Nick Schroeder

Nick Schroeder

Website URL:

Setting the bar low (and leaping) — TheWorst drops trashy, exhilarating 'Jane Doe Embryo'

It’s no slight to the three musicians of Portland rock band TheWorst, each totally capable and believably spirited with decades-long CVs making independent music, but we live in an era where stripped-down, mid-tempo fuzzed-out grungepunk holds very little purchase. (The name they’ve chosen suggests they understand this.) In 2017, it's a musical style as poached-in-history as Sinatra standards were when these musicians were young. Honestly, this makes their debut even more interesting.

Whatever kind of music you profess to enjoy, the reason to check in on this raw, sonically charged band is nearly entirely Brooke Binion, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist behind TheWorst's ninesong, 29-minute debut album Jane Doe Embryo. Odds are she'll recall the fierce frontpersons of your own high school CD towers or college dorm posters, but Binion is no copycat. She pours her heart out through this album of trashy, uncomplicated rock songs. It's a rickety old vehicle, but she sure as hell knows how to drive it.

Music like this is naturally associated with adolescence. But a significant reason for that is because young people haven't been hardened into work-aday stiffs, lost the ability to express themselves or be vulnerable, or relinquished the instinct to put themselves in risky and exciting situations. With Binion steering these songs, every moment of Jane Doe Embryo feels alive, in a way that can and should remind people of adolescence. And while that can at times feel constricted by a music that can feel, by this point in history, quite dead and lacking in new ideas, her vivacity is only sharper in its relief.

Binion screams, hollers, croons, shrieks, and shreds her way through these angsty, confessional, emotionally charged songs. Lyrically, she squares off against depression and drug addiction, gender injustice and political fatigue, while somehow, through some artfully managed affect, shielding her audience from shouldering the weight of her stories. It may scream adolescence, but Binion’s a full-grown adult with years of experience and reflection, and that makes an enormous difference.

Probably wisely, TheWorst resist playing anything super fast or slow. There are no d-beat burners, no ballads, but there are surprises. "Backwash," an album single of sorts, leverages harmonic guitar notes and feedback into a weirdly catchy vocal melody and lumbering-heavy chorus. "Vices" starts off in a deep fuzz before stumbling its way into a serious melodic pay-off. Here and elsewhere, we hear Binion spinning fraught, vulnerable lines into memorable anthems and sing-along lyrics, a sort of recurring personal catharsis that's unmistakably fuel for the whole ride.

I'm making this sound like it's a hard listen. It's not. The song "Like Vaseline" is a well-penned, smartly melodic rock song. Like most of Jane Doe Embryo, it's hard around the edges, but the vocals are catchy and high in the mix, as Boston engineer Will Holland (Pixies, Rhett Butler, Fall Out Boy) smartly recognizes that she'll hold his brightest lights. And it's a full performance. Her guitar work is equally good impressive. Envision a slightly more jaded Weakened Friends. Or a less jaded L7.

Every time Jane Doe feels like it's dragging, largely due to minimal variation in the songs' tempos, Holland captures some noteworthy idiosyncrasy of Binion's and we're back. "Suburb Schizophrenia" would suffer from the cookie-cutter chord progression of its verses, but its atypical chorus restores interest, prodded along by Brooke's off-kilter, intuitive phrasing toward the end. The rhythm section ending standout "Vices" bounces along like a sort of bar-rock track even as Binion's post-lyrical guitar shredding, like something outta Screaming Females, tears holes through the song's fabric.

I don't know how this translates outside of the studio, where sonic trickery is harder to pull off in real time. But put aside trends and infatuations with genre, and a rock 'n' roll performance is little more than a display of someone showing up live. In that case, Binion's the one to do it.

TheWorst | Jane Doe Embryo album release | with The Silks + Cape Cannons + Lyokha | Friday, Oct 20, 8 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | $8 | 

8 Days a Week: The Undead, The Timeless, and the Stone Aged


HUMBLE BOWS | Some say the world has already been built, that its great artists have already sung their songs, its coliseums hosted their finest battles, and that we're just here to interpret and rearrange the existing cultural vocabulary into affinity groups. That's horseshit, of course. But the tradition of singing tributes to the world's favorite artists is unflappable, in Portland as it is anywhere, and tonight, several noteworthy Portland musicians and singers abandon their original works to sing in celebration of Florence and The Machine, the English indie-pop band led by the soaring vocals of Florence Welch. This evening re-ignites Empire's "Tribute To" series. In a couple weeks, Third Eye Blind gets the treatment. | 9 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | $10 | 


NICENESSES | A masquerade birthday party fused with a Halloween show, tonight's hang at Urban Farm Fermentory should suss out some chill vibes. Several musical warlocks have convened to spawn two new bands — Nice Life and Backyard Posse — from labors otherwise given to groups like 300 Calories, KGFREEZE, An Anderson, Ossalot, and Tall Horse. So that's cool. And the pop-punk group Crunchcoat, featuring Jason Unterreiner of the once-fun yet now-extinct early aughties group Wood Burning Cat, join up too. Join this society of friends and their fertile creativity in these early days of Urban Farm Fermentory locking down a spot on the Portland rock venue circuit. | 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | $5


RESURRECTORS | We wanna say Murcielago broke up (well, we don't wanna say it, but we wanna confirm that that's what we've heard from them, a/k/a that it's true). But the Portland hard rock foursome have reunited again, if only for tonight, joining meat-core forebears Scissorfight and Roadsaw for a powerful night of rock action. From New Hampshire, Scissorfight have been grinding out powerful riff-rock for decades, while Roadsaw first laid their groove-metal to tape along with Boston contemporaries like Fu Manchu and Ass Tractor back in '97. The people who like this stuff don't seem to stop liking it, or get enough of it, a sustained, weatherproof form of listenership that could be considered a kind of skill. Unique about seeing them in 2017 is that it's cheaper than it used to be, relatively speaking. Tonight's show costs more or less the price of a beer. | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | $8-10 | 


THE SCRAWL | Check page 14 for this writer's review of TheWorst's debut album Jane Doe Embryo, a burst of cathartic rock songs written and performed by SeepeopleS bassist Brooke Binion. A trash-rock trio buoyed by Binion's electric musical character, TheWorst play a long-anticipated record release party tonight with the indie-blues triad The Silks, Portland's emotive rock group Cape Cannons, and posthuman electronic fetishists Lyokha| 9 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | $8 | 


STEAMERS | The big band jazz squad known as the Fogcutters steam up the joint at Portland House of Music tonight, pulling from a broad range of jazz standards and pop nods. They tend to come alive in the holiday season, and their "Fogtober Bash" might serve as the city's official start of Halloween. With the melodic pop of OC and the Offbeats. | 8 pm | Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland | 



WATCHING | One band this city is blessed to not understand how to appreciate is Video Nasties, the bewitching post-punk no wave group that seemingly levitated out of the unreconstructed media heaps at Strange Maine several years ago. The mysterious group collaged their demos onto a 12" album earlier in the year, and many of those songs should expect to be busted out tonight at The Apohadion Theater, where the Nasty Boys design to ensorcell the crowd. They've got help from upstate country bumpkin Caethua (performing as Clay and the County Line Bandits, possibly solo), punk duo the Tarantula Brothers and Broken Generator. | 8 pm | The Apohadion Theater, 107 Hanover St., Portland | $8 


BARNSTORMIN' | A bold late-summer festival gambit should pay off weatherwise today. The Dead Gowns Art Collective, a somewhat shadowy underground event production squad that professes to "embrace multiplicity," put on 'Stead Fest 2017, a homesteadin'-themed urban barn party featuring what looks to be a whole lotta alt-folk and smart, funny people. In common parlance, a good time. Hear the acoustic songwriter Fiona Robins along with shimmering neo-Americana quartet Wildflower and more, while folks like Micaela Tepler, Connor McGrath, Katie Ferreira, and Perry Winks perform comedy sets. They boast the inclusion of taps, too, which we support even if we don't know the brand. Supportable work here. | 2-9 pm | Herb'n Homestead, 16 Cherry St, Portland | $5-10 |


