Sarah Shook & The Disarmers.  Photo by Chad Cochran

The All Roads Music Festival is a two-day event in downtown Belfast featuring dozens of local acts, with The Mallett Brothers Band, Love By Numb3rs, Drive By Todd and Crystal Canyon in this year’s lineup.

After a two-year pandemic pause, the festival is back on for May 20 and 21. Festival director Meg Shorette is thrilled. “Everything about it feels special, and I don’t think I could replicate it anywhere else,” she said.

Over the years, Shorette’s been asked to consider moving the festival to places like Bangor or Portland but said it wouldn’t be the same thing for the acts or the fans. “It is really fun to wander around this beautiful coastal town and see all these musicians interacting together.”

Belfast is indeed a gorgeous spot and well worth the drive, which is just over 100 miles from Portland. All the participating venues are within easy walking distance from one another, and there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat while you’re there.

North Carolina-based roots rock/outlaw country band Sarah Shook & The Disarmers is also on the bill. Shorette became a fan when she was talent buyer for Port City Music Hall before its closure during the pandemic. It’s the first time a non-Maine act has played the festival, but Shorette said she broke her own rule for good reason.

“I fell in love with their sound and their energy and everything, and as far as I’m concerned, they could be a Maine musician because they have that grit and everything that I love about Maine musicians,” she said.

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The band’s latest album, their third, is “Nightroamer,” and they’ll be closing out the festival on the Steamboat Landing outdoor stage at 8:3o p.m. Saturday.

Along with the main stage at Steamboat Landing, most of the performances will take place at The Colonial Theatre, The Bazz and The First Church, all within less than a half mile of each other.

Lady Lamb (Aly Spaltro). Photo by Erica Peplin

The kickoff party on Friday night will be at Three Tides bar and restaurant on Marshall Wharf and features performances by Lady Lamb, Tiger Bomb and Muskeg, along with DJ Just Milk. Lady Lamb (Aly Spaltro) is a nationally touring singer-songwriter and Maine native who moved back here in 2020 after a decade in Brooklyn, New York. She was one of the acts at the inaugural festival in 2015.

There’s also a closing party at Three Tides, starting at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, featuring tunes spun by DJ Mosart212.

Should attendees want to start the day off on a relaxing note, there’s a free outdoor Festival Flow yoga class at 11 a.m. Saturday at Steamboat Landing.

Music starts at noon with the Maine Songwriter’s Circle at the Colonial. The performance and panel discussion, including audience questions, will be moderated by radio personality and writer Holly Nunan, and the participating musicians are Joel Thetford, Alyssa Kelly, Sara Trunzo, Toby McAllister and Cam Jones.

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From there, all four stages will be active into the evening, and Shorette explained there’s usually about 10 or 15 minutes of overlap to encourage attendees to be fluid with what acts they see and to ensure venues don’t become overcrowded. “Because there’s this natural urge to move around, you can see two bands in one slot,” she said.

In the past, the festival’s footprint has been wider, but things have changed since 2019. “This year, because of the venues that were available and the way Belfast has evolved over two years of the pandemic, the venues that we have are all very close together,” Shorette explained.

Shorette was reluctant to name a favorite act on this year’s slate of performers, but she does love this year’s lineup for a few reasons. First off, bigger acts who have played in the past, like Ballroom Thieves, Spose, GoldenOak, Weakened Friends and Bait Bag, weren’t available – not for lack of interest, but rather because they’re able to tour again and have other commitments. But the silver lining is clear to Shorette. “It made room for some of the other artists who have formed during the pandemic,” she said, including Sullen Eyes, Cody Jayne and Love By Numb3rs.

All Roads is a project of Shorette’s Bangor-based nonprofit arts incubator called Launch Pad, which she founded  in 2011. Its focus is to collaborate with artists, arts organizations and communities to develop creative places in Maine.

All told, 33 acts will participate in this year’s All Roads Music Festival. It’s intentionally scheduled for the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, to serve as an unofficial start to the summer. It’s also a really good time if you’re a music lover looking for adventure and exposure to multiple genres of music in an idyllic setting. Gas up, and let’s do this.

All Roads Music Festival
Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21. Several locations in downtown Belfast; $25 in advance/$30 day-of for Friday night pass, $35 in advance/$40 day-of for Saturday pass, $75 in advance/$80 day-of for VIP pass (includes entrance to all venues, opening and closing parties and festival tee), $10 for Friday night opening party (21-plus), $10 for Saturday night closing party (21-plus), $10 youth pass for ages 10 and under. For tickets and more information, go to allroadsmusicfest.org.


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