PORTLAND, Maine — Allison Paine was making sure there were fresh hand towels available for guests at her Eastern Promenade home when a friend rushed in to tell her: “Mumford & Sons is on your porch.”
Of course, she thought. She decorated her house with maritime flags spelling out the hit British folk rock band’s name in anticipation of their big concert across the street.
“No, the actual band,” he insisted.
“They were charming,” Paine later recalled, just moments before Mumford & Sons took the stage as the headliners at the seven-hour, multiband event. “I ran around to the front porch. They kissed my hand and said, ‘Oh, the lady of the house.’
“They said they’re having a great time in Portland, that we’ve got a great music scene and that everybody’s been so welcoming to them,” she continued.
More than 15,000 people descended on the neighborhood for the concert, headlined by hit British folk rock band Mumford & Sons and featuring a set by punk legends the Dropkick Murphys.
The show had been the topic of conversation in Portland for months, since it was abruptly proposed and permitted by the city in early April, and is seen by some as a test case for future large-scale concerts in city parks.
“I really wanted to see how this would turn out,” said Nicholas Mavodones, Portland city councilor and former mayor, at the show Saturday night. “I’m incredibly impressed with how organized everyone is. From the concert promoters, to the security, to the recycling volunteers. Everything is clean and seems orderly.”
Lt. Bob Doherty of the Portland Police Department described the atmosphere at the site Saturday evening as “peaceful” and “pleasant.” He said no arrests were made and that police responded to only a few minor medical calls.
Becky Bind, a volunteer with the city’s solid waste crew manning one of more than 30 trash and recycling stations, said most concertgoers she saw were diligent about picking up after themselves.
“It’s been pretty clean,” she told the BDN. “I think most people are being good about throwing their stuff away. I think it helps to have someone standing here watching, too.”
Planes flew overhead with trailing banners promoting the Saddleback Bluegrass Festival on Aug. 10 and a concert by the band Barenaked Ladies in Bangor on Aug. 19. Fans took turns taking photos in front of a lighthouse prop decorated with black-and-white Mumford & Sons tour logos.
Even long lines to reach food vendors — stretching in serpentine fashion throughout the Eastern Promenade concert grounds with waits reportedly as long as three hours — failed to dampen many peoples’ spirits.
“I haven’t seen a frown,” said Lauren O’Donnell, 19, from Falmouth, who was inching along near the end of one of the longer lines with her sister, cousin and friend. “Everybody is just so happy to be here.”
“Plus, we can hear the music from here, so it’s OK,” agreed cousin Caroline Seelen, 17.
The first 12,000 tickets for the show sold out in less than an hour when they went on sale June 1, and another batch of 3,000 released last month were quickly snatched up as well. Portland was one of just four locations in the country chosen to take part in Mumford & Sons’ exclusive tour, and the show comes less than two months before the release of the band’s long-awaited follow-up to their critically acclaimed album “Sigh No More.”
Fans in Portland didn’t have to wait until late September to hear new material, as the band played the unreleased — thus far, anyway — song “I will wait” third in their set.
After the festival wrapped up on the Eastern Prom — the music ended at about 9:20 after Mumford & Sons played a cover of The Band’s “The Weight” and was followed by a short fireworks display — musicians from the event were expected to disperse into the city’s other venues, with the Dropkick Murphys taking the stage at The State Theatre at 11:30 p.m. and Mumford & Sons band member Ben Lovett planning to deejay at the Space Gallery for one of several late-night after parties in the city.
Leigh Kellis, owner of the Holy Donut on Park Avenue, lives in the neighborhood and set up a doughnut stand in the Congress Street driveway of friend and neighbor Heidi Kendrick. Kendrick set up a stand next to Kellis’ selling hoola hoops.
“It’s amazing,” Kellis said Saturday afternoon, as a stream of concertgoers passed by on the brick sidewalk nearby. “If you lived in Boston or New York, people wouldn’t be talking about one concert months ahead of time. It would just be another concert, but in Portland, it’s a huge deal. Everybody’s been so excited to have 15,000 people here in the neighborhood and live music blasting across town.”
Kellis said she already experienced an uptick in business at her store’s primary location across the city as fans began filtering into Portland early for the show, loading up on coffee and morning snacks. She said she made about 600 more doughnuts than normal on Saturday to sell to concertgoers on Congress Street.
Kellis said those same customers will likely provide a boost to the city’s nighttime venues as well after the festival ends and after parties begin.
“I think everybody’s gearing up for the night to be busy,” she said. “The bars, the restaurants — my doughnut shop was really busy this morning, which is great. I think a lot of out-of-towners came to check it out. I think the whole town is buzzing.”
Joshua Bankhead, owner of Hella Good Tacos, sets his stand up regularly at smaller concerts held in the Eastern Prom’s Fort Allen Park, not far from where the Gentlemen of the Road show is taking place. Bankhead opened his stand on the Congress Street sidewalk Saturday to take advantage of the foot traffic.
“I think it’s bringing attention to stuff up here,” Bankhead said of the concert. “With places like Rosemont Market, Hilltop Coffee Shop … and myself — we’re all staying pretty busy, so I think it’s good for business up here.”
Along the Eastern Promenade, several homes were adorned with colorful flags, banners and sculptures, as homeowners received mailings in the weeks leading into the event that Mumford & Sons band members would pay a personal visit to the best-decorated home in the area of the festival.
“There was sort of an invitation to decorate your house,” said Russ Sargent at 166 Eastern Promenade. “They said the band would go around looking at each one, and whichever one they liked the best, they would give a personal in-house concert for.”
Sargent and Nancy Nevergole dressed their stairs and porch with brightly colored “poemvessels,” tall ceramic containers with poetry painted on the outsides. The duo made the art pieces together years ago — Sargent is a poet and Nevergole works in ceramics — and used to display them in galleries, Sargent said. The big festival in the neighborhood, they reasoned, is as good a reason as any to take them back out.
“We just thought that since it was going to be good weather and there would be a lot of people around, it would be a good day to put our work out for people to look at,” Sargent said. “And possibly, we might have the bonus of getting a concert in our living room.”
Paine, whose maritime flag arrangement was made in the same spirit, said she wasn’t sure Mumford & Sons would be coming back for an in-house show, but was happy with the face time she got earlier.
“They were truly gentlemen,” she said. “Gentlemen of the Road, I guess.”
Portland Police officers reported no traffic problems and no arrests related to the festival.
All concert traffic was reportedly moved out in 15 to 20 minutes.
To view a photo slide show, click here.