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Saturday, August 14th, 2010, 5:35 pm

KahBang On: Zeek, The Gay Blades and The Biz disappears

KahBang Photo Pool | Courtesy photo
The Gay Blades were a hit at KahBang. The Biz? Not so much

Friday afternoon couldn’t have been a more gorgeous day in Bangor, and on the sunny banks of the Penobscot River the main stage of the 2nd KahBang Music Festival opened its gates to crowds of fans. The diverse line-up featured local talent and national acts, ranging from swirling orchestral rock to driving electronic jams and crowd-pumping hip-hop.

The hard work and effort of the team behind the festival really showed throughout a fantastic day of amazing music. But it was not without a few minor mistakes, last minute cancellations by two bands and a surprisingly abrupt end to the headlining set by Biz Markie.

The afternoon opened with another mind-blowing performance by Louisville band Cabin. Their performance at the Kahbang Kickoff show the night before had the crowd buzzing even before they took the stage Friday. Unfortunately, sound issues, and a mid-performance power outage cut short a set of terrific rock epics, featuring soaring vocals from lead singer/guitarist Noah Hewett-Ball and melodic lines from the effects-laden violin and organ of Sarah Welder. But the band did not disappoint, giving an encore performance later in the evening to a full house at local pub Paddy Murphy’s.

The other highlights of the afternoon featured sets by two Portland groups, Billy Libby and Jacob & The House of Fire. Billy Libby brought his brand of indie folk and pop, backed up by a very capable band who announced that their set at KahBang was only their second live performance ever as a group. An amazing cover of Radiohead’s “Knives Out” showcased the true talent in Libby’s voice, a lilting tenor with equal amounts of power and tenderness.

Jacob & The House of Fire was perhaps the highlight of the afternoon, with an eleven member ensemble featuring a blazing horn section and unique instrumentation that enhanced Jacob Augustine’s dark folk and rock without overpowering it. The band oozed raw emotion and power, blending together to create a rock symphony that mesmerized the crowd.

The evening sets by LA hip-hop artist Zeek, and the swaggering catchy pop of The Gay Blades were both very solid. The growing crowd of about 1,000 was worked up to a frenzy when headliner Biz Markie took the stage and then left it almost immediately, leaving everyone with a bit of an anticlimactic end to what was an otherwise incredible day of music.

Saturday promises to be just as interesting as the first day, with acts ranging from the party jams of Boston’s Bad Rabbits to catchy rock tunes from bands like The Yes Way, Free Energy, and Holy Boys Danger Club. Closing up the festival are two of the most anticipated acts, Atlanta based hip-hop phenom B.O.B, and internet sensation OK Go. The festival will also have several “KahBang @ Night” after-parties with bands and DJ’s (including yours truly) at clubs around the area for those that are 21 and over. Festival performers Zeek and Cabin will be giving encore performances at the Thai Lounge and Ipanema’s respectively, right as soon as OK Go finishes their set.

Thom Cosgrove is a musician, writer, DJ, beer and wine enthusiast, foodie, and video game junkie living in Bangor, Maine. In his spare time he's the IT Director and teacher at a local school. He loves sunsets, long walks on the beach, tacos, and is a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.

Thursday, August 12th, 2010, 5:08 pm

KahBang On: Blood into Wine and pre-gaming with Queen City and Cabin

Huck Photography & Design |Courtesy photo
Local act Dark Hollow Bottling Company is one of several bands playing KahBang Pregame

With five of the eight days of the KahBang festival now in the books the town of Bangor is readying itself for an onslaught of more music, movies, and art. The festival schedule slowed down this week with the conclusion of the “Red Riding Trilogy” playing at the Bangor Opera House and a few acts playing the KahBang @ Night events hosted at venues around town. Tonight’s schedule features the documentary “Blood into Wine,” which is the story of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and his foray into the wine business (which will be followed by a wine tasting), as well as a six-band “KahBang Pregame” being held at the Sea Dog Brewing Company. All of this is just a small taste of the two-day event that starts Friday at the Bangor Waterfront and features such national acts as B.O.B., Biz Markie, The Gay Blades, and OK Go.

