February 18, 2010

10 bands to watch

Our annual survey of the thriving and diverse Portland music scene suggests these bands and/or solo artists are well worth a stop, look and listen.

It’s always surprising to see how many bands there are playing in Portland at any given time.

We know we’ve got a good music scene, and that it’s both healthy in diversity and robust in scope. But it’s still remarkable when you begin breaking it down and are reminded, again, of the richness of the scene.

Since 2008, it’s become part of our winter routine to present 10 bands worth paying attention to in the year ahead. These aren’t necessarily the best new bands in Maine, or the hottest bands on the Portland scene. Mostly, they are 10 groups or performers we feel deserve some attention.

They’re bands worth watching.

Staff writers Stephanie Bouchard, Ray Routhier and Bob Keyes compiled this list based on conversations with folks involved in the local scene, including musicians, club owners, promoters and radio types.

ZACH JONES

Folks in the Portland area are familiar with Zach Jones because of his stints as guitarist and vocalist in the local rock band As Fast As/Rocktopus. The 28-year-old Jones moved to California last year, but hasn’t forgotten his home state and his fans here. When he self-releases (“My parents became my record label,” he said) his debut solo album, “Fading Flowers,” on March 16, he plans to be in Maine for a rocking release party (details are in the works). Go to zachjonestunes.com to check out what he’s been up to since moving to the West Coast.

— S.B.

SPENCER AND THE SCHOOL SPIRIT MAFIA

It doesn’t take a genius to put a Spencer Albee band on the list of bands to watch. Given his track record, Albee is sure to turn his latest band of very-merry minstrels into something iconic. Albee, a former member of Rustic Overtones and As Fast As, has put together an 11-member band, with instruments ranging from guitar and drums to violin, ukulele and trombone. It’s pop-happy music, with depth.
Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia was last seen in Portland in January, playing the national anthems for the United States and Canada at the American Hockey League all-star game. The band is still actively promoting its first CD, the aptly named “Candy, Cake and Ice Cream,” released last summer. It has no current gigs planned, although in early March it will tape a studio session for use in an upcoming TV show.

To learn more and to keep up with the band, visit them on Facebook.

— B.K.

CONFUSATRON

This band began in Bangor in 2001 and would almost be considered a rock trio except for the presence of a guy known as “Mr. Tickles” using a laptop computer full of interesting sounds.

Band members Jason Lafrance (bass), Doug Porter (guitar, vocals) and Adam Cogswell (drums) say their music is a mix of world music, math rock and metal. They brought the house down at the Big Easy a couple of years ago when they did a night of Primus songs as part of  Portland’s “Clash of the Titans” competition. For more information, go to confusatron.bandcamp.com.

— R.R.

SIDECAR HEROES

It’s amazing the sounds the human voice can create. Whether the five members of a cappella group Sidecar Heroes – Jason Paquette, Dennis Boyd, Mark Rowe, Patrick McCarthy and Mac Mullen – are singing Aerosmith or Stevie Wonder, they wow their audiences with vocal acrobatics and harmonies.

The southern Maine-based group has been around for a number of years, but its current core lineup has been together for about a year and a half. In performance, you’ll also hear vocal percussionist Bill Ellis.

Four of the guys performed in the Maine Steiners, the University of Maine’s celebrated all-male a cappella ensemble. The band’s goal for 2010 is to put together its first album. Go to www.sidecarheroes.com to learn more and to watch a video.

(Continued on page 2)

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