Nick Schroeder

Nick Schroeder

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.


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 |

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


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 |

 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 |


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 |


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 |


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 |




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 |

 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 |


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 |


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 |





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 |


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 |



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 |

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 |



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 |




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 |


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



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 |


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 |




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.

  • Published in News

Burn This Album — KGFREEZE's Scorching 'Scapegoat'

Four albums into this form, bandleader Kyle Gervais (ex-Cosades, ex-Grand Hotel) has explored a lot of sounds since he began his KGFREEZE project in 2013, from R&B-meets-funk ass-wigglery to angular, incisive indie-rock. But on Scapegoat, released this spring at a trim 10 songs and 24 minutes, Gervais's gestural of dismissal to the genre explorations and contrivances of previous albums is dramatic. Gone are the funky affectations of Hypocrite; the party-ready dance-rock of Volunteer, the lo-fi weirdo-soul of Sociopath. With a band of new personnel and a seemingly rebooted mission, Scapegoat prioritizes energy over composition, action over ambition.

And to this listener, holy shit it works. The result is a record that's frankly, unabashedly, furiously one of the most enjoyable local records I've heard all year.

Chief among the reasons for this is that Scapegoat restores Gervais to his strengths as a live performer — namely, his enviable gift for summoning a cathartic, duende-like energy. This pairs well with his impressively dynamic vocal range, through which Gervais is capable of conveying profound emotion at ecstatic levels of intensity. From the opening moments of the title track, Scapegoat bulldozes the listener with melody, gust and propulsion, urged ahead by brother Chris Gervais's dynamic, thunderous drumwork and Kyle's own soaring, throaty vocals. A sneakily-only-midtempo rock single, "Scapegoat" may not be the sort of summer anthem you play on the way to the beach, but I'd be psyched to hear it on repeat wearing headphones while biking through the sweltering city. (Everyone's different.)

One of the project's signature traits of the KGFREEZE project has been its systematic packaging. Each album bears a nine-letter title; each cover a portrait of Gervais or a patrilineal member of his family. I can't speculate what's going on there — are these concept albums or it just empty branding? — but the choices are strong enough to indicate that careful design and consideration goes into them.

But while Gervais is tasked, in 2017, to be the chief marketer and producer of his own records, he doesn't suffer from the paralyzing concerns about marketability that afflicts so many musicians in the same spot. On Scapegoat, those fucks are clearly not given. Refreshingly, it's an album of action and intention. I can't make out all the lyrics and I don't doubt they're thoughtful, but every sonic decision is clearly born from of absolution and execution, decisions made and performed. The sounds are a bit different, but releases this urgent, abrasive, and purgative that nonetheless remain so listenable bring to mind records like At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command and Drive Like Jehu's Yank Crime — albums that don't let listeners catch their breath. 

The past five years have entered Gervais into collaborations with some of the most prolific, respected musicians in the city, a group that includes Dean Ford, Ian Riley, Lady Essence, Jared Fairfield, Jeff Beam, Sara Hallie Richardson, Derek Gierhan, Dominic Lavoie, Renee Coolbrith, and Spose. But maybe none fit as well as the band he deploys on Scapegoat, with whom Kyle seems truly at home. So smooth and undemonstrative are the opening bars of "Private in Public" that the track barely registers in 10/8, and loses no momentum as it courses through a twitchy, odd-tempoed chorus. Like something off a Botch or Deftones album, "Seyton" is maybe the heaviest song in Gervais's repertoire, but the band pulls it off without it seeming like some airy post-hardcore tribute act. And highlight "On The Hill" balances Kyle's knack for wriggling out compelling vocal melodies among the the most sinewy guitar leads before the song storms off into its two-minute sunset. 

These days, the term "punk" is either meaningless or a slur. Regardless, Scapegoat isn't a punk record. It's a rock album the kind most people no longer care to make. You won't hear it in coffee shops. It won't play in your favorite bar. But for this summer, when it's widely reported that nothing matters anymore and fuck-it vibes ride colossally high, it's a pretty satisfying way to burn through half an hour.

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


John Sundling's 'Ghost Fence' Conjures Portland Past and Future

The first of a series of temporary public art installations throughout the city assembled by TEMPOart Portland, Ghost Fence has by now caught your attention. It's not likely the assemblage of flagging tape, wooden poles, and plastic sheeting in the grassy knoll along Franklin Arterial would be mistaken for a civic beautification project, but it's surely prompting questions.
The work of Portland-based artist and designer John Sundling, Ghost Fence is up for the month of June, and is meant to invoke a discussion (public or private) about a series of land-use decisions made by the City of Portland in the 1960s and '70s, which Sundling asserts razed and displaced old Maine communities for the purpose of becoming more modern, functional and commercially viable.
What sort of research did you do to prepare for Ghost Fence? Why did it move you to create this work?
My earliest research was regularly walking along and across Franklin Arterial, which is a few blocks from my house, and experiencing how it is used and how it feels to inhabit the space. I have been interested in this part of the city for years, both as a psychic dividing line on the peninsula and because its history exemplifies Portland's history. Following the TEMPOart call for submissions, I focused on Lincoln Park's pre-urban renewal fence line and used historic maps and photos to plot out the boundary, with a lot of inspiration from Scott Hanson's great "History of Franklin Street" video (found on YouTube). Ghost Fence itself manifested during late night walks this winter, and seemed the most direct way to boil all the history of change and conflict down to something digestible at a public scale. 
In the TEMPOart statement, it says about the project that "(i)n the late 1960s, the City of Portland razed existing communities to create the Franklin Street Arterial and make the street more 'functional' and 'modern'" — what did you learn about the people in those communities?
What I've learned about the communities affected by urban renewal in Portland in the 1960s and '70s is that they were culturally varied and had deep historical ties to young Portland, which is rooted in the India Street neighborhood. Listening to WMPG's recent audio documentary on Franklin Street gave voices to people still alive who lived in these homes that were suddenly labeled as slums and torn down 50 years ago. The history is still alive and the emotions fresh, giving Franklin a symbolic importance beyond the infrastructural benefits. 
Given the city's sometimes tumultuous history with public art projects (like the infamous "Tracing the Fore" sculpture in Boothby Square, which was removed earlier this decade), I'm curious what sort of response you've gotten from the average Portlander about Ghost Fence
I am finding that people are curious, but that many people take a defensive position upon first inquiry. Gruff, perhaps. Upon learning that Ghost Fence is about the story of their city, and was installed with intent and local relevance, they usually soften up to it. Everyone who grew up here knows this history, and I think that helps people connect to my project. I've had a few haters, but anything put into the public is free to be criticized and I enjoy the feedback. 
Have you noticed any creative alterations or interactions to the piece since its install?  
The first night after the June 2 opening, two sections of the fence were torn apart very purposefully. I'd done outdoor material testing and I know that the wind does not do to the white plastic flagger tape what happened to that part of the fence that night. Also, one of the plastic upholstered piers has been stabbed. I keep an eye on it and replace parts as necessary. 
You also work in floristry and set design, and have taken an interest to outdoor, environmental art. Are there other places or natural settings in Portland you've taken an interest in?
I have installed work all over the peninsula for years, though this is my first officially permitted public art project. I tend to focus on quiet corners of the town, often seemingly neglected, like the snow dump in Bayside, West Commercial Street before the clear cutting, the quay along the Eastern Promenade Trail. I'm interested in bringing attention to these spots, and making personal connections with the place as a way to reflect on time and change. I would love to play with the tides in Back Cove or create something that plays with the hills in town, with a series of installations meant to be seen from a distance. 