EVERYONE KNOWS YR NAME | As the chill closes in, it's crucial to establish some footing at a local pub. If you like the hill folk, consider making the same choice as the affable and talented Portland musician John Nels (of the band Rigor Samsa), who plays a set of originals and covers at quaintly dive-y Munjoy Hill Tavern this evening, for friends new, old, and spiritual. | 7 pm | Munjoy Hill Tavern, 189 Congress St., Portland


GAME FACE | Putting aside the necessary conversation about health care in this country (and the weirdly cruel aversion its political agents have to ensuring its citizens have it), Goodwill Industries of Northern New England have launched something called the Workforce Fund, which endeavors to help "lift people out of poverty and into personal stability," filling in the gaps to assist working-class people clear the barriers they face while looking for work. Their effort is holistic, laudable, and one to support, and all donations toward tonight's Ghoulwill Ball, a rather majestic-looking costume and masquerade party, are its benefit. With universal, funk-forward dance sounds supplied by Motor Booty Affair. | 7 pm | Portland Club, 142 State St., Portland | $15 |   


FORGOTTEN WORLD | The most "old-Portland" show we were able to find this week, doom band OGRE, who made their mark in the '90s, team up with '80s Maine punk icons Big Meat Hammer, who took a cue from G.G. Allin and ran with it for decades. Plus Nuclear Bootz, who belong on a different plane of time and space. | 9 pm | Geno's Rock Club, 625 Congress St, Portland | $7



KNIFE DEBT | Pumpkin-carving feels mostly good, people have found. Pumpkins are already humorous, oddly shaped and colored, so that helps. And then you stick a knife into them — one of the only non-deadly, non-carnivorous uses of a knife in the American holidays — and that also provides benefits. You gain access to pumpkin seeds, which contain necessary proteins, and contort your already odd-looking gourd into unique visages, appearing either dumb or "haunted" (also dumb). Why do this alone??? No need is what we're getting at. Today's third annual Pumpkins in the Square hosts mass carvings alongside live bluegrass by Shanna Underwood and the Wanderlost, plus hot cider and doughnuts from HiFi Donuts, all of it seasonally harmonious. | 1 pm | Congress Square Park, Congress and High Streets, Portland | FREE |  


YOU'RE NOT IN AMIGO'S ANYMORE | Queens of the Stone Age, m'dude! Remember back before Songs for the Deaf in 2002 when Dave Grohl was like Hey America, y'all listen to QOTSA? and the whole country was like hmmm, go on? (Remember when people took cultural cues from Dave Grohl?) Now, the desert-rock band fronted by once-Kyuss player Josh Homme is a household name. The whole city of Portland has been frothing at the mouth for this one. It's been sold out for weeks. So if you want to hear songs from Queens' new album Villains, you should either have a ticket by now or head to Bull Moose.  | 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | SOLD OUT | 


SINK YR TEETH | Beyond QOTSA and tonight's Sinkane show at SPACE Gallery, what else could music possibly offer you? The eclectic global pop fusion of Ahmed Gallab's Sinkane project has lit up SPACE's floors several times before, blurring free jazz, percussion music, and indie-shoegaze into a super palatable stew. He's still touring the lovely 2017 release Life & Livin' It, worth listens. All ages. | 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | $12-15 | 



DANCE BEGINS HERE | The movement group The Living Room readies a recurring dance class "honoring their deep femme and queer idols," practicing a fun, silly, inclusive, and safe set of proprioception modalities in their South Portland space. They encourage folks to bring a piece of media — a book, a screenshot, a song — to share with the group as a touchstone for tonight's practice, which they're calling SPELL (South Portland Experimental Language League). They can be trusted to hold an "all bodies welcome" sort of space, both environmentally and as a basic modus operandi. | 5:30-6:30 pm | Living Room, 408 Broadway, South Portland | $8-16 donation | 


AGAIN IN SONG | One of the more magical songwriters to emerge from Maine the last few years, it's only natural that Lina Tullgren now lives roundabout Boston. Her most recent appearance at last month's Waking Windows might've gotten overshadowed by the several dozen other awesome acts playing in town at roughly the same hour (FOMO being the mark of a solid festival), but tonight, a Tuesday, she headlines an evening with like-hearted songwriter Lisa/Liza along with Health and Beauty in Bayside. | 8 pm | The Apohadion Theater, 107 Hanover St., Portland | $10 



TOPICAL LESSONS | As horrifying stories emerge about the sustained, systematic sexual abuse perpetrated by motion picture producer Harvey Weinstein (and the vast cohort of enablers throughout the industry) over the last two weeks, it's a good time to reassess the culture of masculinity. Tonight, the organization Maine Boys to Men helps produce a screening of The Mask You Live In, which follows a group of young men attempt to navigate the often unworkable definitions of masculinity they inherit from previous generations. The film covers how this generation of boys are more likely to encounter mental health problems, drop out of school, binge drink, and that sort of thing, but a wider, holistic view factors the threat of similar sorts of toxic masculinity to what pervades the news today, which is often subtly embedded in this country's definition of how to be a man. | 5:30 pm | University of New England School of Social Work, WCHP Lecture Hall, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland | Free


COLLABORATION HUB | Three gifted poets convene at Longfellow Books to share their work tonight. The Chicago-based Rebecca Morgan Frank has won scads of awards for her work, the most recent of it appearing in a volume titled Sometimes We're All Living in a Foreign Country. She's joined by Portland's Megan Grumbling, winner of the 2017 Maine Book Award For Poetry who published the excellent volume Booker's Point last year (and who's been a Phoenix theater and film critic since last decade), as well as Rosa Lane, a native of a coastal Maine fishing village who splits her time between South Portland and San Francisco. | 7 pm | Longfellow Books, 5 Monument Way., Portland | Free | 


JUSTICE-BASED | If Francis Flisiuk's cover story about the rent stabilization debate swayed you in favor of the renters, then you might help join those trying to boost their campaign coffers up from the fractional amount of what the landlord-heavy opposition group is spending. In an evening titled "Rock for Fair Rent," the eclectic artist Nat Baldwin joins folk duo Snaex and noise-rock group Purse. | 7:30 pm | The Apohadion Theater, 107 Hanover St., Portland | $10-20 



AROUND THE CORNER | Next Thursday, you might join dozens of zombies in an effort to re-create Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. Why not?

Falls of Rauros reach peak bleakness with 'Vigilance Perennial' — Make rare appearance at weekend's Into the Aether Festival of Sound

Vigilance Perennial, the new album by maine band Falls of Rauros, first saw daylight this spring. but as dusk creeps into our days and the wind recovers its fangs, it's hard not to remember them as an autumn band. The folk/black metal act’s fourth full-length may be more brilliant, melodic and accessible than anything they've done in their 12-year history, but music like this finds significance in darkening, decaying days, especially when its done this well.

These five tracks sprawled over nearly 45 minutes continue to expand the dimensions of these four Mainers’ project, collapsing the edges of this often puritanically harsh genre into long passages of gorgeously melodic guitar-folk. More than seven minutes of opener "White Granite" could be considered an intro before the track explodes into the tightly controlled mayhem of a blast beat, a swaying, pummeling tempo that registers impossibly fast yet still somehow attuned to the human heartbeat. The glowing opening tones of the post-rockish intro to "Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes" break apart twoand-a-half minutes in, letting the band's ecstaticically black tempest begin to wash over the album.

