The Portland Music Foundation brought the best of Portland, Maine to Sullivan Hall for a CMJ showcase on Thursday night (10/20).
The showcase was pretty eclectic, something the founders of PMF were going for when they set out to find a line-up. It ran the gambit from bluegrass and country, to rock and indie, and even rap. While I did not stay for the entire show, it was definitely evident from what I did see that this was a talented bunch of bands.
The showcase started off with one of their strongest acts, The Toughcats, a bluegrass band with such a wide array of other influences that it is really hard to characterize their sound. Their set was mesmerizing, especially the drummer, who was a maniac on the skins. It was nearly impossible to take your eyes off of him. His facial expressions while playing were priceless and kept the set entertaining and interesting. Equally as impressive was the way the banjoist played said banjo with a violin bow. Then, during their final song, the drummer and banjoist stopped playing their respective instruments and started playing bongos on the guitarist’s guitar, while he was playing it. The shear amount of energy on stage warranted the loudest cheers I heard of the four sets I stayed for.
The Mallet Brothers Band followed, and with big shoes to fill, they were able to pull out a pretty good set of rock-tinged country. With broken strings all around, the band rocked pretty hard. The harmonies and vocal trade-offs between the brothers kept the set entertaining.
The Milkman’s Union played a set of country tinged post-rock. The set wasn’t very energetic, but the music fit the lyrics and vocal style well. The most up-beat songs they played were their last few.
Kurt Baker had a larger than life personality to go with his larger than life dance-punk. The set presented a kind of old-style rock ‘n’ roll dance party, but with an edge. Baker really knew how to work the crowd and get everyone hyped and into the music. Between every song, it seemed, he was spreading his good cheer, which the crowd loved. He was genuinely excited to be there playing for people and it showed in the music and energy of the set. They made it a lot of fun and a great way for me to end my night.
While I cannot speak for the three artists I did not see (Sunset Hearts, Spose, and Billy Libby all played the showcase as well), I could tell PMF made the right choices in bringing these bands to New York with them. They epitomized what the organization was trying to do, show that Maine has a great and burgeoning music scene that people need to hear.