predict its future in a Trump administration. Produced by 350Maine and funded by National Geographic, filmmaking collective Radical Media, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

7 pm | FREE | St. Ansgar Lutheran Church, 515 Woodford St., Portland | www.fromtheashesfilm.com

 AFI BW by Jiro Schneider

AFI Photo by Jiro Schneider

PRAY TELL | The goth-tinged rock band AFI come to town tonight, celebrating their tenth album, a self-titled thing they’re also calling The Blood Album. Launched in the early 90s in Mendocino County, AFI always seemed to take themselves a little more seriously and introspectively than their friends in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, an appealing move for the “politics begins at home” crowd. Now a sort of darkly amalgamated rock band, AFI play a little bit into the Interpol/Killers/Placebo/Bloc Party side of things now, which seemed to have been a smart career move. They play with the Philadelphia shoegaze band Nothing and Swedish husband-wife pop duo Souvenirs.

8 pm | $25 | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | www.auramaine.com

 

SEVERAL FRIENDLIES | The women’s empowerment activist and fashionista Judicaelle Irakoze launches a program tonight called Girl Talk, a women-centric discussion series I’m frankly shocked doesn’t exist yet. The first of its series, Irakoze talks with director Clara Porter of the anti-violence organization Prevention.Action.Change on the subject of the notion of “Self-Love is Power.”

5:30 pm | FREE | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | www.mayostreetarts.org

 

RESPECT THE FORM | Seal your commitment to the food scene with a dive into the Portland Food Festival, a catch-all celebration of local food, music, and art with vendors and chefs from all walks. With flights of local beers and how-tos and introductions to folks working in Maine’s creative food economy, this low-entry festival looks like a solid way to break into the weekend, whether you play it for pleasure or networking.

| $10-15 | 8 pm | Thompson’s Point, Portland | www.portlandfoodfestival.com

 

ALERIC'S WORLD | Blues player and Portland cultural pillar Samuel James plays two sets tonight — one solo, and another with a band comprised of standout local musicians, including jazz singer VIVA, D. Gross, Clara Junken, Megan Banner, and Max Garcia Conover. Recommended.

8 pm | $10 adv, $15 day of | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St, Portland | www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

FRIDAY 23

 

ARM YOURSELF | Hard to believe we’re only on the fifth album from Spose, the comedic hip-hop rapper from Wells. Dude’s only 31, and he’s been a vital part of Maine since the tail end of last decade. Always playing around with Maine-identity tropes, Ryan Peters works super hard at creating the Spose/P-Dank brand. His show tonight, with collaborator God.Damn.Chan and fellow Maine rapper Shane Reis, should be as fun and smart as his albums are. Read this writer’s review of his new one, titled Good Luck With Your Life, elsewhere in this issue.

9 pm | $15 adv, $18 day of | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | www.portcitymusichall.com

 chris ross and the north

Chris Ross And The North

GOOD WERK IF U CAN GET IT | From Bangor, Chris Ross and the North has turned heads as one of the state’s most intriguing and emotionally satisfying country acts. Ross’s most recent album, 2015’s Young Once, drew marks for its steely emotional weight and storytelling. He doesn’t make it down here a ton, so tonight may be the night for cold ones. With the pop duo Armies (Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard) and Wise Old Moon.

8 pm | $8-10 | Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland |www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

ESCAPE EVERYTHING | Sooner or later you’re gonna need to get in the woods. Or the beach. Or both! Merge those primal needs with a will to expose yourself to Maine’s jam band scene, as Topsham’s Gruvenwood hosts the 8th Annual BAND CAMP Festival of Music and Art, a three-day/two-night affair with 15 bands from Maine and New Hampshire, plus — wait for it — a silent disco scheduled for Saturday night. Hard to know how that’ll go! With a lineup that includes Jaw Gems, Deadheads A Band Beyond Description, Whitehouse on Trial, and many more.

June 23-25 | $60 | Thomas Point Beach, 29 Meadow Rd, Brunswick | www.bandcampfest.com

 

MODERN ALCHEMY | As the homegrown PortFringe festival barrels onto another weekend, with nearly 50 local and national performances, they set aside today for a few workshops and teach-ins related to the art of the performer. This afternoon, Bare Portland director JJ Peeler leads one called “Creating Theater in Sacred Space – Tool of Ritual in Creation,” about the art and practice of devising original works (like standout The Yellow Wallpaper, reviewed by Megan Grumbling elsewhere in this issue). | 3 pm | FREE | Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave., Portland | www.portfringe.com

  

 

SATURDAY 24

 

HOIST THAT RAG | He’s always been in favor, but if you think about it, the last true Tom Waits revival wave was back around the turn-of-the-century. Now pushing 70, we figure he’s got at least one more record — and one more persona — in him. But in the meantime, Portlanders can appreciate the ones he’s already given us tonight on the east end when the group Magic 8 Ball play from his vast catalog. "A Tribute to Tom Waits" is one-night-only.