Tonight’s action at the Sea Dog features a mix of local and national talent, with performances by Bangor’s own Queen City, Maine-based Americana act Dark Hollow Bottling Company, Louisville rockers Cabin, and a headlining set from local favorites Stiff Whisker & The Driftwood Kids. According to KahBang @ Night staffer Emilie Bronson, bands will be playing both on the larger outdoor stage as well as inside the venue itself. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and admission is free, but limited to those 21 and over.

On Friday the two-day festival starts at 3 pm on three stages and a dance tent featuring electronic music sets from various DJ’s. Highlights during the day include sets from Boston’s catchy-pop quintet The Hush Now, LA hip-hop artist Zeek, and self-described “trash pop” from New York City’s The Gay Blades.

Headlining the first night is hip-hop icon Biz Markie. Best known for taking the intro from soul singer Freddy Scott’s “You Got What I Need” and turning it into the 1989 hit “Just A Friend,” Biz Markie showcased a unique rhyme style and comedic side that would become his trademark.

But “The Biz” has also had success working with other artists, such as the Beastie Boys, and even a reoccurring segment called “Biz’s Beat of the Day” on the kids television show “Yo Gabba Gabba!”

As the lights go down on day one of the music festival more groups will be performing around Bangor in bars and clubs. But the real treat will happen on the festival grounds starting at 11 p.m. at the all-ages Silent Disco.

Dancers and party-goers can listen to the DJ’s perform through special wireless headphones that will be provided by KahBang. It should be a mesmerizing experience for those listening (or even those just watching) as a tent full of dancers get down in unison to what looks like total silence. The “Silent Disco” is free for festival attendees and $5 for non-festival patrons, although there will be limited capacity.

And Friday’s full day is just the start. I’ll be back tomorrow with more as well as a preview of what’s in store for Saturday.

Thom Cosgrove is a musician, writer, DJ, beer and wine enthusiast, foodie, and video game junkie living in Bangor, Maine. In his spare time he's the IT Director and teacher at a local school. He loves sunsets, long walks on the beach, tacos, and is a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010, 12:53 pm

It’s so hard to say goodbye to Old Hallowell Day

Paul Koenig | Maine Observer
Allure of Old Hallowell Day: Is this better than Christmas?

On July 17, I did the unthinkable — I left Old Hallowell Day early.

For the unenlightened, Old Hallowell Day is the greatest day of the year, at least for my fellow Hallowell residents. For everyone else, it’s the same as every other small town festival in Maine. It has a parade in the morning, craft and food booths, musical acts, various activities and fireworks to top it off.

This year started the same as any. I walked to the parade, weaving through the large crowd already formed along the street, wondering if it’s become more crowded over the years. A beer-bellied man, sweating through his NASCAR shirt, asked his wife if the Liberal Cup was serving alcohol yet. I looked at my cell phone: 9:35 a.m.

It was already too hot to stand in the sun. I stopped to talk to my uncle across from Slates Bakery, finding solace in the shade. The parade was the same as every other parade I’ve ever seen: nothing particularly special.

Later in the afternoon, I get a text from a friend telling me about a free, impromptu show in an RV in downtown Portland by one of our favorite rappers, Astronautalis. He put one of the best shows I’ve seen in awhile several months ago in Portland and I was dying to see him again. My girlfriend, my friend and I decided to drive down that night, missing the rest of Old Hallowell Day. My girlfriend volunteered to drive as I was already a few beers in.

When I told some other friends I was going to Portland, I was met with shock. They couldn’t believe I was leaving Hallowell on Old Hallowell Day. My girlfriend, who is from Dresden, didn’t see what the big deal was — and she had a point. I don’t particularly love any of the individual attractions, but it still seemed wrong. I’ve never missed an Old Hallowell Day I was old enough to remember.

I know why I loved it as a kid. All my friends were there and we were free to roam through downtown. People threw us candy at the parade. Sometimes we would make trips to a friend’s camp to cool off. The opportunities were endless. It’s since lost some luster. Now I see masses of lower-back-tattooed teenage mothers, a grown man telling a 17-year-old girl that her wearing a bikini top is “false advertising,” and people asking if bars open at 9:30 in the morning.

Yet, I still had trouble leaving.

Nostalgia is powerful. It’s why Burt Reynolds still gets acting gigs and it’s why VH1 has been able to keep a series going for nearly a decade by changing one number in the name. It keeps people watching the same movies and listening to the same songs every year on Christmas, no matter if they actually like them or not.

