Between the opening of the newly renovated State Theatre in Portland last week, and this past summer’s successful waterfront concert series in Bangor, Maine music fans have a lot to be happy about. When was the last time you saw that many cool bands come to Maine? It’s an extremely welcome trend, one that anyone who likes to go to shows hopes will continue for many years to come.

The Bangor Waterfront will stay quiet through the winter and early spring, as concert planners get ready for what they hope will be an even longer and more fun 2011 season. In the meantime, however, you can hit the road for southern Maine to see some of the many shows set for the State Theatre and several other Portland-area venues.

State Theatre (

Before I say anything else: The pictures of the renovations at this historic Portland venue look absolutely gorgeous. I did not get to attend the opening night concert with My Morning Jacket, or the Portland music showcase last Sunday, but I’m eagerly anticipating stepping into the space in the coming months to see just how good a job they did.

That said, shows start in earnest this weekend, with songwriter Josh Ritter tonight, and 1970s rockers Kansas on Saturday, Oct. 23. The Goo Goo Dolls play on Oct. 26, followed by Maine favorites Guster on Oct. 27. Punk band Social Distortion takes the stage on Nov. 2 and reggae legends Toots and the Maytals will show Portland how they do it in Jamaica on Nov. 5. Michael Franti and Spearhead follow them up on Saturday, Nov. 6. Rusted Root will play with Assembly of Dust on Nov. 7.

Deadpan comedian Steven Wright will perform on Nov. 11, and the following weekend, acclaimed songwriter Martin Sexton will perform Nov. 19. WCYY-FM’s annual Holiday Bizarre will take place the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, featuring the Sick Puppies and Terrible Things. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic will tear the roof off the sucker on Dec. 11, and emo survivors Dashboard Confessional will close out the first round of on Dec. 12.

Port City Music Hall (

This weekend brings the progressive bluegrass sounds of the Yonder Mountain String Band, who will perform on Sunday, Oct. 24. High-energy indie-pop duo Matt & Kim, favorites of the 2009 KahBang Festival, will play on Nov. 3. November 19 brings renowned jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood, and Phish drummer Mike Gordon will take the stage on Nov. 26.

Merrill Auditorium (

For a more relaxed, sit-down setting, check out favorite folk duo the Indigo Girls on Oct. 30. The Barenaked Ladies, the silly but very talented Canadian band, plays here on Nov. 16.

Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield (

This big, beautiful barn out in the western Maine woods plays host to some folk, rock and country luminaries all the time. Joan Baez will perform in a rare, intimate setting on Nov. 1. Arlo Guthrie will play on Nov. 17, just in time for Thanksgiving, with his classic long-form story-song “Alice’s Restaurant.” Country bands Asleep at the Wheel performs on Nov. 19, followed shortly by former J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf on Nov. 20. Nancy Griffith plays on Dec. 6 and Charo, best known for her “cuchi cuchi” stage antics but who also is a phenomenal Latin guitarist, plays on Dec. 8. Aaron Neville closes out the year on Dec. 20.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.