Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. Is necessity the same as desperation? Because that’s what the music biz is feeling, and it’s generating some interesting ideas.
Like Lady Lamb’s. She’s come home to Maine this summer with an idea to play host to “Live from the Hive,” where fans who jumped at the opportunity last Friday will travel to Lincoln County for three shows in late August at her two-acre property. The 45 fans per night will get a concert, the ability to submit three song requests, plus some cornhole and a campfire. If you’re nice, Lady Lamb might even let you pick a tomato off her vines.
Watch her social media. The first three nights are sold out, but more might pop up.
Or there’s the Urban Farm Fermentory, which hasn’t been known as a music venue, but sure does have a big parking lot. So they’ve carved up the lot into squares for fans to stand in, socially distanced, while watching music up on the loading dock (Thursday-Sunday, weather permitting). They’re asking for a cover that goes to the band, and have an outdoor bar set up with Jun and Kombucha for the nondrinkers, plus cider, beer, and mead.
“We want to help musicians safely perform,” founder Eli Cayer said, “and make a little money, and for people to be able to attend music events safely, too.”
Or there’s what seems like the craziest idea of all: Selling Geno’s.
But not to worry: It’s good news. Geno’s has been sold to people who have lived its ethos and who have the capital to keep it open for the foreseeable future.
New owner Kathryn Taylor and partner Carl Currie have been making announcements in furious fashion regarding the historic Portland club, which opened on Brown Street under (it was literally in the basement) the ownership of Geno D’Alessandro Sr. in 1983, moved to 625 Congress St. (the former home of the Fine Arts Theater and the Skinny) when the condos came in 2005 and has been chugging along under the guidance of Geno’s son, J.R. D’Alessandro, since Geno’s death in early 2006.
Essentially, Taylor and Currie said during a socially distanced interview at the club, Geno’s may have changed hands, but they have no plans to change Geno’s.
Well, maybe a little.
“We’ve got music the bartenders can play at the bar now,” Currie said. “That’s never happened before.”
Taylor said she and Currie had been trying to open a bar together for more than a decade. “We’d look at spaces, and none of those worked out,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to move home for a long time, but it never seemed like the right time.”
Taylor got out of Maine as soon as she graduated from Massabesic High School, almost 20 years ago, making stops in great music cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, London, Austin, and most recently New York City.
“There’s something about New York,” she said, “where you feel like you’re making it, and it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole when you’re working all the time.”
But Currie, who’d been tending bar and working the door at Geno’s for the past year and a half – and who played the club in various bands, including as a teenaged bass player at the old Geno’s in the 1990s with STD – heard J.R. talking about needing a bartender and said he knew just the person.
Taylor was just getting started understanding the Geno’s culture when the pandemic hit. And soon, J.R. was making noises that maybe this was the time to finally make a change.
Well, Taylor and Currie could certainly help with that.
Geno’s is in Phase 4, and can’t reopen until other indoor bars can open. The rumor is currently October. They’ve been given a bunch of high-top tables from the now-closed Port City Music Hall, though, so there are plans to be able to open with a spread-out bar service, appropriately distanced, once the state gives them the go-ahead.
Under Taylor’s ownership, and with Currie serving as hype man (he still has a full-time gig running Blackstone’s), they said the new Geno’s will be much like the old Geno’s, with maybe a return to some of its roots, like burlesque shows and outsider theater in addition to the local and national punk, rock, rockabilly, and hardcore shows. They’ve even obtained a license to show movies.
There will still be touring bands – when touring bands happen again – but Jon Morse and Last Mercy Emissions have amenably moved on and bigger, ticketed shows will be more of the cherry on top than the whole sundae.
“We’re building the community to just come in here and feel social and expand on what Geno’s has been the last few years,” Currie said. Plus, they want to integrate more with the 600 block of Congress Street and nearby bars like Blackstone’s, the Downtown Lounge, and LFK.
“Remember bar-hopping?” Taylor said with a laugh.
Seems like a long time ago, and it can be hard to imagine when it may happen again. But the music biz isn’t completely out of inventions just yet.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Allen: "Difficult"
2 weeks, 5 releases
While you’re staying at home, throw these new releases on the stereo or in the headphones:
• Amy Allen, “Difficult.” While “Queen of Silver Linings” was an earnest ballad, “Difficult” is a fierce rave-up. Full of staccato beats and a purring lead vocal, this is a dynamic track that shows Allen hasn’t even begun to show off all her powers yet.
• Coyote Island, “Golden Rule.” A follow-up to Mike O’Hehir’s reintroduction to Maine, “Here Before,” this uses a similar bounce-beat, but tacks in a little half-rapped bridge that’s really slick, and a big chorus.
• The Mallett Brothers Band, “Lighter.” Dropped as a bit of a surprise last Friday, this is barn-burner, with a well-integrated fiddle solo from Andrew Martelle and country-mean vocals from Luke Mallett. More of this rock edge, please.
• blackpepperflake, “pedazos.” The brainchild of Adrian Smith, these two songs feature crisp, spare production, somewhere between hip-hop and electronic, and atmospheric spoken word, coupled with a sample of Louis Farrakhan speaking on the Phil Donohue Show.
• Kristina Kentigian, “Fluent in You.” Kentigian is well known as a slayer of features on other artists’ works, but has only recently started releasing solo work again, after 2012’s “The Beginning Again.” This one’s a jazzy, light, and airy R&B number, a classic love song.
— Sam Pfeifle