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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the WCHS TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Face the Music with Aimsel Ponti
Posted: September 26, 2017

Queen gets the royal treatment from Sean Slaughter and friends

The Master Stroke Queen Experience performs classic songs by Queen on Friday at Port City Music Hall in Portland. Photo by Damon H. Loucks

The Master Stroke Queen Experience performs classic songs by Queen on Friday at Port City Music Hall in Portland.
Photo by Damon H. Loucks

Classic rock on the radio can often, to me at least, be like nails on a chalkboard. There are only so many times I can handle hearing certain songs, even great ones. Right? But there are a few exceptions to this and one of them is Queen.

You won’t find me changing the station when a Queen song comes on, even the massively over-played “Bohemian Rhapsody.” To this day,  I reach for the dial — to turn it up. Ditto for “Under Pressure,” “We Are the Champions,” “Somebody to Love” and all of the other Queen hits that have been in regular rotation at classic rock stations around the globe for decades.

Which brings me to what’s happening on Friday night. For the third consecutive year, singer Sean Slaughter is assembling a crazy talented group of musicians into a group called The Master Stroke Queen Experience, and they’re going to perform the ultimate Queen tribute show at Port City Music Hall.

Along with Slaughter on lead vocals and 10 people in the band (including four backup singers and guitar god John Edwards), there will be some special guests making Queen magic. You’ll hear from Renee Coolbrith, Dan Capaldi and Holly Nunan, and there will be a special duet performance by teens Sophie Patenaude (vocals) and Michael Corleto (guitar).

Here’s a clip of Slaughter and the band performing “Under Pressure” at last year’s show:

Sean Slaughter’s love for Freddie Mercury and Queen is tremendous. So much so that in 2011 he submitted a clip during a talent search for a Queen Extravaganza singer. He was so good that he made it to the final round, which took place in the Foo Fighters’ recording studio in Los Angeles. Slaughter didn’t win the coveted spot, but he surely had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Queen drummer Roger Taylor was there in the studio that day, as was the band’s longtime manger Jim Beech. Guitarist Brian May watched it streamed live. Does it get any cooler?

Here’s the famous audition clip:

The Portland show will feature a melange of Queen hits you know and love, and they’ll also be playing the “News of the World” album in its entirety. This is the album with “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” as well as “Sheer Heart Attack.”

I reached out to Slaughter to find out why he chose this album to tackle. “It’s a lot different from their older albums in that it’s more stripped down. Queen was famous for multi-tracking and insane amounts of layers of vocals and guitars to their records,” he explained, adding that with the “News” album, the band kept things simpler. “The complexity in the songwriting is still there, but the recordings themselves have less bells and whistles. They still cover a gamut of different musical genres though, which is something that I have always loved about them, and each song on the album is stellar.”

Slaughter and I also realized we have something in common when it comes to this album. As kids, we were both terrified of the cover artwork. The scary robot was a painting by sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas, which Roger Taylor had spotted and loved, and so the band reached out to Freas, who redid it, this time with the robot holding dead and bloodied band members in its cold metal hand. The inner gatefold, however, is what really traumatized me, with zombie-looking fans fleeing what appears to be some kind of concert hall with a giant robot hand reaching down trying to grab them. Chilling. Yet awesome.

The album celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so it seems that Slaughter chose very well. I went to last year’s show, which covered “A Night at the Opera,” and stood right up front pretty much the entire time. I was riveted and hung on every word. They began the show with “Flash’s Theme” from Queen’s 1980 “Flash Gordon” soundtrack, and as far as I’m concerned, they can revisit that opening this year because it was stupendous, enhanced even further by Slaughter’s “Flash” T-shirt, which I’m still mad I don’t own. Go see this show. I’ll be there, with mud on my face, a big disgrace. But also a massive smile.

3rd Annual Queen Tribute Night

WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $12 in advance, $15 day of show, 18-plus
INFO: portcitymusichall.com

Photo by Jessie McCall

Photo by Jessie McCall

THERE’S SO MUCH to love about the Waking Windows Festival, but I’ll shine a light on one act in particular that I’m excited about: indie folk-pop act the Shook Twins. They’re part of a six-act lineup on Saturday night at One Longfellow Square that includes Jimmy Dority, Mega Bog, Lina Tullgren, Tredici Bacci with Chandra Oppenheim & Ed Askew and Ava Luna.

I wasn’t familiar with the Shook Twins, but now I’m their newest fan, especially since hearing their brand new single “Mad Scientist,” released just days ago. It’s a song penned by their friend Vance Bergeron, and it’s lovely. “I’ve got to keep from tearing apart/Like a mad scientist working in the dark/I put a can of chemicals on a rich man’s guitar/With the hopes of something better and the shine of the stars.” The song’s really gotten under my skin since I first heard it a week ago, and it inspired me to dive into the Shook Twins’ 2014 album “What We Do,” which I’m now also over the moon over. From the catchy “Thought All In” to the stirring “Shake” and the hopeful “Awhile,” I’m all about this band. The Shook Twins are identical twin sisters Katelyn (guitar, ukulele, glockenspiel, mandolin, vocals) and Laurie Shook (banjo, percussion). Rounding out the band are Niko Daoussis (mandolin, electric guitar, electric drums, bass, vocals) Josh Simon (bass, vocals) and Barra Brown (drums, electronic drum pad, vocals).

Here’s the song “Awhile”

Even though I’m already going to three concerts this week, I think I’ll have to make it an even four because I’m not sure I’ll be able to shake the regret if I miss the Shook Twins, especially since they’ll be accompanied by The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra,

Shook Twins with Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

WHEN: 7:15 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $12.
INFO: onelongfellowsquare.com

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