Nick Schroeder

Nick Schroeder

The New Sound of Portland? Prism Analog opens Vintage Recording Studio in Bayside

American life is contradictory. It’s cheaper to consume music more than any time in history, and technology has given listeners access to a truly limitless amount of recordings. Yet vinyl record sales have increased for the ninth consecutive year. It’s as if — just spitballing here — something about the mass digitization and availability of cultural commodities leaves some people with a diminished sense of meaning and connection.


According to Nick Johnson, the engineer set to launch Portland’s first non-profit studio devoted to analog recording in lower East Bayside, it’s all about getting back to tangible, authentic living.
In a landscape bursting with cultural phenomena and distraction — plus the inescapable presence of the Internet — Johnson believes the return to analog is in lockstep with slow-process trends in the food world and elsewhere. He points to the surge of local brew and coffee, plentiful resources in East Bayside, which upstart breweries Rising Tide, Lone Pine and Urban Farm Fermentory call home and which coffee shops Tandem and Coffee By Design roast their beans.


“I very much want to transport people back to a different way of doing things,” says Johnson, the 42-year-old recording engineer at the center of Prism Analog. “Just as much as a different sound.”
Prism Analog is set to begin production this spring, at a facility Johnson and friends have been building within Zero Station, the art gallery and framing studio in the neighborhood. At Prism, artists record directly to tape, a sound and process many find warmer, richer, and more resonant than digital recording, for artist and listener both. Using a range of vintage recording devices (and their own equipment), musicians record straight to tape in a single take, a process intended to get closer to a band’s authentic sound.

feat PrismAnalogfounderNickJohnson PhotobyWayneTreadwell

 

Photo by Wayne Treadwell. 


Johnson moved to Portland from New York City in 2007. As he tells The Phoenix, some of his favorite records are recorded in analog, and the difference is easily recognizable. He cites “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges, Daptone recording artists like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, “My World” by Lee Fields. “But really, every album before the mid-’90s was [recorded] to tape, so there are so many.”
The aim is for Prism to be truly rooted in community, an intention Johnson hopes to reflect in the grand opening fundraising party and open mic on Saturday, March 25, at nearby Urban Farm Fermentory. Johnson believes Prism’s foundational connection to Zero Station, a trusted bunker for off-kilter art events, will help advance the goal. He’s received plenty of community help — over 30 musicians, he says — since the end of 2016, volunteering time and resources to build and install the massive and antique recording equipment studio inside Zero Station.


“I believe in Nick and his studio,” says local musician Will Wysowski. “And after helping him build it, I feel like a part of it.”


Wysowski met Johnson a few years back when he purchased a turntable from him. “He showed me his speaker setup, including some electronic components that he had personally worked on, and I was very impressed with his knowledge. The process of analog recording will be new to me. I like analog because of the warmth of tone. Most of my favorite music was recorded in this style, and I’m certainly wanting my influences to be heard in my recordings.”


Prism Analog and Zero Station are natural fits. Johnson established a working relationship with Keith Fitzgerald, who took out a lease on the lower East Bayside space in 2002, when he moved to town 10 years ago. (“I’m his Mac guy,” Johnson says.) And the spacious room fits the precise environmental needs for Johnson’s operation. “It’s a natural live room with great reverb and a good feeling to it,” he says.
One of the oldest tenants to lease space in the area, Fitzgerald is ambivalent about the narratives Bayside’s storied “resurgence,” seeming to acknowledge that efforts like Prism are often seen as complicit in the gentrification of cities. He sees it as yet another example of age-old urban renewal tied to the whims of the so-called creative economy. “We all know the formula,” he told The Phoenix. “The artists come in, fix up a place that’s decrepit, and then everyone else follows and the rents go up.”


“The area resides exactly at sea level,” says Fitzgerald. “That’s where everything collects. We are literally on the site where everything toxic was dumped.”


But despite encouraging cultural signs and plenty of help from the community, Johnson’s ambitious undertaking represents a risk.


Prism was funded in part by a fortuitous discovery at Johnson’s old apartment at Deering Center, where he unearthed a trove of vintage beer cans underneath the floor, a bundle he sold for $15k in start-up funds. According to Johnson, Prism’s tape machine took up half of that money. Enlisting a similarly analog-obsessed friend, he flew to Los Angeles to pick it up. The unit weighed about 900 pounds. They rented a minivan and drove it back across the country, an anxious task considering the delicate condition of the machine. When they returned home, Johnson soon discovered a certain part wasn’t working, so he shipped it to a specialist in Boston, where it sat for a few weeks before being sent back to Los Angeles where the piece was finally repaired — for $700.


“I’ve sacrificed a lot of time and mental bandwidth, as well as the opportunity cost of a $15,000 investment into something profitable,” he says.


Johnson operated a recording studio at the college he worked in the 1990s in Minnesota, which is where he first developed a love for tape. Over time, he developed a knack for repairing vintage electronic recording equipment (he also refurbished PixelVision cameras for clients around the world).


But while he expects to turn Prism into a fully functional Portland business and employ a set of engineers, Johnson’s ultimate goal is to build community.


“For the 60-year-old Army electrical engineer who helps [me] out evenings, for the 13-year-old Vermont-based YouTube guitar sensation who convinced his dad to drive him to Portland so he could visit because he’s in love with analog, and for everyone in between. I do this because of the great vibes from the community who find something in this idea to be excited about.”

“Even Electric Lady” — the mythic New York recording studio built by Jimi Hendrix — “contacted me saying ‘feel free to get in touch with our electrician since we use the same type of machine…’”
As for the sound booth itself, Johnson says; “It’s been tough moving stuff around. Both the mixing board and console will be wedged in there, leaving very little room.”


But that’s part of the intimacy of recording straight to tape. Jenny Lou Drew, whose band Trouble Girl will be performing at the March 25 benefit, is among those who’ve been drawn back to vinyl lately. “It’s more organic,” she says. “It’s almost like having someone in the room.”


Drew doesn’t rule out recording at Prism herself someday, either with the band or her solo musical project, Raggedy. But the cost might be prohibitive. “It’s a very live process, so it would be expensive. We have a home studio; coming up with an excuse to forego that and go record analog is kinda hard to do. But we’d love to.”


If anything, Prism Analog will model for Portland musicians a careful, hands-on approach to recording. If he’s successful — basically, if he stays afloat — it could add another layer of richness and distinction, perhaps even a signature sound, to the city’s vibrant music scene. In a city where food and coffee drives the decisions, building a little culture around sound would be welcome.


This story features additional reporting by Joe Harrington.


“Prism Analog Fundraising Party,” with performances by El Grande + John Hughes Radio + Lyokha + Troubled Girl + Chris Nucci | March 25, 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | prismanalog.com

An Interview with Martin Barre of Jethro Tull

This week, the classic rock guitarist Martin Barre, who played with the iconic classic rock band Jethro Tull for 43 years, comes to Portland. Now 75, Barre is fully focused on his solo career, after tensions between band members of Jethro Tull — most notably lead singer and flute player Ian Anderson — have splintered the group. The Phoenix spoke with him about a life in music and reckoning with history.

 

Hi Martin. You recently said that Back to Steel was your most important work of your career as a musician, how’d you come to feel that way?

Well, I’ve had some fantastically nice comments about them. At the time I had a lot of belief in it, that it was a good form. I’m sort of now looking to the next one, which will be in the summer I’ll start writing. We’ve just got a DVD come out that has some from the Back to Steel album and Tull songs, and that just came out this week.

I’m curious about your relationship to the guitar. I’m in my thirties, and I’ve not done anything as long as you’ve played guitar. Are there points along your career that you’ve been frustrated with it? Or has it always been something that’s been natural to express yourself through?

It’s like any relationship with a person. There’s highs and lows. Yeah, I’m always questioning myself because I’m never happy or self-satisfied with what I’m doing. But it’s very rewarding and every day I wake up and almost the first thing I do is go to the guitar. It’s never been a chore or a job, it’s been a way of life. I love playing it, and can’t imagine even now seeing it as anything but a joy. It’s a great relationship, but it’s definitely ongoing. It’s infinite in the information that it gives you, and I’m always hungry for more information, more inspiration. Always trying to write better music, and there’s a long ways to go still.

On Back to Steel, there’s a cover of “Eleanor Rigby” and two Jethro Tull songs — “Skating Away” and “Slow Marching Band” — is there a process you use to re-work old Tull songs?

Yeah. Well, obviously the Tull fan base, I want them to think of themselves as Martin Barre Band fans. I don’t want to be completely tied to playing Tull songs forever, but I always will. It’s my heritage. But I’m always wanting to make them a bit different. Playing them note-for-note like the record isn’t as satisfying as representing it a slightly different way and making it more mine. I’m always looking at the back catalogue of Tull and planning. I’ve always got some ideas; they don’t always work. There’s a lot of great songs in there, but you don’t want to bury the song by making it ridiculously different. But I also want to bring something to the table if you like. “Skating Away” was the main focus, and “Slow Marching Band” was a track we recorded about six months before the CD was made. I just kept listening to it and thinking that really deserves to be on the CD on some point. So I just made it a bonus track, give people more for their money.

And the Beatles song, I actually wrote that as an instrumental a long time ago and never did anything with it. I kind of wrote around the main melody and changed the chords, and people really like it. Now we combine “Eleanor Rigby” on stage with another Beatles song — which will be a surprise. It’s a dangerous area. You start doing other people’s material and you really have to be careful you’re not becoming a cover band.

What songs or artists do you find yourself appreciating nowadays?

I’ve always loved the great songwriters, you know? Don Henley, Stevie Winwood, Paul Carrack, Neil Young. I’m admiring songwriting more than playing. And there’s lots of great players, lots of young guns on the guitar. And I admire what they’re doing — playing well, a sort of virtuosic take on the guitar — but that’s never going to be my thing. I just like to listen and sometimes I think, Oh, that’s interesting. As I said earlier, it’s information, and no one knows everything. Even some kid playing guitar might make me go, huh, that’s different. It might be incredibly simple, but you’re still going to learn from it.

I find that there’s less that I like on radio play — particularly in England, it’s dreadful. What I don’t are the shows on TV, that highlight that sort of karaoke style that’s just about making stars. And I really despair that. It bypasses music and these kids just see that it’s about making a star. They just want to go from zero to infinity overnight and it just leaves me cold. All these kids who’ll burn out in a year, they’ll get their ten minutes of fame and then they’re on the scrap heap.

But I love classical music and bluegrass. Anything that has great playing in it, great composition and melody.

Has there been a Tull biography that has suited you?

Occasionally over the years someone wants to write a book on Tull, but nowadays I just refuse to do it. I don’t know why, but there’s a lot of bad feeling in Tull the way some of the guys were treated. So it’s a difficult book. And to have a very fair representation of everyone’s points of view would take a very talented writer. And a lot of work interviewing. There hasn’t been one, and there isn’t one. I’m not particularly interested, because that’s history and history looks after itself. I’m much more interested in what I’m going to be doing next year.

