Your Local Music Scene

2019 Music Scene Trends Report — Maine

Cait Salzberg
8 min read

Another year, another Trends Report. 2020 may be in the spotlight for a wide variety of reasons. Recently, our big little scene was labeled one of the nation's Best Music Scenes in Rolling Stone Magazine — but for us here at Rad Plaid, we’re looking beyond countless incredible things for our music scene.

Last year’s report saw a resurgence of DIY culture and smaller venues and more original music. We checked back in with members of the music community to see how 2019 shook out and what's on the horizon for the coming year.

Here are some of the most notable trends in Maine that you all noticed:

Tons of new bands, shows, and lots of music

New bands have emerged and local favorites have been busy writing and performing epic tunes.

Sheridan, Heart Shaped Rock | Portland House of Music
Sheridan, Heart Shaped Rock | Portland House of Music
“LOTS of new bands, musicians playing out younger, and the much deserved growth of Rad Plaid and people having fun! More excellent shows and events and writing our next cd!!” —Sheridan, Heart Shaped Rock
“I think there have been great shows! Def always room for more audience and more venues — I wonder if the word gets out!” —Lisa/Liza
“Less structure, more surprise drops rather than organized releases” —Brit Martin, Brit Martin/Tame and Temper
“We have a lot of great venues. There are enough venues to support the size and diversity of the scene and they all bring something unique to the table.” —Kevin Beling, Drivetrain
“Lots of good local artists due to release new music in 2020!” —Chuck Martin, Xander Nelson
“Full bands are more prominent than solo acts, collaboration has been on the rise! I’ve noticed a rise in pop & rock shows and less folk than I initially expected upon moving to Maine.” —Emily Bodley, Flounce
“Brewery gigs, creative grassroots bands, and performers collaborating” —Ryan Moody, Phog

And sometimes more IS more

Many of you are ready to make sure 2020 is the year of more “more”

“Hoping that more local bands get a chance to play Port City and Aura” —Bruce Merson, Nuclear Bootz
“New bands. Always good to see new things pop up. New music from Murcielago, Johnny Cremains, Twin Grizzly, Trawl, and presumably more.” —Kevin Beling, Drivetrain
“Shows at Sun Tiki and The Apohadion Theater. Music from Ruby Yacht. Planetary Access. Bensbeendead. Willow Carter.” —Myles Bullen, Myles Bullen
Angelikah Fahray | Portland House of Music
Angelikah Fahray | Portland House of Music
“New Artists and the growth and progression of current artists” —Angelikah Fahray, Angelikah Fahray
“I’m also hearing from musicians about more self-care and focusing on new material and new creativity.” —David An, Pretty Sad; Xander Nelson; Viva and the Reinforcements; Jason Ward and the West End Mules
“More festivals popping up” —Rob Carlson, Solo; Stella Blue Brothers; Diamond Sky

The popularity of smaller/DIY spaces

A huge trend last year was the launch of smaller venues and DIY spaces, and the support of said venues continued to trend again this year.

“I’ve noticed more interest in smaller or DIY spaces which promote almost exclusively original music” —Olive Twombly Hussey, Lake Over Fire
David An, Pretty Sad; Xander Nelson; Viva and the Reinforcements; Jason Ward and the West End Mules | Eastern Promenade
David An, Pretty Sad; Xander Nelson; Viva and the Reinforcements; Jason Ward and the West End Mules | Eastern Promenade
“I love seeing the smaller DIY venues like Apohadion and Sun Tiki doing well — Thirsty Pig is another good example here. I’m also excited to see what happens with Big Babe’s in SoPo — would be great to have a kickass venue on this side of the bridge.” —David An, Pretty Sad; Xander Nelson; Viva and the Reinforcements; Jason Ward and the West End Mules
“Also love seeing the scrappy, indie venues such as Sun Tiki and Apohadion fight their way into the scene. They’ve provided some much needed alternative show options for bands and fans alike! This is where the local scene is really finding some roots.” —Chuck Martin, Xander Nelson
“Many smaller local cafes and breweries are open to music and have a very appreciative audience!” —Ryan Moody, Phog
“More alternative (non-club) venues” —Andrew, Osmia
“Brewery shows are becoming destination events” —Rob Carlson, Solo; Stella Blue Brothers; Diamond Sky

A rising tide raises all ships

The abundance of love and support for the music community makes our hearts swoon. Continuing to support each other across genres and styles will only make our scene stronger. And like our scene, community love is on the up and up.

Van Dammesel | Sun Tiki
Van Dammesel | Sun Tiki
“More encouragement and opportunity for one another. I feel like 2019 was a great year for cooperation between a lot of the bands in southern Maine. We got to perform with a lot of new/different acts, some of which were even willing to collaborate on some stuff. Pretty cool!” —Angela Shea, Van Dammesel
“Unity” —Jim, Spillers
“We continue to push on diversity and inclusion and acceptance of all bodies and that’s a damn good thing — even if there’s still a ways to go”—David An, Pretty Sad; Xander Nelson; Viva and the Reinforcements; Jason Ward and the West End Mules
“Good songwriting these days — even in pop music.” —Chris White, Chris Kemp White
“I am so excited for all the artists making moves this year! I can’t wait to meet + hopefully befriend more performers. I feel an electric pulse vibrating the city and it’s addictive to plug-in. Being still-new-to-Maine I’m unsure what the scene was like in the past, but it feels like it’s growing heartily and rapidly. Having said all this, I am most excited for the development of the jazz scene.” —Emily Bodley, Flounce

A little innovation never hurt anyone

2019 saw ample innovation from some of our favorite creative minds. Some challenged themselves through new clever endeavors, rapid releases, range of musical stylings, creative collaborations, and more.