Ghost Fence, sculptural installation by John Sundling | Through June 30 | Franklin Arterial and Congress St, Portland |

An earlier version of this story cited Scott Hanson's YouTube video as the "History of Lincoln Street." It is actually the "History of Franklin Street."

  • Published in Art

8 Days a Week: Pride Parades, Weed Eaters, and City Savers



RESPECT TO SHERYL SWOOPES | There's one thing true in this world of lies, and it's the fact that Rivalries has decent burgers. I'm not kidding here. For a sports bar with roughly eight dozen TVs, you'd think they'd be content to stay in their lane, serving up requisitely tasty yet forgettable pub food to bros whose palates have been too mossed over by foamy IPAs to care what it tastes like. But damn, it seems like they actually care about the nobility of that burger. Another thing they care about, one infers, is LGBTQ rights — another big win in our book. Tonight, as Pride nears its apex of weekend parties, join emcee Shane Diamond (who wrote an essay in last week's issue) for a one-off LGBTQ trivia night, complete with foamy prizes. Word is you should study 21st-century musicals, out athletes, and the history of Pride itself.

6-9 pm | FREE | Rivalries, 10 Cotton St., Portland |


PRAY TELL | Last week's sold out performance of The Moth Mainstage at the State Theatre tells me the city knows how to appreciate a thick, solid yarn. Born in 1997 by a dude in Georgia, that storytelling series is now the most notorious in the land. Meanwhile, collaborative efforts between the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, The Corner in Lewiston, and Brunswick's Frontier launched a Maine-based telling series SoundBites last year (a season which included a story from this humble writer). And in the spirit of understanding that you've got to start somewhere, the place they've started from — a season of award-winning storytellers selling out the theater space at the always-excellent Frontier — is hard to beat. Join them tonight to hear seasoned stories from telling vets Sandi Marx and Dr. Phyllis Blackstone, plus Maine personalities including community organizer Joey Brunelle, journalist Marco Aviles, and South Korean-born culture-worker Tae Chong, telling stories on the theme of "New to Town."

7:30 pm | $9 | Frontier, 14 Maine St., Brunswick |


SEVERAL FRIENDLIES | Kinda been pluggin' 'em every week, but these free Thursday night shows at Geno's are really hitting the spot. Really kissing the young rock fan right in the kisser. Presented by upstart tape label Are You Kidding Me?, tonight's show merges the lives of those who like the band Giant Knife, who like the band Ossalot, and who like the band All Night — they gotta meet each other! Giant Knife is a propulsive wave of slack-catharsis; the trio Ossalot, ex of BABE and the Rattlesnakes, play quixotically beautiful minimalist post-punk indie rock; and All Night dredges up the buried organ of doom-metal. You'll remember these days somehow!

9 pm | FREE | Geno's Rock Club, 625 Congress St, Portland |


RESPECT THE FORM | Seems a show belonging to another era, but we're into it. Tonight, musician Seth Warner and his band presents the entirety of Jackson Browne's cool soft-rock album, Running On Empty, a record which rock critic Robert Christgau at the time said to have "tapped the culture's circa-1977 sense that it was running on empty, feeling like a trashed Holiday Inn room." Relatable! Seriously, though, Warner and company have shown an admirable probity learning and performing other albums of merit — Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, Neil Young's Tonight's the Night, Lyle Lovett's Pontiac — and while these selections aren't exactly obscure, they're sincere, and it's clear he's driven by other factors than music trends. In other words, there may not be another chance to go this deep into Jackson Browne. Featuring a band that includes Portland singer Susanne Gerry, this performance is one-night-only.

| $15 adv, $20 day of | 8 pm | St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St, Portland |


ALERIC'S WORLD | Need a low-key reprieve? I don't know anyone in town who wouldn't benefit from seeing a performance from Mousa. The performance alias of Vince Nez, the multi-instrumentalist plays a set at Blue tonight at 7 pm. Dude's got a lot of good ideas about how to do music. Treat it like a restorative power hour for the soul.

7 pm | FREE | Blue, 650A Congress St, Portland |




ARM YOURSELF | There are innumerable ways to approach Pride, and today's all-day LGBTQ+ Health Conference presents a knowledge-share on the theme of trauma and resiliency. Hosted by the Health Equity Alliance and dealing with issues of primary care, transgender health, and other themes related to wellness and security, this event includes a presentation by keynote speaker Sandy James from the National Center of Transgender Equality. Tickets run $35 to $50, with continuing education credits (CME/CEU) available.

