Tom Faunce

Tom Faunce

The Maine Dead Project's End of Residency Bash

In September and October of 1980, the Grateful Dead completed a concert tour of shows containing three sets each, one acoustic set followed by two electric sets. The acoustic sets were the first the band performed since the early 70’s aside from a few rare one-off acoustic sets in special circumstances. The tour was comprised of 15 shows at The Warfield in San Francisco, two shows at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, and eight shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York, with one show from this run being featured in the full-concert film Dead Ahead, which was MC’d by Al Franken and Tom Davis.

This Friday, October 7, local Grateful Dead cover bands, The Maine Dead Project and The Workin’ Dead will recreate one of the legendary shows from the Radio City Music Hall run. Which concert will be performed is being kept a secret until the night of the show.

The Maine Dead Project and The Workin’ Dead have become two Portland staples in the local jam band scene for the past year. Both bands consist of members that have played in numerous configurations of groups that have contributed to keeping the Grateful Dead spirit alive.

The Maine Dead Project (MDP) was formed by Tim Sullivan of Hallowell and the group began its tenure with a weekly residency at Slab last summer. The lineup for MDP consists of Sullivan on guitar and vocals, Josh Robbins on bass and vocals, Justin Maxwell on keys and vocals, and a two-drummer attack from Ryan Benoit and Chris Sweet. Doug Emery, who has been well-known in the Portland music scene for many years, has been on guitar and vocals for MDP but is currently taking time off from the group to spend time with his family. His role will be filled by Joe Farrell from Percy Hill.

In contrast to the full-band aesthetic that MDP creates for local deadheads, The Workin’ Dead is an acoustic trio act featuring Tom Faunce on guitar and vocals, Mark McKelvey on bass and vocals, and the group is led vocally by Aaron Nadeau who also plays guitar.

Together, MDP and the Workin’ Dead have collaborated this summer for “Dead Wednesday's” at Portland House of Music and Events (HOME). The evenings have begun with Happy Hour at 5:30 with The Workin’ Dead playing two sets, most of which have been outside on the Patio during the summer and then MDP taking the stage for a full-on live band performance until close.

The October 7 show is capping off MDP’s residency as the band will be taking a break for a few months with plans to resume the residency in January. The Workin’ Dead will continue its happy hour slot.

Throughout Dead Wednesday's, HOME experienced a diverse crowd strong in numbers. With the shows taking place in the middle of the week, Deadheads alike have been able to enjoy an earlier, lighter grateful dead experience and with MDP, the later crowd is treated to the full experience with a big sound system and full light show.

Dead Wednesday's have also proven that the Dead spirit is alive and well in Portland. Both crowds have presented fans that range in age from 21 to mid-60’s, expressing the fact that the music of the Dead remains timeless and stretches across numerous eras and generations.

With MDP culminating its 20-week residency, which consisted of a rotating set of nearly 140 Grateful Dead songs, the dual-bill show with The Workin’ Dead will showcase both bands at the top of their game. Dead Wednesday’s have proven to be a success for HOME and the crowd will certainly contain longtime deadhead friends and family, as well as new friendships that were initiated this summer. The show will also give fans a chance to relive a Grateful Dead experience who were not able to make it out during the week. This Friday, October 7, is sure to be a great time to be had by all and celebrate the music of The Grateful Dead and its presence in our beloved city of Portland.

Doors open at 8:00 for the show with music starting at 9:00. For tickets and more info visit www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

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New England-based The Mystix brings driving roots Americana show to One Longfellow Square

For the first time since 2012, Americana roots supergroup The Mystix will return to One Longfellow Square with a performance that will feature special guest Danielle Miraglia. The Sept. 3 show is a CD release party, celebrating the band’s live album, Rhythm and Roots, which will be released the same day. The sixth album from The Mystix, and the Boston-based group’s first live album, Rhythm and Roots was mastered by Bob Ludwig and Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering, located right here in Portland.

