I will always have love for the small-town alternative kids. The 16-year-old with streaks of hot pink in his or her hair, discovering punk rock for the first time. The kids who spend the summer between their freshman and sophomore year watching weird movies, learning guitar and coming to the realization that they just aren’t like the other people in their class. They are the artists, poets and rock stars of the future, and whenever I see a group of them walking into an open mike or a punk show, I smile. I’ve been there.
Which is why it’s awfully nice to hear about R Space, the all-ages music and performance venue that’s part of the Lincoln Street Center for the Arts in Rockland. Since February, the space has held a number of shows from both local and regional bands from a wide variety of genres. This Saturday’s show features the Portland ska-punk band El Grande, Rockland funk-metal group Philosoraptor, Appleton rockers Lost Generation and soul rock group Gentlemen of Society from Belfast.
Tim Sullivan, now assistant director at Lincoln Street Center, has organized shows in the midcoast area for the past 10 years, starting with shows co-sponsored by the now-defunct Midcoast Music Alliance, at the Blue Goose in Northport and at Watts Hall in Thomaston.
“When the Midcoast Music Alliance ended, it seemed like those shows were going to end,” said Sullivan. “I was like, ‘nuh-uh!’ I would hate to see that end. So I started doing them at my house. There would be up to 100 people there, and I do not have a big house. You can see how there would be a problem.”
Last summer, Sullivan held a number of shows at Echo Hill in St. George, a very accommodating — but very out-of-the-way — venue. If he was going to host shows for teenagers, it needed to be something they could get to without their own car. Lincoln Street Center, a downtown Rockland community space that boasts art, dance and yoga studios and all-purpose classrooms, seemed a natural choice. The center opened in 2000 in the former location of the junior high school in Rockland, which moved to a new building in 1995.
“Our first show was in February of this year, and we had twice as many people as any show we’d had in St. George,” said Sullivan. “As the kids were coming into the building, I was marking their hands after they paid, and their ears and hands were all red. They’d walked there in the middle of winter. It was really nice to see.”
R Space is the live music-centered part of Lincoln Street Center, which offers a wide variety of events throughout the rest of the week. In addition to Saturday night shows, R Space holds an open mike night on Thursdays, as well as the occasional informative lecture, such as the talk on making music as a profession held earlier this week.
Sullivan knows that it’s important to provide something fun, safe and — dare we say it — cool for teens to do.
“Not everyone wants to play sports or play classical music,” said Sullivan. “Not everyone is interested in that very traditional kind of high school experience. People that are into punk and metal and ska and harder rock and different kinds of things never have a place to go have fun. This provides that.”
Sullivan said he hopes to eventually see the young people who come to shows take over some of the responsibility.
“My hope is that eventually it’ll be run by kids, for the kids,” said Sullivan. “It’s their space. We want to tailor everything for them.”
Saturday’s show with El Grande, Philosoraptor, Lost Generation and Gentlemen of Society starts at 6 p.m.; there is a $5 cover. An open mike at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17, features songwriter Ellen Tipper, and a show 6 p.m. Saturday, June 26, features a night of alternative and experimental rock with the Class Machine, Arms Against a Sea, No Sane Man and Machine. For information, visit www.facebook.com/rspaceatlsc.