7:45 am-5 pm | $50 (scholarships available) | University of Southern Maine, 96 Falmouth St., Portland |


GOOD WERK IF U CAN GET IT | The Pride Portland folks have whipped up an exciting calendar of events, but many of the month's best parties and shows fall outside of that network. Tonight, we're blessed with a dance party and drag show starring Thorgy Thor of Rupaul's Drag Race alongside luminous Portland queens Stepmother, Cherry Lemonade, and Dirty Money Dana. It's all set to sounds from retrofuturist synth-rock group Superorder and DJ Kttnmttnz, and also boasts a return of Aquarius Funkk, the alias of former Portland resident Lilia Garcelon, who is a star. Part of a series of parties under the banner Chemtrail, for which organizers have stated to be stoked on reappropriating typically "straight bars" — a fine idea.

8 pm | $20-25 | Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland |


ORIGINATOR | A day before the broader Pride parade, ride with the Portland Dyke March in their 12th annual event leading the charge. Later, it's a gloriously broad evening of themes and flavors, so tonight's Portland Queer Showcase, on the earlier side of things, can get you started right. Put on by the Portland Maine Dyke March Collective, this gathering at MECA shows poetry, dance, and song from songwriter Monique Bidwell, dance performer Aquarius Funkk, dance troupe Vivid Motion, budding young artist Sam Barwell, Nikolaas Mirage, and more.

5:30 pm | FREE | Monument Sq, Portland | $3-5 donation | 7:30 pm | Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland |


PROCEED NAZARETH | The stoner-sludge band Weedeater swings through town tonight. The 20-odd-year project of former Buzzov*en frontman Dixie Collins, Weedeater's dropped five albums of bluesy, stripped-down post-metal, kind of Sabbath meets Eyehategod. They're up with Maine metal dogs Sylvia, Seattle's Serial Hawk, and Canadian quartet Black Wizard. The aural equivalent of dipping your hand in motor oil and holding it thumbs down until it dries. | 8:30 pm | $15 adv, $18 day of | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |


ENPURPLE YOUR LIFE | As you age, it becomes imperative to learn new things to do with your hands. Learn the basics of traditional Japanese resist dyeing with a workshop presented by the Bayside fiber arts outfit PortFiber, whose artist emissary Amelia Poole guides students through binding, stitching, and pole-wrapping techniques for cotton and silk. They're working specifically with indigo hues today — which, like, no complaints there; indigo is lovely. This is a day-long class — and perhaps steep at $120 — but it's a skill your hands won't forget.

10 am-4 pm | $120 | PortFiber, 50 Cove St., Portland |


ANXIETY OF INFLUENCE | I can never forget the moment in that film Garden State — which I was coerced into watching in college by a pretty, wealthy girl from L.A. — when bratty, beautiful Natalie Portman shakes off her headphones in a hospital waiting room and informs a yearning Zach Braff that she's listening to ... the Shins. My memory is imperfect here, but it seemed a moment designed to illustrate some mysterious and chronically misunderstood trait about Portman's character, or that she herself felt chronically misunderstood, which would of course yoke us along with Braff's mounting interest in her. But then, she was listening to the Shins, a band no one in America has ever had problems understanding or sharing with broader society. The viewer, at that moment, can also hear the Shins performing some song I can't be bothered to look up (but it was definitely on that era-defining soundtrack), and the whole scene seemed to flow like an ad for some product I stridently did not want to buy, a/k/a my own generation. Needless to say, the Shins have enjoyed many years of success since — and I'm no longer in touch with that girl from college. Now less of a band than a summer-y songwriting project by 47-year-old frontman James Mercer, the Shins sound admittedly more adventurous and less precious these days. And though my personal opinions are shared here merely for color, you'll be among friends helping them celebrate their lovely-enough fifth album and first in five years, titled Heartworms, at a spirited set at Thompson's Point tonight. | 5:30-8 pm | $42-47 | Thompson's Point, 4 Thompson's Point, Portland |





COMIC LOVE | With over 100 artists, designers, and writers, the Maine Comic Arts Festival convenes in the great halls of the Portland Public Library today, showing a dizzying number of artists from Maine and beyond exhibiting books in the library's Lewis Gallery, Atrium, and elsewhere. Admission is free; check Casablanca Comics for a nifty guide to the whole thing.

10 am-5 pm | FREE | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Way, Portland |


BE U | Today, of course, is Pride proper, which typically means you can witness the most joyful public moment in Portland city life alongside half the city. Coursing a path from Monument Square to Deering Oaks Park, the Pride Parade starts at 10:30 am. I'm tempted to include a political statement about the times, but you already get it.

10:30 am | FREE | Monument Square, Portland |


ROOF DUDES | At the newly revamped and palatially big Bayside Bowl, join the Portland Bach Festival for "Bachtails," a pop-up show of string performances scattered throughout the lanes. Not sure if it's a Brooklyn-inspired paradise or some quasi-Victorian fever dream brought to life — a night of mini-classical concerts, bowling, and rooftop cocktails — but we're sure it'll find a foothold in your weird set of interests nonetheless. If you're someone who bowls better to the Goldberg Variations than you do Lady Gaga, this is your night. Kicks off a nine-day Portland Bach Festival, a Portland original.

5:30-8 pm | FREE | Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., Portland |


SPIRITED CONVEYANCE | Look to our feature section for the breakdown on PortFringe, the homegrown festival of dramatic and experimental performances from near and far surging through Portland's arts district now through June 24. | variable pricing |




8days magicmenlive

Experience the surreal housewife fantasy that is Magic Men Live this week at the Merrill Auditorium. 

HARDBODY JONES | Billed as a ladies night for the ages, tonight's Magic Men appearance of cut, muscular dancing dudes banks on a similar mainstream housewife fantasy to 50 Shades of Grey. Which, no shame there. For a ticket price of $41-81, see these remarkably ripped male bodies in various American archetypes — the Country Boy, the Latin Lover, The Rook, The Bad Boy, the Chocolate Boy Wonder, as they call them, and more — acting and dancing out various PG-13-level fantasy scenarios, surreally on the Merrill Auditorium stage. | 8 pm | $41-81 | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland |



VIEWS | Decompress that monster weekend with a thought-provoking and vital lecture tonight, as Portland Director of Advocacy Julie Larry and artist John Sundling (of the installation Ghost Fence on Franklin Arterial — see page 20 for more) speaking about "The Impact of Portland's Urban Renewal" on the city's immigrant communities of the 20th century. Put on by Greater Portland Landmarks and TEMPOart, an organization prompting temporary public art installations throughout the city.

