If you can’t find a place to see live music in southern Maine, you aren’t looking hard enough.

In the past few months, a half dozen performance spaces opened in southern Maine. They range from Venue Music Bar and Grille in Portland, which opened in June in the old Raoul’s space on Forest Avenue and has shows almost every night, to the brand-new music, film and art space in Biddeford called The Oak + The Ax, which opened in October.

There’s also Bayside Bowl in Portland, a bowling alley on Alder Street that has live music two or three nights a week and can hold up to 300 people. It opened in June.

Racks, a new sports bar on St. John Street in Portland, features Hooters-style waitresses, and is planning to have live music on Saturdays. Lucid Stage, a performance venue with a focus on theater, opened in September on Baxter Boulevard in Portland, and its managers are hoping to book musical acts.

And of course the State Theatre on Congress Street in Portland re-opened in October after a four-year closure, and now has a slew of national acts scheduled. But with about 1,500 seats, the State Theatre is a whole different animal than the places mentioned above.

Each of the new places offers a different vibe and different opportunities for both performers and audiences.

The Oak + The Ax has a coffee-room vibe, and is located in the back of a building in downtown Biddeford. The place had been run for the past year as Hogfarm Studios Annex, but reopened in October as The Oak + The Ax under the management of Greg and Kristin Jamie.

The Jamies honeymooned in Maine and lived in New York City during the past few years. Greg is a musician who has played around the country in bands, including Blood Warrior with Kristin. In that band, the couple played Hogfarm Studios Annex and fell in love with the room.

“Our decision had much to do with breaking away from familiarity, from our comfort zone, and attempting to find a new home,” said Greg. “As opposed to getting lost in New York, which can feel over-saturated and overwhelming.”

Greg Jamie says the place will feature art, film, poetry, music and all sorts of performance art. As for music, he says the focus will be on folk, or at least a hint of folk.

The 20 or so shows booked so far include local, regional and national acts. The first show, on Oct. 12, included groups from Chicago (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), Australia (Otouto) and Vermont (Hello Shark).

Bayside Bowl opened in Portland in June, and was modeled after other combination bowling alley/music venues in New Orleans and Brooklyn, said Nathan Eldridge, head of booking and publicity for the venue.

The place is set up with a circular bar in the middle, a pie-shaped stage on one side and 12 bowling lanes on the other. Sound from shows is piped into the alleys as well as into the bathroom, Eldridge said.

Live shows are mostly on Friday and Saturday nights, and people can bowl during performances. Then there’s “Kill the Karaoke” nights on Wednesdays. On those nights, there is a live band playing behind whoever wants to get up and sing, Eldridge said.

The musical styles at Bayside Bowl vary. There have been rock, rockabilly and Cajun acts. Blues band Jimmy and the Soul Cats played in early November, while alt-country band Girls, Guns and Glory is scheduled to play Dec. 3.

The Venue Music Bar and Grille is not strictly brand-new, since there has been a Venue in Freeport for a while. But the second Venue opened in Portland in June, and all the shows are now at the Portland location.

The Portland Venue is housed in a renovated space that had housed the legendary Roaul’s Roadside Attraction in the 1980s and 1990s.

And like that club, Venue has a full slate of nightly music, including some big acts. Boston rocker Sarah Borges will play at 9 p.m. Friday, and country star Suzy Bogguss is scheduled to play a Christmas show on Dec. 11.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]


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