In choosing One Longfellow Square as the venue for the show, The Mystix decided on Portland as the best place to host the event as the band has many friends and fans in the area. “Portland is very well known in the Boston area as a great place for musicians, due to its eclectic audience,” says Jacques Hauray, manager for The Mystix. “We really wanted to share the experience with our Portland fans.”

The Mystix's unique sound, driven by lead singer Jo Lily’s gritty vocals, has garnered numerous impressive reviews throughout the years. The group’s latest record is already receiving substantial airplay across the country as well as in Europe.

Comprised of seasoned and experienced musicians, The Mystix is rounded out by Bobby Keyes on guitar, Matt Leavenworth on the fiddle, Jesse Williams on bass and vocals, Marty Richards on drums and Annie Raines on harmonica and vocals. Noted for their impeccable musicianship as well as soulful, spirited and lighthearted performances, The Mystix’s legendary, veteran lineup never fails to deliver a thrilling show. All members of The Mystix are prolific players carrying strong resumes that include sharing the stage with J. Geils Band, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Blues Brothers and Susan Tedeschi, among many others.

Daniella Miraglia is a longtime friend of The Mystix and will be opening the show in September. Miraglia is a 2015 nominee for the Boston Music Awards and has shared the stage with the likes of Johnny Winter, Bettye Levette, John Hammond Jr., Joan Osborne, Sonny Landreth and many more. “We thought about bringing an opening act and Danielle really matches well the The Mystix roots/bluesy music,” shares Huaray.

Rhythm and Roots captures the low-down, gritty sound that The Mystix bring to the stage each night. Opening with the train beat track of “Long John,” The Mystix immediately delivers the energy of a full-piece band that sounds as though it could come straight from the Mississippi Delta. Easing into the next track, “You’re the Best Lover That I Ever Had,” the listener gets a taste of the capabilities of each soloist in the band as the tune contains strong statements of guitar, fiddle and harmonica work.

Throughout the 19-track live recording, each member maintains their own respective presence. Lily’s rhythm acoustic guitar work lays a solid foundation for each soloist to enter and exit gracefully by providing fills in between vocal lines. Leavenworth’s fiddle playing seems to represent a train whistle as Richards acts as the conductor, driving the train that is the six-piece ensemble. The live setting of Rhythm and Roots provides a pure roots treatment to The Mystix’s well-known songs and redefines the term "Americana."

The Mystix’s Show at One Longellow Square will be the band’s only Maine appearance on its current tour. From there the group will travel to Amazing Things Art Center in Framingham, Mass. on Sept. 10 and then to Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, Mass. on Sept. 30.

Tickets are available The Mystix’s Sept. 3 show at One Longfellow Square via the band’s website at www.themystix.com and www.onelongfellowsquare.com/events.com

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SeepeopleS announce the release of Love, the first in a three-part EP series

SeepeopleS, the original anti-genre indie musical pranksters, are releasing a new studio album on Sept. 6. The EP, titled Love is the first of three in the Love, Hate, Live series of releases planned for the coming year. SeepeopleS has been gaining an underground army of loyal fans since the band’s inception in Boston back in 2000. Music lovers have celebrated the group’s previous five albums, many of which feature musical contributions from members of Morphine, Spearhead, Parliament/Funkadelic and Dave Matthews Band (Tim Reynolds) and the band's passionate and uniquely explosive live shows.

SeepeopleS’ music has also been featured on television shows such as “Judging Amy” and “The Gates” as well as movies "Canvasman, A Call to Action, Wheels Over Paradise," and "The Legend of Cody Collins.” After almost 1,500 live shows nationwide, and with 20,000-plus records sold, SeepeopleS is proud to its most accessible and mature collection of songs with Love.

 

The new EP features five new tracks, and was created with longtime co-producer Will Holland whose resume includes Pixies and Dead Can Dance. The record also features a remix by the eclectic Mosart 212. Currently the band has plans for a follow-up tour in support of Love.