As it matures beyond its Nordic infancy, today's atmospheric black metal is a genre that can sometimes feel teetering on mainstream approval. Spotify offers the genre as a public playlist, and bands like Deafheaven have elevated it into indie-rock circles. Anecdotally, I've talked with people who've compared music like this to avowed classical compositions by the likes of Penderecki and Shostakovich. Some Vigilance tracks reflect modern influence, like the Mark Knopfler’s plaintive guitar compositions (the two-minute interstitial track "Warm Quiet Centures of Rains" does this affectingly). But no track illustrates the band's dynamic commitment to energy and complexity than the 12-minute "Arrow & Kiln," a composition that's one of the most overwhelming and powerful pieces of music released in Maine in 2017. Embedding a three-minute instrumental folk ballad as eminently listenable as a sea shanty between its most arresting passages at beginning and end, Falls seem to highlight this era's tension with the genre's accessibility. Though it cameos briefly above ground on the genre’s popular adjacent sonic landscapes — Irish folk music, modern post-rock, virtuosic '80s power-metal guitar solos — the song is both born and laid to rest on black metal's antisocial terrain, as Falls' show how far they've come to perfect the form’s blistering tempos, cacophonous guitars, and guttural, shrieking vocals.

I suppose in 2017 it's tough to gauge the pulse on whether music like this should be described in niche terms. Falls of Rauros are a metal band, yes, but that's only one way of looking at them. If you're someone who, like me, finds a sort of meditative calm in aural chaos — as if the relentless interior tensions in head and body can finally be given purchase on an exterior plane — then Vigilance Perennial can feel almost therapeutic, a sublimated experience that transcends the commerical trappings of genre. No matter how you wanna listen to it, it slays.

Portland last saw Falls of Rauros play at the release show for Vigilance Perennial back in April. They play again this weekend on the same stage at SPACE Gallery, on the second night of the inaugural two-day festival of heavy music curated by Last Mercy Emissions. With the album's strides both in the accessibility of the genre and a further darkening of its ever-bleak tunnels, the group's live show, reputably fantastic, should be as dynamic a display as heavy music gets.

"Into the Aether," with Falls of Rauros + Anicon + Theologian + Rare Storms + Cemetery Flowers | Saturday, Oct 14, 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | $13 ($20 with two-day pass including show Fri, Oct 13 at Geno's Rock Club | 



Print's Not Dead! — The tactile ecstasies of the New England Art Book Fair

This weekend, the second annual New England Art Book Fair embalms SPACE Gallery with a parade of imaginative print works, subterranean obsessions, sociopolitical samizdat, and next-level art works. Launched by Portland artists Samantha Haedrich, Adam Stockman, Jimmy Viera, Andrew Scripter, and Pilar Nadal, fans of tactile art will have two days to poke around, from Friday night's art walk and all day Saturday, exploring art books that "explore the convergence of publishing, art, identity, and storytelling."

Offering dozens of vendors and makers from around the country, here are five you should look out for:


Art InpatientPress tonebookcover


Publication: The Tonebook

Artist/publisher: Inpatient Press

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Description: A collection of experimental musical scores from contemporary composers and performers

Format: 10" x 12" paperback

Price: $30

IMG 5363

Publication Name: Inferno Zine #1

Artist/publisher: Kyle Quinn/Raw Meat

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Description: Earlier this year, Kyle Quinn ran a Polaroid photo booth for a Queer sex party in the heart of Brooklyn called Inferno. Quinn says, "I photographed the first couple of parties and got an amazing response from the community and attendees involved. This zine, released on my publishing label Raw Meat, is the documentation of the beauty in all bodies within this party and special setting."

Format/media: Raw Meat offers limited edition books, zines, prints and objects.

Price: $25


Publication: Eat Where You Sleep
Artist/publisher: Brian Doody
Location: Portland, ME
Description: A small collection of photos made in the past three months while working on a larger project. Featuring a poem by Catie Hannigan and screen printing courtesy of Kristina Buckley of Two Fern. 
Format/medium: Zine with photography, drawings, screen printing, poetry
Price: $15

art LBuchman EnRoute

Publication: En Route to Find an Armchair

Artist/publisher: Lindsay Buchman

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Description: En Route to Find an Armchair investigates the limits of language and the malleability of memory through lens-based media and creative writing. It consists of a dialogue between two subjects – ‘reader’ and ‘you’ – that exist within a nonlinear narrative. Laden with subtexts, En Route examines relationships between sight and site, between desire and loss, and between language and communication. 

Format/medium: laser-print book, edition 30, 2017

Price: $40



J. Morrison  KITTENS AGAINST TRUMP pink tshirts with white and black ink Gildan

Publication: HOMOCATS

Artist: J. Morrison

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Description: Created by Brooklyn artist J. Morrison in 2010, HOMOCATS is a visual art project appropriating the modern popularity of the feline. We aim to fight phobias, propose equal rights, combat cultural stereotypes, challenge social norms, and resist Trump.  

Format/media: Zines, artist books, t-shirts and bags

Price: $5-50




Publication: (H)afrocentric Comics: Volumes 1-4, by Juliana "Jewels" Smith

Publisher: PM Press

Location: Oakland, CA

Description: An unflinching visual and literary tour-de-force on the most pressing issues of the day— including gentrification, police violence, and housing — with humor and biting satire.

Format: paperback

Price: $20

The New England Art Book Fair | October 6-7 | Fri 5-9 pm; Sat 10 am-5 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St. | 

  • Published in Art

8 Days a Week: American troubadours, Intelligent Senators, and Peace efforts



BASIC ECSTASIES | One of the myriad highlights of last weekend's Waking Windows festival was watching artist Chani Bockwinkel deliver a passionate, scripture-driven lecture as Justin Bieber. Styled as a "Ted Talk" — please don't sue us or her, Ted — the dance-artist explained to a rapt Apohadion audience the hidden religious and sapphic undertones to Bieber's renaissance. It was mighty. Presently an artist-in-residence at SPACE Gallery, Bockwinkel pivots from the Bieber obsession to head a discussion about their film Those Who Wait, a queer-feminist retelling of a religious doomsday movement in nineteenth-century Maine.

| 6-7:30 pm | New Fruit Collective, 82 Parris St., Portland |



MASS SOLITUDE | Channeling catharsis since 1999, the Toronto-based indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene churned out their first album in seven years this summer, the quite-well-received Hug of Thunder, about which in various interviews bandleader Kevin Drew made statements toward the futility of cynicism. Still a strange group to have sustained success, Drew's songwriting has always been the big sell, and whether he "means it" or doesn't, that hasn't lost a step. With the Scotland indie band Frightened Rabbit.

| 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | $31 adv, $36 |




STANDING TOGETHER | One of the distinguishing features of our American era, besides the unceasing series of apocalyptic events, is a pervading feeling of being disconnected from our peers and communities. Call it an affect owing to the ubiquity of internet life, call it whatever you want, but it's difficult to shoulder the heaviness of daily life as a single atomized individual. If last weekend's catastrophic and inexplicable shooting in Las Vegas has you reeling, join your city in a mass reprieve this evening in Monument Square, where we collectively host a candlelight vigil. | 5:30-7:30 pm | Monument Square, Portland


COMMON THREADS | In the heart of what might be the the last of the year's art walks in bearable weather, the new tattoo parlor Broken Crow Collective holds some space for a fundraiser benefiting those doing work around suicide prevention. Collaborating with the Maine clothiers Catalyst for Change (Kyle Poissonnier), NovaWave (Kyle Treadwell), the tattoo collective offers beer, food, and music by the funk-rock act The Lost Woods while raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. | 6-9 pm | Broken Crow Collective, 594 Congress St., Portland | by donation