7 pm | $15 | St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland | www.stlawrencearts.org

 

STRINGS AHEAD | The second weekend of the Portland Bach Festival blankets the city in the timeless baroque sounds of the Thuringian composer. Tonight, we recommend a concert titled “Before and After Bach,” a concert honoring the composers the dude revered as well as his disciples. It convenes at St. Luke’s Cathedral on the outskirts of town. A little lower a price point than the festival’s other main concerts, this one should be lovely.

7 pm | $20 adv, $25 at door ($5 students) | St. Luke’s Cathedral, 143 State St., Portland | http://portlandbachfestival.org/

 

SUNDAY 25

YOU GONNA LAUGH AT THAT? | After a strenuous weekend (all of these weekends should be strenuous or you’re doing it wrong), soaking up a comedy show can be the right move. Sunday nights bring the Ian Stuart-hosted comedy showcase at Empire, and tonight’s headliner is the supposedly filthy Florida comic Damien Figler. | 8 pm | $5 | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | www.portlandempire.com

SPOKEN ONCE | This afternoon, celebrate along with cycle gurus the grand opening of highly appreciated bike shop Portland Gear Hub in their new location. There’ll be game-playing (they’re boasting cornhole), music, and food, and hangs with some of the city’s hottest bike gangs. | 4 pm | Free | Portland Gear Hub, 155 Washington Ave., Portland | www.portlandgearhub.org

 

MONDAY 26

SECRET SOCIETY | Ten years ago it was Metal Mondays. Today it’s Monday of the Minds, a showcase of local hip hop on the drabbest night of the week. If you’re the type who thrashes six nights of seven, here’s your congregation.

9 pm | FREE | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland | www.flasklounge.com

 

TUESDAY 27

 

THIS IS THE WORK, FOLKS | Fine idea tonight from the folks of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, an organization that educates and facilitates efforts of decolonization and the repatriation of indigenous lives and cultures. Tonight, they host an immersive, interactive storytelling experience titled Maine-Wabanaki History, that illustrates to participants the ways in which Maine’s indigenous population lived, while offering a frame for understanding decolonization work today.

6:30-8:30 pm | By donation | Friends Meeting House, 1837 Forest Ave., Portland | www.mainewabanakireach.org

 

MAKE PLANS | A compelling, out-of-nowhere, and multiform show over in Bayside positions the dreamy pop songs of John Andrew Fredrick, who’s fronted the rather obscenely underrecognized band The Black Watch over 15 albums of gorgeous and soaring psychedelic rock. Fredrick headlines a night that also includes sets from Portland kinetically gifted art/dance act Hi Tiger, dancer Moxie Sazerac, and Maine author Cybele, a transgender/non-binary storyteller of children’s tales. Fredrick plays an acoustic set, so fans of his fully saturated psych sounds should plan for a softer bath. 21+.

7:30 pm | By donation | Zero Station, 222 Anderson St, Portland

 

WEDNESDAY 28

WHITE SUITS | Gotta keep pumping these Bayside Bowl rooftop films while they hot. Tonight’s screening is the epic documentary Stop Making Sense, the Jonathan Demme documentary that served as many Americans’ entry to the band Talking Heads. Memories can’t wait, my dudes.

8 pm | FREE | Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., Portland | www.baysidebowl.com

 

SOCIAL STUDIES | If you’ve had any thoughts about rising rents, or the overall vanillification of the Port City, you’d be interested in a talk tonight by journalist Peter Moscowitz. His recent book How To Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood explains in precision detail how city officials slowly cede power to private interests and development, reducing requirements on affordable housing and weakening the power of unions, which has the effect of killing the city’s traditions and culture in exchange for more population and money. With a Q&A moderated by affordable housing advocate Joey Brunelle, who’s running for City Council.

7 pm | FREE | Longfellow Books, 1 Monument Way, Portland | www.longfellowbooks.com

 

THURSDAY 29

 

ONLY ONE WINNER | A new festival arrives on Thompson's Pt. next week, that, among other things, asks: what's the best food truck in Portland? As an attendee, your vote counts at this event that honors small businesses in Maine. Eat well and let your opinion be heard! We'll bring you the details in our next issue. In the meantime, hit the streets and try to find the fairly new Thainy Boda food truck; their selling a delicious new soft serve ice cream flavor that tastes just like sweet Thai Iced Tea. It's a delight!

 

How Fake Is This? — Three Theories on Holly Seeliger's 'Zoon Politikon'

Last week, the Portland Press Herald published a piece by Greg Kesich calling attention to the YouTube channel “Zoon Politikon” hosted since October by Portland’s Holly Seeliger, a Green Party affiliate and member of the Portland School Board.

“Zoon Politikon,” a show through which Seeliger, working alone, releases content near daily, covers a broad range of political headlines and sentiments, much of it from what might be understood to be a liberal-left perspective.

But Kesich keyed on several conspiracy theories propagated by Seeliger, most of them originating on right-wing message boards and Reddit threads, that aren’t as politically controversial so much as they are flatly incorrect.

Among the most recent of them, the widely debunked theory that late DNC staffer Seth Rich’s death in July, 2016, was a murder by Democratic National Committee officials, was originally concocted on Reddit and later popularized by Donald Trump’s political strategist Roger Stone, widely understood to be one of the most prominent liars in American political history.