When I told my neighbor I was going to Portland, she told me her favorite holiday is Old Hallowell Day. Even more than Christmas, she said. Another friend’s Facebook status read: “I have a hard time sleeping the night before the weekend of Old Hallowell Day. A harder time than a little kid has on Christmas Eve, I’d say.”

Old Hallowell Day has Christmas beat for Hallowellians on one account: It’s ours. For one day in the year, everyone wants to be in Hallowell. It’s our celebration. Everyone else is just a guest. I don’t care if that sounds conceited or snobby. Other towns also have festivals and I’m guessing they feel similarly. The day is about enjoying Maine’s “smallest city.” And after everyone leaves, we’ll still be there.

Unless of course my favorite rapper is playing a secret show in an RV somewhere.

Paul Koenig lives in Portland and is a student at the University of Southern Maine, where he serves as news editor of the USM Free Press.

Monday, August 9th, 2010, 4:55 pm

KahBang On: Red Riding Trilogy comes to River City

As the first weekend of the KahBang festival came to an end, all of the focus shifted to the Bangor Opera House, where last night the first film in the critically-acclaimed “Red Riding Trilogy” was shown. The films were added to the festival schedule thanks to a collaboration between the KahBang Film Festival and River City Cinema, the local group responsible for the yearly outdoor film series held weekly during the summertime in Bangor’s Pickering Square, as well as showings of other films at various locations throughout the year

The crowd for last night’s event was fairly large, especially considering that it was for a British film that hadn’t received much media coverage (other than overwhelmingly positive reviews) here in the United States after its release. The crowd was also rather diverse in age – much more so than one would even find at a local movieplex.

The movie itself is one of three films, all directed by different directors but penned by screenwriter Tony Grisoni (best-known for his screen adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”) based on a series of books written by David Peace. The books and the film are centered around a series of murders, all of which take place in and around the northern English town of Yorkshire. The films also deal with issues of corruption and greed, especially within the police force tasked with solving the murders.

“1974” follows the actions of a young reporter, Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield), who tries to connect the cases of several young girls who have disappeared, some of whom were found later, having been tortured, raped and murdered. He becomes intimate with the mother of one of the victims, played fantastically by Rebecca Hall, and in doing so, enters into a world of corruption, cover-ups, and police brutality.

The film itself is almost dream-like. American audiences particularly would find the thick northern British accents of the characters hard to decipher, and the story deliberately makes it hard to figure out what is happening in any objective sense. Julian Jarrold’s direction mimics the screenplay here, hiding figures in shadows, and deliberately shifting characters and objects in and out of focus. Of course in a film dealing with serial killing and torture, you would expect violence, but here we are only shown snippets, images half-shown or deliberate shots obstructing what is happening. The crimes committed here are horrible ones, and even the dialogue at times is hard to bear. The England shown in “1974” is one where the only innocent people perhaps are the victims themselves. It seems that everyone in the film was complicit in some form of evil, even if their crime was simply staying silent in the midst of everything going on around them.

As a feature “1974” – out of context of the rest of the trilogy – stands well on its own. The acting, writing and directing is superb, true of many of the films produced by Channel 4, the English television studio responsible for producing the series. How the work holds together as a whole will be a question answered today and Tuesday nights, when the two remaining films, “1980”, and “1983” are shown at the Bangor Opera House at 7:30 pm. The films are $5, but free to Film Festival and KahBang VIP pass holders.

Thom Cosgrove is a musician, writer, DJ, beer and wine enthusiast, foodie, and video game junkie living in Bangor, Maine. In his spare time he's the IT Director and teacher at a local school. He loves sunsets, long walks on the beach, tacos, and is a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.

Sunday, August 8th, 2010, 3:57 pm

KahBang On: Getting up close with filmmakers

If day one of KahBang showed how much the festival has grown over last year’s version, day two showed how diverse programming and scheduling can both help and hinder an event. Saturday was a busy day for the film portion of KahBang, with three features, three documentaries, two collections of short films and a series of panels all centered around the film industry. The Bangor Opera House and the Union Street Brick Church both hosted events, which featured works from both national and local filmmakers.

