Monday, March 10, 2014
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE
At Blue, it's more about the music and less about the drinks and food.
Terez Fraser is the owner of Blue on Congress Street in Portland.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
WHERE: 650 Congress St., Portland
HOURS: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday
SCENE: Relaxed, intimate setting to enjoy a glass of wine or beer while taking in some amazing musical talent.
AMENITIES: Blue offers two or three acts of live music every night it's open.
I got that impression when I first walked in on a recent Wednesday. Just inside the door, Kevin McElroy and Jim Prendergast were setting up for Blue's weekly Irish music night. Between tuning their guitar and fiddle, they said a quick hello as I walked in.
On one wall, large chalkboards display the night's menu, featured wines and beer listings. Blue has eight beers on tap and three more offered by the bottle. The average price is about $5. There were eight wines to choose from, ranging from $6 to $10, a couple of which you can buy by the bottle. If you're looking for a liquor drink at Blue, though, you're out of luck.
As I pulled up to a seat at the bar, owner Terez Fraser greeted me. She had been mingling with other customers at Blue in between serving food and drinks.
I ordered a glass of the Callia Alta Malbec priced at $6. Fraser poured me a good portion in a goblet-sized glass that I took to a small table to enjoy.
The walls of Blue are painted a shade lighter than the red wine I sipped, which created a dark, relaxing atmosphere. I sank into my seat, sipping my glass of wine. It was fun to just listen to the duo warm up and watch the city life walk by on Congress Street.
What makes Blue unique is that the people who go really go for the music. Chatter all but stops as the artists play. Fraser said the musicians really appreciate the attentiveness of Blue's crowds. I can understand their sentiments, having been some places where bands have to compete with chatter during their performances. There's something special about sitting in silence and enjoying live music.
Fraser said she books between two and three performers every night she's open, with a schedule of what's to come listed on Blue's website. Some performers are from out of town, but most are local. Fraser said genres range from Irish music on Wednesdays to jazz on Fridays, with bluegrass, Americana and singer/songwriters in between.
Blue is also a place for burgeoning musicians to show off their talent. On Tuesdays starting at 7 p.m., it hosts a special night for the "Out of the Blue" contest. The contest features 15 to 20 musicians who pay a $5 entry fee and perform in front of an audience of peers and one guest judge. The winner takes home the entry fees collected for the night.
Fraser also likes to promote local artists. There were large photos hanging on the wall that she said were from local AmeriCorps work, but the display changes monthly to feature different local artists.
Blue is also proud to be turning 7 this month. Fraser said they'd be celebrating with a "Blue Birthday Bash" on April 29 featuring four acts. Doors open at 1 p.m., and the music starts at 2 p.m.
While I was there, the musicians took a break. Recorded Irish music kicked on in the background to stick with the night's theme. Tea light candles on each table provided most of the light, and I found it to be a rather relaxing place to enjoy a glass of wine and unwind.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.