6 pm | $20 | Franklin Arterial & Congress St., Portland |




The Jeremiahs 1188

FULL PARTY | The legendary Michael Franti (of Spearhead and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy) having already sold out Thompson's Point tonight, we'd have to point you to One Longfellow Square instead, where noteworthy band The Jeremiahs, a four-piece traditional folk project that's risen to the head of the Irish folk class, play a set of traditionals and originals.

7 pm | $15 adv, $20 day of | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


MAKE PLANS | Jane Jacobs's 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities is still required reading for anyone who thinks seriously about city planning and how to live in a society. Scratch that, anyone who spends any time outside, ever. Tonight, the documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a film about the work of the late Manhattan-based activist and writer, screens at SPACE Gallery, where Portlanders can learn lessons and best practices about how to fight for the soul of their own city.

7 pm | $8 | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland |



PIZZA PARTY | These warm summer evenings we've been enjoying call for cold beers and patio hangs. Outdoor seating has been available at Slab, and this night offers a chance to combine those seasonal pleasures with their pillowy Sicilian pies, and the sweet organ sounds of the Micromasse trio. Organist Peter Dugas, guitarist Max Cantlin, and drummer Chris Sweet will kick off Slab's Summer Music Series with their reliably delightful instrumental jazz performance. 

6 pm | FREE | Slab, 25 Preble St., Portland |




LOOKING AHEAD | Next week brings us what we deserve, a Portland Food Festival, meant to highlight the growing number of food entrepreneurs working in and outside the traditional restaurant industry.

8 Days A Week: Raise the Flag, Rally for Life, Dance Forever



DESIRE TRAP | In the film world, it's considered a treat to live in a city that'll screen Stalker, the newly-restored HD release of Andrei Tarkovsky's mindbending 1979 sci-fi film. That Portland is among those cities is a delight. In the film, a mysterious interloper known only as "The Stalker" guides two yearning souls—a depressive writer and a professor looking for scientific discovery—to a place called "The Zone," where the rules of reality are suspended and lies a room said to enable their innermost desires. What happens next belongs to a language better served by a different tongue. One of the most highly regarded films of the last half-century, this souped-up version is a ride worth taking. Screening tonight as well as Saturday and Sunday.

| $8 | 5:30 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland |


BREAKING THE CODE | This month, Portland's Lisa Bunker, whom some may know as the former director of WMPG (as well as a past contributor to this and other in-town publications), celebrates the release of her young adult sci-fi novel, Felix Yz. First published by Bunker as a work of interactive fiction (via her blog), Felix Yz tells of an otherwise typical eighth-grade boy who's been living his life attached to some strange alien presence for 10 years, which has made things far more difficult. Nevertheless, Felix keeps plugging away through life growing up in Maine, enjoying chess and webcomics, enduring strange crushes and fighting off bullies, and along the way learns powerful lessons about transcending the standards and norms of his upbringing. Hear Bunker read from her smart and original novel tonight at Longfellow Books.

| FREE | 7 pm | Longfellow Books, 1 Monument Way, Portland |


SEE THROUGH THIS | Three years ago, a group of bold, brazen, sex-positive folks formed the group Maine Educationalists for Sexual Harmony, a/k/a M.E.S.H. They took it as their mission to do the work of making publicly-accessible, consent-based sex education while producing events and shows that were undeniably fun, inclusive, and hot. With a lot of core members moved on to other cities, the present state of M.E.S.H. may be more porous than ever, but their spirit is enough intact to produce a vintage-level program tonight. At Urban Farm Fermentory, a fashion show tonight, titled "Babes, Hunx, and Hairy Punx: An In-Body Catwalk Experience," sells the vulnerable, spiritual act of being near-nude in front of friends, allies, and strangers as much as it sells any actual underwear product (which I believe will also be available). Followed by a "body-reframing workshop" hosted by the Educationalists themselves.

| $5-20 donation | 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St, Portland |




SHOW UP | On Inauguration Day, the Trump administration erased all references to LGBTQ people and people living with HIV on the White House website. Trump's appointments—from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Director Tom Price, and Supreme Court judge Neil Gorsuch—each have a history of supporting virulently anti-LGBTQ policies and platforms. The act of resisting this, whether over the last six months, the 48 years since the Stonewall Riots, or long before, has been the slow, necessary, imperative work of those who struggle for human freedom regardless of how they identify. Talking about exhaustion and shared responsibility, a queer Latinx friend of mine posted on social media recently this question: "Whose health is in jeopardy when you never take your turn putting your body and mind on the line? Who carries an overwhelming burden because you choose not to, and someone's got to do it?" Today's Pride Flag-Raising Ceremony is a celebration, not a protest. But for the cisgender hetero white male writing this, it's one humble reminder of the unbelievable, thoroughly exhausting work of fighting for justice and human rights in the capitalist, patriarchal society we live in, and the indefatigable efforts of so many who are in the thick of it.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Equality Community Center, 511 Anderson St., Portland |


ORIGINATOR | Originating over ten plays, operas, and adaptations for the stage, the Portland theater artist Bess Welden has been a dynamic, intelligent force in Maine performance and education since moving to Maine the early 2000s. Her original play Big Mouth, Thunder Thighs was a memoir and solo vaudeville show about a woman's evolving relationship to her body; Passion of the Hausfrau, an adaptation of Portland writer Nicole Chaison's comic series by the same name, was an effort to sublimated the simple pleasures and pains of child-rearing into a glorious fulfillment of the spirit. This week, she opens Legbala is a River, an original multi-disciplinary show about a white woman who transforms during the absence of her doctor-husband while he's away treating Ebola patients in Liberia. Exploring the folds between motherhood, public service, and individual sacrifice, Welden's knack for discovery and transformation is well-defined, and is worth a witness. Running through June 17, Legbala Is A River opens this weekend Thursday through Saturday evenings and Sunday at 2 pm.

| $16 | 7:30 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland |


LOCAL SIMS | As public discourse between NIMBYs and YIMBYs regarding housing and development in Maine has become as fractured and toxic as political speech, the group Build Maine attempts to broaden the coalition of stakeholders in urban growth decisions. Over a day-long conference in Lewiston, titled Build Maine 2017, the group hopes to synthesize the voices and wishes of "all people involved in the work of building Maine — the builders, funders, elected officials, engineers, lawyers, planners, finance institutions, architects, and rule-makers." Critics of recent developmental efforts might suggest there are some demographics missing from that cohort, (maybe some redundancies too), but this is where we're at. Don your finest reformist cap and sign up for Build Maine 2017.

| $50 to $75 | 8 am - 4:30 pm | 31 Chestnut St., Lewiston |


HANDLE THE TRUTH | This weekend marks the convergence of several festivals in town. Pride, of course, converges with the all-encompassing annual Old Port Festival on Saturday, but also the impending PortFringe, which, though technically beginning June 17, kicks off with an evening of dramatized performances of signature movie monologues tonight in Longfellow Square. Hang in the epicenter of some of Portland's finest bars and restaurants this early evening listening to area actors bellow the words of actors from the silver screen.

| FREE | 6 pm | Longfellow Square, Portland |


SWEATIN' 2 YR ONLIES | Two major and serious dance parties to contend with tonight. The first is the annual "Pride Kick-off Party" at Grace, which glitzes and glams up under the classic, ripe-for-debauch theme of Angels and Demons (inquire within). The second is over at Oxbow, where a party called "Somewhere Under the Rainbow" returns DJs Don Damiani and Teal Child spinning '90s dance hits and is arguably geared toward a more youthful, next-gen crowd of woke-ass youth. Both are fundraisers—the first supporting the volunteer-run Pride Portland organization (and fiscal sponsor EqualityMaine) and the second turning out for Planned Parenthood, the consent-based sex education org Speak About It, and Maine Boys to Men.

| "Pride Kickoff Party," with DJ Leslie | $10-15 | 8 pm | Grace, 15 Chestnut St, Portland | | "Somewhere Under the Rainbow," dance party with DJs Don Damiani and Teal Child | 8 pm | Oxbow Blending and Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland |


Diane Cluck 2. photo by Scott Yates

Diane Cluck (Photo by Scott Yates)

EASY TO BE AROUND | Somewhat buried in the fanfare is an appearance by the songwriter Diane Cluck, a Virginia-based songwriter whose self-styled "intuitive folk" songs are enigmatic as they are guileless. She's a wonder, and her increasingly frequent shows here are a good omen. Cluck plays with the slow-folk duo Snaex and Plains, whom we haven't heard from in awhile.

| $10 | 8:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |




GET FREER | This afternoon in Brunswick you'll find an inspired observance of Juneteenth, a celebration of African-American culture linked to the emancipation of slaves in the Confederate South in June of 1865. At St. Paul's Episcopal Church, join a festival with music from blues-folk songwriter Samuel James, multi-instrumentalist Rodney Mashia, and rapper ILLijah, along with storytelling, poetry from Linda Ashe-Ford and others, a gospel performance.

| FREE | noon-3 pm | St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 27 Pleasant St., Brunswick |


SUIT UP | Beyond a litany of Pride Portland events (check that calendar), tonight's the night of the Outright Prom, a soiree produced by the organization Portland Outright, who do vital work providing leadership and intersectional justice-based programming for LGBTQ+ young people. Tonight, they throw a substance-free, astrology-themed dance party, for youth ages 14-22.

| $0-15 donation | 7-10 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |  


TIME TO THRASH | Hard to believe it was six years ago someone had the genius idea to troll the Old Port Festival with an endless two-day set of the gnarliest, loudest bands in town, but we are grateful. The Sixth Annual Mathew's Rooftop Festival show has sets from Lyokha, Bright Boy, The Worst, Giant Knife, mosart212, and several dozen more over Saturday and Sunday. Admission is a pittance at $3, and the bar's spacious enough to accommodate tons of folks who need refuge from the Old Port Festival, or the outside world in general. Just don't stand under the leaky ceiling. | $3 | 10 am-10 pm | Mathew's, 133 Free St, Portland

WATER RIGHTS | Another battle activists are fighting in Maine is protection of the state's water reserves, specifically from corporate giant Nestle, who have proposed a groundwater mining project — the Juniper Ridge Landfill Expansion — on the banks of the Penobscot River. Sponsored by a flood of organizations including Community Water Justice and 350 Maine, who join indigenous people of the Penobscot nation, environmental activists, and respective allies to plan a River Rally on a flotilla, with speakers attesting to the importance of water sovereignty. The family-friendly "Water is Life River Rally" begins at noon. | FREE | Noon | Bangor Waterfront Park, Bangor |



FRYIN' MY DOUGH | Listen, it's the Old Port Fest. All day. Which means you gotta do what you gotta do in order to stay alive. If that means diving headfirst into the fray, you have our salute. If it means getting out of town, you could attend a demonstration by butcher Logan Higger, who shows folks how to cure and make charcuterie in a program called MaineFare at a Freeport farm this afternoon. Courtesy of Maine Farmland Trust, tickets are a bit steep at $85, but word is you'll take home lots of pork. | $85 | noon | Winter Hill Farm, 35 Hill Farm Rd., Freeport | 



VIEWS | Not all Pride parties are ragers. Tonight, Maine TransNet hosts a picnic at North Street's Fort Sumner Park, a/k/a "The End of the World," where views of Portland are still largely unobstructed by condos. An organization founded in 2005, MaineTransNet provides support and resources for the transgender community. Join them as they carve out a fine patch of grass on a lovely Monday.

