In the olden days, the town square was the place where the commoners gathered to sell their wares, pontificate on the pertinent subjects of the day, and simply lollygag about, to chat with friends and enjoy the fresh air.
In the year 2008 … well, pretty much the same thing happens. And in the case of Bangor’s West Market Square, there’s the rather newfound and totally wonderful addition of live music and adult beverages. In fact, the four socializing establishments that surround West Market Square — the Whig and Courier, the Red Martini, Christopher’s and Paddy Murphy’s — have banded together to promote live music on the weekends in Bangor.
Music in the Square is the brainchild of Chris Gagnon, owner of the Whig. Along with Paddy Murphy’s owner John Dobbs and Red Martini/Christopher’s owner Paul Noonan, Friday and Saturday nights in West Market Square will groove and rock to a wide variety of bands from all over the state, with music at each venue.
Gagnon used to host bands at his bar regularly back in the 1990s, but cut back on live music as attendance waned. As newer establishments such as Red Martini and Paddy’s began to flourish, with open mikes, acoustic performers and electronic nights attracting a growing following, Gagnon saw there was an audience for live music once again.
He asked local musical maven Myke Billings to use his many connections in the area, and help him line up some acts. This weekend, the first weekend the Whig will host bands, will feature Billings’ band Big Time on Friday night, and the Nigel Hall Band, featuring the eponymous soul singer and keyboardist. Upcoming shows from the Andy Mead Band, Raw Chicken, and Stiff Whisker and the Driftwood Kids also are scheduled.
“It’s a weekend thing. People know that when they come downtown, there’ll be three or four bars that will always have live music,” said Billings. “It’s a dependable thing. There’ll always be something to do.”
Red Martini has employed Beltek Festival masterminds Erik Klausmeyer and Rick Kidson to bring DJs from all over to the lounge, with recent sets from Dreamosaic, Matty T and KTF Terison drawing big crowds. Paddy Murphy’s and Christopher’s continue to host rock, blues and folk acts. Could it be that finally a scene is developing in downtown Bangor?
“If this past summer was any indication, people are really hungry for an outlet. There were crowds of people wandering through the square. It was really fun,” Billings said. “If we can keep that momentum going, then I think we’ve really got something going now.”
Despite the fact that these businesses are all seeking to attract the same group of music lovers and social creatures, it makes perfect sense that they’d work together, rather than try to compete for an audience.
“More people means more business,” Billings said. “If someone is at Paddy’s, they’ll come to Red or Christopher’s or the Whig later. And vice versa. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, right?”