By Sam Margolin, Staff Writer
Maine’s music and art scene have always kept up the pace with some of our larger, more populated neighboring states such as Massachusetts. The natural beauty and abundance of land in the northern part of the state combined with the socially progressive and culturally diverse regions of the southern parts make Maine a truly unique and attractive place for music and art events in the country.
In the past, Maine has hosted some large, nationally recognized concerts such as the Grateful Dead at Oxford Plains Speedway in 1988 and more recently the NATEVA Music and Arts Festival also held in Oxford in 2010. Today, Maine’s music scene is divided up between larger venues such as the State Theater in Portland and the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion and smaller to medium sized venues such as the Waterville Opera House in Waterville and the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield. Venues like these have their place in Maine’s music culture but some of the most exciting and dynamic music and art events are taking place on land and property in Maine’s more rural communities.
New companies and organizations have sprung up as a response to Maine’s unique geographic layout and its smaller more spread-out population. One of these companies is Proper Consulting and Operations (PCO) out of Waterville Maine. Jenna Scandone is the 30 year old Communications and Logistics Consultant for PCO and, among other things, is the Developmental Administrator of one of this year’s music and art camping festivals: the Kind Mind Campout and Campout Cup being held in Norridgewock, Maine on August 3 through 5.. The event, which is new this year, could have the potential to become the largest music and arts festival in the Northern United States. Scandone points out that events like these are especially important in Maine due to our removal from cultural hubs such as New York.
“The events developed here in Maine are especially important because Maine doesn’t have the same opportunities for it’s homegrown talent to break into national and global markets,” Scandone said. “By curating events that bring nationally recognized musicians and artists to Maine, we create a platform for local artists to be recognized on a greater scale and potentially develop lasting careers.”
Events such as the Kind Mind Campout not only provide a platform where local artists can showcase and develop their talents, it is also a chance to integrate and explore some of Maine’s other cultural concerns and subjects. The Kind Mind Campout for example, “will be the first event that integrates a major music festival and Maine’s thriving cannabis culture,” Scandone said. Music, visual artists, cannabis experts, food and other cultural aspects will all help promote and expand Maine’s music and art scene.
PCO is headed by Chris Cote, one of its founding members and partners. The 35-year-old who usually goes by “Dubba” wears many hats such Freelance Art Director and Production Manager for the Waterville Opera House. Cote describes PCO as “a one stop shop event development consulting firm that can assist a team with everything from concept development, marketing strategies, and art direction through event logistics, staffing, and onsite operations.”
Some of the projects that Cote has helped create and promote include the Great North Festival founded in 2013 and Germination, a event now in its fourth year taking place in Harmony, Maine May 18-20. Both festivals pose difficulties in promotion due to Maine geographic location at the corner and not the center of the country. Cote outlines how promotion strategy must change in order to fit in with the population scarcity.
“Regarding larger-scale productions such as multi-day events, you actually need to target all of New England as a primary marketing target because the population is too low in Maine,” said Cote. “Therefore, to create a large enough following of any one scene or music type, you need to draw from out of state.”
Cote points out an important aspect of New England Music, that no one state has to rely on themselves for music consumption. New England states are smaller than others in the country but share communities and values due to our geographic and cultural cohesion. This is why companies like PCO put emphasis on diverse and eclectic music and artists line-ups for their events.
Maine and New England’s close sense of community is perfect for music and art scenes because we transfer opinion and knowledge openly and freely. By allowing a wide range of diverse music and art options, Maine could become the epicenter for cultural inclusion, exploration and promotion. As we know from our state’s nickname, “vacationland,” Maine has always seen the importance of attracting citizens from other states to expand and support our economic system.
Being able to provide a stage for the talent that Maine has to offer is important to youth development and cultural and social evolution. Artists and musicians need to have confidence in their state’s ability to nurture their progression and promotion. Musicians like Jordan Kaulback, a 28-year old singer/songwriter from Norway, Maine, who relies on events like the ones organized by PCO to help proliferate his name into the public sphere. Kaulback has played many Maine festivals such as Harry Brown’s Farm in Starks, and PCO’s Great North and Germination Festival’s.
“Maine is a wonderful place for music. The only difficulties come with getting noticed,” Kaulback said. “There is a lot of talent and too many musicians sell themselves short.”
Helping foster a healthy environment for creative growth means having companies like PCO willing to makes sure artists are don’t continue to sell themselves short. The potencial is there for a thriving and profitable entertainment sector in Maine’s future if we allow this growth to continue.
Collaboration between artists, promoters, land and venue owners, media and the public is what makes Maine’s small population a pro as well as a con. By becoming involved and intertwined with subject matter all over New England, less known artists can transcend the exposure gap and thrive off each others success and creativity.
This summer will be filled with amazing acts and artists all over the state of Maine. New highly curated events like the Kind Mind Campout offer new and exciting options for art-centric citizens looking for novel inspirations such as RJD2, Eoto, Space Jesus and Randy from Trailer Park Boys while more traditional venues such as the Waterville Opera House offers classic artists such as Blue Oyster Cult, Strangefolk, Rusted Root and Blues Traveler. Get out an enjoy what Maine artists and promoters work hard to deliver.
Both Kaulback and Cote expressed that they wish to push Maine music into an even more accessible realm by offering more free and discounted events. Cote said that we need, “more programs supporting art and free music or close to free music.” Kaulback added, “We could improve on ticket prices and free concerts more often would be nice as well.” Supporting local art and music is a necessity to establish a cultural hub of progression and acceptance. Promoters, artists, activists and musicians are working hard to transform Maine into a nationally recognized platform for growth and cultural and community support.