I now look forward to the last weekend of April with as much anticipation as any other important annual event (Halloween, Christmas, the first really hot weekend when we go to Popham Beach). The Belfast Free Range Music Festival, now in its third year and set for Saturday, April 28, has cemented its place in my schedule and my heart as one of the highlights of the year.
This year is more of the same as last year, which means that it’s not the same in any way — the festival never repeats an artist. The event is carefully curated to present a balance of loud and soft, big and small, local and national. There’s no pressure to have an extremely well-known headliner, though within indie rock circles a number of the acts this year are considered really big deals. That’s what gives the festival its uniquely laid-back vibe; it happens because it’s a cool thing to happen, not to make money or prove anything. It’s the music fan’s music festival.
I recommend bringing comfy shoes to walk around town in; expect to hoof it from Aarhus Gallery near the bottom of Main Street uphill to Waterfall Arts on High Street, though there is a festival bus available during the day. And be sure to study the schedule so you don’t miss too much. Oh, and take time to stroll down by the water, and to grab a snack — oysters and Marshall Wharf beer at Three Tides, fried jalapenos at Rollies, Big Buddha Bowl at Darby’s, vegan brownies at the Co-op, stuffed mushrooms at Delvino’s, subs at Alexia’s.
Venues wnclude the Colonial Theatre, Waterfall Arts, Aarhus Gallery, the American Legion Hall, First Church, the Belfast Free Library and Myns on Market Street as well as the Hillytown.com After Party at Three Tides, starting at 10:30 p.m. Community radio station WERU-FM will be hosting their annual Spring Fling Record and Gear sale at the Belfast Boat House from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the festival.
Tickets are $18 online at freerangemusicfestival.com, and $20 on the day of the festival, and are available at the BFRMF office at 171 Main St. The Waldo Arts Mission and the Maine Arts Commission, as well as a Kickstarter campaign, helped fund the festival.
Alice Limoges, Camden
16-year-old singer-songwriter from the midcoas, with loads of potential and nowhere to go but up. Keep your eye out for her.
The Anders Parker Cloud Badge, Burlington, Vt.
He has played with everyone from Jim James of My Morning Jacket to alt-country legend Jay Farrar,and he has quietly established himself as a versatile, experimental songwriter and guitarist.
Raw, crystalline, achingly lovely folk music from Buck and Shanti Curran. The duo’s latest album, “Red Planet,” is one of the best Maine albums of 2012.
Experimental, noisy guitar-centric music — not metal, but not indie rock either.
Bill Barnes Trio, Hope
Guitarist Bill Barnes has plied his considerable talent across the U.S. for decades — from session work with rhythm and blues musicians, to his current role as leader of an excellent midcoast jazz trio.
The Black Swans, Columbus, Ohio
Elegant, literate folk rock from the Midwest; critically acclaimed in indie music circles.
The Bunwinkies, Western Massachusetts
A big group of laid-back musicians, playing a unique style of music inspired by the folk rock coming out of England and California in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Butcher Boy, Portland
Where other folk punk bands stick more closely to the folk part of the equation, Butcher Boy are unafraid to go for both ends of the dynamic spectrum. High energy, yet sensitive.
Callers, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The most noticeable thing about Callers is Sara Lucas’ gorgeous, gospel-tinged voice. It’s backed up by some muscular riffs and rhythmic dynamism — intimate, soulful music.
Coke Weed, Bar Harbor
This band is quickly becoming a favorite of mine in state, and I haven’t even had a chance to see them live (yet). Think the darker side of 1960s country, mixed with atmospheric indie rock.
Colin Langelus Orchestra, Brooklyn, N.Y.
One of the members of cult avant-rockers USAISAMONSTER, Langelus has a solo project now, that’s more inspired by country folk and classic rock.
Sweet-sounding bluegrass from Portland — Roy Davis and Bernie Nye excel at both songwriting and musicianship.
The Curious Mystery, Seattle, Wash.
Haunting, expansive indie rock, with the delicious vocals of Shana Cleveland.
The End Times Spasm Band, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Musical collective, playing delightful, quirky, old-timey 1920s and ’30s-style ensemble jazz.
Great Western Plain, Orono and Portland
A garage rock trio with a knack for writing fuzzy, infectious riffs and smart lyrics.
Gypsy Caravan, midcoast Maine
Hot, upbeat gypsy jazz, from a collective of fine Maine jazz musicians.
The Living Daylights, Brooksville
They live in Down East Maine, where they make amazing bread at Tinder Box Bakery. They also make odd, wonderful, tribal music, with unique instrumentation and depth.
Lonesome Shack, Seattle, Wash.
Electric country blues with a modern sensibility. Think White Stripes, but bigger, funkier, more raw.
Sharron Kraus and Glenn Jones, Scotland and Cambridge, Mass.
A raw, intimate Scottish singer-songwriter with a haunting voice, paired with a Massachusetts guitar whiz, formerly of avant band Cul de Sac.
Meteora, Knox County
Folk, country and blues, buoyed by three-part harmonies and a distinctly Latin rhythmic tinge.
Mother Popcorn, San Francisco, Calif.
A collaboration between drummers-vocalists-artists Adee Robinson and Anna Luisa Petrisko.
MV & EE, Vermont
Psychedelic blues from the forests of Vermont. At the forefront of experimental folk; also signed to Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace label.
The Rugged, Jackson
If Husker Du played alt-country, they might sound something like the Rugged. Singer-songwriter Travis Lloyd distills his skills into one tight, satisfying sound.
A Severe Joy, Portland
A masked man with a suitcase full of musical tricks. Psychedelic at times, but also a dance party.
Shell Shag, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Loud, aggressive, sometimes danceable indie rock, by a guitar-drum duo famed for their contributions to West Coast underground rock; now based in NYC.
Spirit Family Reunion, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Barn-burning, spirit-lifting big-group folk music, easy to clap and stomp along to.
The Sun Parade, Northhampton, Mass.
A mostly acoustic duo, though sometimes plays as a full band; stirring lyrics and vocals.
Hypnotic, pulsating electronic music, informed by both jazz and house.
The What Cheer? Brigade, Providence, R.I.
A 19-piece brass band that play an utterly irresistible blend of big band, latin, rock and hip hop.
When Particles Collide, Bangor
Power-pop punk-rock duo, playing simple yet lyrically complex rock ’n’ roll.
Passes for the 2012 Free Range Music Festival are now on sale through the festival’s website and locally at The Green Store, located at 71 Main St. in Belfast. Passes are $18 in advance. If available, passes will be available to purchase the day of the event for $20 at the festival Info Center. The Info Center will be located at the Our Town Belfast office at 171 High Street. Passes have sold out in the past, so advance purchase is highly recommended. Passes for children 12 and under are $9. Children under 5 are free.
For information about the Free Range Music Festival including festival schedule, passes, musician bios, area map and volunteer opportunities, visit freerangemusicfestival.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2012 Free Range Music Festival is presented in partnership with the Waldo Arts Mission, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that develops opportunities for artists, educators and community groups to collaborate on projects. Presentation and promotion is made possible in part by an Arts Visibility Grant from the Maine Arts Commission. Additional funding for the event is being provided by local business sponsors, as well as community members through the Kickstarter website.