YOU ONLY YOLO ONCE | The songwriter Ralph White, who busked for years after helping found the old-timey bluegrass punk band Bad Livers in Austin, Texas, in the early '90s, swoops through Portland to play a characteristically under-the-radar set in Bayside tonight. As lore has it, White left the Bad Livers in '96 to take a bicycle trip across Africa with nothing much in tow but his banjo, playing alongside local musicians he'd encounter and adding know-how around the the mbira, kalimba, and African thumb piano. Dude has lived some life, and plays tonight with fellow livers Colby Nathan and Tom Kovasevic, and side project solo sets from two members of the Oregon freak band Million Brazilians, including Suzanne Stone's White Gourd and DJ Corum on the interstitials.

| 8 pm | The Apohadion Theater, 107 Hanover St., Portland

STAYING GOLD | Old-school toughies could consider lacing up the boots tonight, as New York hardcore brethren Murphy's Law — still fronted by the immortal Jimmy Gestapo — post up at Geno's. It's been 16 years since we've heard any new material from these fellas, so you can be guaranteed a hazy, THC-infused trip down memory lane. With Maine punk groups Cryptid, USA Waste, and the Pubcrawlers.

| 8 pm | Geno's Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland | $12-15


INTELLIGENCE GATEKEEPER | Ostensibly, Senator Angus King will appear for a discussion in Portland this evening to talk about his former role within the Pine Tree Legal Association organization, where he worked in the late sixties. In this appearance, he's expected to talk about "justice, poverty, and current events," and we can only imagine how he's preparing to field questions about the batshit political climate he's been thrust into under the Trump administration. If it weren't so distressing, it'd be prime entertainment. King would obviously be able to say nothing whatsoever about his role on the Senate Intelligence Committee while FBI Director Robert Mueller investigates Russian influence on Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, but it'd be fun to watch his face if you ask.

| 5 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland


TO HAVE AND TO HOLD | Check elsewhere in this issue for a glowing spotlight on the aesthetic orgy of printed matter found at this weekend's New England Art Book Fair, enshrined tonight and tomorrow at SPACE Gallery. Bring cash.

| Fri 5-9 pm; Sat 10 am-4 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |

THE WAY OUT | If you want the art walk festivities to elude you, party on the outskirts of town at the ever-chill Bunker Brewing, which hosts a soul dance party honoring their one-year anniversary at the new location. DJs BKLYN Tighten Up and the Soul 45 Boys play out R&B and passion-jams while you sip and sip away the summer.

| 5-10 pm | Bunker Brewing Company, 17 Westfield St., Portland |

ALONG THE SPECTRUM | But this week's winner for most polycultural show is Urban Farm Fermentory, which hosts a four-artist showcase with new wave pop act Forget, Forget along with R&B emanations of Bright Boy, two Portland artists. They hold down the fort for Western Massachusetts's sing/speak anti-folk songwriter Alyssa Kai and the alt-country act Julie Cira, a four-piece.

| 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |





COMMON BRILLIANCE | As quintessential Maine acts go, seeing a performance of The Early Evening Show is as fundamental as traveling to Acadia or skiing Sugarloaf. The original variety show from comedian, improviser and Buckfield native Mike Miclon has been entertaining audiences for roughly 20 years, and has quietly grown to be an incredible part of the state's cultural fabric. See Miclon try on his various characters in this largely improvised, late night-talk show style variety show performed in front of a live audience of regular folks, fully 100 percent of whom are with him at the show's finish. | 7:30 pm | Celebration Barn Theater, 190 Stock Farm Rd, South Paris | $10-15 |


LISTEN TO YOUR CITY'S YOUNG PEOPLE | Surely you've heard of Fair Rent Portland, the upstart organization endeavoring to curb the swell of gentrification by introducing rent stabilization measures to city housing codes for landlords and property owners who own more than five units. Their goal is too complex to cover in an 8 Days post, and while some are opposing their efforts (on the somewhat morally shaky ground of free-market economic determinism), it's hard not to appreciate what they're trying to do. If you're among their supporters, dance with your kind tonight at Zero Station, which hosts a fundraiser for the group while DJs spin '90s and aughties classics. | 9 pm | Zero Station, 222 Anderson St, Portland





HOWDY STRANGERS | The all-time fave-type band Modest Mouse sold out the State Theatre long ago, now you just have to commit to it. Can't imagine Brock and company won't roll out some tribute to Tom Petty, whose music aged into a Venn diagram with indie-rock fandom about as well as any other rock 'n' roll superstar. | Sun 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland |


CULTIVATE AN INTEREST | If you're the sort of person who watches films to the point where you talk or think about them, or you aspire to be the sort of person who does because you suspect it's not a bad life (you're onto something), a primer could come in handy today at the PMA. The auteur Bertrand Tavernier relishes the strain of cinema history that has traveled through France, and the documentary, appropriately titled My Journey Through French Cinema, could be all you need to flip that little switch within.

| Sat-Sun 2 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland |




PROFESSIONAL TIMING | PA solid smattering of jokers converge on Blue's reliable hunker-down Worst Day of the Week tonight. For a fiver and a strongly suggested glass of wine, soak up the peculiar thoughts of Stephen Spinola, Connor McGrath, Mike Gray, Micaela Tepler, and many more. | 8 pm | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland |




BE ARMED | Read columnist Brian Sonenstein for an in-depth look at why knowing how to talk to cops (and how to let them talk to you) is an important skill for living in today's society. In his column ("Do You Know Your Rights? on page 8), he highlights the Maine Community Law Center's workshop this evening and their commitment to fighting "the justice gap," which helps to explain why some of the people most vulnerable to the legal system and the methods of its agents are the ones who have the most limited access to knowledge about that system. Join professionals from the MCLC for this workshop, titled "They Can't Do That! Can They?" | 5:30 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq, Portland |




CHAIN OF EVENTS | You don't need me to rattle off some shopworn anecdote to remind you the importance of storytelling. It's likely that someone in your life, friend or family, is underappreciated for their natural-born storytelling skills, and would be a perfect candidate to joinup for tonight's story slam. Using a prompt of "stormy," amateur tellers share tales of kindness, resilience, weathering the storm, and all points in between tonight, hosted by the Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts' Jean Armstrong. | 7 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | $5





LIFE IS SCARY | With Damnationland right around the corner, it's officially the season of the witch. (I'm into witches, but feel free to substitute your monster of choice.) Now a fully established festival of homegrown horror film talent, Damnationland season costs a pretty penny to produce. Titled "Nothing to Fear But Beer Itself," this event helps raise some funds at Oxbow tonight, as filmmakers, actors, and brewers hobnob in a dark cavernous place, lit by horror films and the sonic decay of DJ Remy Brecht. | 8:30 pm | Oxbow Blending & Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland | by donation |

The Obsession with 'Both Sides' — Maine's 'Rally to Denounce Political Violence' and the right-wing imagination

There's a rally at the State House in Augusta on Saturday. Its organizers say it is an opportunity for all to come together to "denounce political violence."

But over the last week, a cluster of activists and organizations have identified it as the latest in a series of "alt-right" rallies connected to — if not directly, then conceptually — Charlottesville's "Unite the Right" rally this summer, where white supremacists openly marched and chanted while holding torches, and Boston's two "Free Speech" rallies in May and August. 

What organizers believe, or would desperately like for us media-types to believe, is that Saturday’s rally is an earnest and sincere attempt to stop political violence "on both sides" — meaning it takes as a first principle an equivalency between what they identify as "hate groups" — meaning the KKK, the organized opposition movement known as Antifa (short for antifascist), and Black Lives Matter.


One of Saturday's organizers actually did help assemble the first Boston "Free Speech" Rally, described at the time as "a group of veterans, ex-police, Tea Party Republicans and young people affiliated with the self-described 'alt-right' — a conservative faction that mixes racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism." That organizer is John Rasmussen, a 32-year-old former Occupy Wall Street participant and Portland Occupy-er, who now lives in northern Maine. Rasmussen told me he had no affiliation with the "Unite the Right" rally, but it's worth noting that the free speech rally he did organize shared some of the same speakers as Charlottesville.

