Mark Belanger calls seeing Portland rock band Twisted Roots for the first time a “life-changing” experience.

Belanger was about 20 years old and playing guitar in cover bands around Bangor in the early 1990s when he saw Twisted Roots at a small venue in Old Town. The idea that a local band playing all original music could be that good blew his mind.

“It was the first time I had ever seen a band playing all original music, that wasn’t a national act, when I thought ‘there’s absolutely nothing I’d change about these guys,'” said Belanger, who has played in the Portland band Pigboat for nearly 20 years.

Twisted Roots members will reunite Saturday at Aura in Portland to play a show celebrating the 30th anniversary of their album “Turn to Stone.” The band last played a public show together about five years ago.

Formed in 1989, Twisted Roots was one of the first bands that drew outside attention, including from record labels and radio stations, to the Portland music scene in the early 1990s. The band toured frequently, played showcase concerts for record label executives and had songs played on radio stations around the country.

“I’d say they are in the godfather category when it comes to the Portland music scene,” Belanger said. “They’ve inspired and helped so many bands.”


The band’s original line-up included Pete Giordano on guitar and vocals and his brother Phil on drums – both had moved to Maine from the New York area – along with Adam Powers on guitar and Scott Partridge on bass. Within a couple of years, they added Neil Collins on bass.

“It was hard to find places to play at first, because for most of the places, cover bands were their bread and butter. People weren’t taking chances on local music,” said Pete Giordano, 54, of Falmouth. “There were some great bands doing amazing stuff, but they didn’t always stay in Portland.”

Early on, Twisted Roots played at Geno’s, then on Brown Street. The band eventually started getting into other Portland venues, including Zootz and T-Birds, and it went to lots of open mic nights. Twisted Roots also traveled to small venues around the state, including several shows around Old Town and Orono. Giordano remembers recording 50 cassette tapes of the bands’ songs to hand out to people, for free.

A big break came when the “Turn to Stone” album started getting air play on Portland rock station WBLM, Giordano said. The band soon went from playing in front of crowds of a couple hundred people to 1,000 or more, including headlining a show at the State Theatre.

The band traveled often to New York to play “showcases” in front of record executives looking for promising new bands. At one point, they got a development deal with MCA, with the label giving them money to record songs.

“We would do these showcases, for eight or 10 labels, and it could be pretty stressful,” said Collins, who played bass in the band from about 1991 to 1996.


Though the band’s line-up changed over the years, the group played regularly until around 2006. The band started up again a couple times between 2009 and 2104.

The members who will be at the reunion show, besides Giordano and Collins, are Powers, bass player Mark Lennon and drummer Sonny Robinson. Phil Giordano left the band in the early 1990s and died while still in his 20s after battling drug and alcohol addiction, his brother said.

While Twisted Roots members don’t play together often, they are still involved in the Portland music scene. Giordano plays in the rock and funk group Forest City & Friends while working as a biomedical equipment technician at the American Red Cross. Collins, 56, plays in the rock band Murcielago and runs a boatyard in Georgetown.

The show, while featuring a heavy dose of songs from “Turn to Stone,” will feature music from the rest of the band’s catalog as well.

“We had so many great times playing together. We all grew up together,” said Giordano of reuniting with his bandmates. “It’s sort of bittersweet because it might be the last time we play together, but I can’t say for sure.”

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.

filed under: