Ryan Peters (Spose). Photo by Tom Couture

March 12 marks the two-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Maine, and so this week, I talked to some local musicians about how the pandemic has changed Maine’s music scene and them as artists.

From panic attacks to pining for the stage and getting a chance to rest and recharge, Maine musicians have been through it all during this pandemic and have shown their resiliency and creativity.

But now, two years after tours came to a grinding halt and local performances vaporized virtually overnight, shows are back in full swing, albums are being released, tour vans are being gassed up and tickets are being sold. Fingers crossed that this forward momentum continues.

Still, there’s no question that the Maine music scene and musicians themselves have been permanently altered – though, they said, not all for the worse.

One local loss that can’t be ignored, however, is the closure of the 500-person capacity Port City Music Hall in Portland during the summer of 2020. As Sanford-based rapper Ryan Peters, aka Spose, pointed out, it was an essential stepping-stone venue for new local artists to play before graduating to larger spaces like Aura and the State Theatre.

“Now I’m not sure how an up-and-coming artist could do that,” said Peters, who released the double-album “Get Rich Or Die Ryan” last year and is planning a summer tour in support of it.


But that might not be as necessary as it was before, because of something else that’s occurred.

“The other big change is an even heavier emphasis on streaming and the de-emphasis of any local aspect of local artists,” Peters said.

Musicians in their teens and early 20s are now looking to Spotify and TikTok as their gateways to a music career, rather than playing at local clubs, and they’re going, as Peters put it, “from bedroom straight to giant venues, basically.”

For musicians who were busy working on musical projects when the lockdown happened, the change of pace provided an opportunity.

Anna Lombard. Photo by Shervin Lainez

“Musicians all had two years to grow behind close doors,” said Portland-based singer Viva.

Anna Lombard, vocalist in roots act Love By Numb3rs and also a solo artist in South Portland, agreed: “We had to take a pause and recalibrate.”


Portland singer-songwriter Jenny Van West said that despite the many difficulties and uncertainties, she appreciated the break and has emerged in a good place.

“I like to think the last two years have made us all slightly better people, and I intend to bring my part of that forward for myself and others through music in the studio, with my colleagues here and elsewhere, and on mics in venues internationally.”

The challenge of finding ways to continue to perform is also something they believe will have a positive effect in the long run.

“I feel like musicians worked harder as we were hit with such a catastrophic blow of losing live music, we had to me more creative, more experimental,” said Lombard.

One of those creative trends that Viva hopes will stick around is livestreaming of shows.

But their appreciation for performing in front of audiences also grew, and for Lombard, the anticipation of eventually returning to the stage motivated her to keep creating.

“Gotta find the beauty in the loss,” said Lombard, who just released the single “Push,” which she recorded with OHX, the musical collective of producers and musicians led by Andy Mead. “The comfort and sense of community and coming together that live music will always bring, that will never change.”

Jenny Van West. Photo by Bram Heeren

Viva, who will be performing several shows in the coming months with Palaver Strings, hopes that fans understand this and show up for shows.

“What we need is for audiences to dedicate the same level of support that they showed us over and over again these past two years,” she said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.