Tull was my father’s favorite band, and I was always impressed by how your albums decades ago would have these high concepts to them, like the newspaper with Thick as a Brick or the Warchild film or that claymation film “The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles” (1988). That’s very unlike so many other rock bands from that era. How did you guys come to do that sort of thing? Was it marketing or part of the fun?

It was fun. We had a look at everything that was going around us. In the ’70s it was all pomp-rock and guys in tight trousers and flowing hair and bare chests and we thought that whole thing looked absolutely ridiculous. I think people took themselves far too seriously, and we wanted to be exactly the opposite. We wanted to say, Look, we’re entertaining you. We’re a bunch of ugly guys with beards and we’re gonna have fun. We’re gonna have a laugh at ourselves and we want the audience to laugh. It’s sort of an English thing, it goes back to Monty Python and Benny Hill, where people really look at themselves and find the humor in life. And to this day I can’t go on stage and not try to crack a joke. I don’t think anything should be that serious. Nothing should be dull. Even classical music. There’s a guy in England who’s a conductor, and he does carol and classical music and he used to joke with the audience. And I was like, why wouldn’t everyone do that all the time? Same with religion. Why is it always so serious? Just make people laugh. God gave us the gift of humor — use it. And win more people over. It’s there to be used.

Growing up, there were a lot of Tull songs played around the house. You had a very lyrical guitar style and as an adult I have a lot of guitar lines that you’ve written from decades ago that go through my head. Like that song “Jack-a-Lynn” from Broadsword and the Beast, I don’t know why it’s that one. I’m wondering, are there any that get stuck in your head? Either your own or from other musicians?

Well, I love melody, and that’s why I love classical music. It’s born of melody. And classical music was obviously from a time when there was no record of it. You went to hear a piece of music and you remembered it. It had to have a huge impact on the ear, and the melody needed to be strong and hummable, so people could carry them in their brain. So I’m a big fan of melody in guitar solos that’s strong. Hendrix did it; a lot of people do it as well. I don’t analyze it. Just play where your ear takes you, and that’s what I’ve always loved about music.

March 28 (acoustic) and March 29 (electric), 8 pm | Martin Barre of Jethro Tull | $40 | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | onelongfellowsquare.com

8 Days: Soul Icons, Maple Syrup Breakfasts, and Heavy Metal Skates

THURSDAY 23

 

LASTING ACHIEVEMENT | There’s just simply not a ton of chances left in this life to see an authentic ‘60s soul singer from the deep south. But we’ve got one here. Betty Harris, who produced three Billboard R&B hits in the songs “Cry to Me” (1963), “His Kiss” (1964), and “Nearer to You” (1967), has made indelible contributions to the genre, and appears tonight in little old Portland. The label Soul Jazz compiled a collection of Harris’s work last summer, titled Betty Harris: The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul. We should be honored. | $25 | 8 p.m. | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | http://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

SICC | Listen, brah, the psychedelic, post-prog, and frankly kinda goofy electronic fusion act Supersillyus hits up Empire tonight, totally tweaked on its new album Charade. If you appreciate the like, sonic journeys of Tool and the mind-trapezoids of artists like Squarepusher, you might as well take a dip. | $20 | 8 p.m. | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |
www.portlandempire.com

 

FRIDAY 24

TRANSFERENCE | We don’t exactly know how a festival that literally celebrates men’s facial hair made it 10 years. But that’s because the person writing this is of mostly Irish-German descent and can’t grow anything on his upper lip fluffier than a penguin’s pubis. Several men (and non-men) compete for affections and attentions at the 10th Annual Stache Pag tonight, in a program that allows for probably as much public ogling at his natural endowments as a dude could reasonably hope for. No shame in that! Tonight’s program is broken into three parts. One is Facial Hair-aoke. Two is the Stache Pag Kung Fu Challenge. And the third is the Rapid Fire 5-Second Statue. Winners in several categories will be chosen from among the 15 contestants, and it seems there’s still time to join. | $25 to be a contestant; $10 to attend | 7:30 p.m. | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | https://stachepag.wordpress.com

 

KEEP PUSHING | Last weekend, Maine Senator Susan Collins made a public statement that Donald Trump “owes us” an explanation for his claims that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration, which were roundly debunked by the FBI and the justice department. That made national news — though she did stop short of saying he should apologize, even though everyone in the world knows the dude made it up. She means Trump should provide “the basis for his assertion” — evidence, essentially — if she expects people to believe him. On the one hand, it kind of sounds like she’s enabling him to save face. On the other, it’s arguably more critical of Trump than any other GOP member of Congress has been. Is she responding to pressure from her constituency? Maybe. Regardless, you can take the opportunity to attend a “Senator Collins Drop-In” hosted by the upstart group Mainers for Accountable Leadership today, when they meet at (or outside) Collins’ Portland office. | FREE | 1 p.m. | 1 City Center, Portland

 

SATURDAY 25

MORNING SWEETNESS | The folk holidays, you’ve got to love them. Could be it’s the so-called ides of spring that gets Mainers jacked on Maine Maple Weekend. Perhaps it’s the fact it’s the cultural antithesis of St. Patrick’s Day, ergo wholesome folksy types hope that shepherding their kids to local farms will atone for any foamy binge-drinking the week prior. Maybe it’s a tip of the cap to pancakes, which powered many of us through the cold, cruel-ass winter. No way to know. But what we’ve observed is that Mainers rally around sap season like they’re on some ancestral plane otherwise invisible to them other months. If you wish to eat syrup among them, as them, here’s what to do: Go to Chase Farms in Wells (1488 N Berwick Road), where you can play with your phone in the back of a horse-drawn wagon, or an orderly can paint maple leaves on your face. Or go to Merrifield Farm in Gorham (195 North Gorham Road), where you can nibble on maple-smoked cheese and a real-life blacksmith will help you recall that Game of Thrones Season 7 is nearly here. Or drive to Hilltop Boilers in Newfield (157 Elm St.) and play the simple yet rewarding game they call “Name the Calf”. Of course, all these locales have maple candies and tasty treats to share and sell, and the post-transactional glow you’ll get here is one of the best in the state.

 

LITTLE JENIUSES | We live in an era where the President misspells the word “rediculous,” the state department releases official documents identifying “attakers” from around the globe, and even the tightest prescriptivists among us have taken to texting “u awake?” instead of typing the whole pronoun out. So why do we still have Spelling Bees? Because, for one reason anyway, they’re weirdly exciting to watch. See what we mean today at the Maine State Spelling Bee, with contestants in the fifth through eighth grades battling it out for participation at the state level. | FREE | 2-5 p.m. | Hannaford Hall, University of Southern Maine, Portland

 

SUNDAY 26

AUTH BRUNCH | Returning now to the subject of the maples, the thing to do this a.m. is wake unreasonably early and drive the hour or so to Turner, where you can go to the Nezinscot Farm Store Sunday morning and order the “maple sampler” on their Maple Sunday brunch menu. That includes, in their words: “pancake, French toast, crepe, croissant, sausage, bacon, and granola.” A little light on the eggums for our tastes, but it’ll do. | $15 if you order that brunch mentioned above | 10 a.m.-3 p.m. | Nezinscot Farm Store, 284 Turner Ctr Rd, Turner |
https://nezinscotfarm.com

 

CREATIVE FEEDBACK | The Theater Ensemble of Color produced a smashing debut performance titled “The Others in January”, which focused on the running theme of other-ness in Shakespeare villains. If you caught that, you’ll want to poke in on their March Community Showcase, a collection of original works produced by individuals within the company, open for peer review. This month’s work is from the talented playwright and performer Joshua Hughes. The Theater Ensemble of Color, and its corresponding movement, is one of the highlights of the Portland theater scene right now. And incidentally, a finalist for this paper’s Best Theater Organization category. | $5 suggested donation | noon-2 p.m. | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | www.mayostreetarts.org

 

THE PROMISED LAND | Don’t tell us roller-skating to classic metal isn’t something you’ve fantasized about since the time of the ancients. Because, friendly one, that time has arrived. A clutch of local musicians and metal dogs have grown up and befriended those within the circles of power — aka people who do programming at the skating rink — and manifested this bewitching night, where the children within us can become born again, summoning the gods and demons of the wheel while aural hellfire clashes overhead. If that isn't clear, come to Happy Wheels and skate to metal songs, tonight only. Savage. | $8 | 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. | Happy Wheels, 331 Warren Ave., Portland | www.happywheelsme.com

 

MONDAY 27

 

HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT | Trump’s proposed health care bill is not good. If passed, it will insure 24 million fewer Americans, while transferring costs onto the elderly and sick. It would remove federal standards for coverage and leave that definition up to the states, and employers would have less incentive to offer health care coverage to workers. And Mainers, it was reported by the Press Herald, would be hit even harder, as Republicans would no longer adjust the size of insurance tax credits by region, and Governor LePage has proposed to cut 20,000 additional people from MaineCare. Organizing around this issue, one that endangers so many Americans regardless of their politics, is proving to be key to resisting Trump. And the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, diligently working on this issue and others for years, is the place to start. They host a People’s Forum on Health Care at the First Parish Church this evening, where citizens can share their health care stories with invited representatives from state and city government. | FREE | 6 p.m. | First Parish Church, 425 Congress St., Portland | http://www.maineworkers.org

 

TUESDAY 28

STORY SHARE | The nationally recognized Young Writers and Leaders program of the youth literacy organization The Telling Room is ready for another showcase. Portland and South Portland high school students from around the globe have been hard at work writing original pieces with local mentors, and the fruits of their labors are collected in a showcase this week. What to expect: “You’ll hear stories of a 10-year-old girl living in Iraq who becomes determined to master Tae Kwon Do; a fight that breaks out at a refugee camp when a young boy tells his friends that he’s leaving Kenya for the U.S.; and the story of a young Syrian boy fostering three snails after accidentally stepping on their mother.” | FREE | 4-6 p.m. | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland |
thetellingroom.org

8days Waxahatchee (Michael Rubenstein)

FEELING IT | Heard of, Waxahatchee? It’s the performance vehicle of Alabama recording artist Katie Crutchfield, whom I suppose you wouldn’t otherwise know (making this a riddle). But if you don’t, you easily could. Crutchfield’s songs infuse personal integrity, honesty, and intimacy into the same fuzzy highs as late ’90s indie-rock bands like Built to Spill. Her songs, like those on 2015’s Ivy Tripp, are instantly resonant, and she keeps a pretty relentless touring schedule. Adds up to an evening where you’re in capable hands. Additional appearances from L.A.-based harpist Mary Lattimore and songwriter Kevin Morby, the latter of whom plays some songs along with Crutchfield. Recommended. | $16-18 | 8 p.m. | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | www.portcitymusichall.com

 

