Posted: May 22, 2018
13 sensational outdoor summer concerts
Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Up Next: 5 Maine races that make running fun
I decided in January that 2018 was going to be the best year in my life for live music, and so far, it’s happening. As we head into summer, the year is all the more special because we get to step through that little window of time here in Maine into that sweet spot of warm (or at least warmish) weather and hear live music outside. I’ve chosen a lucky roundup of 13 shows happening all over Maine with a few in nearby Portsmouth thrown in for good measure. These are the ones I’m most excited about, but know that there are plenty more where these came from, and we’ll do our best to preview those in the coming weeks as the days grow longer and show dates draw nearer. But, for now, I hereby offer up my official picks of outdoor shows happening in late spring and summer. Maya Angelou said, “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” I wholeheartedly embrace that sentiment, and I think it’s even better when it happens beneath the moon and stars.
Lake Street Dive
7 p.m. July 7. Thompson's Point, Portland, $44.25 in advance, $50 day of show. statetheatreportland.com
Lake Street Dive released the album "Free Yourself Up" on May 4, and it marked the highest Billboard chart
positions and sales week of their entire career. This comes as no surprise; the record is the band's best work to
date, which I don't say casually because all of their stuff is sensational. Led by Rachael Price's you-gotta-
hear-'em-to-believe-'em vocals, "Free Yourself Up" was introduced to the world by way of the bouncy single "Good
Kisser." The acoustic track "I Can Change," I dare say, is the most tender, poignant moment, and my current
favorite from "Free Yourself Up" is the rowdy and sarcastic "Dude," with the lyrical gold of "We used to kick it
like Joe and Obama/Now you just leave me at home playing mama." Lake Street Dive always puts on tremendous live
shows, so be sure to grab tickets while they're still available.
Photo by Shervin Lainez
Michael Franti and Spearhead
7:30 p.m. July 15. Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery, 175 Barrett Hill Road, Union, $60. savageoakes.com
If your smile is in need of a tune-up this summer, go see Michael Franti and Spearhead. Franti is one of
the most positive musicians you'll ever want to know, and his shows are full-on love fests. This summer, he and his
band are out on the road on the "Stay Human" tour. What's more, this show is in the idyllic setting of Savage Oakes
Vineyard and Winery, where you'll find Maine craft beverages (including plenty of wine) and food available for
purchase as you dance beneath millions of twinkling stars, singing along with songs like "The Sound of Sunshine."
Photo by Anthony Thoen
Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
7 p.m. July 21. Thompson's Point, Portland, $46 in advance, $50 day of show. statetheatreportland.com
I have to take a few deep breaths before I even write this preview. OK. Whew. Brandi Carlile has released
my favorite album of 2018 with "By The Way, I Forgive You." The first single, "The Joke," is an anthem for the
ages, with huge strings and vocals that could move mountains. I saw Carlile on two consecutive nights earlier ths
month, and hearing all the songs from "By the Way" was an experience I won't soon forget and can't wait to repeat
in July. Then there's Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and the album "The Nashville Sound," released last year. I
finally carved out time to give it a few proper spins and immediately regretted that it took me so long. "Last of
My Kind," "White Man's World" and "Anxiety" immediately jumped out at me. Then there's the radio single "If We Were
Vampires." Not unlike Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You into the Dark," it's so emotional I have to be ready
for it or I'm rendered a total mess. I'd like to buy a whiskey for whoever thought it was a good idea to put these
two acts on the same bill.
Brandi Carlile and the Hanseroth twins. Photo by Pete Souza
Ossipee Valley Music Festival
July 26 to 29. Ossipee Valley Fairgrounds, 291 South Hiram Road, South Hiram, $30 to $140 for single and multi-
day passes. ossipeevalley.com
I caught a day of the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, which included a set from The Ghost of Paul Revere,
two summers ago, and it was pure magic. With an entirely friendly vibe, the fairgrounds will be covered with fans
of roots, folk, bluegrass, Americana, jazz, Celtic and many other genres of music. There's stuff for kids to do,
four stages of music, workshops, barn dances, yoga, local food, handmade crafts, a farmers market, local beer and
plenty of food. But the music is the real star of the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, and this year's lineup
includes The Wood Brothers, Dustbowl Revival, Lula Wiles, The Suitcase Junket, The Lonely Heartstring Band, Twisted
Pine and dozens of other acts. Go for one day or the whole enchilada.