 

Led by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Bradford, SeepeopleS continues its alt-rock sound. Opening Love is the track "Shangri La La," an upbeat tale of heartbreak with a strong balance between rock guitar and a mellow psychedelic main riff. Overall, a high-energy start to kick off the record.

 

 

Shangri La La is followed by the ballad, "Your Sad Story,” a soft tune that allows the listener to settle into the feel of the album. This track features some nice piano work accompanied by synthesizer aspects that complement the spacey vocal track. At this point, while the record is entitled Love, the listener begins to pick up on unresolved anger from the narrative.

 

The third track, "Bent Lullaby," is exactly what the title suggests. In contrast to "Your Sad Story," "Bent Lullaby" opens with an acoustic guitar intro that suggests a rather melancholic tone, not unlike the steel string opening of Pink Floyd’s infamous "Hey You" intro. The listener now starts to recognize a deep sense of passion directed to the subject rather than a level of angst, as though the narrator has unspoken words of compassion and even regret.

 

 

With the fourth track, "Never Forget how to Run," SeepeopleS continues with the spacey, psychedelic theme, emphasizing major seventh chords, which provide a dream-like sequence. This lasts through the first verse before some aggression is expressed with a bridge/chorus of heavy, distorted guitar sprinkled with numerous vocal harmonies. The song expresses a strong balance between heavy rock and ballad as the composition exits the hard-rocking chorus back into another light-hearted verse, creating a strong dynamic to the tune.

 

The final track of Love is "Conifers of China," the remix produced by Mosart 212. "Conifers" creates a zen-like feeling to the closure of the album with call-and-response chanting over repetitive bass line. With a closing such as this, the album takes the listener, from a fun quirky opening to a serious, albeit peaceful closure, emphasizing the theme of the record and anticipation of the following EP’s to come in the SeepeopleS "Love, Hate, Live" series.

 

For tour dates and more information on SeepoepleS, visit the band’s website at www.seepeoples.com.

Anybody can perform anything at the Urban Farm Fermentory

After a series of successful open mic nights last winter at Urban Farm Fermentory, Dawn York has decided to bring it back this summer. York, who also manages the tasting room at UFF and runs the open mic, says that primary reason for bringing it back was popular demand. “A lot of our regulars were asking us to do it again,” she says. ”It’s a really busy time of year for us so we decided it was a good idea.” Open mic at UFF will be on the last Friday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m.

During the winter sessions at UFF, open mic night featured local talent including Sea Level, Shanna Underwood and Tsula and the Sad Boys. UFF also provides a solid production for artists with lights and sound equipment. The fermentory also works with VJ Foo and the Foo Crew to provide professional video of each performance.

As far as styles and genres go at UFF open mic night, York says that it is an eclectic range performers. The session features singer/songwriters, comedians and spoken word. “Everybody can pretty much do whatever they want,” says York. “It’s open to all styles and forms and performing arts.”

Performers also vary in age from early twenties to mid-sixties. “We feature numerous generations across the board,” shares York. “We have people that play old school country music and some younger folks doing more modern stuff.”

Fitting with the vibe of the tasting room at UFF, the open mic night remains relaxed and informal when it comes to artists signing up to perform. York encourages people to bring any instruments they want and sign up for a time slot on a communal sign-up sheet. “Nobody has to do anything prior to arriving,” says York. “You could literally show up by accident and realize there is an open mic and get up and perform.”

For anyone who has not visited UFF at 200 Anderson St., the part winery, part brewery and part apothecary produces wares from lesser known fermentations, such as kombucha, wild-fermented cider mead and others. “We really focus on all things fermented,” says York. The company is now featuring gruits with its in-house beers on tap. A gruit is an old-fashioned herb mixture used for bittering and flavoring beer popular before the extensive use of hops.

“It really goes back to the ancient fermentation process for beer by focusing on herbs and spices,” shares York. With a seasonal focus, UFF maintains local partnerships with providers of ingredients. “We have relationships with local farmers,” adds York. “We also get together as a crew and go out and forage for materials.”