WEDNESDAY 29

SKATING AWAY | It’s a sad thing when bands who have been around for decades split up and don’t talk to each other anymore. That’s true of the amazing pop band New Order, whose principle members Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook have been deadlocked in litigation and character-smearing for a few years now. Things aren’t quite that bad with Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, the main dudes from legendary classic rock band Jethro Tull, but a rift is a rift, and it’s arguably even stranger when it’s between people in their seventies. Tull — that’s right, the band with the flute — evolved from a baroque and peculiar British folk act to an adventurous prog group that wrote rock-operas to an eclectic hard-rock band inspired by the American blues, encompassing dozens of albums over 43 years. But lead guitarist Martin Barre, writing and releasing solo albums since 2011, is more excited than ever (read my interview with him on page 18). He plays at One Longfellow Square Tuesday and Wednesday, the first acoustic and the second electric. | $40 | 8 p.m. | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | www.onelongfellowsquare.com

 

THURSDAY 30

PATCH THAT | Next week, it’s time for Lez Zeppelin, probably the best-named tribute band in the business, who prove that the pioneering U.K. rock band can be decoupled from its maleness (that’s at Port City Music Hall, $18-20). Or if you’re feeling a little less outrageous, start spring cleaning season early with an event in Bayside, where the Resilience Hub and Maine Tool Library host a repair café, a hangout where volunteer workers (including you) help fix broken tools and jewelry, patch up sweaters and socks, and frayed electric cords. | 6 p.m. | Resilience Hub, 224 Anderson St., Portland | resiliencehub.org

8 Days a Week: Tribute Shows, Native Dance Music, and Cooking Spag 4 Your Luv

THURSDAY 16

 Martha Miller

ART IN SPADES | In this unconventional and attractive pairing, the Maine artist Martha Miller shows her stunning self-portrait paintings and textile pieces — which she says are inspired by dream images, spiritual connections to the outer world, and "dark inner realms" — in an exhibition alongside performers of Portland's Theater Ensemble of Color, who model on a floor stylized in the day's political parlance as the Pussycat Walk. Miller's exhibition runs through April 29, but this one-night-only affair is a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

| by donation | 7 p.m. | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | http://mayostreetarts.org


ELEVATED | Deep night, chill with Portland synthwave collective Lyokha, who's on some other shit lately, as they bless the Jewel Box with lush and wispy beats. An excellent backdrop for your frank feelings, part of the bar's Thursday night SYNTH series.

| FREE | 10 p.m. | The Bearded Lady's Jewel Box, 644 Congress St., Portland

 

FRIDAY 17

 

WAREHOUSE DRAMA | A cadre of local actors storm Urban Farm Fermentory tonight to host Love's Labour's Lost, an inspired original production of a Shakespearean play you likely haven't seen, with some of the city's finest and bravest young actors. Stamped by the new dramatic troupe Sound and Fury Productions. Playing tonight and Saturday in Bayside, and on the cheap.

| pay-what-you-can | 7:30 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St. | https://www.facebook.com/soundandfuryportland/

 


SATURDAY 18

 

RISE UP | The 2017 Empower the Immigrant Woman conference is an all-day event that shares the stories and experiences of New Mainers and migrant women who have emerged as leaders in their communities, through social organizing, entrepreneurial efforts, or character. The conference is a brainchild of Mufalo Chitam, who came to Portland in 2000 by way of her home country of Zambia after doing work for Child Fund International, an American-based organization, outside her capital city of Lusaka. Selected by a committee of social stakeholders from throughout the Portland community, the Empower the Immigrant Woman conference features a panel of "trailblazers," who discuss workplace needs, resources, advocacy and accountability in the Portland work landscape, the challenges they face in getting their entrepreneurial efforts off the ground, and the leadership qualities they've accrued in their lives both abroad and in Maine. This year's five trailblazers are inspiring. There's Edith Flores from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, a former migrant farmworker who emigrated to the U.S. when she was nine and started the nonprofit outreach organization Mano en Mano. Somalia's Fowsia Musse came to Maine in 2003, where she's been an advocate for victims of abuse in Lewiston and served on their City Council's Immigrant and Refugee Integration and Policy Development Working Group. Burundi's Claudette Ndayininahaze came to Maine four years ago and founded In Her Presence, a group for young immigrant women. Lewiston's Parivash Rohani, originally from Iran, organized against hate groups attacking the Lewiston-Auburn's Somali community in 2003, is a member of Welcoming Maine and helped organize Portland's World Refugee Day. And Bakhita Saabino came to the States from war-torn South Sudan in 2000, and keeps community with the groups Azande Community of Maine and Boston's My Sister's Keeper. The day conference is free — though donations are accepted — while an evening gala at Congregation Bet Ha'am allows attendees to hang with the trailblazers.

| by donation | 9 a.m-1 p.m. | University of Southern Maine, Wishcamper Center, Portland | http://www.empowerimmigrantwoman.org/

 

WORDS ABOUT WORDS | Celebrate the deep literary virtues (or the fact that you once used to read books) tonight in the center of town, as the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance presents a reading of three distinguished writers from the Maine Literary Awards. They include fiction writer Douglas W. Milliken, poet David Sloan, and essayist Penny Guisinger, an editor at the literary nonfiction magazine Brevity. Tonight's reading, titled "Short & Sweet," should get your imagination going. You'll need it in the months to come.

| 6 p.m. | Longfellow Books, 1 Monumen Way, Portland | http://www.longfellowbooks.com

 

HOT TIP | According to a cult movement on Twitter, if a dude texts a woman the first line of the third verse of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" — apropos of nothing, mind you — and she texts him back the second line, then you know the love is for real. Not making that shit up, dude! Try it as part of your research for tonight's "Tribute to Notorious B.I.G." at Empire, performed live by Dray Sr. and DJ Steady.

$10 | 9 p.m. | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com


 

SUNDAY 19

 

FLIPPIN' | A solid zine festival is generally pudding-ready proof that a city's art scene is healthy and nourished. Portland still could use a little more meat on its bones, but efforts like this weekend's Zine Market Flea Fair, put together by some truly smokin' folks, is a good place to find out. This is a two-day thang, so if you can't make it 11 to 5 Saturday, then may the great gods of FOMO carry you here this afternoon.

| FREE | 2-7 p.m. | you're gonna have to look up this address online | https://commonfield.org/member/n-e-w-f-r-u-i-t

 

 

MONDAY 20

 

REPRESENTING | From Canada, the trio A Tribe Called Red has been making heavy, politically engaged electronic music, blending modern beats, hip hop, and traditional indigenous pow wow drumming and vocals. They began this in 2011, and almost immediately gained power among native youth movements and smart people. Today, they represent the sound of a new voice for aboriginal rights and visibility. Their album, We Are the Halluci Nation, comes recommended with their show tonight at Port City Music Hall.

| $15-18 | 8 p.m. | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com

 

TUESDAY 21

 

POWERFUL STUFF | The rise and fall of Amy Winehouse remains one of the more powerful mythologies in modern music. The star London singer passed in her prime suggests that tributes to her work, like tonight's at Portland House of Music, won't go away anytime soon. A Night of Amy Winehouse features local musicians Gina Alibrio, Owen Conforte, Colin Winsor, Jon Truman, Fred Copeman, Susanne Gerry, Jenny Guiggey, Andrew Doody, James Hebert, Matt Day, and Amanda Tubbs. Yeh.

| FREE | 7 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | https://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

WEDNESDAY 22

EXODUS | Imagine a world where every musician is an introspective, soul-searching white dad. Terrible! Thankfully, that's not the world we're in — that's only roughly 60 percent of recorded music — so we can therefore appreciate the lifelong stars of the genre without risk of oversaturation. Tonight, local emulators perform the music of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, two former prog artists whose egos were too large to be contained in a single group (Genesis) and so instead split off into separate cosmos. Tonight's Clash of the Titans is worth it to see if someone takes on "Invisible Touch."

| $6 | 10 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | www.portlandempire.com

 

DO YOUR WORK | If you haven't sat in on a meeting with the Greater Portland chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), tonight's a good opportunity. At the Maine Irish Heritage Center, the group hosts a primer and community discussion on the topic and necessity of direct action in political protest, with a reminder that Maine allies — namely, white people — need to bear the responsiblity for confronting injustice, even when it's difficult, awkward, or controversial. "Direct Action is Never Popular," the community event, runs from 6 to 8 p.m and is free.

| 8 pm | Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St., Portland | https://www.facebook.com/greaterportlandSURJ

 

THURSDAY 23

 

ICAL UP | The State Theatre just announced a slew of big ticket shows this summer, including Ween, Wilco, Pixies, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket (with Jaw Gems), Fleet Foxes, and the Shins. Spend tonight making yourself and a loved one spaghetti so that you can save up for those tickets.

8 Days a Week: Aging Hippies, ACLU Bennies, and Weird Michael Keaton

THURSDAY 9

 

HER AGAIN | Regina Spektor has aged well. Well, as a lyricist, performer, song writer — I don't know how what she's like as a person. She hasn't drifted into adult contemporary (like Tori did at this point in her career). Years pass between albums, a sign of confidence and care, and yet she doesn't seem to share Fiona's painstaking, blood-ripped-from-a-stone catharsis. And while the disconfigurations of love clearly serve as her primary muse, she never gets half as abstruse or esoteric as Joanna can. Sure, some of last September's full-length, Remember Us To Life, sound like they're lifted off the Titanic soundtrack. Buuuuuut! The majority of it is just as quirky, rhapsodic, and heart-achingly direct as it's ever been. On tracks like "Grand Hotel," the 37-year-old New Yorker sounds like our generation's Billy Joel, but from a woman's perspective. And better.

| $40 adv, $42 day of | 7 p.m. | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com

 


THE FIRST ART | After countless hours in front of computer screens and participating in innumerable Facebook comment threads gone horribly wrong, folks today discover the inevitable appreciation for the art of storytelling, with the realization that participating in that medium can often be a humanizing, radical act. Tonight, Mainers can opt in to such a realization by heading up to a spot most agree they should visit more often. At Guthrie's (sometimes styled as She Doesn't Like Guthrie's), Bates professor Michael Sargent hosts another edition of his program The Corner, a terrific engine within the cultural life of Lewiston. Tellers include Ekhlas Ismail Ahmed, a teacher at Casco Bay High School (who recently appeared on the TV show Ellen); Maine Women Magazine's Shannon Bryan; former Onion staffer Chet Clem; SMCC instructor Rosemarie De Angelis; Albanian coffee entrepreneur Mateo Hodo; and Lewiston celebrity ZamZam Mohamud, a certified nursing assistant and member of the Lewiston Public Library board of trustees. Go up for dinner and soak it up.

| $7 | 7 p.m. | Guthries, 115 Middle St., Lewiston | http://www.guthriesplace.com

 

FRIDAY 10

 