One of the greatest things about the festival so far has been how accessible most of the artists have been to their audiences, and how enthusiastic the town and the festival attendees have been. Simply walking around Bangor on Saturday afternoon, I overheard people talking at lunch about the films that they had just seen, or events that they were excited about attending. Sitting down for lunch, I started up a conversation with the gentleman next to me, only to have him introduce himself as one of the directors of a short film that was going to be screened later in the night. Chase Bailey is a New Hampshire filmmaker and actor, and described his short, “Crooked Lane”, as a “paranormal thriller.” He and I spoke about the festival, and his experiences with other festivals that had problems when showcasing local talent. “The problem (the festivals) have is that they become over saturated with mediocre works, because (the programmers) are neighbors with a director and feel obligated to help out their friend, instead of focusing on the quality of the festival.” Having showcased his short at festivals throughout New England, he said that he was pleased to see what he called a “real balance” of both local works and films that had received exposure at larger, nationally renowned festivals.

Later in the evening, I switched roles from attendee to artist, DJing a “KahBang @ Night” event at the Thai Lounge in downtown Bangor. While the festival attendees and others I spoke to after the night were receptive, I could tell having a departure from the normal “Top-40” style DJ wasn’t something that the regular patrons were excited about. Having diverse programming can be a real benefit, especially during events like the kickoff concert at the Brick Church on Friday. However, booking nighttime acts at locations that are used to a different style can be an issue, as it was last night.

KahBang powers on to its third day today with the continuation of the film festival. The biggest feature of the day is a showing of the first film of the critically acclaimed “Red Riding” Trilogy, entitled “Red Riding: In The Year of Our Lord 1974.” The film, directed by English director Julian Jarrold is being shown at the Bangor Opera House at 7:30 pm. The three films are being brought to the festival in conjunction with River City Cinema, and is another feather in the cap for the KahBang staff, who so far, despite the rare hiccup here and there, have really pulled out the stops to bring some great film, art and music to Bangor.

Thom Cosgrove is a musician, writer, DJ, beer and wine enthusiast, foodie, and video game junkie living in Bangor, Maine. In his spare time he's the IT Director and teacher at a local school. He loves sunsets, long walks on the beach, tacos, and is a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.

Saturday, August 7th, 2010, 2:51 pm

KahBang On: Kick-off with Hey Marseilles, Bella Ruse and Autopirate

© Hayley Young Photography
Seattle's Hey Marseilles opened the second (and bigger) year of KahBang in Bangor

After ten months of preparation, year two of the KahBang! Festival kicked off last night in downtown Bangor. The three different events showcased the efforts of the festival planners to make this year’s KahBang a completely different beast than the one-day concert that took place on the Bangor Waterfront last August. This year’s festival is eight days longer, and includes a film festival, art galleries, and a true variety of music events at venues all over Bangor.

The Kickoff Concert took place at Bangor’s historic Brick Church last night, featuring four bands from all over the US. While the four bands really showcased the variety that this year’s festival has to offer, sound issues plagued the early set from local band Autopirate. Their auto-tuned power pop would have come across better if they hadn’t had to constantly deal with issues with their equipment.

Thankfully, those sound issues were fixed by the time the Minneapolis duo, Bella Ruse took the stage. Kay Gillette, and her guitarist, Joseph Barker, treated the small crowd to a mixture of delightful catchy pop songs, and heartbreaking slower tunes. Their minimalist setup of two voices, a guitar, glockenspiel, and organ really set them apart from the other groups, and didn’t get in the way of Gillette’s enchanting voice.

Seattle bands Ravenna Woods and Hey Marseilles rounded out the Friday night show with two completely different takes on traditional rock with unique instrumentation and arrangements. The sound issues were mostly dealt with by the time the headliners took the stage, however the cavernous room at the Brick Church, while beautiful, really made it hard to pick out individual instrumentation.

The Kahbang Film Festival also got its start at the Bangor Opera House with a screening of two films, “New Low,” and “Cleanflix.” The films continue today with separate screenings at the Bangor Opera House and the Brick Church, starting at 1 p.m. Tonight’s music offering is a DJ night at Thai Lounge on Main Street, starting around 10 p.m, with yours truly behind the decks.

The Observer will be continuing daily coverage of KahBang all the way up to the final concert on Aug. 14. We’ll bring you highlights of the art, film, and music that are making this one of the most ambitious and unique events to be hosted in Maine.

Thom Cosgrove is a musician, writer, DJ, beer and wine enthusiast, foodie, and video game junkie living in Bangor, Maine. In his spare time he's the IT Director and teacher at a local school. He loves sunsets, long walks on the beach, tacos, and is a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.