UFF was founded by Eli Cayer and Reid Emmerich, who began brewing in 2010. In the fall of last year, the company opened its tasting room, which features 22 rotating taps with selections shifting seasonally. “We really feel like we have found our home here with the new tasting room,” says York. “With our new space we are able to host more events. In addition to the open mic we’ll be having workshops where we teach people about the fermenting process. It’s a great way for people to come together and share ideas and techniques.”

Upcoming events for UFF will include hosting a weekly movie night and featuring "flavor of the month" starting in September with its peach Mead.

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Steve Grover: A personal remembrance of an iconic Maine musician and educator

When I first began my college career in the music program at the University of Maine at Augusta, I enrolled in a course called a Survey of Jazz and Contemporary Music, which was basically a history lesson and introduction to the jazz world. Other than the fact that it was required, I took the course because although I was never a jazz aficionado, I was intrigued by the genre and had enrolled in the program to increase my knowledge and musical versatility. The course was taught by a man named Steve Grover, a musical icon who is acknowledged as one of the most prominent jazz musicians and educators throughout Maine and beyond. Grover passed away on July 7 from cancer and while what follows is an insight into a personal relationship with Grover, his influence has been felt by hundreds of musicians.

My first impression of Steve was that he was one of those "jazz snobs.” He was probably one of those uppity professors who was annoyed with us rock ‘n’ roll guitarists. Throughout the semester, despite Steve’s somewhat monotone voice and what I felt to be lack of interest, I was extremely impressed with his knowledge. The guy was a walking encyclopedia. I still wasn’t thrilled about having him as an instructor for any coursework due to the fact that he failed to express much interest in me any time I approached him.

Throughout my time at UMA I would go on to take other courses taught by Steve including ear training, private lessons and even played in some of his ensembles. As a serious music student with a drive to succeed, I quickly realized two things about studying with Steve Grover: Don’t be late to his class, and do your damn homework. By sticking to these two practices I realized something; Steve isn’t a prick, he’s an amazing teacher.

After two years in the program, I had actually established a close personal relationship with Steve. What I found was that he had not initially taken me seriously because I had not yet given him a reason to. That’s not to say that Steve didn’t give every student a chance, it was just one of his methods to get you to achieve your full potential. He didn’t care about being your friend, he cared about making you better. Once that happened, he became a great friend.

In discussing the life and career of Steve Grover, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Bob Thompson, who was also one of my guitar instructors at UMA. Bob knew, played and taught with Steve for more than 30 years and has a great insight into the man who lived the majority of his life in a somewhat private manner. “Only a few of closest friends and family knew what was going on with him health wise,” says Thompson. “That’s the way he lived. He didn’t want people making a big fuss over him.” Grover continued to work despite his illness for as long as his strength would allow.

“He was an absolutely amazing guy,” says Thompson. “So many people think of him as this jazz icon, which he was, but he was also just a huge music aficionado and was an expert on all genres and also the history of each genre. His contribution to keeping the craft alive in Maine is immeasurable.” Grover was not confined to the Maine scene either. In 1994, he won the Thelonious Monk institute of Jazz/BMI Composer’s competition for “Blackbird Suite,” a set of compositions based on the Wallace Stevens poem, “Looking at a Blackbird.”

In addition to a shared passion for jazz, Thompson and Grover shared a connection to Lenny Breau, one of the all-time greatest jazz guitarists who happen to be from Maine. Grover began playing drums for Breau at a very young age and became a close confidant of his. “Steve was able to help Lenny out when he was dealing with some serious issues in his life,” says Thompson. “Lenny was able to turn to Steve for emotional and psychological support.”

Originally from Connecticut, Thompson credits Grover for being a major factor in his decision to live in Maine. After many years of touring with professional bands, Thompson rooted himself in the state after witnessing the cultivation of a strong Portland music scene.  “I met Steve through Lenny and we immediately became friends,” he shares. “There were some great players in the Portland area including Tony Gaboury and Brad Terry among many others. The great thing though, was that these were some of the best players around and not one of them had an ounce of arrogance. They all had great attitudes and were very welcoming to me.”

