Jeff Beam, interim executive director of One Longfellow Square, is optimistic about the venue’s future. Live music is returning in October and in the meantime One Longfellow Square is embarking on outdoor concerts for the first time. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The past 12 months, with no live music events due to the pandemic, has been a time of worry and uncertainty for One Longfellow Square in Portland. Now, though, interim Executive Director Jeff Beam is feeling optimistic as the 185-seat venue makes plans to reopen.

One Longfellow Square will host its first-ever off-site outdoor concerts this summer, and last week it announced it would reopen its own doors Oct. 8 with a show by Jonathan Edwards.

“Our members are hungry for live music again,” said Beam, who also works as programming director and venue manager.

One Longfellow Square is partnering with Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery in Union to present singer-songwriter Amy Helm at the winery Aug. 15 and is looking into hosting additional concerts at Deering Oaks Park in September.

The Edwards show will be the first live, on-site concert for One Longfellow Square in close to 20 months.

“We thought it would be a good symbolic and strong show to start with,” Beam. “He is definitely one of the flagship artists we have here. He loves playing here and we love to have him.”

Edwards said he is happy One Longfellow Square will be back up and running soon.

“There aren’t many venues like it anywhere and we are very fortunate to have it in our backyard,” he said.

Edwards has been performing at the venue for more than 10 years and always looks forward to his annual visit.

“It seems to bring out the best in everyone,” he said. “I know it does in me. The audiences who support the club and all of us who play there are a unique mix of sophistication and enthusiasm. They get to hear the best of the touring artists and a few of the local standouts and greet them all with encouragement and appreciation.”
Also scheduled to performing that opening weekend is Patty Larkin on Oct. 9 and Jonatha Brooke on Oct. 10.
The announcement of a return to live music comes a year after an emergency fundraising effort was organized to allow the venue to retain its small staff and pay its bills, including its $6,000 monthly rent for its space at the corner of Congress and State streets.

The effort raised $175,000, close to double the initial $100,000 goal.

“Even in the best of times, we rely on a full schedule and people packing the concerts,” Beam said. “We realized in June (2020) if we didn’t do anything we wouldn’t last passed Labor Day 2020.”

Beam says One Longfellow Square lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the postponement or cancellation of the 100 shows it had scheduled for 2020.

“We had one heck of a set of shows planned for 2020. Things had been on the rise,” Beam said. “We anticipated it would be a year of growth for us. What we got was the opposite.”

But now the venue will begin to provide the intimate folk, jazz, blues and acoustic shows it is known for.

“We are hopeful we will be at full capacity. Artists are certainly hungry to get back to performing,” said Beam, whose favorite shows over the years have been performances by Rambling Jack Elliott, Denny Lane, Micah Nelson and George Winston.

With vaccination rates increasing, COVID-19 cases decreasing and federal funding likely from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which provides emergency assistance for venues that were unable to operate during the pandemic, Beam said he is optimistic about the venue’s future.

“This has always been an evolving space,” Beam said. “There have been a lot of ups and downs. It’s rebounded again and again. I am glad the pandemic wasn’t the final nail in the coffin and we got another lease on life.”

For more information about One Longfellow Square, visit onelongfellowsquare.com.

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