A statement released last week ("titled "Identifying the Alt-Right in Maine") by an anonymous member of the southern Maine chapter of the labor group IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) stated that a coalition of activist groups are planning organized opposition to Saturday's rally. The statement lauded the principles of opposing political violence and protecting free speech, but believed the rally was advancing different motives, that it was "purporting to be celebrations of the right to free speech, but is actually featuring violent right-wing activists."

Seen through one lens, the panel of 10 speakers can look like run-of-the-mill Libertarian Party politicians from Maine and Massachusetts. And to Jarody, the other of the event's two organizers, a standard-issue Libertarian rally is exactly what it is.

On Monday, I met with Jarody at a restaurant in Augusta. 

In our conversation, he tells me that he has no idea where organizers have affixed any notion of white supremacy to his event. By his account, progressives have deduced that he himself is a white supremacist because they've seen him post photos of "a stupid little frog" on his Facebook page. He scoffs at liberals informed by mainstream media who want to police how he communicates with memes, and have come to hysterically link any appearance of that frog (known as Pepe) with Nazism. He denounces the “fuckin’ idiot Proud Boys,” a far-right men’s rights organization that showed up at the Boston Free Speech Rally, and disagreed with some of the speakers at that same rally last month, which was met with a reported 40,000 counter-protesters.

The IWW statement originally misstated that Jarody was a pseudonym or avatar of Rasmussen. This is inaccurate. They are separate men. Jarody has no surname (he showed me his driver's license — it’s literally just Jarody). He explains that his ideal version of Saturday's event would be for his invited speakers "to get the chance to speak without fear of being shouted down or blocked or blockaded, or, god forbid, violence happening." Jarody says a "regular, boring rally" is what he's hoping for, but he doesn’t seem hopeful that’ll happen.

"We've got groups like Antifa and the John Brown Gun Club [Maine's chapter of the national anti-racist organization Redneck Revolt] coming to oppose us," he explains to me. "I'd like to see the organizers of the counter-rally make sure to rein in those on their side who might show up to incite violence," he says, adding that he's been in touch with some opposition groups about how Saturday will go. He anticipates disproportion. "It's a number of groups coming to do their side, while it's primarily a dozen or so people getting the work done on my side."

Jarody doesn't identify as alt-right or white supremacist. Or, in fact, even right-wing. He points out what he sees as an irony that it's being opposed by the left, while most of the organizers and speakers at this event have "huge amounts of Occupy cred."

"The way I look at myself, it's always been a situation where I've been trying to slow down the next trouble. Whether it's wearing a suit at the legislature testifying on bad bills or through Occupy Augusta." He says the Tea Party started off as a grassroots movement before it was "moneyed into" by mainstream politics and became a tool of the GOP. The Occupy Wall Street movement seemed a logical step. "Occupy came by and I was like, alright, true counter-politics."

In practical terms, Jarody is a registered Libertarian. When I met him with his girlfriend (and fellow rally organizer) Katt Jones and their three-week-old daughter, he couldn't tell me where he identified on the spectrum of left or right. That seemed like sound rhetorical strategy while talking to a reporter you suspect might disagree with you, but Jarody's politics are legitimately harder to parse than I expected.

Before he was organizing rallies like these, he hosted concerts benefitting #NoDAPL pipeline activists at Standing Rock. He says "the immigration thing" is a problem, but recognizes that an enormous reason why is because of America's sustained military aggression abroad, and doesn't blame refugees for wanting to find safety and stability. His definition of "political violence" that the rally purports to denounce should include those who "have escaped countries of political violence, who have managed to make their way to the state and become a fresh round of Mainers." (Both Jarody and, later, John Rasmussen tell me they're "in contact" with anywhere from one to three immigrant speakers to join the rally, though no names have been added at press time.)

But this is the most I'm willing to concede.


In an article published last week in the Los Angeles Review of Books titled "Free Speech Year," Joshua Clover writes about the unfortunate recent trend of journalists covering each subsequent right-wing rally as if it were unrelated to the last. “Repeatedly over the last year, people — people in positions of significant power — have treated each rally, gathering, or other event as if it had arisen from nowhere, or from some subterranean roil.”

The organizers of this right-wing rally, like those before them, want desperately for people to ignore the political context we're in. It's seldom clear while talking to its adherents that this is concerted right-wing strategy, but the constant shifting of framework is telling. Two months ago, it was about uniting the right. Then it was about defending free speech. Now it's to denounce political violence — each framing a sort of threat from the left and expanding the territory of those who might identify with their political agenda.

Meanwhile, each rally drives a stake in the ground for sustained right-wing political organization while seeming to lure its opposition — whether it's the liberal Democrats or Antifa — into betraying its own supposed ideals. In doing so, the right-wing then set to tarnish the message of their opposition via its various media channels — including the White House — allowing them to move that stake even further. There's a reason that Maine First Media, the largely anonymous, hysterical right-wing website (that basically functions as a Maine-version of Breitbart) proposed to sponsor the event. (Jarody told me he refused, and that he wasn't allowing sponsors of any kind.)

“Such gatherings have been a longtime feature of US politics,” Clover writes, “rising from the nation’s unbroken history of white supremacy and the ineradicable lure of European fascism. It is no easy task to hold these complex and enduring histories in mind while still accounting for what seems like the emergence of a new and volatile political phenomenon, and all too easy to get tangled in invidious debates about whether it’s really new, really fascism, and so on.”

I lobbed a softball of a question about the KKK to Jarody. He fouled it off. Yes, there were Klan pamphlets dropped in Augusta, but they were the work of "just some kids," he believed.

Then I asked him, given what he knows about the person who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, whether he'd consider that political violence. He couldn't. Referring to it as a "car crash," Jarody was noncommittal.

"Nobody knows what's going on inside that guy's head," he told me, explaining that James Alex Fields might have driven his Dodge Challenger into 19 people as a form of self-defense. "Nobody knows what his intentions were. Even though we have footage of it, that's basically the work of lawyers. I'd have to listen to what he says up on the stand."

(Edit: Since the publication of this article, more information on Jarody's politics, legal history, and proclivities contained in his online presence has surfaced.) 


Since it's in question, here's a reminder of what white supremacy means. Wikipedia has it as a "political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical, or institutional domination by white people." It shouldn't be contentious or partisan to say that Donald Trump, his cabinet, and a sizable chunk of his followers are willfully complicit with this definition — if you need any proof, just look at the president's tweets about football this past weekend.

If you've got a few minutes, there's a fascinating YouTube video titled "What is Kekistan?" that's useful here, if only to understand the exact tone with which this demographic of heavily online white guys handles the political terms of the day. In it, a snarky but somewhat guy-next-door-ish type white dude, around 30 years old, explains the "brilliance" behind Kekistan, a fictional online country that functions as a "beautiful joke" lampooning identity politics. For the online self-declared “refugees” of Kekistan (for whom Pepe the frog is an official mascot), you’re guilty of "oppressing them" on identitarian grounds if you don't take them at face value, thus betraying your own liberal ideals. If you do believe them, the joke’s still on you.  

Saturday's rally deploys nearly exactly the same rhetorical trap.

If the Kekistani flag doesn't harken to a racially pure world (it’s virtually the same structure, different coloration, as the Nazi flag), it imagines a fantasy world not far off, one where (predominately) white men exclusively set the rules and discourse about what constitutes oppression, while brushing off the experiences and voices of anyone else making the same claim in the real world. 

I also talked with Rasmussen, the event’s other organizer, whose political affiliations are less online than Jarody's and run deeper into the right-wing organizational structure. Rasmussen met Jarody through Occupy, and iis now a resident of Perham, Maine, a Washington county hamlet counting fewer than 400 people. Asked what he wanted from Saturday’s event, Rasmussen said that he wanted “the press to come away denouncing political violence. That includes people stopping taking sides of the two groups of extremists wreaking havoc on each other through threats of physical violence.”