Thompson also recalls how passionate Grover was about music education. He notes that recognition from Grover in regard to his own work as a teacher is one of his proudest moments. “One of the things that I pride myself on is being the best music teacher that I can be,” says Thompson.  “When Steve Grover tells you that you’re a great teacher, that’s the quintessential compliment. Coming from Steve, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

In my own personal journey with Steve Grover, I think of man whose respect I constantly sought, not only in music, but in a culturalism way as well. For such a serious teacher and musician, I found that Grover actually possessed a great sense of humor and accessing it created a feeling of accomplishment for myself. It became a personal challenge for me to have a new joke every time I saw him. Just as a standup comedian would analyze a crowd’s response to their material, I would rethink my approach whenever I told a joke that didn’t absolutely stop Grover in his tracks (I always seemed to have success with Grateful Dead jokes). Again, he never faked approval so you knew if he actually found something funny. However, when he did, he stopped whatever he was doing, removed his glasses and enjoyed the moment of laughter.  After all we are just musicians and at many times, that in itself deserves a big laugh.

Thank you Steve Grover for teaching me to not take myself too seriously, but in a serious way.

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Take Back Home: A benefit concert to help addicts and asylum seekers

With the many issues we all witness in the news these days regarding immigration, drug abuse and homelessness in our great state, many of us search for answers and ways we can help. Hope Acts, a non-profit organization located right here in Portland, works alongside addicts and alcoholics in recovery as well as immigrant asylum seekers to create a community where all people experience social, emotional, physical, economic and spiritual wellbeing. The organization also offers a volunteer program with numerous opportunities for community members to be involved in areas of recovery wellness and immigrant support.

Just as Hope Acts offer support for others, local musicians and community members will be showing support for Hope Acts this Friday, July 1 at the Portland House of Music and Events (HOME) with “Take Back Home,” a benefit concert hosted by the local band SeepeopleS. The show will also feature other acts such as Anarkitty, Sea Level, Viva & The Reinforcements, Renee Colbrith and C$Burns as Ex Post, Hannah Daman & The Martelle Sisters, Clara Junken, Fred Copeman, Joel Thetford, Akela Moon, Giant Knife and a late night DJ set.

With the concert being billed as Take Back Home, William Bradford of SeepeopleS notes the title as a tongue-in-cheek response to legislators who are looking to change an aspect that makes Portland so great: Diversity. “Take Back Home is literally our effort to fight back,” says Bradford. “The Portland community is very diverse, vibrant and includes people from many different places. We don’t want to see that change.”

All proceeds from Take Back Home will go directly to the Hope Acts organization as it continues its efforts to relocate refugees in the area. While Bradford has always believed in and supported the Hope Acts cause, he had yet to be affiliated with the organization until this opportunity presented itself. “Our keyboard player, Fred Copeman has done a lot of work with Hope Acts,” says Bradford. “That opened the door for us to put on this concert because we all really believe in it.”

With SeepeopleS hosting the event, Bradford says that the band recruited other musician friends and acts that the group supports and felt would be a great fit for the show. That being said, the music that will take place at the benefit show does not adhere to one genre or theme, much like the music of SeepeopleS. “It’s all over the place,” says Bradford. “The night will feature acoustic singer/songwriters, heavier-sounding bands, punk and progressive rock music as well.”

In addition the community of musicians that will be on display this Friday night, local businesses have jumped on board in support of the show. Salvage BBQ is sponsoring and catering the event and will offer an array of choices. Other sponsors include Hot Trash Portland, American Roots Apparel and the newspaper you're reading, the Portland Phoenix. There will also be raffles throughout the night that feature prizes such as,  two tickets to the New Hampshire Hemp Festival ($280 value), tickets to the Matrix Music Festival and A Radiohead after-party show featuring SeepeopleS in NYC in which the winner will get to ride to the show with the band. The raffles will also feature gift certificates from Silly’s, Portland Empire and a host of other local businesses.

