Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a memorable year on the local music front, thanks to some sensational new releases and streaming shows. Maine musicians and venues were a flock of phoenixes. When the day comes to gather again, I can’t wait to tell all the musicians, venues owners, managers, promoters, sound people and everyone else who keeps our live music scene going how much I appreciate them.

Let’s also take a moment to celebrate the fact that the Save Our Stages Act was included in the COVID-19 relief bill and that 15 billion dollars will help independent music venues, movie theaters and performance spaces around the country stay afloat, including here in Maine.

Before I launch into the highlight reel of 2020, just a few thoughts to share.

I’ll never forget the day in mid-February when I was on my way to interview The Ballroom Thieves. They’re a nationally touring band that happens to call Maine home. I was walking across Casco Bay Bridge solo when a dog bit me so badly I had to go to urgent care. The interview was canceled and the scar on my left hip remains, as does the trauma. Later that same day, I lost my wallet and never found it. I thought that surely that would be the worst day of 2020.

Little did I know.

Little did I know how much suffering, sickness, isolation, desperation, loneliness and despair much of the world would be mired in. Little did I know I would break down in tears after being sarcastically yelled at by a passerby simply because I stepped off to the side to maintain 6 feet while out on one of hundreds of walks I’ve taken since the middle of March. Little did I know how much I would miss live music and seeing shows at venues like the State Theatre, One Longfellow Square, Portland House of Music and Stone Mountain Arts Center, to name a few. Little did I know that the time I was in Port City Music Hall in early March would be the last time before it closed forever.

But also, little did I know how much music would help to inoculate me and inject me with hope. Creators are going to create, and I’m sure glad so many of them did.

Portland House of Music T-shirt. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I was reminded this past year of how much helping others helps a person feel better. Over the last several months, I’ve happily donated to the Maine Musician Relief Fund, to specific venues, and many times during livestreams. I’ve also purchased two hats, one T-shirt, two vinyl albums and one sweatshirt from local venues and acts and have signed up to support two acts on the Patreon platform. Honestly, I wish I could have done more. I’m not bragging here; I’m gently reminding you that you can still help the Maine music scene, because we’ve got a long way to go before live music will be back to any kind of “normalcy” (a word I’ve come to despise in 2020).

Dozens upon dozens of Maine artists released new music in 2020. Before I name drop a bunch of them, let me first say this: To all the musicians out there who didn’t release new music or perform streaming shows: I see you! You’re not forgotten, not for a minute. If there is one thing we’ve all learned, it’s that everyone has had to deal with 2020 in their own way. Enough said.

I already know I’m going to forget a few people, so please forgive me in advance. That said, all of the artists on this list released new music in 2020. Some of them, I wrote about in this space over the past year, others I also played on my local radio show, and others I listened to one way or another over the past 12 months. As we steel ourselves for a long winter, I urge you to do some exploration of these artists, pick one or several and take a discovery voyage. You won’t regret it.

To all of these artists I say, THANK YOU!

Anni Clark, Jeff Christmas, Darien BrahmsLisa/Liza, Oshima Brothers, Emilia Dahlin, Hat Check Girl, KGFREEZE, Dominic Lavoie, Fat Knuckle Freddy, Gunther Brown, Lauren Crosby, Brooke Lachance, The World Famous Grassholes, Muddy Ruckus, Love By Numb3rs, Genevieve Stokes, Becca Dean Biggs, Spose, Mallett Brothers Band, Jeff Badger, Laurel Jordan, Bait Bag, Pete Kilpatrick, Kid Himself, Joel Thetford, Connor Garvey, Lynda Mandolyn, Crystal Canyon, Coyote Island, The Jacob James, The Asthmatic, An Overnight Low, The Ghost of Paul Revere, Builder of the House, Lisa Redfern, Myles Bullen, Jordan Stowell, Rachel Efron, Gentle Temper, Jonathan Edwards, The Worst, Flounce, and Dead.In.The.Gutter.

Adam Hand, Annie Hoffman and Sonia Sturino of Weakened Friends at the end of their digital concert on April 4. TV photo by Aimsel Ponti

On the streaming front, huge props to When Particles Collide, Andi Fawcett, Samuel James, Weakened Friends, The Miss Fits, Kate Beever, Jeff Beam, Sara Hallie Richardson, Toby McAllister, Lyle Divinsky, Emma Stanley, Dustin Saucier, Andrew Doody, Carol Noonan, Jud Caswell and  Jenny Van West.

Huge props also to all the venues that hosted limited capacity shows like Stone Mountain Arts Center, Boothbay Opera House, Camden Opera House and Cadenza. And to all the ones who crushed it with streaming shows like One Longfellow Square, State Theatre, Portland House of Music, Blue, Sanford Performing Arts Center and Chocolate Church Arts Center, to name a few.

Aly Spaltro stands in front of the mural announcing her home performance venue, created this year. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Lastly, a special shoutout to Lady Lamb, who created a performance space in her own front yard and hosted a number of small shows this summer and into fall. I was at the first one, and it’s one of my fondest memories of the past year.

We’ll have to wait and see what 2021 has in store, but I know one thing for sure: No matter what, I’ll never stop loving and supporting Maine’s musicians and venues.

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