From Our Readers | Love Letters to Live Music

For this issue, we asked readers to write a love letter to live music in Maine.

Thompson’s Point | Photo: Erin Little

Attending the University of Maine in the mid-1990s, I got my first taste of small-venue live music and fell in love with all of it: the pounding speakers, the blurred fingers of a guitarist ten feet away, the high-fiving of musicians after a great set. With few exceptions, I’ll take that over 50 rows back at a stadium show of a big-name band any day.

The band most responsible for that love is Maine’s Rustic Overtones. They were rock enough to tap into my classic rock roots. They were ska enough to move my tastes in new directions. They were my age. They were full of energy. They flat-out rocked. I always come back to those horns.

Graduating into adulthood has a way of reprioritizing one’s life. Lively crowds were replaced by dirty diapers and paying the mortgage. For me, life’s surprises included a divorce and finding myself part of a new family with teenage stepdaughters. For about ten years, I felt far away from that powerful baritone sax, the smooth slide trombone, the hard-driving rhythms, and the powerful voice of Dave Gutter.

A flyer for a small fundraiser at a local middle school caught my eye. I nervously asked my wife and the girls if they would be up for seeing a band I used to love. Musical tastes of teens were vastly different in 2007, but they were up for it, and a great time was had! Since then, we’ve made a point to get to more shows, like an impromptu trip to an outdoor show in Waterville, a fundraiser in a barn at Freeport’s Wolfe’s Neck Center, and a phenomenal orchestral set at the fabled Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield.

The Rustic Overtones have been making original rock right here in Maine for more than 25 years. They were part of my introduction to live music in the 1990s. They reached ears with radio hits when I was distracted by adult life. We grew up separately, celebrating the high points in life and mourning the sad ones (including the tragic unexpected passing of trombonist extraordinaire Dave Noyes in 2019).

Now that the scary grip of COVID-19 is loosening, my wife and I look forward to catching a show (outside for now). Maybe I will be forgiven for thinking that Dave Gutter and the band are my own personal soundtrack. That said, I am happy to share with a couple hundred other screaming fans those gravelly belted lyrics, Jon’s funky driving bass (shh…my wife has a crush on him!), and, of course, those horns!

—Dave Gagne, Freeport

Back in June 2019, my wife and I snuck in a special night in Portland away from our usual Boothbay visit. With our three-year-old back at the house with his grandparents, we spent dinner at Fore Street and then had a perfect night under the fog at Thompson’s Point, watching, listening to, and experiencing our favorite band, the National. Hours prior, under a heavy afternoon rain, we had run into three out of five of the bandmates picking up foul weather gear at Portland Dry Goods. It’s been our favorite night in our favorite state.

—Danny S., Virginia Beach, VA

My Love Letter to the State Theatre, You’re like home for me. From the moment I get near you to the moment I leave, I know I’m where I need to be.

In my nearly 30 years of Maine residency, I’ve lost track of how many times I was fortunate enough to have been within your walls, entranced by your history, fixated on your sounds, and captivated by the energy you create, but I can assure you that, if I pause to reflect, I find myself wholly infatuated with each one.

How could I possibly forget that I once got pennies thrown at me by a Jimmie’s Chicken Shack sound tech during the Jimmie’s Chicken Shack/311 show? (Turns out he did it to get my attention, and then we talked about how we liked each other’s glasses.) And that time it wastheSilversunPickups’NikkiMonninger’s birthday and the entire audience sang “Happy Birthday” to her as her band members brought out a cake with candles that they feared would set off a smoke alarm. No one else has given me what you can. I’m beyond grateful.

Before the pandemic, I worked in downtown Portland off Free Street, and almost daily I would stroll past your iconic marquee and look up and smile. So many nights have brought me to you, and I genuinely cannot wait to come back home.

—Amanda Taisey, Portland

For those of us who have built our careers around you, we have felt a massive void in the last year and a half of our lives. We are both happy and hesitant, for fear of another heartbreak, to see you are back. We rush to buy tickets before they sell out and question if we should buy the additional pandemic insurance on the Ticketmaster platform. It’ll all be worth it for that beautiful moment, staring up at the stage when the drums start to beat and the crowd starts to cheer. It’s live music, baby.

I am one of the lucky few who makes a living in the music industry and even luckier still that I get to do what I do while living in the beautiful state of Maine. For my full-time gig I am a booking agent for national touring musicians, and I also perform live, as a side gig, for special events and weddings across the state. What once kept me busy for 80-plus hours a week has been virtually impossible since the pandemic shutdown. I stopped keeping track after rescheduling hundreds of shows for my clients and haven’t set foot on a stage to perform since closing out the wedding season in 2019.

Live music, I’m overjoyed to see you back but am worried you’ll break my heart again. Let’s keep people safe and keep the music alive.

—Rachel Doe, Portland

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