When reaching out for support for the show, Take Back Home received a great response from local businesses as many were currently involved with Hope Acts or had been in the past. “I think it’s a true testament to how great Hope Acts is,” says Bradford. “Many businesses were already on the donor list and were happy to contribute to anything involving the organization.”

In choosing the venue for Take Back Home, Bradford says that HOME was the perfect fit for what is SeepeopleS is looking to accomplish. “With everything that’s going on that night with the number of different bands and catering, we found that HOME was the right-sized venue; big enough to host everything but small enough to be intimate,” he shares. “I’ve also known the owner, Ken Bell, for years so it was kind of a no-brainer.”

 

Tickets for Take Back Home can be purchased at www.portlandhouseofmusic.com for $8 in advance or $10 day of show. Doors will open at 5:00pm and music starts at 6:00pm.

Picking the brains of songwriters during Mystery Mondays

Eric Bettencourt admits that his motivation for starting the “Mystery Mondays” sessions at Blue was to help further along his songwriting skills. “In Austin I took part in a lot of songwriting seminars,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do. I love to pick the brains of people that I love to listen to and find out what their songwriting process involves.”  Folks in Portland now have an opportunity to do the same as Bettencourt is hosting Mystery Mondays on the second and fourth Monday of each week from 5:30 to 7:00. An open forum format, Mystery Mondays showcases different songwriters each week who perform, talk about their personal songwriting experiences and answer questions.

The ‘mystery’ aspect of the forum is the fact that Bettencourt does not announce the artist until the day of the show. “I want it to be more about presenting an objective opportunity for people to hear from different songwriters, rather than just the fans of that particular artist,” shares Bettencourt. “I’m also not necessarily concerned with filling the room. We want a nice intimate setting where conversations take place between the artist and audience.“

Mystery Mondays kicked off on June 13 with none other than the Armies duo Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard. Gutter has been the frontman for Rustic Overtones for more than 20 years now, and Lombard has honed her songwriting skills in multiple original projects including Gypsy Tailwind and Anna and the Diggs. The duo released the first Armies record in 2015, which features the two vocalists blending melodic harmonies on a collection of original material touching on multiple styles and genres.

The self-titled album played a strong platform for Gutter and Lombard to discuss their songwriting capabilities and individual processes. Not only did the discussion include methods utilized for composing the album, but also featured anecdotes from Lombard about her own techniques for writing harmonies for each track. “I sometimes have to have Dave leave the room when I’m figuring out harmonies,” she shares with a laugh. “I’m so critical about what I do that I need to be alone in the studio sometimes to get it right.”

The overall feel of Mystery Mondays is one of informality. The evening began with Gutter and Lombard sharing stories from the making of the record that included early morning rides to the studio as well as late night antics. “There was one song that was written in the car on the way to the recording session,” recalls Lombard. “Dave wrote the lyrics down on a napkin and then nailed the vocals when we got to the studio.” Gutter even shared some of his experiences working with Aaron Neville on his latest record. “I’ve been writing songs my entire life and it’s still completely nerve wracking when you’re writing and suggesting parts for one of your musical idols,” he shares.

Gutter compared the songwriting process to that of playing a video game, with numerous levels that increase in difficulty as you move forward with a song.  “When you write lyrics down on paper, it’s often that the most important stuff is what you cross out. It’s important to be completely accepting of ideas and then be willing to throw them away. Because of that, I’ll sometimes spend an entire day on just one line. “

With Bettencourt moderating, he was sure to encourage Gutter and Lombard to perform a few numbers from the Armies Record as a way of displaying an end result from the strategies discussed. Performances included, ‘At Home,’ ‘Death,’ ‘Let it Burn,’ and ‘All the way Love.’ Upon request, Gutter even played a portion of the Rustic Overtones staple, ‘Check,’ which he noted was not one of his favorites, but gained a new appreciation for the tune after having the opportunity to play it with The Count from Sesame Street.

