Labor Day weekend is upon us, and that means that students will soon return to school, and it also means that bluegrass aficionados will soon return to Brunswick for the 40th-anniversary edition of the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival, Maine’s biggest such event.

Rhonda Vincent is one of several headliners at this weekend’s Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival, which runs through Sept. 1.

This year’s headliners are Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, hailing from rural Missouri, and the Gibson Brothers, hailing from upstate New York. They’re among the two dozen acts and artists appearing Aug. 29-Sept. 1.

The David Bromberg Quintet visits Portland for a two-night stand on Friday and Saturday at One Longfellow Square. Bromberg boasts a vast spectrum of styles, from bluegrass to blues.

The “Wheel in the Sky” keeps on turning in Arundel on Friday, when Scarab, a Journey tribute band, motors into Vinegar Hill Music Theatre.

Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival

Forty years ago this weekend, Pati Crooker, owner of Thomas Point Beach and Campground in Brunswick, started a new venture designed to increase business over Labor Day weekend: She started a bluegrass festival.

Within a few years her festival was recognized as one of the best in the U.S., and attracted the genre’s top artists – and lots of them. It also attracted thousands of fans. Some arrived from far away in RVs and stayed all weekend, while locals such as myself were mostly day-trippers.


Pati died three years ago, but the festival continues under the leadership of son Michael Mulligan and wife Jennifer, assisted by Shari Elder.

An even two dozen acts are slated through Sunday, Sept. 1 on the main stage and six in a sidebar showcase.

Two of the acts have copped a slew of honors. First is Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, a Missouri-based ensemble that has a Grammy to its credit and has been showered with about 100 other awards over the years from the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. Frontwoman Vincent is a mandolin virtuoso and has mastered the unique vocal styles and harmonies that define the bluegrass genre.

The other act that’s heavily laden with honors is the Gibson Brothers, a fivesome formed around Leigh and Eric Gibson, who grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and now travel the world with their ensemble.

And speaking of honors, in 2008 the festival itself was designated Event of the Year by the IBMA.

Other major acts include the Steeldrivers, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Lonely Heartstring Band, Larry Stephenson Band, Leroy Troy and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, Danny Paisley and Southern Grass, Southern Rail, Special Consensus, Della Mae and New England Bluegrass.


Generally, the main stage runs from late morning until about 11 p.m. Bring lawn chairs and dress warmly; seacoast nights are getting chilly. Food trucks and souvenir vendors abound and guests can swim at the beach.

For information and schedule, call 725-6009 or visit

David Bromberg Quintet

“The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues” is the title of David Bromberg’s latest album, the 18th in a long career that began in 1972 with his eponymous debut recording.

So the title of this newest CD gives a strong hint of what Portland audiences can expect this Friday and Saturday. Playing multiple instruments, but best known as a consummate blues guitarist, Bromberg fronts a fivesome that includes fiddle, bass and keyboards. As a songwriter, Bromberg is known for offbeat lyrics, and his stage presence is often equally quirky.

He’s performed in many genres, including bluegrass, country and rock, but Bromberg’s grounding is in a spectrum of blues styles, and I expect that he will focus on those this weekend.

Catch the David Bromberg Quintet at 8 p.m. Aug. 30-31 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.


Scarab: The Journey Experience

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the hottest band on the planet was Journey, a five-man rock ensemble fronted by Steve Perry that scored No. 1 hits with albums and singles such as “Wheel in the Sky,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Open Arms.”

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Journey’s worldwide sales have topped 75 million, making them one of the world’s all-time best-selling bands. Journey was equally popular as a live act on multiple tours.

The looks and sounds of Journey have been faithfully re-created by a tribute band that’s heading into Arundel on Friday, Scarab: The Journey Experience. I’ve seen a few of their numbers on YouTube, and they’re really good, with Sean Volpetti channeling Perry’s distinctive tenor voice and stage presence.

Catch Scarab: The Journey Experience at 8 p.m. Aug. 30 at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, 53 Old Post Road in Arundel. Call 985-5552.

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