What did this last year feel like to you? Did the WePushButtons Awards seem like progress in bringing together the hip-hop and electronic music community together? Has the opening of the North Star Café and now the Empire offset some of the losses we’ve experienced recently with live-music venues? Did the return of Rustic Overtones also return the idea that our local musicians could be stars? And that the Asylum can still be a great place to see a show?
Something about 2007 felt good, in a way that the local-music scene hasn’t felt good since maybe 2000. Not only were the albums great this year, but the energy was good, too. The Portland Music Foundation held an open house and we were overwhelmed with how many of you came out to support our efforts. When our first educational seminars kick off in January, it will be the culmination of more than 18 months of work. The e-mails offering help of all kinds have been flowing in and it’s clear that people want and expect more out of our local scene.
For the first time in a while, it feels like we can get there — a place where bands can make a living playing live music, and so, too, club owners, bartenders, and studio engineers make music their profession. Here are some things I’d love to see happen in the next year that would further that goal.
1) For the CITY OF PORTLAND TO INVEST IN A MARKETING CAMPAIGN to promote the Congress Street live-music offerings, likely the greatest strip of it north of Boston: Moving from Bramhall Square to the Eastern Prom, you’ve got the Bramhall Pub, One Longfellow Square, Blue, Geno’s, Strange Maine, the Empire, the White Heart, SPACE, the North Star Café, and the St. Lawrence Arts Center, where you’ve got a good shot of finding local original music on any given weekend. In 2000, exactly one of those places, the Bramhall, was in operation. The Old Port is no longer the hub of local music. The Arts District deserves that name more than ever and we need to be spreading the word.
2) For the PORTLAND PRESS HERALD TO MAKE A REAL COMMITMENT TO LOCAL MUSIC: Each Sunday, you’re likely to see a pretty painting on the cover of the "Audience" section, or maybe a sculpture. It’s easy to support local visual art, isn’t it, because you get to run a beautiful piece of art, for free, on the cover of your section when you do it? Musicians don’t often supply free beautiful art. Plus, you’ve actually got to spend some time listening to local music, while you can view visual art in seconds. On any given Sunday, you can read a story written by a local person about traveling somewhere, about some home-improvement project, about a hunting or fishing trip. Those things all deserve coverage, no doubt, but so does local music. Why isn’t there a local CD review every week in the "Audience" section? It makes no sense.