| Free | 6 pm | Fort Sumner Park, North St., Portland |



HOW TO USE A WRENCH | Slightly off-radar but promising considerable emotional impact is a show tonight at Zero Station, where the poised and plaintive songwriter Lisa/Liza plays a set with the Boston farm-punk band Squirrel Flower, and the Maine-born Lina Tullgren, whose dream-folk songs are atmospheric, wistful, and often completely emotionally eviscerating. If you're in need of some post-weekend contemplative space, hit this.

| $5-10 donation | 7:30 pm | Zero Station, 222 Anderson St., Portland




YOUNG AND WISE | Though it's completely mobbed during the Old Port Fest, tonight's a more manageable time to hit Bull Feeney's in the Old Port, where the longstanding Port Veritas open mic and poetry slam throws down. An institution nearly 10 years strong, there's little to prevent you from feeling flickers of inspiration here. If it sparks a full-scale reassessment of your life and its energies, all the better.

| $3 | 7 pm | Bull Feeney's, 375 Fore St., Portland |


WHO U DATING? | Another way to get out of town comes to us via Frontier, which has long been the getaway destination for stir-crazy Portlanders. Tonight they screen the film Colossal, a strange and funny monster movie starring Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway, about an unemployed party girl who discovers her everyday actions are being mirrored writ large by a mysterious creature devastating Seoul, South Korea. Wild times! Cocktail here and consider pairing with dinner at El Camino for the full Brunswick experience.

| $8 | noon, 3, and 7 pm | Frontier, 14 Maine St, Brunswick |



PRAISE | Two crucial films to consider tonight, and the way it works out you can see 'em both. At 5:30, Pride Portland screens the documentary Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson, a film about the trans woman of color, gay liberation activist, and patron of the Greenwich Village bar where the Stonewall Riots took place. The film tracks Marsha's buoyant and kaleidoscopic personality, from her activism with the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) to her her other identity, the reportedly less at-ease Malcolm, a persona which served as a more able conduit for anger). The film is followed by a discussion with members of Pride Portland.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq. Portland |



CAUTIONARY TALE | The second film only fronts as less political. Besides being a straight-up thrilling action film consisting of about 85 percent car-chase, the 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road could be seen as crude and dramatic foreshadowing for a possible future. Nonetheless, it's a good time at the newly revamped Bayside Bowl, as part of the Rooftop Film Series on their incredible new solar-powered patio. Weather-dependent, but right now my WU app's got us down for sunny and mid-70s.

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


QUIET SPACE | Quietly, consistently rolling out a series of fine shows is Greg Jamie, the musician, former Oak and the Ax proprietor and present Apohadion Presents producer responsible for tonight's Tashi Dorji appearance at Oxbow Blending and Bottling. Dorji, the Bhutan-born guitarist living in Asheville, North Carolina, brings his hybrid of blues, classical, improvisational and acoustic folk tracks to the dark and cavernous space of Oxbow, where he plays with arresting folk duo Snaex (Chriss Sutherland and Christopher Teret) and Plains, a slow-core supergroup.

| $5-10 | 8 pm | Oxbow Blending and Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland |



LOOKING AHEAD | Next week: summer! But, like, for real, tho.

Preserving Queer Space — An Interview with Wendy Chapkis about the LGBTQ Oral History Project

While strides have been made for rights and visibility of LGBTQ+ people in American life overall, they’ve accompanied an unfortunate decline in bars and other designated queer spaces, which have been vital in fostering culture and community for generations. Portland witnessed this first hand last winter, when longtime Old Port dance club Styxx closed.

One person hoping to raise awareness to this alarming trend is Wendy Chapkis, USM Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies. With filmmaker Betsy Carson, Chapkis is heading an LGBTQ Oral History Project, where individuals can share “stories about queer bar culture in Southern Maine in an effort to preserve our disappearing history.”

How long have you been planning the Oral History Project? Can you talk about what set the idea in motion?

About a year ago, I was named the Faculty Scholar for USM’s LGBTQ Collection at the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine. My project over three years is to create an oral history component to the collection. Last fall, I started by identifying some key members of the local community with important stories to tell; I then matched those individuals with USM student researchers who I trained in how to conduct life history interviews. Those interviews will soon be available on the Sampson Center website for use by researchers and the public. We’ll be doing the same next fall and again in 2018-19.

But, in addition to those detailed comprehensive life history interviews, I also wanted to gather shorter accounts by a broader range of community members. So, this month (on June 4 and June 20 from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at Flask Lounge at 117 Spring St.) we’re filming short “bar stories” (5 minutes or less) by anyone from the queer community with a memory to share. We are looking for accounts of memorable incidents at a single bar on a single night or more expansive reflections on the existence and disappearance of gay bars. We welcome stories about pleasure, risk, sobriety, sex, heartbreak, love, and activism. The stories are being filmed by local filmmaker Betsy Carson (Gitgo Productions and the Blue Stockings Film Festival) and will become part of the permanent Sampson Center LGBTQ Collection and made available to the public.

As I see it, the mainstream narrative is that as LGBTQ+ culture has become more visible, it has become integrated and accepted in societies and at the legislative level. Therefore, cities and towns no longer "need" designated LGBTQ+ bars. Surely there's some good in this, but are there problems or dangers with this narrative? And does the thinking behind it change in a Trump administration?

During the first filming of bar stories on June 4, many of the accounts focused on the important role bars have played in our experiences of queer community and culture. A lot of people noted, for example, that walking into a gay bar was the first time they had ever been in a room filled with “people like them.” That is no small thing for a member of any minority community, and it’s something straight white folks probably can’t quite imagine. I don’t think that need disappears just because of greater “tolerance” of queer people by the heterosexual majority. Tolerance doesn’t build community; tolerance doesn’t provide a mirror in which you can see yourself as fierce and fabulous. Queer space does that — and we’re losing those spaces.  

Because bars are privately owned businesses, they have to turn a profit. And the way bars do that, of course, is by selling alcohol. Some members of the community talked about the role of moderation or sobriety in changing their relationship to bar culture; Not all of them have left the bar scene but they are now ordering non-alcoholic beverages or fewer drinks. This is a good thing on an individual level, of course, but it can be hard on the bottom line for bar owners. In addition, there’s been a shift, among gay men in particular, in cruising for sex from the bar scene to online apps. This too poses a challenge for bar owners and has contributed to the decline in the number of queer bars.