It's not clear what he's talking about. Antifa has its roots in opposing fascist regimes in Germany, Italy and Spain in the 1920s, and, in various incarnations, have been rejuvenated in the decades since whenever extreme right-wing have coalesced around power. The Trump election has certainly galvanized their movement, with many iterations of the group pointing out the ineffectiveness of liberalism to combat and confront real political threat. 

Rasmussen believes he’s been made into an “alt-right bogeyman” in order to “legitimize violence” from those who disagree with his politics. Speaking over the phone, he’s considerably harder to talk to than the mild-mannered Jarody. He interrupted frequently, and accused me “of playing into the hands of these violent people” when I asked him how he finds an equivalency between white supremacist coalitions and their organized opposition.

In fact, over the course of our conversation, Rasmussen must have said the phrase "on both sides" close to twenty times. I recognized with him that yes, there have been a handful of recorded incidents where Antifa, or regular people, have punched or shoved someone at a rally, knocked out someone wearing a swastika, or knocked off a MAGA hat. But Rasmussen insists that this threat is equivalent to a violent far-right political coalition which, in the last year alone, has activated KKK factions across the country (and in Maine); that beat 20-year-old DeAndre Harris with pipes at Charlottesville; who drove a car into 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer, killing her; that stabbed nine antifascists at a rally in Sacramento led by the Golden State Skins; that shot a protester outside of a Milo Yiannopoulos speech in Seattle in January; that led to teens attempting to lynch an 8-year-old biracial boy in New Hampshire; that chant “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us” while marching the streets of Charlottesville; or that have averaged more than 300 politically motivated violent attacks on U.S. soil since 2001 (per a study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point).   

Free speech is indispensable. And, of course, political violence is to be denounced. But Saturday's rally has intentions beyond that. It functions the same way that the right-wing imagination helped formulate Kekistan — damned if you confront it; damned if you leave it alone. 

It is, in a sense, a standard-issue, right-wing libertarian rally. It’s also very possibly a strategic trap set for the left, so that they can be lured into a type of opposition that can be used to make white conservatives appear to the public as victims. And whether its organizers acknowledge it or not, it’s another step in a long arc of far-right political mobilization that advances white supremacy. Jarody, Rasmuseen, or the speakers may not identify that way, but in an era where agents promoting white nationalism and white supremacy are in power and spreading their message, it's not unreasonable to hold those accountable who help build the scaffolding that supports them.

“(T)he first and simplest way to describe the last year has been an experiment in the naturalization of this project,” writes Clover. “To what extent can we walk the streets freely? How much nativist fascism can we get away with? In so doing, the complementary goals are to unify in practice groups conjoined already in their political orientation.” In other words, Saturday’s rally is a container for which genuinely apolitical dudes who hang out on 4chan might feel most comfortable fraternizing with white supremacists under the common bond of defending free speech. “Because it is an experiment, each positive result will be followed by a test that pushes the limits further; each failure requires a retreat, recognizing that for the moment the limit has been exceeded.”

 * * * * * 

White supremacist sentiment can be discreet. Several times, Jarody and Katt James explained they had no idea where the idea came from that white supremacists were behind this. The evening after I spoke with them, Jarody messaged me to tell me that speaker Pete Harring dropped out. Harring issued a Facebook post declaring his reasons why. citing that “something does not smell right,” and that he had been contacted by several friends “from all sides” with concerns about the event. 

One commenter, whose avatar depicted a white middle-aged male, was livid: "Today's Hitler is a mulatto madman named Barack Hussein Obama," he posted. "His henchmen are Sharpton, Jackson, Van Jones and the ‘liberal democrats’ (aka: Commies), the money is George Soros and their propaganda ministry are CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, the NY Times, and Washington Post."

Signing off the thread, the commenter wrote: “Lock and load, patriots, lock and load.”

The Internet is full of trash like this, and its sentiment is certainly not worth the ink it's printed on here. But this community of people online also live in the real world. And it’s telling that the very organizers who told me they had no idea where allegations of white supremacy came from had no problem clicking the “love” button on this post.

"The Rally to Denounce Political Violence" | Saturday, Sep 30 11 am-3 pm | Maine State House, Augusta 

FullSizeRender (22)Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | This article has been edited from its printed version for clarity.




  • Published in News

Portland artists share their Waking Windows dreams

The Waking Windows festival throws dozens of local performers onto bills with artists blowing up elsewhere in the country. 

But with so much going on, it can be difficult to know how to map it. So we thought, who better than to ask the artists themselves what path to take? 

Here are some Maine performers we've spotlit to tell us what they're looking forward to in the festival.

 jeff beam 2015

Name: Jeff Beam

Instrument: guitar/vocals

Statement: As always, my favorite part is seeing all the music venues (and makeshift venues) linked up and working together. It's an exciting day. Gonna catch Forêt Endormie, Redline Graffiti, Great Western Plain, Walrus, Uni Ika Ai, Amelia Devoid, Arc Iris, and I will be at my own set as well.

Jeff Beam  with Nat Baldwin + Great Western Plain + the Toughcats + Saturday, Sep 30, 8pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | 8pm | $15 | 

local Hannah Joyce McCain ColorHex

Name: Hannah Joyce McCain

Band: singer of Color Hex

Statement: I grew up playing piano and eventually abandoned it — because I sucked — but I’m hoping I still have some latent keyboard skills that I can bring back to life at the Synth Petting Zoo. I have never seen O’Death. It’s awful. So, that’s what I’m most looking forward to. Seeing O’Death on Saturday, and finally feeling whole again.

Color Hex with FonFon Ru + Ossalot + The English Muffins + Wedding Camp + Mini Dresses | Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland | free | Synth Petting Zoo | 1-4:30 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq. | Free | 

 local odeath

Artist: Greg Jamie

Instrument: singer/guitarist for O'Death

Statement: I think the raddest programming aspect of Waking Windows this year is the involvement of Synth Club Petting Zoo in conjunction with the screening of A Life In Waves at the Portland Museum of Art. I love the cross-section of there being a documentary about electronic composer Suzanne Ciani and having synth club there to have people interact with their own electronics. It really breaks down that wall and makes it interactive and educational and weird. I'm also looking forward to Charlie Parr, who is playing at Blue early evening Saturday. He is from Duluth, Minnesota, and such a wonderful person — a living legend, really. One of the most honest country-blues performers living today. I'm also curious to see if my band O’Death remembers how to play our songs. This will be only our second show this year and we haven't practiced in months. A recipe for chaos.

O'Death with Open Mike Eagle + No BS! Brass Band | Sat September 30, 9 pm at Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | $15


Artist: Harry Gingrich + Cormac Shirer Brown

Instrument: guitar, vocals, and drums in FonFon Ru (each)

Cormac's statement: Rough Francis' energy is the reason I get up every day, Grooms I've actually crushed on since high school. Amelia Devoid and Ed Askew Band I've followed on phone screens and very excited to see out and about. Mouth Washington and Video Nasties are loved hometown heroes.

FonFon Ru + Ossalot + The English Muffins + Wedding Camp + Color Hex + Mini Dresses | Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland | free



Instrument: rapper, writer

Statement: It's going to be a great event. We need more events like Waking Windows, especially adding on to what we already got going on in the city. I love Portland ... this is our city, so we got to represent. What brings us all together is the diversity that brings different cultures. Just last week I went to a salsa dance-off at the park listening to Cuban music, and a few weeks ago I ended up at an African party chilling with my Acholi people. Some weeks ago I went to a comedy night checking out my buddy James Swaka ... I can go on for days. There are so many things to do, this city is amazing the people in the city are like no other. We the people in Maine should be proud to be in a community like this, so thank you. All I ask is that you get out and enjoy some of this.