Friday, August 6th, 2010, 4:04 pm

Portland man’s primary mode of transportation a ‘sanctuary’

D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
Royce Morton's wheelchair — which he named Lulu — is custom rigged to be a waterproof sanctuary. It is Morton's primary mode of transportation.

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D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
Cheryl Morton, her husband Royce, and their friend and neighbor Margie Cushman take a ride in their custom wheelchairs Thursday afternoon.
D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
Morton at his work station where he built the cover for his wheelchair. Morton, who has multiple sclerosis, can get around the house easier on "good days," his wife said.
D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
Morton takes a ride to the Western Cemetary Thursday afternoon in Portland's West End.

The first time you see Royce Morton in his wheelchair, you have to pause a moment to figure out exactly what you’re looking at.

From a block away, on a dark night on Portland’s West End, Morton’s ride looks partially like a stagecoach, and partially like a droid from Star Wars. Its tinted windows are hard to see through, the intricate designs of its dark wooden shell difficult to discern as it passes through pools of florescent street light.

You don’t immediately see Morton himself — just his dog Alice, a Parson’s Jack Russell, whose panting face peeks out from the front window while her master steers the chair.

Morton uses his motorized chair to get around town. He goes grocery shopping, takes the dog for walks, and sometimes just cruises. He said he rode from the Western Prom to the Eastern Prom and back on Wednesday.

“This is so much fun to me that I almost feel guilty about being handicapped,” he said.

Morton’s modified wheelchair is a local oddity to Portland passersby, who invariably pause to gawk at the vehicle as it bounces up Pine Street towards the Western Promenade, or stubbornly crawls up Munjoy Hill.

But to Morton, the wheelchair is more than a quirky expression of his personality; it’s a sanctuary. And he says it saved his life.

Morton, 62, who has multiple sclerosis, said he built the ride because he “got tired of carrying an umbrella.” He said it’s the sixth or seventh incarnation of his original wheelchair design, which he fashioned using cardboard, tent material and wire stripped from 2008 presidential campaign signs.

Morton’s current chair, which he named “Lulu,” is made of 1/4 inch luan plywood, furring strips, plexiglass, and a multitude of memorabilia and scrap material. The chair is essentially a normal wheelchair with a wooden cover — similar to a truck cap — set on top. But it also has bells, Tibetan prayer flags, and two working headlights drawn to look like googly-eyes. It has a range of eight miles and runs on two rechargeable batteries.

He found the wheelchair itself — which he estimates to be worth around $12,000 — in the trash room of his apartment building.

“First I figured out a way to build a support for my umbrella so I didn’t have to hold it, and it just has grown into this,” he said. “My original thought was it was going to be painted essentially flat black and look like an Amish wagon” he added.

The chair modification has several benefits. Besides giving Morton mobility in inclement weather, it also provides privacy.

“I personally like to be in my own little sanctuary,” he said. “I can button this up; it’s completely dark. It’s just my own little world, my place. I created it. I have a lot of people caring for me and it’s wonderful, but sometimes you need a break away. This is it.”

But perhaps most important, the chair gave Morton an activity upon which to set his mind during the difficult period following his diagnosis around Christmas in 2004. Morton and his wife Cheryl had just returned from China, where Cheryl, 61, an anthropology professor, had been teaching at the China Agricultural University in Beijing. Cheryl was looking for work at an American university when her husband fell ill. “He slept basically for 6 months,” she remembered. “We think he probably had it for years and just didn’t realize it, but the progression has been pretty quick,” she said.

Cheryl now cares for Morton full time. She said he has good and bad days. Most of the time he can make his way unaided around their two room apartment, but he also has bad days, she said. The Mortons are unemployed and live in subsidized housing on Danforth Street in Portland’s West End.

“She went through many years of struggle when I was sick, early, because I essentially slept the whole time,” Morton remembered. “If I wasn’t sleeping, I was violently ill. So this has helped to bring us back together. Not to be dramatic, but it’s saved my life. I was initially pretty suicidal. I didn’t want to live in that condition and this has given me something much greater than myself.”

