Fall plays host to one of the American educational system’s most endearing annual practices: Homecoming. The idea of graduating from school and launching off into the great unknown is perhaps unique to the United States, with its wide open spaces and pioneer ethos, but just about every culture finds a way to celebrate tradition and our ancestors.
Generally, in the local music scene, we find old friends touring back through town over the summer, when they come back to hit family camps to cool off, or around the holidays. But this fall seems to have an inordinate amount of friendly faces swinging back through Portland. So much the better for us.
And don’t worry: If you’re tired of the same-old, same-old, there’s some new stuff to get excited about, too.
This week: While the point here is to look forward, we’d be remiss if we didn’t draw attention to some interesting records released at the end of August or here in the first weeks of September. Like Joel Thetford’s “Complicated,” his fourth full-length release since 2020.
Per usual, this one’s full of songwriterly country pieces, highlighted by his duet with Meg Shorette, “Moonshine,” where “I was out of my mind and I had no plan,” which sounds a lot like falling in love.
Scene vet Asher Platts (Theodore Treehouse, etc.) is back, too, playing bass for the mostly brand-new adlt grrrl, a three-piece with Ada Bonnevie and Sarah Lapointe that just released “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures.” It for sure mines plenty of Riot Grrl territory, but also offers playful acoustic numbers and never takes itself too seriously: “I’m a glutton for punishment … hold that pose.” If you like lo-fi rock and rage-induced lead vocals, this is your album.
This fall also offers a new start for multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Beyette, whose ambitious industrial-rock, post-punk “Growth” project aimed at one time to release 365 songs in 2014, but got a little bit derailed.
The 19 songs released back then are now on Bandcamp as “Harris Shot Biden,” but “these 19 songs will start changing soon, too,” he says. Dark and brooding, the intricate production still manages to sometimes sound unhinged: “I do so many awful things … that I think are normal things.” Look for videos, maybe even an SMS-based role-playing game as the project develops.
Sept. 23: One of the first young local bands to build a following in a while, the classic-rock-inspired Rigometrics releases their first full-length, “Rig n’ Roll” with a show at Portland House of Music & Events. Like any good rock band, the live show is Rigometrics’ element and they share a trait with a band like Greta Van Fleet where their songs sound familiar even on the first listen.
Sept. 27: The world is a small place. Superorganism, an electro-pop collective with bouncy songs, plays PHOME and it’s a homecoming of sorts for Orono Noguchi, whose Japanese parents met at UMaine (hence the name) and who was at Bangor High School when she hooked up online with the British home-studio musicians who would become her bandmates. They now basically perpetually tour the world, coming to Portland from Glasgow, Manchester, and London, then moving on to Brooklyn, Boston, and Montreal.
Sept. 30: While it can be hard to keep all the indie-rock/punk projects in Portland straight, Midwestern Medicine is a trio worth tracking. They release the sophomore album “The Gold Baton,” the closest thing to the Flaming Lips that Maine has going right now. Frontman Brock Ginther (Divorce Cop, Lemon Pitch) can be hard to pin down, but here he’s at his most serious and earnest, backed by Whale Oil vets McCrae Hathaway on bass and Brian Saxton on drums. “Cobwedded Calls to the Queen,” like a Shins song roughed up with sandpaper, seems particularly on point.
Oct. 7: A pretty great day for local music, with three significant releases already on the docket. First up is the latest from University of Southern Maine composition professor Dan Sonenberg, whose work was last heard on Portland stages when the Portland Symphony Orchestra performed his “First Light” in October 2021. His new solo release, “Tiny Malone,” follows on his Lovers of Fiction project with rock tunes that lean toward Zappa and the experimental rock of the 1970s. “Sick and Evil” opens like a Faces song then goes full off the rails, like a Sgt. Pepper’s outtake that Bowie sat in on. “I Suck” is a sneering bit of self-mockery, with a touch of whining about how no one really appreciates us musician types.
That Hideous Sound mine somewhat similar ground on debut full-length “Wasted Life,” judging by the opening single, “Funny Insides,” though may lean slightly more catchy. With digital beats and very analog electric guitar, the clash of sounds doesn’t reduce the foot-tapping any (and don’t miss the show at Sun Tiki on Oct. 6).
Finally, we have “Field Guide for Survival in this Dying World,” by SeepeopleS, the hard-to-pin-down veterans who’ve been playing various versions of jam-rock and alt-pop for a couple of decades now. Judging by the single, “Lots of People,” frontman Will Bradford isn’t exactly optimistic about the future but stands ready to help figure out how to soften the landing.
Oct. 13 and 16: No spot in Portland feels more like mom and dad’s living room than One Longfellow, so it’s not surprising that Lyle Divinsky (Oct. 13) and Slaid Cleaves (Oct. 16) have chosen the intimate space for their homecoming gigs. The big-voiced Divinsky has been busy figuring out his next move since leaving Motet during the early days of the pandemic, having fun sitting in with the likes of Prince tribute Purple Party and String Cheese Incident, but has now settled in to front the R&B powerhouse Midnight.Blue, which released the debut full-length “Breath” last month.
Cleaves, meanwhile, has been releasing “bonus tracks” like “Another Man’s Wealth” that show off his prodigious songwriting talents; he’s a true Texas troubadour in his adopted home of Austin, even if he grew up in the Berwicks. He’s reportedly working on a new set of tunes for a new full-length this winter season, so expect lots of new pieces in addition to the old hits.
Oct. 29: The sold-out crowd that enjoyed the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival got a treat when Jonathan Edwards sat in with Rock Hearts, bringing his sweet voice to their hot licks. What’s the connection? Well, mandolinist Bill Thibodeau for one, who goes all the way back to playing with his dad in the Kennebec Valley Boys, out of Cambridge, Maine. Now he’s in Rhode Island but brings Rock Hearts to Dover-Foxcroft’s Wayside Grange to get back to his roots.
Nov. 4: Speaking of bluegrass, the kids from Berklee we’ve been raving about have put together Corner House, which releases a debut full-length, “How Beautiful It’s Been,” at One Longfellow, with friends Old Hat String Band opening up. Thanks in part to Scottish fiddler Louise Bichan, they have more of a Celtic vibe than most contemporary stringbands and their Berklee training results in lots of complicated arrangements and leads.
Dec. 9: Griffin Sherry will find out what going home again feels like when the former Ghost of Paul Revere singer and guitarist comes to the State Theatre as a solo act, opening for Ballroom Thieves. Will it be basically Ghost songs solo? A whole new set of songs? Just a guy and a guitar, or with some backing? We’ll have to wait and see.