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Arts and Entertainment | Maine Life | Friday, September 17th, 2010, 1:21 pm

Local music finds new home at Portland Public Library

Justin Hoenke
Borrow Local? Now you can get local music at the Portland Public Library

“Have you listened to my band’s new CD yet?” your friend asks you for the umpteenth time. Why no, you respond. You simply haven’t had the time nor money allocated for such delicacies. Considering your ever-expanding Kenny Loggins collection it might be a lame excuse, but an excuse nevertheless.

Within the next month your excuse may no longer be valid. The Main Branch of the Portland Public Library is adding a collection of approximately 100 CDs from bands around Maine. The collection mainly features more recent bands to the scene including Marie Stella, Marion Grace, Gypsy Tailwind, and Honey Clouds, but there are also older staples to the scene: Rustic Overtones, Twisted Roots, and Covered in Bees among others.

The one thing that might strike people a little strange, at least the local music hipsters, is the local music collection will be stored in the teen section, right next to young adult novels. The reason? This initiative is being set by the library’s teen librarian, Justin Hoenke, the same guy who brought video games to the library and helped create the new teen section.

While Hoenke may not be a native to Maine, he says he has always tried to be supportive of the local music scene wherever he lived. When he moved to Maine, he was inspired by the sense of community in the area.

“Everyone’s trying to help each other out,” Hoenke said. “I’m not used to this.”

It was when Hoenke received a $10,000 grant for the teen section’s opening day collections that he was finally able to put his ideas into action. The only problem was that Hoenke was a stranger to the local music scene.

Luckily for him though, new friend and library clerk Kurt Baker is more than familiar with the music scene; in fact, he’s a major contributor. From rocking the mic for the world-touring Leftovers to his own solo efforts and DJ sets at SPACE and Empire, Baker has more than a working knowledge of the music scene.

So with a fraction of the grant money, Hoenke entrusted Baker to call the shots. “Go wild,” Hoenke told him. And so he did.

Baker said he chose to get all of his music at Bull Moose, because they have the best selection of local music, and the consignment deals for the bands “are really great.”

“Not only will the titles be available for free at the library,” Baker said. “But by buying the records through Bull Moose, I knew that each artist would be getting paid.”

And Baker used a simple criteria for the CDs he collected: For the most part he looked for bands that were actively playing and releasing records.

“Whether it be a group that I’m friends with, or even a death metal or hip-hop group that I’ve seen fliers for around town, chances are [...] they are most likely going to be included in the new collection,” Baker said.

But this didn’t stop him from getting some oldies.

“Having grown up listening to local bands in town, they had a huge influence on me and my friends,” Baker said about the older bands, some of them defunct. “And if it weren’t for those older bands, none of us would have gone on to start our own bands.”

While Baker was able to score some oldies-but-goodies like albums from Eggbot and Harpswell Sound, there are a few out-of-print albums that would only be attainable from the bands themselves. He said that it would be a matter of the library reaching out to them, but it “would be a great thing to do in terms of archiving the local history of music in the town.”

Since the local music collection will be found in the teen section, this may be a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between teens and local bands.

In fact, Hoenke is open to booking local acts for teen concerts in the library’s Rines Auditorium. He said bands should contact him via phone ( 207-871-1700 ext. 772) or e-mail (hoenke@portland.lib.me.us) for more information, and while they may be dubbed as “teen concerts,” he says that he’d “be happy to let all ages in at first.”

And just because the local music will be stored in the teen section, it doesn’t mean adults are forbidden to lend them out.

“I think some adults may be scared away at first, but I try to send out the message that while this is the teen library, everyone is really welcome here,” Hoenke said. “The library is for the community.”

Dylan Martin is a Media Studies student at USM and a staff writer for The Free Press. He also writes a blog on MaineToday.com called Geek Street.

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