COOL CIVIL RIGHTS PARTY | In the last month, the ACLU of Maine has spoken out against the budget proposed by Governor LePage (for the unconstitutionality inherent in singling out certain groups who receive general assistance, which the governor proposes to cut). They've issued statements about the distressingly brutal shoot-to-kill approach given Chance David Baker, the 22-year-old who died at the hands of Portland police after reportedly waving a pellet gun around the parking lot of the store he bought it in. And they've opposed two Maine bills, LD 121 and LD 155, which would implement additional hurdles in the process of voting — one requiring Mainers to present photo IDs at the polls and another requiring students to pay additional fees and taxes in order to vote. In Maine and nationally, theirs is some of the most vital work being done right now. Help steer energy their way at a massive Portland-based concert, where wise-ass rapper Spose is the frosting on a wonderful layer cake of local music tonight, one that includes psych-rock duder Jeff Beam, R&B singer Bright Boy, pop-punk trio Weakened Friends, jazz magicians Amarantos Quartet, singer-songwriter Anna Lombard, and synth-pop group Sunset Hearts.

| $10 adv, $15 day of | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com

 

FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC | File under "only in Portland," the old-time jazz group the Fogcutters play with doom-welcoming heavy rock group Eldemur Krimm, who woke fully revived from their harsh slumber a couple years ago. More dissonant local concert pairings like this please.

| $12 adv, $15 day of | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, Portland | http://www.mayostreetarts.org

 

SATURDAY 11

 

MR. MOM? | One of the dumbest, most bizarre, and worst-best kids movies (of the generation presently entering deep adulthood) remains Beetlejuice, which taught many Americans the wonders of Winona Ryder (and I guess Michael Keaton), light horror mythology, and the versatility of Harry Belafonte songs. Each are easily revisitable tonight at Allagash Brewery on Industrial Way, which wraps up their winter series of film screenings with Tim Burton's 1988 film.

| $10 ($5 youth 21 & under) | 6 p.m. | Allagash Brewing Company, 50 Industrial Way, Portland | https://fareharbor.com/allagash/

 

ASK FOR THE WEIRD GANSETT | One of the upsides(?) of being so engrossed in politics all winter is you didn't even realize it's over. Just kidding — it's nowhere near over. But now's the time of the season you can start using that as a conversation starter, and who knows where that road can lead. Often, it's food. (Many roads lead to food.) And Salvage (presently in the running for Best Barbecue on our 100 Best of Portland ballot), has many piles of that worth investigating. What makes tonight special is that they've also got a cluster of men who answer to Tail Light Rebellion, and who play music they describe as "high energy Rust Belt folk-punk." Aiyii.

| FREE | 8 pm | Salvage BBQ, 919 Congress St., Portland | http://www.salvagebbq.com

 

STOCK UP TO GET DOWN | Just a reminder, folks: Fork Food Lab is here. It's like a five-minute walk from your favorite restaurant, and it hosts 27 different foodmakers under its roof. This morning they kick open the gates to host a spring market, and they do it, rightfully, proudly. Attend, and you're promised to get caught-up on the mechanics of the facility, the progress that co-founders Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein have made over the winter, and the many local purveyors within. Try it for lunch, and sip on some of the St. Paddy's beers rumored to make an appearance.

| 11 a.m.–3 p.m. | Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland | http://www.forkfoodlab.com


MUST BE NICE | Nearly 20 years since first peddling their trade, the Tarbox Ramblers and their swanky, sinewy Appalachian-inspired blues-folk still betray hints of their humble Yankee beginnings as a Cambridge-area bar band. They're nothing rowdy, but they're good, capable students of the form.

| $15 adv, $20 day of | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | https://onelongfellowsquare.com

devendra

HUNKY LITTLE BUNNY | Very little overtly freaky about today's iteration of Devendra Banhart, which is meant less as a dig than a reminder that 2002, when he sounded like a psychotic street singer from a Jodorowsky film, is a long time ago. Today he's chill Nick Drake.

| $25 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://portcitymusichall.com

 

SUNDAY 12

 

GOGOGO BOXCAR | Assuming you're reading this mid-week, there's still time for you to rummage the hallways of your apartment building, or maybe behind the fridge, for enough materials to participate in the 5th Annual Cardboard Box Derby. The early morning race awards prizes for the Fastest Box (three places), but if you're more the bumbling type, you could still take home gold for Best Costume, Most Creative, and Most [People] in a Box. At the very fun Camden Snow Bowl.

| $25 | 8:30 a.m. | 20 Barnestown Rd., Camden | http://www.camdensnowbowl.com

 

JAMES BALDWIN IN IAMNOTYOURNEGRO

DO YOUR HOMEWORK | Reviewed in full by Megan Grumbling in last week's issue, today's order is to see Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro, a film that marries insights and wisdom from the indispensible American writer James Baldwin to images of black America's fight for equality and civil rights today. Screening twice Friday and three times today at Portland Museum of Art, and more to come in April.

| $8 | 11:30 a.m., 2 & 5 p.m. | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland | http://www.portlandmuseum.org

 

MONDAY 13

 

COMMON PRACTICE | Hey there, fans of life! Tonight's delicious creamsicle of entertainment comes to us in the form of Boxed Wine? — that's how they style their name, not some oblique commentary on my part. An offshoot of the every-Monday-night comedy program that goes on here called "Worst Night of the Week," Boxed Wine? are a gang of Portland people who similarly perform improv and stand-up comedy, enduringly some of the most difficult and affirming acts of all the human acts. You'll recall your inner musings to the effect of getting away from the computer screen, of radically not participating in the toxic Facebook comment thread. This follows that. With the freed headspace, you're prepared to watch these folks work. If you need me to spoil tonight's episode of The Bachelor to make this work, slide into my DMs.

| $5-10 | 8 p.m. | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland | http://portcityblue.com

 

TUESDAY 14

 

ALMOST RHYMES WITH HOW BIZARRE | If you've made progress on that stack of books this winter, take yourself out to tonight's Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-cha-koocha), a longstanding Maine program where artists, thinkers, and designers present slide-shows and fast-paced stories of the work they do, or the things they're amazed by, in their field. Tonight's theme is "Provoked: Inspired, Moved, Motivated," and we don't know what to expect.

| FREE | 7 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | https://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

WEDNESDAY 15

 

TAKE YOURSELF DOWN | A real slice of heaven for those who love hell, four different avant, black metal and noise bands put their heads together tonight in an effort to build a better society. Spoiler alert: they come up short. New York's out-group Opening Bell; black metal band Apollyon and noise unit Nycterent, both from Maine; and New Hampshire's Northern Curse put a dark little boogie in it.

| $8 | 10 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | www.portlandempire.com

THURSDAY 16

 

BECOME TICKLED | Speaking of Billy Joel, as I was two thousand words ago, Portland musicians whip up a tribute to that old maestro tonight at Empire. Too soon to tell who's playing, but educated guesses could steer you toward a belief that local ivory-wiggler Kris Rodgers is involved. But that is unsubstantiated info.

| $8 day of | 10 p.m. | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com

The Year of the Snaex: Teret and Sutherland's Holy Times

More than ever, even last year's lovely album In the Heart of the City, Christopher Teret and Chriss Sutherland have stretched their individual personas into true foils. As musicians whose prior vessels had more to do with escape and exploration — Sutherland with the amorphous, freak-folk carnival act Cerberus Shoal from 1995 to 2007, and Teret, who hails from Baltimore, with his post-punk group Company — the barebones earnestness of Snaex is one of the group's principle appeals.

It's the musical equivalent of radical honesty. And just like living a radically honest life, it can be fantastic — provided you have the proper dosage and setting. On Holy Times, the two conspire toward a humility, understanding, and vulnerability toward the real-ass issues of their day-to-day lives — as fathers, partners, thoughtful citizens, and lifelong fighters who have mouths to feed. And they've got a new bassist, Tyler Heydolph, in tow, loosening the valves as the two guitarists steer through this slow, steady, lyrical folk.

Deep thinkers indeed, the six-song EP finds Teret and Sutherland forging an even deeper peace with the joys and terrors attendant to that trait. Track three, "Grumblin'," revisits a highlight of Sutherland's 2008 album Me in a "Field", finding the ballad capable of soaring once its been trimmed of its old mournful weight. Snaex's version adds a slight tempo bump and gentle rollicking melody as Sutherland's lyrics flutter with a feeling of ease and forgiving wisdom, updating lyrics that a decade ago felt desolate and mournful. "All timeless and now it's gone / like when we were old and young / my life cycles and to return / a certain balance I attempt to earn / and I'm lucky o'this I know / given chances and place to grow / try, try, and try again."

By contrast, Teret's delivery is staid and workmanlike, born from the lineage of affectless indie-rock and post-punk vocalists who left their expressiveness to the squall of their guitars. On "There Are No Blues," the album's lowlit redeemer, his cadence seems borrowed from Irish folk songs and sea shanties, with an American candor so bald and unflinching as to nearly ironize his lyrics. "There are no blues that you can't handle / there's still mysteries for sure / but there are no women in the lobby / and no children by the door. There are no blues I heard you say / there are no blues that haunt my days. / There are no blues, there are no blues." 

Teret's post-punk vocabulary is also one that Sutherland has himself learned. (It's incredible to contrast his lyrical styles today to, say, those of the shy and anguished teen on Cerberus Shoal's remarkable 1996 album And Farewell to Hightide.) But his tracks on Holy Times glimmer with the many voices he's learned since, like those forged during Cerberus' chaotic trek through the desperate ecstasy and babbling dream-poetry of their final years, his work as a devoted pupil of Lorca's concept of duende, and the grounded flamenco-folk of Portland's seven-piece music and dance group Olas.

Through some sort of chicanery, some trick of the light perhaps, Teret and Sutherland perform these admittedly dour-seeming passages with a steady clarity and joy. The tracks are profoundly adult, yes. But these are, after all, a couple of dads, and you can almost hear how much practice they get singing to children.  

While listeners won't find Snaex discovering any sort of bright light their album title implies, the sincerity with which they explore the mysterious of today's world — "white privilege, the cult of busy-ness, the fumbling of men," among others — proves more worthwhile than any orthodox religious exploration. Nevertheless, these are wondrous affirmations they're sharing. I'm sure their sons and daughters will learn them.