“A lot of innovation and vitality this year” —Jenny Van West, Jenny Van West
aLunarLanding | One Longfellow Square
aLunarLanding | One Longfellow Square
“More multi-genre shows and earlier shows! I’m excited to see artists from different genres create music together” —Dan Moon, aLunarLanding
“Leveling up in visual content, more tributes, surprising number of full albums or EPs rather than singles of original music, more of an effort to be self-sufficient (graphics, production, etc.)” —Brit Martin, Brit Martin/Tame and Temper
“Have enjoyed folk artists as well as stuff that is a little more out there coming to the forefront. It would be great to see many of the different scenes connect more and overlap more.” —Lisa/Liza
“Just good variety in hip hop, punk, and pop. Punk is still strong and pop rock” —Bruce Merson, Nuclear Bootz
“electro-fusion” —Lucas Roy, The Middle Men
“More collaborating. We’ve met a lot of great musicians, and know some already. But we’d really love to get some of them in on writing with us, or just playing on some of the recordings. And, of course, finding and seeing new acts!” —Angela Shea, Van Dammesel
Kristina Kentigian | Empire
Kristina Kentigian | Empire
“More releases. More collaborative shows. Releasing singles over full-lengths.” —Kristina Kentigian
“I’m excited for new original music and secret new projects from amazing musicians. And if I wish it here, maybe it’ll happen: more collabs between Portland’s amazing breweries and bands!” —David An, Pretty Sad; Xander Nelson; Viva and the Reinforcements; Jason Ward and the West End Mules
“Lots of fun collaborations and audiences always come through for them. Would love to see the same enthusiasm for all the local, original shows that happen.” —Chuck Martin, Xander Nelson
“In the local area, a lot of creative performers are collaborating to come up with great music!” —Ryan Moody, Phog

Who run the world?

GIRLS! Our scene, and the music scene in general, is becoming a monumental platform for people with a message and a meaningful story to share. Women, the LGBTQ community, minorities, immigrants, and more are sharing their stories for all to hear.

“Ladies killin’ it!” —Brit Martin, Brit Martin/Tame and Temper
“Several shows highlighting and showcasing local women” —Danny Bailey, Crunchcoat/Peachier
“I think as a reflection of the current political climate, 2019 was a year for raw lyrical empowerment and expression. I immediately think of Lizzo: she dominated the world with her compassion and unrelenting self-love. I hope her bold empowerment continues to marinate the scene! Then I think of James Blake’s emotional album “Assume Form”. I think of his lyrical vulnerability, eloquent expression of heart, gently reforming The Toxic Masculine approach to emotion. Let the tendrils of Love wrap around all!” —Emily Bodley, Flounce
“Cultivating immigrant voices” —Jenny Van West, Jenny Van West
Lake Over Fire | Portland Zoo
Lake Over Fire | Portland Zoo
“More priority given to women and queerfolk — love it!” —Olive Twombly Hussey, Lake Over Fire
“Lots of great female acts!” —Chris White, Chris Kemp White

Streaming and social media woes

Digital streaming has cascaded into everyday life for music lovers and makers alike. Whatever your feelings about streaming, we’re all having to adapt and learn new ways to share music and promote projects. While Rad Plaid hopes to help bridge that gap, there are still things the scene is struggling with.

“Spotify is the worst thing to happen to art” —Jim, Spillers
“Still seems that bands of all sizes and recognition are having to tour to make any income, since record sales are so low. Everyone is trying to crack the streaming code, and many are now releasing singles rather than EP’s or full records, in order to keep a constant flow of content for the fans.” —Chuck Martin, Xander Nelson
“On the bad side: resentment of streaming and slavery to social media. On the good side: plenty of quality music is produced and the low cost DIY method means that music scenes survive with or without much money.” —Kevin Beling, Drivetrain

Putting Portland on the Map

Especially since the recent Rolling Stone article highlighted some of the very best of our music scene, many of us are dreaming about how music from Maine can reach beyond our borders.

Danny Bailey, Crunchcoat/Peachier | Port City Music Hall
Danny Bailey, Crunchcoat/Peachier | Port City Music Hall
“More smaller touring acts are coming through from all over the world. Having more accessible local venues where smaller bands can be seen is so special.” —Danny Bailey, Crunchcoat/Peachier
“Making Portland a nationally known music community!” —Chris White, Chris Kemp White
“I think we’ve got a good thing going — I hope to see interest in our vibrant original scene continue to grow” —Olive Twombly Hussey, Lake Over Fire

“If you feel insignificant, you better think again. Better wake up because you’re part of something way bigger. ” —Beyoncé

For nearly two years now, Rad Plaid has seen so much growth. We’re constantly astonished and humbled by the passion brought to this scene. This past year brought about excitement for new venues and unique approaches to the arts, a spotlight on diversity and inclusivity, and the overall strengthening of music through mutual respect and collaboration. We’re thrilled about the new music and innovation to come out of our local artists and challenges we all overcame to continue to thrive. Keep killing it. We’ll see you at a show!

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