With a strong passion for gaining new songwriting skills, Bettencourt is also happy to present the opportunity for others to pick the brains of the guest artists. Taking questions from the audience sparked lengthy discussions that otherwise would not have taken place without the open-forum format.

Mystery Mondays will run throughout the summer featuring local and national artists. There is no cover charge, although donations are accepted in a pass-the-hat effort.

The Wicked Woods release a new EP, Let It Be Known

For the past year and a half, The Wicked Woods have been writing music, practicing, recording and playing shows wherever they can, all over Portland. This Saturday, June 18, that hard work will culminate with a multi-act show at Empire where the band will celebrate the release of its latest EP, Let It Be Known. Other acts joining The Wicked Woods for the show will be Tall Horse and Elison Jackson.

The Wicked Woods consists of singer/songwriter and guitarist Josh Phillips, guitarist Paul Miller, drummer Christopher Bell and guitarist Oliver Waterman who in 2015, released an EP with his solo project called Lament. Bell joined Waterman for a performance of Lament upon its release at Empire.

With all members of The Wicked Woods involved in the songwriting process, the group truly is a collaboration and team effort, with band members even switching instruments on stage at certain times leaving nobody designated as the full-time bass player. Growing up together in central Maine, each member of the group presents their own respective style and influence, generating an eclectic sound that combines progressive rock with a strong sense of the '90s Seattle grunge era. “Paul and Chris are into the heavier stuff like Metallica,” says Phillips. “I’ve always been more interested in the smoother, more mellow stuff.”

With its own unique textures and traditional classic rock foundation,  Lament is the first EP released by The Wicked Woods. The group completed the project at Penumbra Recordings, which is a small indie-budget friendly recording studio located in South Portland. “We worked with Jayson Whitmore at Penumbra and he was so great.” With a diverse set of influences and eclectic sound, The Wicked Woods is still determining what its niche will be, or if the group will even carve one out with which to be identified.

What helps them in this process, is gauging how the compilation is received from their numerous fans and listeners. “Most of the people we have played the CD for have thought they were hearing two different bands,” says Phillips. “We plan on testing these songs out on stage and then going back into the studio to record a full album.

The release party for Lament is this Saturday, June 18 and is $5 in advance and $8 day of show. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show starting at 9 p.m. and going until 1 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at holdmyticket.com and by visiting The Wicked Woods FaceBook page.

Portland rock is far from dead: New Grime Studios fosters a hotbed of musical creativity

When the new Grime Studios opened in April of 2016 at 299 Presumpscot St., it was the culmination of hard work, stress and an overall deep passion exhibited by Justin Curtsinger. The facility has become known as one of the best practice spaces for local bands with its 24/7 access and no noise ordinance. When the old Grime Studios was shut down due to property development, the question arose of where or even if local musicians would have a space to hone their craft during non-conventional hours.

Curtsinger has been the manager of Grime Studios for a number of years now, although when he accepted the post, he viewed it as a month-to-month venture. “I basically just took it over on a whim and never looked back,” he says. “About a year into it I started to realize that it could work.”

Fortunately for Portland acts such as Five of the Eyes and Korovyov, Curtsinger stuck with it and is dedicated to maintaining Portland’s reputation not just as a restaurant town, but a music town as well.

Upon entering the new Grime Studios, one immediately recognizes the aesthetically pleasing vacant-warehouse-space-conversion aspect of the facility. The immediate eye catcher is the skeletal framing connected with layers of drywall comprising a total of 26 practice rooms, with all but two occupied. That doesn’t mean that only 24 bands use the facility either. Curtsinger strategically designed the space to contain units of different dimensions to accommodate three-piece to seven-piece acts. A total of 35 bands are currently using Grime Studios on a monthly basis.