Holy Times | By Snaex | With Micah Blue Smaldone at Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | 8 p.m. | $8 adv, $12 ($6 children) | mayostreetarts.org

8 Days a Week: Resistance Summits, Shakespeare Parties, and New Mainer Fashion Shows

THURSDAY 2

 

WATER WARS | While the winter air here in Maine begins to thicken, the contested site of Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota remains at a stark chill. Protesters were cleared out this month as production surged on the 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline after an executive order by you-know-who, and the site is reportedly a ghost village of left-behind belongings and stray animals. Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told the press that the Trump administration is "constantly in touch with" the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, a comment which Tribe leaders quickly refuted. Time, cruel and beautiful as ever, takes us now into March. Opposition to DAPL — in principle if not in practice — is still widespread, and Mainers looking for clarity on the issue are still in motion. Two of them, Shawn and Molly Mercer, run a farm called Swallowtail up in Orland, Maine. Tonight, they host a benefit production off-peninsula called "A Line in the Sand," where they've prepped a multimedia presentation sharing experiences, inspirations, and resources anchored in their own travel to the reservation.

| By donation | 6 pm | Milk & Honey of Swallowtail Farm | http://www.swallowtailfarmandcreamery.com

 

SIPPERS DELIGHT | One of Portland's richest pageants the past few years have been parties at the Bayside version of Bunker Brewing Co., a fine brewhut where folks made music that spilled out into a terrace of picnic tables wobbling with butts from all over the city. The times were good. How grateful we should be that Bunker still hosts shows and parties at their new location. Tonight, the dude Jeff Beam, a local and a good one, plays with Rick Rude, a true music band from New Hampshire, and Carinae, a psyched effort from Hadley, Massachusetts, home of other bands and farms.

| $5 | 8 pm | Bunker Brewing Co., 17 Westfield St., Portland | http://bunkerbrewingco.com

 

FRIDAY 3

 

DUDE ASKS QUESTIONS | The comedian Marc Maron, after a long stint laying low, started his comedy/interview podcast WTF in 2009, and has since become one of the most influential and referenced practitioners of the form, becoming an interviewer so trusted that he's gotten folks like Lorne Michaels (a white whale he'd been chasing for awhile), Robin Williams, and Barack Obama from the garage of his Los Angeles apartment. He rolls through New England, a rarity, this weekend for an appearance at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he'll perform stand-up.

| $33 – 38 | 8 pm | The Music Hall, 131 Congress St., Portsmouth, NH | http://www.themusichall.org

 

STAY HARD | When you spend your twenties, as Chriss Sutherland did, committed to one of the most vividly experimental and transformative musical projects in modern Maine history — talking here of course about the legendary Cerberus Shoal — then anything seems tame by comparison. But the measured, controlled battles he fights nowadays with Chris Teret, the other half of the folk duo Snaex, are no less powerful. The two have readied an EP of their distilled and deceptively simple songs called Holy Times — a kind of woke dad-folk, perhaps — and release it tonight at a party at Mayo Street Arts, with support from the excellent Maine songwriter Micah Blue Smaldone. I've written about the album further on page 23.

| $12 | 8 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | http://www.mayostreetarts.org

 

YonatanGat byBryanParker

Yonatan Gat photographed by Bryan Parker.

POST-EVERYTHING | By all accounts, the experience of watching Yonatan Gat's live show is face-melting, devastating, utterly crucial, possibly one of the last sublime experiences remaining in modern rock music. Style-wise, the ex-Monotonix guitarist plays melodic and astral jazz-guitar action delivered with punk heat. I've never seen the dude, but I'm expecting something like the Boredoms minus Yamantaka Eye. I'm maybe half right. Yonatan and his band, a trio, play with Friend Roulette in Brooklyn, and the skronk-ass trio Diva Cup.

| $10 | 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | http://www.space538.org

 

EVERY LITTLE COUNTS | Last year's "Go Big For Hunger" benefit, an annual effort raising money to fight food insecurity in Maine, ended in some sort of dispute between producer Greg Martens and performer John Popper of Blues Traveler. We hope that got ironed out! So this year, there's no Popper, but the Portland-based entrepreneur and Deadhead Greg Martens ramps up another show for his cause, bringing Armies' Anna Lombard and Dave Gutter, members of Boston's Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, and the Working Dead, an undead tribute band.

| $22 adv, $27 day of | 8:30 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | https://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

SATURDAY 4

 

REVISIT YRSELF | If you're having goal problems, I feel bad for you, son. But some out there want to help. The women's leadership group Hear Her Roar ropes together a couple of life coaches — Christina Stathopolous and Robyn Wiley — to help re-ground you in any 2017 resolutions that might have floated off into the distant ether.

| $50 | 10 am – 2 pm | Think Tank Coworking., 533 Congress St., Portland | http://hearherroar.net

 

MACKERS AND RYE | Five summers ago, a small crew of theaterpeople converged to launch PortFringe, a weeklong festival of original and arcane dramatic works in the middle of the summer. It was a slam hit! Last year, they dressed up the festival with an offseason performance of Hamlet, 'cept the catch was that the play was performed by around 20 different companies in a manic, patchwork style. That was also a hit, a big slam. This year, they give the same treatment to Macbeth, arguably the most accursed play in existence, tasking 14 troupes with piecing the Shakespeare play together in their own style. One other plus is that this goes down at Oxbow Blending and Bottling, which folks should totally use more for theater. All proceeds benefit putting on PortFringe 2017.

| $15 | 2 & 7 pm | Oxbow Blending and Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland | http://portfringe.com

 

WINTER BECOMES YOU | A colleague of mine is fond of saying "the streets are littered with people who've tried to start a music festival in Maine." He was being hyperbolic, of course — the streets of Portland are littered with floss picks, poor producers those — but regardless, that was before Sunaana Winter Festival. The first annual all-day "sensory experience" at Thompson's Point has a dozen bands to boast, and nearly twice as many brewers of beer. One of the headliners is ROZES, a Philadelphia-based singer with an EP to her name who debuted as a vocalist on bro-pop production team the Chainsmokers' song "Roses" in 2015. She'll be here! So will Armies, the beautiful balladeers blurbed above. So will Scott Sorry, who played bass for a stint ten years ago in the English band the Wildhearts, sort of a hard rock/punk cover band thing. So will Very Reverend, a swaggering local trio who I know for a fact listen to Queens of the Stone Age and T. Rex. So will Mammút, a beloved rock band in Iceland on a label started by Bjork's band the Sugarcubes. If you're ready to hear some names of beers, here they are: Allagash! Austin Street! Banded Horn! Barrelled Souls! Bissell Brothers! Bunker! Foundation! Gneiss! Maine Beer Co.! Mast Landing! Oxbow! Orono! Rising Tide! Sebago! You can't have made it this far without forming, or hearing, opinions about these breweries, so I'll leave you to ruminate on them now. Experimental, sure, but what venture isn't in its first year? Weather looks fair, albeit cold, for Saturday (although of course, the thing is indoors). March is sneakily the worst month of the year, so this could be part of your defense.

| $25-75 | 1 pm | Brick South, Thompson's Point, Portland | https://www.sunaana.com

 

LABOR-READY | If you're in a chance-seeking mood, head to Portsmouth tonight to see Big Work: A Documentary Play for 17 actors exploring their relationship to labor, employment, starting over, the search for meaning, etc. (Don't say you don't think about that shit! Don't you say it!) Playwrights Melissa Bergstrom and Kate Marple penned this together after, you know, stewing on it for a bit in their early 30s (typical millennial laziness, obv), and came up with this pretty inventive and well-regarded script, after which recent performances around Massachusetts the two women, also founders of Perpetual Visitors Theatre Company, host spirited talkbacks, as they plan to do here.

| $18 | 2 & 8 pm | 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, NH | http://www.3sarts.org

 

GLAM UP | International Women's Day may have a certain extra echo of gravity this year. Maybe that's enough to impel you toward the 8th Annual Women's Day Fashion Show, hosted by the organization Women United Around the World (WUAW). This gala celebrates the styles and fashions of New Mainers migrating here from around the globe, with a focus on local designers' collections. Ticket proceeds benefit WUAW's efforts. Yes!

| $40 | 6 pm | Italian Heritage Center, 40 Westland St., Portland | http://www.womenunitedaroundtheworld.org

 

SUNDAY 5

 

ANTI-PROGRESS | The president rolled back transgender bathroom rules this week, in an effort led by Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos and anchored in this administration's sweeping assault on the rights of everyone who isn't a straight cis white man. Portland voices its disgust with a Rally for Trans Rights today in Monument Square.

| $10 | 3 pm | Monument Sq., Portland

 

ANTI-PROGRESS | It's plenty possible you can attend the trans rally above and still get some time in at the Maine Resistance Summit, a catch-all resistance rally convened by the progressive organization Maine People's Alliance. With workshops and skillshares on media basics, canvassing, fundraising, lobbying your legislature, and many others, this should be a vital resource for anyone in the good fight. Inquire about tickets for the summit, titled "From Mobilization to Movement Building," at the MPA website.

| 8 am – 6 pm | Civic Center, 76 Community Dr., Augusta | https://www.mainepeoplesalliance.org

 

MONDAY 6

 

NONPROFESSORS | With federal domestic spending set to decrease, nonprofit and big philanthropic efforts might see a heavier workload in trying to effect social change. Just spitballin'! Hard to say what'll happen in this world. But if you're interested in nonprofit or social work, pop in on this forum tonight at One Longfellow Square, where directors from Maine nonprofits Preble Street, Maine People's Alliance, Kids First Center, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra field questions about how it's done.

| $5 | 5 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | http://www.ynpnmaine.org

 

TUESDAY 7

 

OPEN CITY | The architects and designers behind the long-rumored Fox Field Food Forest, a community-minded edible forest garden in Bayside's Fox Field, are looking for volunteers, and to spread information, tonight at Urban Farm Fermentory, just a skip away from the action. Learn more about this exciting urban landscaping project produced by the Resilience Hub and the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization.

| FREE | 6 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | https://resiliencehub.org/fox-field-food-forest/

 

GOOD IDEA | We wrote a couple weeks back about new resistance efforts that have cropped up around the city since the election. One of them is GET READY WEEKLY, a visual art and resistance project that has hosted sign-painting and letter-writing parties. That group teams up with art magazine The Chart for a series of "Resistance Readings," collective discussions of political art texts over dinner. The first is tonight at Babylon Restaurant on outer Forest, where the group (which could include you, my dude!) will read an essay by Taylor Renee Aldridge about the "savior complex" of Detroit's rebuild. Dinner's on you!

| FREE | 6 – 8 pm | Babylon Restaurant, 1192 Forest Ave., Portland | https://www.facebook.com/getreadyweekly/

 

WEDNESDAY 8

 

NO BACKLASH | It's like we always say here at The Phoenix: if it works, you mustn't fix it. Thus, Clash of the Titans has returned to Empire, the weekly thematic tribute night between two like or loosely related cover bands comprised of hot-shit local musicians. Tonight's affair is a stand-off between Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes. Those bands!

| $6 | 10 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | www.portlandempire.com

 

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Every Time I Die is poised to set the world free through a metal concert at the State Theatre. 

CATLIKE DUDES | Formed in 1998, the metalcore band Every Time I Die have risen to be one of the foremost bands in the genre. (It must be amazing to be in any band, let alone a leave-it-all-on-stage metal band, all catharsis and performed rage, for literally 20 years.) If you're a fan, you already know they're coming; odds are you're not getting converted otherwise. With their just-released new album, Low Teens, in tow, ETID play with Knocked Loose, Harm's Way, and Eternal Sleep.

| $18 adv, $20 day of | 7 p.m. | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com

THURSDAY 9

 

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Regina Spektor photographed by Shervin Lainez.