AFRiCAN DUNDADA | "Page Burner Reading Series," with Vivian Ewing + Niles Baldwin + Caitlin Corrigan + Samuel James | Sat Sep 30, 1pm | At Tandem Coffee & Bakery, 742 Congress St., Portland | Free

 local GreatWesternPlain

Artist: Tim Berrigan

Instrument: Guitar/vocals, Great Western Plain

Statement: Though it’s said ad nauseum, Portland is a great place to be with people who are willing to give a new band or a well-worn favorite ear-time. We were always really proud to be from Portland and invite bands to come to Portland when we’d be on tour.  

Great Western Plain | with the Toughcats + Rick Rude + Jeff Beam + Nat Baldwin | Saturday Sep 30, 8pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | $15 | 


Artist: Lauren Tosswill

Instrument: performance artist

Statement: I saw (rapper) Milo give a talk at MECA a few years ago and his passion for his craft was palpable. I've been listening to his new album [who told you to think ? ? ! ! ? ! ? ! ? !and watching his beautiful, self-produced music videos that he posts on YouTube. Looking forward to finally catching his live show at SPACE Gallery this Saturday.

Lauren Tosswill | with Jared Fairfield + Morgan Bouton + Sterling Black + Jane Blanchard + Artie Appleseed + Matthew Houston + Rob Jacobs | Local Sprouts Cooperative, 653 Congress St. | 4:30 pm | $5 | 

local JimmyDority PhotobyTylerLinhardt

Photo by Tyler Linhardt

Artist: Jimmy Dority

Instrument: piano/vocals

Statement: It's been a dream of mine to collaborate with Kevin and the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra. I'm always looking forward to seeing what Jeff Beam has up his sleeve. I'm also going to try and catch the Listen Up! crew (3:45 pm at One Longfellow Square) who do important and rejuvenating work.

Jimmy Dority | with Ava Luna + Tredici Bacci + Lina Tullgren + Mega Bog + Shook Twins + Maine Youth Rock Orchestra | Saturday, September 30, 6:15pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St. | $12 |  

  • Published in Features

The power of 'Won' — An interview with Lina Tullgren

One of the highlights of this year's festival is an appearance by Lina Tullgren, the up-and-coming Boston-based songwriter who grew up in South Berwick, Maine, and who just released her first full-length album, Won, on the label Captured Tracks.

Building off her haunting and brilliant 2016 EP WISHLIST, Tullgren's beguiling indie-folk finds new peaks with Won, a 10-song traversal of personal nostalgias and muted joys. As one of the quiet highlights of a festival of some big names, we spoke with Lina about old friends, wearing music out, and what she dances to.

You grew up in South Berwick, right? What did your parents do? How’d you start playing music on your own?

Well, my dad’s a house painter but he’s really into music. We had music on in the car or at home at all times. I learned a lot from him about Brian Eno and Television and that side of things. My mom is a classical flautist and so she would play around the house. She was really into bossanova for awhile and I had an appreciation of that from her.

I played classical violin from age 7 until age 19. I kind of hated it for a long time, but I’m now very happy that I was forced to do that. Well, not forced, but it helped me develop a kind of self-discipline that I still have now for rehearsing and working hard and practicing your instrument. Those sort of formulas never leave you, because when they’re instilled in you in a young age, they’re hard to unlearn.

My mom could see that I was frustrated with classical, so we found this fiddle camp in northern Maine and I started going there from age 12. That was a really formative experience for my musicianship that was a place I could go every summer and be around people that were doing things I was interested in. I felt comfortable singing in front to people for the first time, writing songs and showing people. It took a long time to feel comfortable with what I was doing on my own and going there helped my growing confidence.


When I saw you at Waking Windows last year [at Blue] your band was two people, but you’ve recently rounded out to a full band? What are your thoughts on that decision?


It’s been really amazing. It’s been strange in a lot of ways. Me and [guitarist] Ty [Ueda] have been playing music together a very long time, since we were 16. We’re like a unit. It’s been interesting bringing new people in and learning how to interact with them musically and socially. This is the context that i’ve been hearing the songs in my head since I started making them. That’s very special and interesting to me.

How did you and Ty start playing together?


He grew up (just over the border) in New Hampshire. There’s a river between our two houses, and I would see him on the other side of the river. He would play an accordion, and eventually we started playing music together.


I’ve listened to some of the playlists you’ve made on Spotify. They’re good and diverse. What’s your line of thinking when you’re making these?


The record label [Captured Tracks] has asked me to make a couple of those. I like making playlists and sharing with people the music you listen to is fun. I always really like seeing what other bands and artists are listening to, whether it be when they’re going to the studio or whatever. The music that I listen to doesn’t sound like anything like I make.


There’s a track by (Dutch electronic musician) Legowelt on one of those.


Yeah, he rips.


Do you dance? What do you dance to?


Oh, I dance all the time. I was born to dance. Let’s see, I haven’t been listening to a lot of dance-friendly stuff lately. I don’t actively go out and dance anywhere because it’s very hard to find places to do that where I live. But me and Ty kind of dance anywhere and everywhere we go, if the time is right or not. I really like the song called “Unamerican Woman” by this guy called Dinner, who’s on the same label I am.


Almost all of your songs dwell in this seemingly really intentionally heavy emotional space. Have you always written songs that way?


Songwriting for me is not always a conscious activity, if that makes sense. It’s less so now, but a lot of the time in the past where I might not have been in touch with in my emotions as I am at this moment, songwriting was the space to go to to help figure out some of the things that might be going on internally. A lot of my songs have come out of that place. 


Your music seems like it carries a lot of vulnerability and sadness and nostalgia. Is there music out there that you appreciate that brings up a sort of sadness or nostalgia for you? Are there songs or albums that have some intense power over your feelings that you respect and don’t want to wear out?


I don’t really see the wearing-out part, but I definitely left behind a lot of music when I stopped playing fiddle music and folk music. I can still go back to a lot of those musics and exist in that space for a couple of minutes and see how important that was at the time. It’s not nostalgic, because it’s not sad for me at all, but I guess some records bring me to the place. I’ve been listening to a lot of Hildegaard Von Bingen lately, and that music is kind of transporting me to a place that I haven’t been in a while. It’s so pure and incredible, that it really transports you in this place where everything else is melting away. I feel that way when I listen to Scott Walker also — Scott and Scott 4 are the shit.

A record that was really formative for me in middle school was Either/Or by Elliott Smith. Hearing that record for the first time was certainly a songwriting turning point. When I heard that record I was pretty entrenched in playing fiddle music, but I started writing songs to the melodies of those songs, just to find out how to write songs. I think my dad had a copy of it. But there was this lady I knew who had a store in Portsmouth and used to cut my hair when I was a little kid. She dated Elliott Smith for awhile. Her name’s Amity, and there’s a song called “Amity” on Roman Candle. I remember listening to Elliott Smith with my dad when I was a kid, and he was like yeah, Amity dated Elliott Smith growing up. I thought that was incredible.

Won by Lina Tullgren | playing Waking Windows with Ava Luna + Tredici Bacci + Mega Bog + Shook Twins + Jimmy Dority + Maine Youth Rock Orchestra | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | 9:30pm (show begins at 6:20 pm) | $12 |


Contemporary Band — An Interview with Colin Newman of Wire

If you don't have a ticket to see Wire, the legendary English art-rock band formed in 1976 by Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Bruce Gilbert, and Robert Gotobed, we don't know what to tell you. The show's been out since late spring.

Still, we jumped at the chance to discuss the band's adventurous career in a surprisingly long and thoughtful conversation with singer and guitarist Colin Newman, who spoke to the Phoenix via Skype from his home studio in London.