“The rent is set at a price and it’s completely up to the musicians how they want to divide it up,” Curtsinger explains. “If three or four bands want to use the same room they can work it out to be extremely affordable per person. It doesn’t matter to me.“

For a first-time visitor, a mutual respect and understanding was instantly present as artists came and went during my conversation with Curtsinger. Members of bands would approach him and hand him envelopes of cash with a friendly handshake, some of them apologizing for tardiness in their debt. “I have no problem if people are late with the rent as long as they talk to me,” says Curtsinger. “This place is all about enabling people to do what they love. I’m not in it for the money. I don’t want people to avoid coming here or feel like they can’t because they’re late on paying the rent. As long as they communicate with me I have no problem.”

Well-established relationships are immediately present also, as many occupants made the transition with Curtsinger into the new facility. “Everybody was so great and they stuck with me while we got the place up and running,” he recalls. “We had to shove everyone in a small space until we got the framing and drywall up. That took about eight months and it wasn’t comfortable but everybody toughed it out.”

With all the hard work that Curtsinger has put into his vision for Grime Studios, the practice facility would not have been possible without outside assistance. Receiving grants from local nonprofit organizations as well as a certified loan were major stepping stones in the process. Curtsinger attributes a majority of the studio’s success to his friend Tom Blackburn, a former attorney who has aided him with in legal issues and jargon in order to bring Grime Studios to life. “I can’t commend him enough,” says Curtsinger. “He has put all his effort into helping this place simply because he wants to see a place exist where people can practice their craft.”

The popularity of Portland is growing, and with that brings a level of gentrification that we are all witnessing. All in all, Grime Studios presents a feeling of relief that the arts are not dead in Portland. In fact, the scene is growing stronger. Grime Studios is a feel-good story reminding us all that big money and property development do not always win. The work that Justin Curtsinger has put in to providing this space for local musicians is inspirational and reminds us that we only live once, so we might as well do what we love.

 

For more information on Grime Studios, visit grimestudios.com as well as on Facebook.

  • Published in Music

Four local bands help raise $6,500 for Go Big for Hunger

Not only does our beloved town of Portland possess an extravagant music scene with a pool of talented artists, our little slice of the Northeast also boasts some of the biggest enthusiasm from musicians and music lovers alike when it comes to supporting a worthwhile cause. On Friday, May 20, Portland came together for a sold-out show at Portland House of Music and Events (HOME) produced by Greg Martens, founder of Go Big for Hunger, a campaign to end child hunger in the state of Maine.

With local acts including the Maine Dead Project, Pardon Me, Doug, Jason Spooner Band, the Raging Brass Reggae, and comedy from Kimmy, an eclectic group of up to 30 guest musicians graced the stage throughout the night, all volunteering their talent, time and equipment. The guest of honor for the evening was none other than Grammy-award winning artist, John Popper. For those of you who don’t know, or just happened to live under a rock during the '90s, Popper has been the frontman for the seminal jam band Blues Traveler, for 30 years. The band was awarded a Grammy for its 1994 mainstream hit, “Run-Around.”

A close personal friend of Martens, Popper has graced Portland with his presence on numerous occasions, including Martens’ 50th birthday party in 2013. This two-day event was similar to the Go Big for Hunger show as it was a Martens-produced show that included a collection of Portland musicians with all proceeds going to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Go Big for Hunger was Martens’ first show at HOME since Ken Bell opened the music club just over a year ago. Many of us know Ken from the days of the Big Easy on Market Street. Since opening HOME, Ken has offered a perfect mix of national touring acts while still providing a big stage to showcase local talent.

As a local musician myself, I can honestly say how great it has been to see Ken transition from reluctantly closing the Big Easy, to fighting his way back and opening one of the best clubs in Portland. It’s not often that you witness such mutual respect and support between musicians and a club owner. That respect was never more present than the Go Big for Hunger show.

I could go on to dissect each individual performance but that would not be in conjunction with the spirit of the night. While it does not always come easy to any artist, egos were required to be checked at the door as the cause was greater than any individual or band. With so many musicians in the same club sharing the same stage in one night, a vibe existed throughout the establishment of pure positive energy.

Through donations, raffles and ticket sales, more than $6,500 was raised for the Go Big for Hunger foundation. To become involved with the foundation you can visit the Go Big for Hunger page on Facebook.

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