BE TICKLED | Next week, the dreamboat and songwriting genius Regina Spektor shows up at the State Theatre, reminding you of things you might have wanted to forget about relationships you were in 10 years ago.

| $40 adv, $42 day of | 7 p.m. | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com

Free Speech in the Trump Era: A Means or An End?

The fiery, cacophonous clown car of a Trump presidency cleared its first-month checkpoint this week, dominating news cycles, asserting broad executive power and blanketing America’s most vulnerable people in a fog of confusion, disruption, and fear.

But listen closely and you can hear another sound, an odd yet persistent rumbling, of a bemused electorate grappling with the pulpy, fibrous concept of free speech.

I’m being glib — how do you find humor in this nightmare administration? — but the newly invigorated conversations about free speech, hate speech, and effective protest in the Trump era may be worth more than the academic cribbage match that many liberals make it out to be.

Let’s get this out of the way first. No question, free speech is worth defending. Seriously, no argument here! But as the country — and this past week, Portland — is discovering, the boundaries and definitions that frame that principle have shifted.

Stakes, right now, are high. As L.A. Kauffman, journalist and author of the new book Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism, recently put it in an interview on The Nostalgia Trap podcast, “the institutions of the democratic republic are about to be dismantled.”

It’s hard not to see where she’s coming from. The Trump administration routinely issues lies and fabrications in one breath while broadly delegitimizing the institutions of a free press in another, calling journalists “the enemy of the people” and decrying every outlet critical of him as “FAKE NEWS.” His cabinet appointments seemed designed to corrode and decay the very standards and missions of the departments they head. And literal Nazis and white nationalist thinkers like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous have been given incredible platforms to advance their ideas.

Today’s world is a great deal more complex than any definition that John Milton, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Angela Davis, Pete Seeger, Chuck D, or any other of the thinkers that have helped frame the notion of free speech explain.

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Milo Yiannopoulos, who describes himself as the "most fabulous supervillain on the Internet." Critics say he normalizes hate. 

 

WHAT IS IT?

A standard, classically liberal view is that viewpoints, concepts, and philosophies should be able to compete with one another in the “marketplace of ideas.” Indeed, that phrase first cropped up in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice William O. Douglas in 1953, which ruled that “like the publishers of newspapers, magazines, or books, this publisher bids for the minds of men in the market place of ideas.”

But after decades of neoliberalism, privatization, redlining, voter disenfranchisement, and a populist Donald Trump administration, the distinction between the ideologies of a federal government and the free market is thinner than ever. Furthermore, if your local KKK is gaining power and confidence, then there’s a chance the marketplace of ideas isn’t working.

Today, a person’s opinion about free speech is directly linked to whether they believe Trump’s rise to power is fundamentally changing the laws and institutions of the country, and whether people believe it’s possible — or even worthwhile — to stop it.

To paraphrase a professor who wishes to remain anonymous, “If you take free speech to be an end in and of itself (that is, if you are a free speech absolutist), you accept that free speech cannot change anything, which would simply render it a means. In this case, there is no good reason to defend free speech on political grounds, as it cannot be deployed toward any political end but its own affirmation.”

It’s a complex issue. And Portland recently experienced this complexity firsthand.

“LOCAL INVASION”

Last week, Portland was paid a visit by Mr. Larry Lockman.

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Larry Lockman (left) and Benjamin Bussiere (right) listen to the crowd during a heated Q and A session. Bussiere, the moderator and USM student that invited Lockman to campus, had the tendency to let supporters of Lockman speak longer at the mic than his opponents. At one point, Bussiere barked at a dissenter to sit down. 

If you hadn’t heard of this dude before last month, you might consider yourself lucky. Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) has been practicing his style of anti-immigrant, homophobic, anti-union, anti-worker, anti-abortion politics in Maine for a while now — since the 1980s. His most infamous quote, as director of the Pro-Life Education Association, asked: “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself upon a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.” That was exposed in the Bangor Daily News in 2014, after which Lockman mustered an apology. (He’s got a gaggle of reprehensible quotes — feel free to Google.)

But he hasn’t changed. On Thursday, February 16, Lockman appeared at USM to deliver a lecture he titled “Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigration Crisis,” and to discuss his proposed anti-immigration bill, LD 366.

Lockman’s talk was produced by the USM chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth activism organization that was launched nationally by William F. Buckley in the 1960s. Hours before the event, USM student and YAF chair Benjamin Bussiere explained to me his rationale for bringing Lockman to campus, anchored by a belief that the university has too long been a place for “liberal indoctrination,” and that the group’s decision to book the Congressman was an attempt to even the scope of ideas on campus.

There are eight Young Americans for Freedom at USM. None of the three I spoke with — all white males — offered any direct support of Lockman’s political views, focusing instead on the defense of his right to free speech and the value of a “diversity of opinions.”

“You get into (defining) free speech and hate speech and who is the arbiter?” wondered Brian Casey, a 19-year-old USM student and YAF member from Buckfield. “Who gets to define? The government?”

DOUBLE STANDARD

Crying foul about the disproportionate “liberalism” of college campuses is, by now, standard conservative doctrine. (It’s a little like affirmative action, but for white people who already have power, privilege, and opportunity.) And in a present-day conservative climate steered by Trumpism, free speech is the horse these ideas are riding in on.

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Susan Hamilton, a former professor at USM, at the Lockman protest with a sign stating that the college "promotes white supremacy." 

If viewed through the lens of free-speech absolutism — that is, the idea that all perspectives have the same moral weight — then right-wing, white nationalist ideas like Lockman’s appear to be victimized when opponents attempt to show that they’re exclusionary, oppressive, racist, or simply welcome. A similar outcry occurred when Richard Spencer, director of the white supremacist National Policy Institute, was punched in the face by a masked protester at Trump’s inauguration.

But it ignores the fact that such political ideas are already being employed, and are presently empowered by an increasingly authoritarian presidency.  

“I know it’s fun to do the mental gymnastics of deciding whether or not Plato or Socrates … or whoever else in your Philosophy 101 text would agree with your logical conclusion that punching Nazis is bad because violence is not the answer, but no one cares!” says the political comedian Akilah Hughes in a web video. “You are under no obligation to hear a Nazi out.”

“One of the biggest problems with mainstream liberalism is its fetish for abstract principle over material reality,” writes journalist Katherine Cross in Alternet. “It is prone to forgetting that in a democracy, principles exist as a means to an end: the guarantee of maximal rights and liberties for the greatest number of people. A right is a tangible thing for the person who needs it most: a freedom from imprisonment by the state, food on the table, a roof over one’s head, a life free from deprivation.”

To argue that Lockman’s views are treated unfairly in the “marketplace” of the university presumes that upholding these abstractions is the first principle of building a just society.

Conservatives love this argument. It makes them look like victims in the court of public opinion.

Those who care about material issues would argue that those unjustly affected by Islamophobia; the mass deportation of immigrants; anti-abortion and anti-health care agendas; a market philosophy that ensures people of color don’t have access to the same resources, wealth or opportunities; or those whose civil rights are otherwise impeded. 

THE AESTHETICS OF SHIT

Given the current political climate, booking a speaker like Lockman, or Milo Yiannopoulos, is the real-life equivalent of “shitposting,” the act of making inflammatory remarks online for little reason but to see how much it will offend, or simply because you can. For a lot of people — particularly young white males on message boards like 4chan — this is the most potent definition of free speech around.

“Shitposters, who are bound by nothing, set a rhetorical trap for their enemies, who tend to be bound by having an actual point,” writes Tara Isabella Burton in a brilliant post-election essay titled “Apocalypse Whatever” for Real Life magazine. “Attempts to analyze what shitposters are doing, or what their posts really mean, does nothing to defuse them; instead it reinforces their project by amplifying their signal.”

The aesthetics of shitposting is a perfect practical example of free speech as an end, where all perspectives are thought to have the same moral value. It’s also peak-Trumpism.

And those in the Young Americans for Freedom camp would seem to agree. “Everything is free speech,” Casey continued. ”Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

MIC CHECK

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Outside Lockman's event, at the Glickman Library, the message of the Portland Racial Justice Congress was clear. 

Eventually, Lockman spoke. He opened by quoting a white nationalist passage by noted white supremacist Pat Buchanan. He talked about his bill, LD 366, which if passed would force Maine to comply with federal immigration policy at the risk of losing funding, and, alarmingly, make it possible for citizens to sue lawmakers and refugee resettlement programs like Catholic Charities in the case of injury or harm committed by an immigrant (which, it’s not even clear here if he means exclusively physical injury, as the bill’s language could include nebulous charges like “financial injury”).

He spoke for half an hour before a crowd of around 120, maybe half of whom were supporters. Outside, a coalition or 200 or more led by the Portland Racial Justice Congress rallied in protest, convening outside the Abromson Center, in the adjacent Glickman Library, and making their presence felt in the Woodbury Campus Center. After Lockman left, roughly 150 protesters filled the Abromson lobby in galvanizing collective protest.

 

TO FIGHT OR TO IGNORE?

Central to the thorny question of how to handle someone whose opinion you disagree with is whether it’s better to ignore them in hopes they’ll go away.

Nearly everyone anticipating the Lockman event had, of course, been aware of Milo Yiannopoulos’s scheduled appearance at UC-Berkeley on February 1, which was canceled after a small faction of protesters incurred an estimated $100,000 worth of property damage.

As local progressives rallied against Lockman’s appearance in the week prior, USM officials were concerned about a similar outcome. USM President Glenn Cummings told the Phoenix that he notified protesters that “they would be removed from the event by police” if they attempted to shut it down, and that “similarly, if Rep. Lockman advocated violence or harassment, (that) he would be removed and the event shut down.”

The key tactic of alternative or provocative figures is to leverage the size and platform of their “not-audience” (i.e. their haters in the mainstream) to attract attention and build an actual audience,” writes Ryan Holiday in a piece for The Observer last week.

In the mid-2000s, Holiday was the campaign manager behind Tucker Max, the men’s rights activist whose strategically controversial antifeminist messaging was designed to cause uproar as a sort of rogue marketing tool. While Holiday writes that he adamantly disagrees with Milo, he believes he is acting from the same playbook.

“Let’s say he can acquire massive amounts of negative publicity by pissing off people in the media,” continues Holiday. “Well now all of a sudden someone is absorbing the cost of this inefficient form of marketing for him.”

Holiday argues that the best tactic would be for people to ignore Milo. That by protesting him, progressives are “playing right into his hands” — a sentiment echoed by President Cummings in his statement that Lockman’s would not be canceled.

But it’s not an either/or. Protesting might very well “play into the hands” of the alt-right, or of politicians like Lockman, but ignoring them doesn’t work either — as countless examples throughout history have shown. Furthermore, “the ‘ignore it’ take is argued by people who are comfortable enough with the status quo,” tweeted Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer tweeted about Yiannopoulos. “Lots of people don’t get to ignore it.”