“[The illness] split my wife and I up in the sense that we weren’t able to do real simple things together like hold hands and take a walk,” Morton said. Cheryl, who is in good health and can walk unaided, rides with Morton in one of his old wheelchairs. The pair go shopping together, take the dog for walks and go see the sunset on the Western Prom with their friend and neighbor, Margie Cushman, who also rides in a custom wheelchair.

Cheryl said she initially felt self-conscious riding in a wheelchair even though she wasn’t disabled. “But he couldn’t ride in the car and we had to get rid of the car because we couldn’t afford it,” she said. “It’s a way for me to go places with him; for the first time in years, we can go places.”

D.S. MacLeod is editor of The Haul and a founding editor of the Observer.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 11:32 am

Open Air Shakespeare Transforms Deering Oaks

Robert Foley | Courtesy photo
The Twelfth Night is not the only thing changing Deering Oaks

Nestled under the oaks in the ravine by the footbridge audiences gather every Thursday through Saturday night to travel to Illyria from the comfort of their lawn chairs and picnic blankets in one of Portland’s largest parks.

The Fenix Theatre Company, a non-profit theatre organization from Southern Maine, has spent their summer learning, rehearsing and eventually performing Shakespeare’s epic comedy Twelfth Night in the park. Like many of Shakespeare’s comedies, Twelfth Night is a twisted but hilarious knot of mistaken identities, light-hearted banter and crafty word play between the characters. Not to give away the WHOLE plot before you see it (in case you slept through this part of junior year English) but it basically shakes down like this:

The leading character, Viola, is shipwrecked apart from her twin brother Sebastian, whom she believes is dead. She ends up in the province of Illyria, and costumes herself as a young male page to work in the service of Orsino, the Duke of Illyria. Orsino is hopelessly (and unrequitedly) in love with Lady Olivia, who lost both her brother and father recently. Orsino sends Viola (masquerading as Cesario) to woo Olivia, Olivia takes a shine to Cesario based on his/her smooth mastery of words and poetry, and if your brain does not hurt from trying to unravel this knot yet then you are a far better person than I.

As the sun set over the baseball fields in Deering Oaks, the Fenix Theatre Company managed to transport the riveted audience to the shores of Illyria, the court of Orsino, the home of Lady Olivia and the streets of town where the most amusing “street fight” ensues, highlighted by the preparatory hijinks of secondary character Sir Andrew Aguecheek. From the beginning of the play with it’s rippling blue ocean storm to the side-splitting dialogue between Feste (The Jester), Sir Toby Belch and their little posse to the final scenes of chapels and dungeon cells and explanations, you almost forget where you are.

Which happens a lot in Deering Oaks Park.

It wasn’t long ago that Deering Oaks was grassy fields where people occasionally picnicked but were usually run out by the near-rabid ducks who owned those banks. Effectively hopped up on the neon green slime that once coated most of the “duck pond” they might as well have been shooting strands out of it their little webbed feet. The playground was in a state of disrepair that led even the most attentive parent to find other areas for their children to swing and slide. The castle wasn’t even open, let alone looking like a place you wanted to go near. And the archaic lighting destined visitors leave before the final rays of dusk turned Deering Oaks into a frightening area of shadows.

Fortunately between grants and contributions from the public and private sectors, the assignment of the park to the Portland Department of Public Services and the tireless work of the Friends of Deering Oaks, the park has gone through a transformation of it’s own.

On Saturdays in spring and summer the road from the castle to the ravine is filled with delicious local fruits and vegetables and beautiful crafts and flowers at the Portland Farmer’s Market. Multiple organizations host their festivals at the park (Southern Maine Pride and Festival of Nations to name a couple…but whatever happened to the Deering Oaks Family Festival?) bringing together folks of all ages, races, orientations and genders for a day of community. In the winter millions of tiny lights float in the barren tree branches overhead creating a wonderland dreamed up by local artist Pandora LaCasse.

The lights are in the process of being updated through the cooperation of Central Maine Power. The playground is under construction to become one of Maine’s premiere natural play spaces and is set to include such awesome features as an in-ground slide, a dry steam-bed, a rocky beach area, an adventure trail, wooden block climbing, and much more. People can picnic on the grass without fear of being bitten by a radioactive duck. And the ravine and water pools behind the footbridge have been cleaned up and restored to allow for public lounging and use.

Which is extremely important when you are looking for the ideal outdoor venue to recreate one of the Bard’s masterpieces.