One response has been efforts to create queer community spaces that can operate outside of the pressure of turning a profit. Southern Maine has a growing number of options in that regard, including things like the Maine Gay Men's Chorus, MaineTransNet, Portland Outright (for LGBTQ youth), and SAGE Maine (services and advocacy for GLBT elders). In Portland, we finally have a kind of community center where these groups can meet sponsored by EqualityMaine (511 Congress St.). But I think joining a group may be a bigger step for many people than just being able to walk into a bar.

We absolutely still need queer space. Gay-bashing and anti-trans violence is a very real threat in the streets. Our bars and other community spaces can provide places for resistance as well as renewal in the face of homo- and transphobic rhetoric and policies embraced by the President, the Republican-controlled Congress, and a number of state governments.

Can you share a story in which your life was affected by having an accessible queer-friendly bar where you lived?

When I was 20, I was living in Amsterdam with my Dutch boyfriend. It was 1975, which was the UN International Year of Women and the height of the Second Wave of the Women’s Movement. I was fascinated by the fearless dykes I was encountering at international conferences and hoped I might be able to count myself among them. I somehow discovered a lesbian bar in the city and found the courage to ring their buzzer. A peep hole slid open and then, after I apparently passed the visual test, the door opened and I stepped into a world I was both thrilled and terrified by. “Tabu” was an old time butch-femme bar with red fringed lamps on the tables casting very dim light. I made my way into a booth, pulled out a book, and pretended to read in the low light while looking surreptitiously around myself at the women populating the bar. I never spoke with anyone during the half hour or so that I stayed, but I was fascinated by what I saw. It fed my fantasy life for months until I finally found my way into the queer community.

Two decades later, when I was interviewing for the faculty position at USM, I asked a waitress if there were any gay bars in town. She grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the addresses of Blackstones, the Underground, and Sisters. The fact that there were multiple options, and that a heterosexual waitress knew about them, made me feel as if I could make a life for myself in this small coastal city. And I have.

Join the next edition of the Oral History Project at Flask Lounge, 117 Spring Street in Portland, on June 20, 5-6:30 p.m.

The Long Journey of Dan Stuart — Paisley Underground frontman comes to Portland

On the advent of Prism Analog's new live series, recording artists' live sets straight to tape, the Phoenix talked with Dan Stuart, the former frontman of legendary cult post-punk band Green On Red, who comes to Portland from Mexico this Friday, June 2. Stuart's new album, Marlowe's Revenge, is backed by the Mexican rock band Twin Tones, and serves as an excellent document of a long and storied life of reinvention and using rock music as a vessel for discovery.

Do you live in Oaxaca? What do you get up to down there?

I live in Mexico City now after four years in Oaxaca. I moved after making a record with Twin Tones and being drawn into DF's music and art's scene. Really DF (the Mexico City neighborhood Distrito Federal, or Federal District) is having its moment, like Berlin in the '90s I guess. Everyone wants to be there.

As someone who's done this many times before, what are you looking for when you're touring these days? What type of connections? 

I enjoy it more now, I have nothing to prove and appreciate the little things that happen when traveling: an unexpected conversation with a stranger or a vista never seen before, for example. I just got back from Europe and was in Prague for the first time, so there's still a delight in discovering a new place.

When you started playing the style of music back in the late '70s, did you have an idea which way the genre would evolve? Bands like Wilco and other "alt-country" and psychedelic rock sounds so contemporary now, but early Green on Red stuff must have confused some people.

Well we started as a punk band in Tucson called The Serfers and opened for everybody from X to Fear. By the time we got to LA in 1980, things were changing and they called us post-punk, then neo-pychedelic and/or Paisely Underground, which turned into alt-country whatever. I never really paid attention. Green on Red evolved naturally as we embraced blues, country, folk etc. and gave ourselves permission to contribute to the canon. It's just notes and shit...

Music scenes and styles used to be so regionally specific, with independent labels representing sounds from certain cities. Now that music travels digitally, you don't see that anymore. What was it like making music in Tucson back then vs. writing songs now?

Tucson was like many other cities at the time, perhaps a hundred people who dug punk with half of them in bands. People forget that there was probably only a 100 places to play in the entire country, everyone knew everyone else and it was mostly sweet and innocent. The nastiness came later with major labels wanting in and bands in competition with one another. Bit for awhile it was beautiful. Now there is no music business per se anymore, so some of that feeling is coming back with the kids who can do what they want with no rules as how to operate since no one buys music anymore.

I haven't read your "false memoir" from 2012, but can you tell me a little bit about the difference between how Marlowe Billings and Dan Stuart write songs?

It's just a nom de guerre ... a way of hiding in plain sight. The character itself goes way back, back to Gravity Talks in 1982 which was released by Slash Records in L.A., who were always meddling and didn't allow us to call the record what we wanted. I just started recording the last of the Marlowe trilogy and am nearly done with the second Marlowe book. Then I'll probably bury him in Oaxaca somwhere.

What did you learn as a songwriter, or a person, from living outside of the U.S. in the places you've lived?

I've been an expat off and on all my life in different countries and am the child of an immigrant as well. I've never bought into the whole American Exceptionalism myth, although there are elements of truth to it. In Mexico I am a different person. I listen more than I talk, quite aware of being the "other." One acquires a degree of humility that is perhaps impossible back "home."

In 1995, you left music for about 15 years. What made you want to spend your time doing this again?

Well, my brain broke in 2010 and I really only knew how to make a record in a situation like that, so that's what I did. I left the business because I had made too many records and had nothing left to say. Probably after I finish the next one I will leave again. I'm quite proud of only having three solo records over 20 years—way too much dreck out there regardless of the stature of the artist.

Can you tell me the process by which you founded Twin Tones? How'd you meet those fellows?

Oh, they formed themselves several years ago and had recorded several albums as well as a record with Danny Amis from Los Straitjackets. Oddly, they formed Sonido Gallo Negro as an offshoot to play pyschedelic cumbia and that band is really taking off on the festival circuit in Europe and Latin America. Frankenstein's monster, as it were ... I'm very proud of them, all very talented.