Nobody is saying Lockman should be in jail, or that he should be silenced by the government. But “a right to free speech is not a right to a platform,” writes Katherine Cross. Meanwhile, the opposite is true: a government headed by Trump is actively silencing dissent.

Essentially, Lockman advances a hard right-wing vision for Maine. On a much larger scale, Yiannopoulos creates misleading and vacuously crude spectacles on television and college campuses. His baseless assertion on Real Time With Bill Maher last week that transgender people are “disproportionately involved” in sex crimes in bathrooms, left unchallenged by Maher, may seem like a controversial “opinion,” but it’s not. It’s coldly calculated ideology. (Note: Spokespeople from the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and Transgender Policy and Law Institute have confirmed there have been zero reported cases).

The right-wing has a new weapon, and it’s an ability to advance their agenda through a performance of reportage that has little to no bearing on the truth. That agenda — or the performance of that agenda — has gained a foothold in the marketplace of ideas. To Trump supporters, if something “feels true” — such as Somali immigrants in Lewiston taking jobs or Black Lives Matter protesters being prone to violence — then it might as well be true, and no amount of fact-checking can convince them otherwise.

Milo may seem like a self-serving, amoral performance act who’ll say anything for a paycheck. And indeed he might be exactly that. But we cannot forget that his project is very real. His boss is Steve Bannon, President Trump’s right-hand man. It was reported that Milo was going to use his February 1 appearance at Berkeley to name undocumented students, and train young conservatives to turn them into the police. He’s used platforms at other events, he’s doxxed and shamed trans students at the campuses he visits. (On Monday, a video surfaced of Milo, who is gay, appearing to defend sexual relationships between 13-year-old boys and adult men, and a backlash by conservatives has hacked at his platform.)

Another person using the same type of unfounded, unapologetically false rhetoric is Trump. There’s that Sweden nonsense. The demonstrably false reports of “unreported terrorist attacks” in the U.S. Throughout his campaign, Trump’s behavior is erratic and absurd, wheeling out punchlines and clownish, off-the-cuff quips, meanwhile refusing to accept or condemn endorsements by David Duke and the KKK. (There’s precedent for this behavior; let’s not forget that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana told Vanity Fair that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside.)

He and his supporters can say anything they want, seemingly without accountability. And without a critical view of notion of “free speech,” the howling majority opposing him appear like they’re ganging up on him.

Meanwhile, ICE raids are real. Deportations are real. Armed border control agents are checking people’s phones and social media accounts for “un-American” sentiments. According to multiple reports, the Department of Homeland Security declared the number of immigrants arrested over the past week has risen to 680, and raids were reported in at 11 states.

This is the danger of normalization. While people debate the finer points of free speech, Trump’s policies could have devastating consequences for vulnerable people. It’s the danger of permitting people like Milo Yiannopoulos or, locally, Larry Lockman, surely emboldened by Trump’s administration and LePage’s state governance, to advance hateful rhetoric and policy on elevated platforms. Yes, Lockman has a “right” to his views. But failure to mount an organized opposition to it — a vital form of free speech — would normalize his position.

Toward the end of the Q&A portion of Lockman’s “Alien Invasion” talk, a young woman of color named Najma Abdulahi approached the microphone. She commented that in her experience it was white men, not Muslims, that were the “most dangerous demographic.”  

She asked the first of two questions — extending an invitation for Lockman to have a “dialogue with me and the people and youth in my community, which he demurred. Then this exchange happened.

“How do you deal with white fragility?” Abdulahi asked Lockman.

“What?” he replied.

“White fragility,” she repeated, slower.

“White what?” the Representative asked again, leaning into the microphone.

“White fragility. Like, how do you deal with it?”

“Next question,” he replied. “That’s not a serious question.”

Lockman’s supporters roared. Then one of them abruptly cut her mic.

najma

Najma Abdulahi, a junior at Waynflete school in Portland, confronted Lockman with questions about white fragility. Her questions and offer to privately facilitate a dialogue between Lockman and her community were ignored. 

SIDEBAR

The event had originally been scheduled to take place in one of the classrooms, but due to a bigger-than-expected registration list — surely many of them coming to oppose Lockman’s appearance — it was moved to the campus’s Hannaford Hall.

Lockman’s appearance was passed by the USM Student Senate, despite many members opposing the content of his message. “It’s an ethical thing,” said Fatumi Awale, a USM student and member of the student senate who voted to permit Lockman to speak.

“On the senate, we decided that everybody has freedom of speech,” said Awale, “and that we shouldn’t refuse somebody to say what they want to say even if it’s hateful.” Wearing a hijab, she sat among the crowd of Trump supporters at Lockman’s event, waiting for the Q&A session so that she could have her say.

“I’m here to tell him the truth,” said Awale, who told me she got her work shift covered in order to be at USM that night. “Migration is not a problem in this country.”

USM planned to charge the organization a security fee to pay for police presence, both YAF chair Benjamin Bussiere and USM president Glenn Commings confirmed, but backed off when the conservative group’s national lawyer, Caleb Dalton from the Alliance Defending Freedom, came after them.

“Speech isn’t free when students have to pay hundreds of dollars because others want to protest their viewpoints,” writes Dalton in a prepared statement on the issue. “The cornerstone of higher education is the ability to participate freely in the marketplace of ideas on campus ... Policies like this give protesters the ability to veto less popular viewpoints, turning the marketplace of ideas into the intellectual vacuum of intolerance.”

Cummings confirmed that they rescinded their request for the campus group to pay the security fees, saying the school “needs to update its rules.”

  • Published in Features

10 Art and Resistance Resources Since the Election

If you think we’re writing a lot about anti-Trump resistance in these pages lately, you’re correct. That’s because anti-Trump resistance is driving the culture more than anything else right now, and political activism — the sustained, organized kind — is more deeply embedded in American daily life than any other time in generational memory.

An estimated 5.2 million people participated in Women’s Marches on January 20 last month. A recent Washington Post poll reported that one in three Democrats pledged to “become more involved in the political process” in the next year. Seattle’s longstanding alt-weekly The Stranger even recently created a special section amid their weekly arts coverage for “Resistance & Solidarity” events. That’s just how people hang out these days.

If you’re the sort of person who has wondered what people “do” after they show up to protests like the Women’s March, read on. A swell of art and action-based resistance efforts has emerged since the election, joining an already potent social justice network in southern Maine.

And because political engagement takes on many shapes and sizes, we compiled a resource guide on many of the new art and action-based resistance efforts that have cropped up post-election. We can’t say it’s fully comprehensive — that would take an entire issue — but it’s a start.

These are new, but by no means should they distract from the vital efforts of organizations like the ACLU of Maine (or the ones we highlight at the end of this list). And if you’re interested in checking in with post-election efforts at a national level, try starting with Indivisible.

PRINTERS WITHOUT MARGINS

The art collective Pickwick Independent Press launched Printers Without Margins shortly after the election as an “official social justice arm of the shop.” Over the spate of recent protests, some of Pickwick’s artists have worked diligently to make signage with clear, direct statements on them, for better visibility at protests and in press coverage.

The effort evolved naturally from the ethos of the artist network. “Walking into a room full of printers who were all in a similar place — it was powerful,” says Pickwick member and printmaker Pilar Nadal. “We gathered and talked about what we wanted to do, what we could do, and what we couldn’t do, and came up with Printers Without Margins.”

While the group is only open to Pickwick members (membership costs include a small annual fee), Nadal says the group could use donated support in the form of money, paper, ink, a Xerox machine, and volunteer grant writers.

“We’d like to match our printers with individuals or organizations who need printed materials — signs, posters, flags, bumper stickers, postcards, pamphlets, zines, you name it — with content about anti-racism, anti-sexism, pro-religious freedom, anti-homophobia, and generally how to treat each other with kindness and respect.”

Website: pickwickindependentpress.com

GET READY WEEKLY

Another example of art weaponized for political means, GET READY WEEKLY is a vessel for “visual resistance.” That may sound complicated, but these are essentially chill, playful and inclusive hangouts for banner-making, letter-writing, and ribbon-making for upcoming protests, marches, and rallies.

Launched by artist Erin Johnson and now steered by Johnson and artist Marieke van der Steenhoven, GET READY WEEKLY has prioritized accessibility and building community. And because how-tos on writing your reps to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, the repeal of the ACA, and Trump's cabinet picks might be a little heavy, their get-togethers are essentially good times, partnering with breweries like Oxbow and galleries like Able Baker Contemporary.

Additionally, they’ve paired with local art magazine The Chart to plan “resistance readings” of short political and social justice texts tackled over dinner at restaurants operated by immigrants and people of color. The first is scheduled for March 7 at Babylon Restaurant, where the group will read an essay by the Detroit-based critic and arts writer Taylor Renee Aldridge titled “Transplant Exploits: Detroit’s Savior Complex.” Pointed, thoughtful, and conducted face-to-face, we hope this reading series takes off.

Online, GET READY WEEKLY maintains a useful info hub, this week publishing “The Official Anti-Milo (Digital) Toolkit,” a snazzy and super-informative handbook about how to confront “alt-right” troll Milo Yiannopoulos and other far-right agents when they attempt to use the Trojan horse of “free speech” to spread violent agenda at college speaking events. To wit: “Countering Milo and the alt-right requires an ability to critically assess the ways in which the vocabulary of liberal-academic discourse is currently being co-opted by extreme right-wing groups in order to legitimate and further a platform of genocide and terror against historically marginalized groups.” Just in time for Maine Rep. Larry Lockman’s contentious appearance at the University of Southern Maine on February 16.

Website: facebook.com/getreadyweekly

           

A SEAT AT THE TABLE

A Seat at the Table is a monthly facilitated dinner model designed to bring together people with different backgrounds and experiences for hard discussions, where they tackle topics like race and privilege, sex and gender identity, and climate change.

Launched in January by Chanel Lewis and Adam Burk, A Seat at the Table evolved from a group called Represent: Networking for Professionals of Color, an open attendance session that met at coffee shops, bars and tasting rooms in Portland. In A Seat’s three-month pilot program, Lewis and Burk host discussions one Thursday a week, from 5:30 to 6:30p.m. One of those meetings resulting in a free dinner on the last Thursday of the month, consisting of a group hand-picked from applicants, and where the traditionally “underrepresented are overrepresented.”

“The long-term goal,” writes Lewis in an email to The Phoenix, “is to use our facilitated dinner model as a professional development opportunity to challenge business, community, and political leaders to make systemic changes regarding equity and justice.”

“A Seat at the Table dinners are brave spaces,” says their website. “They are meant to be challenging, and this might mean owning up to a hard truth or speaking your truth when it’s scary.

Lewis says that the inaugural dinner has reached capacity for this month, but the group is taking requests for participation at the March dinner now.

Website: thetreehouseinstitute.org

SAFER SPACE PORTLAND COMMITTEE

Echoing movements in other major cities across the country, a group of local business owners, workers, designers, and activists have spearheaded an effort to create “safer space” signage for commercial spaces in the city, signaling values and expectations to customers and citizens and designating zones of zero tolerance for harassment and abuse.