Twelfth Night performances continue through August 14th in the ravine/water basin area of Deering Oaks park at 6:30 PM. All performances are free but a donation is encouraged at the end of the show. For more information check out Fenix Theatre Company on Facebook or visit their website.

Elisa Doucette is a Portland-based freelance writer who mainlines coffee, local live music and the scent of old book pages habitually. She is a frequent contributor to a number of young professional, relationship and social media sites around the web, including her own site Ophelia’s Webb and her popular relationship and dating blog on The Single Slice. You can find her online in about a bajillion different places.

Elisa Doucette is a Portland-based freelance writer who mainlines coffee, local live music and the scent of old book pages habitually. She is a frequent contributor to a number of young professional, relationship and social media sites around the web, including her own site Ophelia's Webb and her popular relationship and dating blog on The Single Slice. You can find her online in about a bajillion different places.

Monday, August 2nd, 2010, 1:02 pm

‘Lost Skeleton’ ushers in cult films at Geno’s

Screen capture
Larry Blamire's "The Lost Skeleton Returns Again," the first of many cult films for Geno's

An actor, a witch, and a werewolf walk into a bar. That’s not the beginning of a joke, it’s the first sight I saw at “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” at Geno’s last Monday. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to see anything like this. After all, I was attending the first of a series of a cult movies at a bar that used to be a porno theater. A visual of this magnitude should have been expected.

The question on my mind was “Why am I going to watch a low budget film in a bar when I could be going to see a new Hollywood blockbuster at a nice theater?”

Tristan Gallagher (owner of The Fun Box Monster Emporium) plans to show one cult movie a month at Geno’s, each with their own special guests. In September there will be a showing of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen, as the special guest. These showings provide a unique and fun environment and a chance to meet actors/actresses from the film. If you add in the fact that there’s beer, pool, and pinball within feet of your seats, the next question you’ll be asking yourself is: “Why even bother to go to first-run theaters at all?”

Tonight’s is the sequel to “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” from Larry Blamire. It’s a throw-back to cheesy 1950s B-movies featuring a cast of scientists, government operatives and more looking for a rare mineral and finding The Lost Skeleton.

The cost of admission was $8, hardly different than a first-run theater. They offered candy in the lobby — nothing new there, either. Then I look over and see horror movie hosts Penny Dreadful (the witch) and her partner in crime, Garou (the werewolf) up from Boston and taking pictures with fans. Being able to get my picture taken with an attractive witch and a funny werewolf? That’s new.

After noticing that colorful duo, a man walks into lobby and starts talking with attendees. It’s actor Robert Deveau, who’s in the movie I’m seeing. When was the last time you were able to meet an actor from the movie you were going to see? Assuming that you’re not attending glamorous Hollywood premiers, I’m going to guess never. This showing takes an early lead over my first-run movie theater experiences, and I haven’t even left the lobby yet.

As the show begins, Penny Dreadful and Garou take the stage and welcome us to the film. These two put on a pretty entertaining performance, especially since Garou only grunted and barked. They brought up Deveau next, and he filled us in on some news about “The Lost Skeleton” movies. I don’t remember exactly what he said, I was busy stuffing my face with cotton candy. He thanked us for coming and then signaled for the movie to begin. The lights dim and a buzz rises from the crowd. The presentation itself already trumps traditional movie-going experience so far, but what about the actual viewing of the movie?

It’s hilarious. It’s a movie I would have laughed at in the comfort of my own home, but when viewing it at Geno’s, I laugh even more. I feel like I was in a room full of all my closest friends. You could cheer, stomp your feet, and whoop it up as much as you want. No one would yell at you or ask to speak to the manager. We’re all in on the joke together. We know it’s a “bad” film, and that’s why we’re here. I look over my shoulder during the film and see Deveau sitting in the crowd and laughing too. I’m not just watching a movie on the big screen, I’m taking part in a one-of-a-kind group experience.

The movie ends, Gallagher takes the stage and his satisfaction with how the night turned out is evident from the huge grin on his face. He brings Deveau back up on stage to answer questions from the crowd. I ask him what it felt like watching the movie with fans. ”It’s just so much fun, it’s great,” he said. I couldn’t have agreed more. It was a lot of fun, the most fun I’ve had at a movie in a long time.

