Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Steve Feeney
The cooler weather outside granted some mercy to the large crowd at the non-air conditioned State Theatre in Portland on Friday night. But with rock, hip-hop, funk, country, soul, pop and dance music offered in various combinations by the various individuals and bands who filled the program, the music was mostly of the sort intended to increase the heat.
Put together by Katalyst Brand and the Baxter Brewing Co., the "State of the State" show certainly couldn't claim to encompass all that is happening on the Maine music scene. But at least in addressing the more popular genres, it wasn't bad for a start in that direction. If anything, it may actually have been a little too much of a good thing -- musically, that is.
A good cause was incorporated into the show. The late Raina Davis Jensen, a music fan and social activist, was remembered from the stage, and fundraising for a foundation in her name took place throughout the evening.
Despite a hard luck back-story that's been difficult for them to shake, Portland's Rustic Overtones, now in their 20th year, have always been mostly about good times. The powerhouse octet can generate a lot of energy while touching a lot of musical bases in funk, jazz, rock, etc. Their sophisticated, yet all-out, musical arrangements seemed a perfect capper for the diverse lineup that preceded them. Unfortunately, a 10:45 start time and a newspaper deadline precluded full coverage of their set. But they sounded strong as they worked up a ruckus early on.
With personal and musical roots in folk music, brothers Luke and Will have forged The Mallett Brothers Band into an alt-country phenomenon that musically hikes the full length of the Appalachian Trail. The guitar-heavy band hit a groove with "Somethin' To Lean On" but their set felt a little bit rushed, as did most of the performances.
Another brother-led group, The Wrecking is a band that incorporates a sometimes British-Isles sound in originals that subtly reference its members strong Christian beliefs. It is a tight band that rocks hard and finished with a soaring instrumental freakout that truly suggested transcendence.
Spose, the rapper from Wells, got a little help in presenting his verbal forays from Sly-Chi, a funky local ensemble with whom he has worked before. He reminded the enthusiastic crowd that "I'm Awesome," though he "Can't Get There From Here."
With electronically looped harmonies and synthesizer beats, The Other Bones create sounds much larger than might be expected from a feisty trio of musicians. They impressed particularly on "Feels Like Home," with vocalist Loretta Allen wailing.
If there was ever any doubt, "State of the State" proved that the mixture of rising stars, journeymen and legends that constitutes most local music scenes is particularly potent in the Pine Tree State.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.