“The goal is to make our businesses safer spaces for marginalized people here in Portland,” writes Laura Ker, proprietor of Find clothing store in Portland and co-founder of the committee (along with artist Sally Struever and Dave Aceto).

“Immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, black folks, and others are hearing from Washington ‘you’re not welcome.’ We are here to say ‘you are welcome here’ and not have it be an empty promise.’"

The group has met periodically since November and has been consulting with organizer Marena Blanchard of the ACLU of Maine. They also seek to provide training for area workers to defuse and de-escalate situations. They’re still hammering out specific language, but hope to have signage available soon.

STEAL THIS PRINT

A free online database of original anti-Trump art available to download, Steal This Print has international appeal despite its relatively humble local origins as an idea hatched by two entrenched Maine artists, printmaker David Wolfe and painter Charlie Hewitt.

With more than 40 high-resolution images available for free on the site, Steal This Print aims to be a valuable resource for those looking for originality and humor in their Trump-bashing.

Website: stealthisprint.com

PORTLAND STREET CHOIR

Protest songs can have awkward cadences, odd rhymes, and tired or vague messaging. But If you’ve spent any time at them, you’ve witnessed the capacity of music at keeping large swaths of protestors active and engaged.

Enter the Portland Street Choir. Forming in December, the Portland Street Choir leads music and song at protests, demonstrations, and marches around the state. And they’ve been busy! The Street Choir meets for rehearsals once a month, and has added color and song to last week’s Rally to Support Planned Parenthood, the Rally Against the Muslim Ban earlier this month, and, of course, the Women’s March.

Website: facebook.com/portlandstreetchoir

MAINERS FOR ACCOUNTABLE LEADERSHIP

Emerging days after the election, Mainers for Accountable Leadership acts as an organizational liaison between on-the-ground activists and elected officials. With representatives’ voicemails routinely full during the confirmation hearings of Trump’s cabinet picks, the need for this sort of work would seem particularly important.

“Our rallies are First Amendment events,” writes co-founder Mary Follayttar Smith in an email to The Phoenix. “Mainers are rising up and calling on [Sen. Susan] Collins to come home to a town hall [meeting], asking her to listen to the Mainers she is out of touch with and to answer her phone.”

The group set simple, commonsense goals reducing the barriers of civic engagement and amplifying its signals.

“We expect them to increase the capacity of their voicemails so the over one million Mainers of voting age can participate. To publish who they meet with — what lobby, what group of constituents. To publish their Town Hall and public meeting schedules, and to make public their statements on critical votes, outlining the rationale, criteria, and filters and [explain] how the vote is a vote for Maine.”

Launched by Smith and co-founders April Humphrey and Dini Merz, the group is a young, volunteer-run PAC with no communications director or fundraiser. Smith says they could use all hands on deck for their efforts.

MFAL is hosting three open-air town halls on February 22 at 12:30 p.m., outside MPBN locations in Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor. Smith says they’ve raised $3000, which they intend to use on infrastructure, website construction, contact management and advertising.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/mainersforaccountableleadership/

 

DENA’S DAILY ACTION


Want your political engagement a little simpler? Something that doesn’t make your Google calendar look like a de Kooning painting? Try something like this daily activism reminder run by a millennial-aged Portland mom.

“Dena’s Daily Action” is a simple, original piece of content sent as a text message to your phone, with short, sweet, and specific instructions on a piece of progressive action you could perform that day. They’re not exactly memes, but they’re not far off, and there’s a lovely juxtaposition between the seriousness of the action and the image itself. On Valentine’s Day, a piece titled “We Love Ethics” included a script for how to call your rep about the Presidential Tax Transparency bill and Trump’s conflicts of interest arrives mounted over a photo of one of Dena's kids being playful and adorable.

As of right now, Dena’s restricting her service to friends and acquaintances. But it’s a model you could easily start on your own. 

SUIT UP MAINE ACTION NETWORK

A fairly massive left-liberal affinity feed on Facebook, this closed private group publicizes events across the spectrum of Maine-based resistance — super valuable for those outside of Portland — and spans overtly political functions like meetings by the Socialist Party of Eastern Maine to cultural events like an International Women’s Day Fashion Show.

UNIFIED L/A

Those north of Portland may have to look a little harder for resistance efforts, but this Lewiston-based progressive committee takes the shape of a town hall-style meeting. They’ve been giving action trainings to locals about how to call representatives, organize effectively, learn about Trump’s immigration and travel bans, and share resources, including crucial information for Lewiston’s sizable immigrant population.

Unified L/A is most active as an in-person meet-up group, but maintain a private group page on Facebook for keeping up with events and minutes.

MAINE RESISTS (BONUS!)

Less a singular organization than a catch-all events calendar for progressive events, this volunteer-run, easy-access look-ahead has progressive events posted through April, spanning areas from Bangor to Boston.

Website: maineresists.org

SIDEBAR

One of the hazards of political moments like these is forgetting about the work people have been doing since long before Trump won the election.

Maine Women’s Lobby

With a Trump administration more hostile to women’s civil and reproductive rights than any time since WWII, the work of the Maine Women’s Lobby may be more vital than anytime since its inception in 1978. Website: mainewomen.org

Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ)

A national anti-racist education and training group for white people to “do their homework,” focusing on issues of justice, equity, and accountability through an intersectional lens that includes struggles for indigenous rights, LGBTQ folks, and disabled people, the Greater Portland chapter of SURJ hosts meetings every other Wednesday. Though people of color are most certainly welcome, the organizers make efforts to ensure “there is no obligation to engage in the emotional labor of educating white folks unless you would like to.” Website: facebook.com/greaterportlandSURJ

Sock Monkey-Making Workshop

Political work comes in all shapes and sizes, and our inclusion of Maggie Muth’s sock monkey-making workshop, which she started back in the Bush era, serves as a reminder that allowing for creativity and silly, simple play can often serve as the stepping stone and social fabric that leads to more avowedly political work. Website: mayostreetarts.org

  • Published in Features

Collins Keeps Moderate Image as Billionaire DeVos Appointed to Secretary of Education

Collins Keeps Moderate Image as Billionaire DeVos Appointed to Secretary of Education

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The private- and charter-school advocate snuck in with a 50-50 vote after two GOP Senators —Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — voted not to confirm. A tie-breaking vote went to Vice President Mike Pence.

Donald Trump’s nomination of DeVos received unprecedented opposition from U.S. constituents.

While some in Maine applauded Collins for her vote not to confirm the Texas-based businesswoman, many denounced the defection as a bit of political theater, alleging that the Senator would only vote not to confirm once she knew DeVos had requisite support for confirmation from the rest of the Senate.

“She has the votes and will be confirmed,” said an unnamed senior GOP aide in a report by Politico, a week before the vote.

While voting not to confirm DeVos in the full Senate February 7, Collins supported DeVos as part of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which decided 12-11 in favor of DeVos on January 31.

In their support in the committee, Collins and Murkowski both cited an intention not to obstruct the full Senate from expressing its opinion. Said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Collins was “being consistent” in upholding the power of the Senate to enact its vote despite personally opposing DeVos’s nomination.

In a story published by the Portland Press Herald last weekend, journalist (and former Phoenician) Colin Woodard reported that Collins is one of the country’s most popular senators, despite a reputation for her quizzical, almost contradictory voting record.

As reported by the Press Herald: “Senator Collins will at times vote to proceed to legislation that she may oppose because she believes that it should be the pending business of the Senate,” says her spokeswoman, Annie Clark. “Sometimes she is supporting alternative legislation, and proceeding … is the best way to get an alternative amendment considered.”

Collins’s vote against DeVos gives the impression of moderation that props up support in her constituency, but many constituents aren’t buying it. As Woodard reported, a vote tracker set up by the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight marks that Collins has voted with party lines 9 of 11 times, making her one of the most willing to break with her party. But many say her dissenting votes are strategic, and could be political gamesmanship helping her support in a predominately liberal state.

Additionally, Collins is not without a history of obstructionism when it fits party lines. In 2011, Collins filibustered with GOP Senators in an effort to block President Obama’s nominations of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Also in 2011, Collins sided with filibustering GOP Senators blocking the appointment of Goodwin Liu to a federal appeal court.

And she also has a history of voting against her party when the vote doesn’t matter. In 2011, the Senate voted against climate change regulations that would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, but the resolution was defeated 52-46. Collins was among few GOP senators to vote in favor of regulations.

Despite her confirmation Tuesday, DeVos has arguably been the most contested cabinet appointment in history. In a report Tuesday by the website Mother Jones, Heidi Hess, a campaign worker for the mobile political platform CREDO, told NPR this week that DeVos triggered 1.5 million petition signees in opposition, and at least 30,000 phone calls. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted last week that the days leading up to her confirmation were “the busiest in Capitol switchboard history” by “almost double.”

South Portland Passes Anti-Hate Speech Resolution

In a city hall meeting Tuesday night, the South Portland City Council passed a resolution “condemning violence and hate speech and expressing solidarity with Muslims and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion.”

The resolution 1) Condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Muslims, those perceived to be Muslims, asylum seekers, and immigrants; 2) Categorically rejects political tactics that use fear to manipulate voters or to gain power and influence; 3) Reaffirms the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of an American culture influenced by multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear, and; 4) Commits to upholding a policy that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that those targeted on the basis of race, religion, or immigration status can turn the government without fear of recrimination.

While the resolution serves as a statement of solidarity, it effects no substantive policy change in the city’s bylaws. Some, however, believe it could serve as a foundation for South Portland’s eventual designation as a sanctuary city. An estimated 7 percent of South Portland residents were born outside the U.S.

Portland City Councilor Pious Ali told The Phoenix that the Portland City Council is looking at talking about a similar resolution at an executive session “soon.”

Fort Sumner Park to Stay Beautiful?

It’s not official yet, but efforts to prevent views from Munjoy Hill’s Fort Sumner Park from being obstructed seem to be rewarded soon.

Working with a group calling themselves Friends of Fort Sumner Park, which formed last summer to prevent development from building at heights that would obstruct views from the park on North Street, the Portland planning board voted unanimously last month to recommend establishing an absolute height limit (160.27 feet above sea level) for new developments.

A future vote is slated for February 22.

Post-Victory, Pats Stars Refuse Visit With Trump

After Sunday’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons, two New England Patriots players have told the press that they intend to skip the traditional post-victory visit to the White House.

Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty, both of whom are black, each intend to skip the ceremonial visit with the president, reported Mic.com’s Zak Cheney-Rice this week.

“I’m not going to the White House,” McCourty told Time in a text message this week. “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”

Bennett and McCourty’s statement adds contrast to the team’s high-profile supporters of President Trump. Owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick, and MVP quarterback Tom Brady have each expressed support for Trump in the past year.

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