There’s one week left of 2010. What rocked your world this year, musically speaking? I know I have my picks for the highlights of the past 12 months. Take a peek and see if you agree with me. If not, you’re more than welcome to send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment at www.bangordailynews.com or on my Facebook page. I’d love to help foster a dialogue about what you want to see and whom you want to hear in your town.
The bands you had to see
Queen City writes high-energy anthems about partying, rocking and various combinations thereof. Every show they have played in downtown Bangor has been packed to the gills. They are ringing in 2011 in West Market Square on Dec. 31. If you haven’t seen them live yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Meanwhile, the Orono trio Good Kids Sprouting Horns play a different brand of indie rock — one that’s raw, soulful and melodic, fueled by Tony Bitetti’s intelligent lyrics, Jessamy Luthin’s dynamic keyboard instrumentation and powerhouse drummer Ryan Higgins. The band released two EPs this year; expect a full-length in the spring.
If straight-up rock is what you’re looking for, however, look no further than The Class Machine, the Belfast duo that blazed a trail of rock fury across Maine this year. Singer and bassist Nathan Raleigh wails on the mike, while drummer and guitarist (yes, you read that right) Cody Tibbetts is the ultimate multitasker. Somewhere in between the White Stripes, the Black Keys and Motorhead, you’ll find these guys.
Mud Season quietly became one of the bands to watch out for in 2011. This Bangor-based collective, which started out with four members and now can include as many as eight, is definitely a jam band in the best sense of the word, thanks to their stellar musicianship, free-flowing musical dynamism and laid-back stage presence. Plus, they have one of the best horn sections in the state. If you don’t start dancing at one of their shows, you probably are a robot.
Sam & Yuri returned to Bangor this year, after time spent in Austin, Texas, and we’re happy to have them: their sensitive pop-rock has a polish and a contemporary edge that make them a perfect bar band. Plus, they harmonize better than anybody else in the area. They have kept up a rigorous performance schedule since last spring, so here’s hoping they continue in 2011.
Honorable mention: the Flannery Brothers don’t live in Maine anymore — Dan is in Boston and Mike is in New York — but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still claim them as our own. After all, their new album, “The New Explorers Club,” was recorded right here in Bangor, and they still play lots of shows here. And I will never stop telling people that it’s music for everybody — both kids and adults.
The places you had to be
The music festival season started early this year with the newest addition to the lineup, the Belfast Free Range Music Festival, held on April 24. A full day of indie, folk, bluegrass, jazz ensembles and jam bands, in a variety of venues in funky, beautiful downtown Belfast. The price was right and the weather was perfect. Expect an announcement in the next few weeks about the 2011 festival, also set for April.
The North Atlantic Blues Festival, of course, always is a treat. Soak up the sun and enjoy world-class blues musicians all day, and then have a blast all night, as blues bands from all over Maine play in bars, clubs, restaurants and in the street during the pub crawl. It was on July 10 and 11 this year, and boasted record crowds. A laid-back party with a thousand or so of your closest friends and a killer blues soundtrack. What’s not to love?
In Bangor, Bloom207, held at the Union Street Brick Church on July 30 and 31, was an interesting mix of music, art and dance, all to benefit cancer research. Local musician and promoter Myke Billings does it right, so let’s hope an event like this can occur every year.
A couple of hours north of Bangor, in the scenic Aroostook County town of New Sweden, the fifth annual Arootsakoostik Music Festival took over the town on Aug. 7. An array of fantastic rock, indie and experimental groups from all over the state made The County the place to be for experiencing Maine music. Your New Year’s resolution this year should be to make the journey north to check it out.
And finally, the KahBang Festival, held Aug. 6-14 this year, redefined what it meant to be a young person from Bangor. Not only did the festival expand from two to nine days, but it showed eastern Maine that with some hard work and enthusiasm, just about anything is possible. More than 50 bands rocked every venue downtown, and two full days of music dominated the Bangor Waterfront on Aug 13 and 14. That doesn’t even include the film festival. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2011 when the event is set for Aug. 5-13.
Other cool stuff that happened
The State Theatre in Portland reopened, five years after closing. The renovations are gorgeous, and the venue has already boasted such luminaries as My Morning Jacket, Michael Franti and Spearhead and Guster. Keep an eye out for shows from Bright Eyes, Girl Talk and Flogging Molly in early 2011.
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper emerged as one of the best singer-songwriters to come out of Portland, period. And then she moved to New York to try to make it big. Best of luck to you, Lady Lamb. Your songs are beautiful, your voice is beautiful, and if we see you blowing up on year-end critical lists in a couple of years, we will not be surprised.
Also emerging this year were the Mallett Brothers Band, a Sebec-raised, Portland-based alt-country band, and Jacob and the House of Fire, an orchestral indie-rock collection featuring the songwriting talents of Lincoln native Jacob Augustine. Both played memorable sets at the KahBang Festival.
Did I miss anything? Remember, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m always looking for the next big thing.