In a subsequent video, Seeliger calls Kesich’s op-ed a “hit piece.” She told me in a phone interview that he was trying to slander her. (Reached by phone, Kesich declined to offer further comment.) In the week since, it’s been baffling to see the tone and intensity of those defending her.

The Phoenix has covered Seeliger many times, for her political advocacy and leadership, and separately, for her contributions to Portland’s arts scene. I’ve peripherally known of her in town as a kind, intelligent, interesting person. Furthermore, the work of initiating alternative media is a good and noble one.

But the whole exchange has raised a question I've asked about the Zoon Politikon project for months: Is Holly Seeliger for real?

I don’t know! No one has a handle on what’s real anymore, and the media landscape is as chaotic as the political landscape. But “fake news,” as it’s understood to mean politicized right-wing phenomena, is a real thing. And Zoon Politikon is spreading it.

Here are three scenarios I can imagine for why that’s happening:

1. Seeliger, a former Occupy activist, Bernie supporter and Green Party member, is strategically trying to expand the left-liberal coalition among the country’s conspiracy-hungry, anti-intellectual, Reddit-loving, politically incoherent voters.

This is the most charitable theory among the bunch. It re-casts Seeliger as a sort of special-ops double-agent journalist, disseminating useful progressive medicine like antiwar sentiment interspersed with sugary helpings of tabloidy pap. When I asked Seeliger in a phone interview if she believed everything she discussed on her channel, she said “Um, no,” redirecting me to her belief that “we have to start questioning narratives,” adding that “that’s the work of investigative journalism.” I mean, sure.

2. Seeliger has seized upon a market opportunity.

It’s important to remember that political discourse is theater. That’s never been more true than today. Right-wing lunatic Alex Jones has admitted he’s playing a character. Milo certainly is. To other aims, so have Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. One of the reasons “fake news” emerged is because people found the real stuff too fucking boring.

Seeliger, of course, is no stranger to performance, having danced with burlesque troupes in town for many years. While this option may seem like an accusation of cynical intention, there’s absolutely no shame in forming a media outfit that delivers political content with pizzazz — in fact, it’s exactly what gave rise to the Boston Phoenix, the original incarnation of this paper, in the late ‘60s.

Zoon Politikon isn’t regionally specific (indeed, Seeliger admits that many of her 4,000 followers believe she lives in Oregon). But her party affiliations link her to Maine, where she’d be one of the only women-led media organizations. Holly currently makes $172 a month via Patreon (her PayPal contributions are unknown). And, by the laws of the Internet, many of her supporters read the Press Herald piece as an dramatic personal attack, which seemed to rally more followers (and cash) to her campaign. Again, no shame in finding creative ways to make money. But that doesn’t make what she’s saying any more true.

3. Seeliger actually believes this stuff.

Or, a less damning version: She’s fine speculating about theories she doesn’t know for certain aren’t true. But that opens the scope of this independent media project to virtually anything. Sure, that can be entertaining, but it’s hardly journalism. Nor, I'd offer, is it particularly useful in 2017. If Maine Green Party activists are ignoring, say, the spread of Right to Work laws in our state in favor of wild speculation about Pizzagate, then progressives have an even steeper climb.

Look, I don’t know George Soros personally. I can’t say anything about him with absolute certainty. Like any billionaire, he’s probably a jerk. But it’s almost overwhelmingly clear he was popularized as a right-wing bugbear to take the pressure off the Koch Brothers. In a video in early February, Seeliger “reported” that the protesters who shut down a Milo Yiannopoulos lecture at UC Berkeley were “funded by Soros.” The reporting, in this case, consisted of her reading off-screen, citing “several news outlets.” But the only “news outlets” that reported this are noted sensationalist right-wing sites like Breitbart and The Daily Caller. It is brutally unsupported by facts. It’s true that billionaire philanthropistcapitalist George Soros has donated to “liberal” organizations like Planned Parenthood — but why is that alone something a Bernie-supporting activist would incite moral outrage over?

In a video from January 24, Seeliger asserts that Soros “financially backed” the Women’s March on Washington, citing a Women in the World Media op-ed written by former Wall Street Journal reporter and noted Trump advocate Asra Q. Nomani. Seeliger calls it “a piece in the New York Times” and implores us to “look it up.” (It’s not: Women in the World Media is a separate entity hosted digitally via a partnership with the New York Times.) In that same video, Seeliger tells us that Soros, a Hungarian Jew who fled Nazi-occupied Hungary in 1947, “had worked with the Nazis as a young man,” an absurdity originated in the jungle of the right-wing web that has been widely debunked.

So I can’t tell what’s going on. But Seeliger’s channel reminds us that in times of political crisis, those on the left, too, can succumb to conspiracies. Seeliger is right to question mainstream media, but her effort seems consistent with a philosophy that in order to advance politically, the left has to abandon the truth. No.

Furthermore, beneath the dramatic coverups, the murderous plots, and thrilling paper trails that effectively erase the work of those fighting for human rights by linking their efforts to rich Nazi benefactors, “Zoon Politikon” doesn’t have much actual political content. Which is a shame, because the left seems to have some real work to do. 


Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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