Chad Pennell has been a Portland native for the past ten years, and plans on never leaving. He is a student at Southern Maine Community College in the New Media program, specializing in digital imaging. He also writes a comic book opinion blog for Portland-based comic shop Coast City Comics. You can follow him on Twitter @Chadventure.

Chad Pennell has been a Portland native for the past ten years, and plans on never leaving. He is a student at Southern Maine Community College in the New Media program, specializing in digital imaging. He also writes a comic book opinion blog for Portland-based comic shop Coast City Comics. You can follow him on Twitter @Chadventure.

Friday, July 30th, 2010, 6:34 pm

Spose teams with Maine filmmakers on new music videos

Robbie Kanner | Courtesy photo
Spose performing at the 2010 Old Port Festival

Emerging Maine hip-hop artist Spose has several new music videos in the works and is calling on Maine talent to get the job done.

The rapper from Wells is working with music documentarians [dog] and [pony] to produce two new videos slated for release this fall in support of his forthcoming album, “The Audacity,” on Universal Republic Records.

The local boy wants to spread the love for Maine, but could it be a potentially risky bet for a musician on the clock for his next career move? Spose (also known as Ryan Peters to those around him) said representing Maine in his music is important to him, from verse and rhyme to behind the video camera.

But he also wants help shaking loose the image of a one-hit in waiting who’s big with the tween set. Basically, he needs to go beyond “Awesome.”

“I think representing Maine is very important in my music,” he told the Signal via e-mail. “But moreso I’d like to show people that we have the talent in Maine to pull off national viral campaigns and promote artists as good as you could in NY or LA.”

Together they’ll work on two tracks, one titled “The Cask of Amontillado,” yes, based on the story from Edgar Allen Poe (“one of my favorite American stories ever,” Spose says), and another track titled “Happy Medium.” Shooting is expected to start soon and take place in Maine (where else but Wells?).

Spose’s first music video to his chart burning single “I’m Awesome,” debuted this spring and was directed by Lucas Heyne.

This time around he wanted to take a different approach and got the OK from the label to produce videos for the tracks of his choosing with the people of his choosing. The catch: It was out of his own pocket.

“Economically, since I still live in Maine, it just made sense to go with somebody local,” he said. “Really though, I just liked the camera work I had seen in Dog and Pony’s videos.”

The collaboration comes at a time when both the rapper and the filmmakers are trying to take the next step.

After a year of growth and being celebrated by the Portland Phoenix as the best local filmmakers for 2010, Nick Poulin and Krister Rollins, the men behind [dog] and [pony], are looking to expand their work. In focusing an eye on Maine’s musicians, they’ve already worked with the likes of Brenda, Kino Proby, Moses Atwood, Brown Bird, Jacob Augustine, Jesse Pilgrim, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Samuel James, Dead End Armory and the list goes on.

They’ve formed a record label that recently signed Jared Fairfield, Water Camp Party (a project from Wes Hartley), Good Kids Sprouting Horns and Jakob Battick & Friends. They’re also broadening their scope to work on feature-length projects. They plan to begin work on a new film with Jacob Augustine and are heading up to New Sweden to shoot the Arootsakoostik music festival.

“We’re pretty excited about working with Spose,” Poulin said. “It’s a relationship we’d like to see flourish and keep going.”

Working with Spose came as a surprise, but a welcome one, the pair said. [dog] and [pony] listed Spose’s mixtape, “We Smoked it All,” as one of the top 10 albums of 2009. Poulin said they connected over Facebook and the planning took off from there.

Poulin and Rollins said they like that Spose came to them with specific ideas for the videos, in particular the “cask” video, which will echo the Poe story, supplanting rappers for noblemen, they said.

“It’s something genuine and that attracted us,” Poulin said.

Poulin said their conversations with Spose over the videos have him convinced the rapper is trying to carve out a path for longevity in the music business.

As far as introductions go, “I’m Awesome” set the stage for Spose as a fun-loving, self-deprecating lyricist from the Great White North. With the new videos, (in “cask” he’s hoping for shock, while “Happy Medium” will be more “artsy,” he said), he wants to broaden the picture.

“I’m Awesome was one song in my repertoire I didn’t think I’d be judged on,” he said. “I’m fighting an uphill battle with credibility.”

There’s an anxiousness to see what’s next from, as Vibe called it, “The Next Great White Rapper,” and Spose said he’s eager for his moment in the spotlight.

Justin Ellis is the editor of The Signal.