What's the connection you have with Prism Analog? How'd you become the first of their live recording series?

Well, this cat Michael Whittaker who (lives in Portland and) goes back to the L.A. scene got in touch and pitched the idea, and myself and Tom Heyman were intrigued. We're happy to be the guinea pigs, studios have suffered along with everyone else in this tough new enviroment.

Dan Stuart and Tom Heyman + Erik Neilson | live recording session + concert | Friday, June 2 | Prism Analog, 222 Anderson St. | 

Believing in Spencer Albee — The Portland Pop Devotee's 'Relentlessly Yours'

"How many times do I have to tear my innards out?” Spencer Albee asks in “Ten to One,” the final song of his new album, Relentlessly Yours. On the twentieth record of the Portland pop artist's career, it’s not always clear who is asking him to do this.

The majority of songs on Relentlessly Yours, Spencer’s largely self-produced new album, are written in direct address to a beloved other—the “you” in oh, how I loved you. Each of them seems to find Spencer wrestling with, eulogizing, or explaining away an absent love. He doesn't try on characters or throw his voice. He rarely waxes poetic. It’s always, resolutely, his own experience he sings from. We don’t see it another way.

Which is why it’s odd that I don’t always believe him.

Of course, Spencer means what he sings. He certainly feels it, there’s no point considering otherwise. But I don’t believe that what he’s singing about is as simple as this, and I don’t believe Spencer believes it is, either. It’s as if in his tireless pursuit to make his music clear and accessible to anyone who might hear it, he eclipses again and again the complexities of the very real situations he’s describing. At times, it can feel like reading Dostoevsky transcribed by Dr. Seuss.

In opener “Just Like Clockwork,” we get two lines’ worth—about 11 seconds—of a nice melodious verse before getting battered by a syrupy pre-chorus (“He is such an anxious mister / He was close but then he missed her / She is such a fickle sister / He still wishes he could kiss her”). Cleverly, Albee keeps the song's motif by singing each syllable in quarter notes, as if simulating the rhythm of a pendulum on a cuckoo clock. And I have to say it works — the song is certainly hypnotic. It's hard to get out of your head.

Much of the album’s emotional tension is packed into neat little couplets just like these. In “Feeling Lucky,” he sings, “Because you stopped me ‘fore I went too far / ‘cause I admire you for who you are / because you told me it’ll be ok / How did we get here anyway?” A recent online review of Relentlessly Yours—indeed quite a positive one—opted to describe the album’s 11 songs using nothing but Twin Peaks gifs. This comparison is lazy, but I think also wrong. The beauty of Twin Peaks is that our experience of the show far exceeds our capacity to fully understand it. This is not true of Spencer’s music, which he takes great pains to ensure.

This may sound like I’m making a trivial, possibly nitpicky point—and maybe I am. Arguments can be made for simplicity, and certainly songwriters needn’t write from any perspective than their own. Additionally, Albee has written hundreds of songs; I’ve written perhaps four, and most were in a different century. This is a study he has devoted his life to. He’s not only infinitely better at it than me, but virtually every other person reading this review.

Furthermore, this is a style choice, not a shortcoming. And it’s a style that Spencer has adhered to—as much as this casual listener can attest—since his early days in Rustic, Popsicko, As Fast As, and his early solo records. He’s a pop musician first and foremost, to the point where mentioning in a review his acknowledged Paul McCartney influence has been done so many times that those words are permanently linked on Google searches.

Also, Relentlessly Yours contains some straight-up beautiful moments. Tracks nine (“Too Much”) and ten (“Open Heart”), not typically the stretch of an album you’d expect to find highlights, are surprisingly tender and vulnerable. “Too Much” benefits from some lovely guest vocals from Sara Hallie Richardson, and “Open Heart” balances a chirpy melody against a melancholic synth drone. In this track (for this reviewer the album’s best), Spencer stops trying to get us to sing along to him capitulating, clarifying, confessing, and defending himself. “I keep staring at these photographs tucked on my shelf / I can’t open up my heart to anyone else,” he sings, and I believe him there. Furthermore, that’s a hard fucking thing to sing out loud before thousands of people, as he very well may do at the release party for this album later this week, and that shit impresses me mightily. I’m even into it as the dude scats his way through a vacantly cheery vocal melody through the outro.

And all the other stuff Spencer sings about here? I mean, sure, I believe it too. I know the guy, I like the guy, and I don’t think he’s being false. Listening to this record, I’m perfectly willing to accept that I’m the one with the problem, but I can’t pretend it isn’t there. Spencer is accomplished as hell, dedicated as shit, and has entertained tens of thousands of people in this state alone. He has also never quit, even as the entire music industry and social infrastructure have crumbled around him. If there’s anything I’m accusing him of, it’s in keeping this dogged determination to play exclusively within an aesthetic—faintly nostalgic pop music—that better serves the management of icons than it is about conveying the complexity of human experience. McCartney did this too, and that’s why I’ve never liked McCartney. At least until he actively started trolling people with shit like “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime.”

But one artist who didn’t do it was Harry Nilsson, a songwriter I know (from sharing this city with him) that Spencer and I both adore. Nilsson wrote beautiful pop songs that were both sickly sweet and achingly depressing. He lusted for success, yes, but he truly did not give a fuck what people thought of him. On the other hand, he lived hard, burned out quick, didn’t treat people super well, and died young and depressed.

By contrast, Spencer just celebrated a marriage, quite publicly on the steps of City Hall, last fall. That Relentlessly Yours is a heart-on-your-sleeve break-up record is obvious, and he seems genuinely thrilled to be on the other side of it, performing its content with a new and accomplished band. People tell their stories however they choose to, governed by factors that those who hear them can never fully understand. That much I believe. I can tell you which of the two songwriters' music makes me feel more alive, but it’s not necessarily who I’d rather live like.

Spencer Albee + Starcrossed Losers + DJ mosart212 | Relentlessly Yours album release party | Friday, June 2 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | $12-15 |

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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