Hi Colin, how's your day going?

Not so bad! Tidying up the studio.

I'm not sure if you know this, but the show here is sold out. So thanks for doing this interview anyway!

Well, there's quite a few on this tour that are sold out, so I'm not at all surprised. I mean, it's not very often that we play in Portland, Maine. I don't think we ever have before. We played in Bangor at some point in some biker's club, but that was in the '80s. 

I'm curious, as a band that's been together for 40 years with a lot of the same personnel, how have you kept it interesting? Do you devise new songwriting techniques or play games with each other?

I think it's a matter of refining than changing for the sake. You don't fix it if it's not broken. Since, really, (the album) Red Barked Tree in 2011, it's been a gradual refining of the methodology of how to make a Wire record. I mean, Wire records in the '70s were done in a certain kind of way. And in the '80s there was quite a lot of experimentation about how to make Wire records because there was a lot of experimentation in general about how to make records. I think the technology — to use a word I hate — sort of turned down around the millennium, so you could have the benefits of so-called electronic recording and old-school tape-style recording. Ultimately, the way we settled on how to make a Wire record was a synthesis of the best use of available tools and being able to actually play as a band.

Because we are a band. We can stand in a room and play. It's not a problem. But there was a period of time where we had to go to extreme lengths in order to make that happen.

Now, you can get anything in time with anything else in any way, shape or form. You can throw stuff together and sort it out later. So that led me to think I needed to go back to what I used to do originally, which is write songs on acoustic guitar, bring them to the band, the band learning them, and then we make the album on that basis. We got to a point where basically nobody hears anything until we all meet in the studio to record it. Occasionally I may bring stuff to others in various forms, but everything comes back here (to my studio) for us to finish as a band. Basically, (the question is) how do you go about the idea of making a Wire record? And how do you make it the purest expression of being a Wire record that you can get to? 

That's interesting because Wire is talked about as this influential punk band, but for so much of your career, you've operated well outside of that form.

We weren't a punk band in 1977 — what part of not being a punk band don't people understand? (laughs). I think there are two viewpoints on that. Some people, especially people our age, don't for one minute think Wire is a punk band. Even though some of [1977 album] Pink Flag sounds a bit like punk, it was the wrong kind of music. There were no such things as slow songs in punk. And then other people who are a bit more conceptual think Wire is the best punk band ever because we've broken every rule of punk. So, what does that mean?

One of you at some point talked about wanting to be a "contemporary band" — 

I think that's always been Wire's kind of cool identity. I mean, we were extremely aware of what was happening in music when we started. As far as we were concerned, punk was a 1976 thing, and every band, especially the local bands, who were influenced by the Sex Pistols — meaning they wanted to sound exactly like the Sex Pistols — were going to last about two minutes. It was important to be the next thing, so we considered what we were doing as the next thing. So that became a kind of way of describing what we wanted to do.

Obviously now, there's no such thing as a timeline in music. Every record that's ever been made is as new as every other record that's ever been made. It's hard to imagine when I was growing up that I would be walking down the street (today) hearing music that was fifty years old as a regular thing. And that's true in any country in the western world.

I don't have to go to special places where old people go to hear old music. Old music is a part of the culture. And in a way, that's a very weird thing. What is a contemporary band? I don't know what that means anymore. Everything and nothing is contemporary. There's new music that sounds more like old music than old music sounds. There's a (contemporary) artist called Drugdealer from Los Angeles, and that album is the most '70s-sounding album I've ever heard in my life. And I don't think anyone in the '70s sounded that much like the '70s. But in some ways, he's kind of crystallizing an aesthetic. In the end, you either like it or don't like it.

The other thing, of course, is what you say and what you do. You can have a band in their early twenties who say they don't listen to anything after 1973. Or that they only use old technology. You know, if someone in their sixties sounds like that, they just sound like an old geezer. For us, being sort of analog purists — I mean, we've made enough records in analog. We know their limitations. 

Wire + Minibeast | September 22 | Fri 8:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | SOLD OUT | 

Manhood Strikes Again — The Many Charms of Ray Harrington's 'Overwhelmed'

In 2015, Providence comic Ray Harrington turned a snapshot of his life — a thirtysomething brand-new dad who had just released his first comedy album — into a documentary film. Titled Be a Man, the stand-up artist’s movie explored the expectations of modern American masculinity as seen through the comic’s characteristically goofy, self-deprecating style. Harrington grew up in Bangor and his parents divorced when he was very young, and he was legitimately interested in cultivating techniques to be a good role model for his son.

As it turns out, this process is actually hilarious. With sincere intentions tucked away in there somewhere, Harrington turned this vulnerability into an absurdist vision quest, meeting hypermasculine figures and prototypical American role models and querying them about what it means to be a man. In a subsequent interview with Boston magazine, he said the process of making the film made him more of a feminist.

None of this is to say Harrington is a “socially conscious comic,” or anything like that (and if you’re wondering, his semi-ironic quest for manhood didn’t push the joke so far as to entertain any insipid men’s rights activist groups). He’s just a regular dude, and a smart one. And he’s brimming with ideas on Overwhelmed, his second album of stand-up, released earlier this month — about kids, about homeownership, about camping, about pets.

That’s right, Harrington deals in fairly conventional subject matter, geared, you might say, to the white thirtysomething New England male experience. As a new dad, much of this material hovers over the tribulations of parenthood, a realm where Harrington digs up an admirable amount of new insights. He derides people who use words incorrectly; he upbraids shitty parents who’ve made shitty children (“they’re real”), and he critiques domestic institutions like House Hunters while confessing to loving the show. He also gets unhinged, cusses a bunch, tells fart jokes, and tests boundaries he sees rising up among his audience, but he’s essentially a pretty good doobie. He’s likable and intelligent enough to know his blind spots, and canny enough to never come across as corny.

On Overwhelmed, the best evidence for this is Harrington’s ability to read a room. On a perhaps awkward, or awkwardly delivered, riff about the mortality rate of pet hamsters, Harrington realizes the crowd is ever so slightly slipping away from him. His timing as a joketeller is typically strong, but his timing in that particular moment — when interrupting his own story — is perfect. The second he feels the audience fade, Harrington issues a chortling, convivial laugh at himself. “I’m gonna keep going,” he tells them, mock-defiantly. “I have exhausted the goodwill of the room; that’s fine. I’m going to finish the bit.” Immediately, the audience is with him again. “It’s now just for me!” He issues a stage-y ahem and steps back into the scene, adopting an annoying-aunt-like droll. “I was the one who found the body!” he shouts, breathing new life into a joke lesser comics would have refused to acknowledge was dead.

A big dude, Harrington possesses a tool that many other comics don’t, which is the ability to deploy jokes about his own physicality. “I don’t like summer. I’m not a summer person,” he announces early on. “You ask any fat person what his favorite time of year is, you’re never gonna hear” — he puts on a strained, throaty voice — “Oh I love a good hot July!” Harrington can pull out this type of joke at his discretion throughout the act, but the gag hardly registers as a first principle of his humor. When half an hour later, as he’s setting up a story about teaching his son to swear, Harrington walks us through the domestic routine. “I was making a sandwich. At that time of the day, I needed a sandwich.” Laughter. Harrington reacts. “Not as a fat guy.” More laughter. “Not as a fat guy!” He says again, scolding us. “As a parent, I needed a sandwich. So I could eat that sandwich and for forty seconds feel like a human being. That’s all!” In this and so many other moments, it’s unclear which is more charming: Harrington’s routine as its written or the guy who occasionally shows up to interrupt his own set to talk directly to us.

Manhood is one of America’s most enduring, tragic fallacies. We should be lucky that Harrington is out here taking the piss in its name.

Ray Harrington | 'Overwhelmed' | Stand-Up Records | 

  • Published in Arts
Subscribe to this RSS feed