Jon Morse

Your work with Last Mercy Emissions has been instrumental in keeping the city's metal/noise/heavy scene alive. Do you have a model or era or community you idealize?
The manifestation of Last Mercy show curation has been an organic one. Many of these bands and performers are either friends that I've made throughout my musical associations and travels, are seeking shows in pursuit of playing Maine, or are bands that I've always wanted to work with and bring to Portland. Every show maintains a standard of criteria that reflects my own musical preference and performance aesthetic – mainly, shows I would seek out and attend myself. My influence in booking Geno’s will have an obvious bias, due to my pre-existing regimen of Last Mercy shows, but my intent is to reasonably supply the same professionalism to shows of all genres. Last Mercy produced 42 shows in and around Southern Maine last year. I’m working with new and existing performers who frequent the venue, to help bring larger desirable acts to Maine — in some cases for the first time.
How did this work become important to you?
Performance and ceremony have always fascinated me. Upon getting sober in 2014, I realized that I had a lot more time on my hands. I was ready to put my energy into something productive that would help support the Portland arts scene, where I saw an obvious void — especially in terms of extreme/heavy music. It brings me a feeling of joy to be implemental in bringing accomplished performers to Portland and connecting them with the audience and aspiring bands in our community. There's something magical about introducing new elements into a music scene and hosting musicians that have never played our city before. My largest concern has been keeping these new elements and styles fluid and ever-circulating, so it can be a source for continuous enrichment. An enrichment I feel that Maine has periodically suffered from a lack thereof, due to its inherent isolation as the 'end of the line' in the live-music touring circuit.
Last July, you became the full-time programmer at Geno's Rock Club. How was Geno's significant to you beforehand?
Geno’s has been an institution for heavy music since 1983. I have attended more shows there than any other venue in my entire life. The employees and attendees are musicians, artists and enthusiasts from all walks of life in our community — many of whom I have grown to look upon as family. Geno's has always been a very clear association to my identification of 'home' in Portland. There is a heritage, not only to the 625 Congress Street building, but to the establishment that Geno D'Alessandro built (and his son, JR, carries on) as one of inclusivity and fairness. I have always interpreted Geno's Rock Club as a stalwart monument to live underground and original music in Portland, while countless surrounding venues, styles and trends have risen and fallen over the decades.
Geno's just revamped the sound system, correct?  
Correct. One of my priorities, upon becoming the events programmer, was to make sure we repaired and upgraded our technology and capabilities to be able to provide the conditions to regularly support the needs of national touring bands. Since the install, I feel that we have received very positive feedback from attendees and performers alike. As a musician, I know that having a substantial sound system increases the ease of performance and the likelihood that one would want to return. Given who we have as our current front-of-house staff, I feel very confident that we can consistently deliver.
Can you talk about some of the obstacles you encounter in trying to build, preserve, or keep space for this community?
The obvious obstacles are Netflix, video games and other media that seemingly have our community more sedated, uninterested or unwilling to venture outside of their comfort zones. Geno's has always been Portland's 'black sheep' of performance venues (due to overall 'fringe' aesthetic and music). Despite this, I'm hoping that a few folks will have interest in giving the club a second look, based on our overall revitalization and upcoming show schedule. All of Geno's announced events are listed via the Geno's Rock Club Facebook page (also http://www.genosrockclub.com) — and each event now has advance ticketing available via Eventbrite.com
Pearls of Portland is a series that focuses on artists, activists, and cultural agents in Maine. Wanna nominate a Pearl? Email nick@portlandphoenix.me

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