Lonely Heartstring Band photo by Hannah Cohen
7:30 p.m. Aug. 4. L.L. Bean Discovery Park, Freeport, free. llbean.com
I still only know one song from New Orleans rock band The Revivalists' most recent album, "Men Amongst
Mountains," but I'm still recommending seeing The Revivalists because they knocked my socks off last summer at The
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Colorado. "Wish I Knew You" is the song, and David Shaw is the band's singer. He's
a heck of a front man, and this band's got horns and a sometimes reggae-esque sound that's also rootsy. Their live
performance is dynamic and engaging, so be sure to get there early to snag a good spot.
Photo by Brantley Gutierrez
7:30 p.m. Aug. 17. Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery, 175 Barrett Hill Road, Union $75. savageoakes.com
Not sure if he'll be donning his mirror-ball suit in the summer heat, but you still won't want to miss
Chris Isaak. Fun fact, Isaak's hit tune "Wicked Game" is now 28 years old but still packs a wallop with his
signature crooning vocals. Chances are excellent that Isaak will also play "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" and
"Somebody's Crying." Isaak's discography is a dozen albums strong, and many of his bandmates have been with him for
years, which makes for a stupendous live show.
Photo by Andrew Macpherson
Ghostland featuring The Ghost of Paul Revere, Shovels & Rope, The Ballroom Thieves, Max Garcia Conover, Sibylline and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra
5 p.m. Sept. 1. Thompson's Point, Portland, $35 in advance, $40 day of show. statetheatreportland.com
This lineup is so good, I almost didn't believe it when I first got wind of this show. What a way to unofficially close out the summer! Maine's The Ghost of Paul Revere is having the biggest year of its career with the release of "Monarch," which included an appearance on Conan. The Ballroom Thieves released the five-star "Paper Crown." Sibylline is the band that used to be called Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters, which has since added Dan Capaldi to the lineup. It has a new album coming out at the end of the month. Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, under the direction on Kevin Oates, continues to dazzle, and quite frankly, Max Garcia Conover is, in my opinion, the best songwriter in Maine. That leaves Shovels & Rope. It's the heart-stopping folk rock duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, and its show last fall at Port City Music Hall was one of the highlights of my live music year.
Shovels & Rope photo by Leslie Ryan McKellar
Portugal. The Man
7 p.m. May 26. Thompson's Point, Portland, $40 in advance, $45 day of show. statetheatreportland.com
Kick off your outdoor summer concert schedule on a very upbeat note with Portugal. The Man. The smash hit
"Feel It Still" has been streamed nearly a half a billion times on Spotify, and the song earned the act a Grammy
for best pop duo/group performance. Meanwhile, the feel-good dance-inducing "Live in the Moment" from the act's
eighth studio album, "Woodstock," also has a fire beneath it as it burns up the charts. Portugal. The Man is
originally out of Alaska but currently calls the other Portland home. Listening to several songs from this act
reminded me that I need to sway my hips way more and seriously up my dancing game. I suspect there will be a whole
lot of this going on beside Casco Bay on Memorial Day weekend.
Photo courtesy of the artist
7 p.m. June 15. Prescott Park, Portsmouth, $8 suggested donation, $10 VIP. prescottpark.org
I've been a fan of singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco for pretty much her entire career, starting with her
self-titled debut album from 1990 with the songs "Both Hands" and "Fire Door." Now, 28 years later, the fire burns
as brightly as ever with last year's "Binary," her 19th album (not including several live ones). She plays acoustic
guitar with so much intensity that she often covers her finger tips in black electrical tape. Lyrically, DiFranco
takes aim at politics, sexism and love, among other topics, and she does so with razor-sharp wordsmithing. Her live
shows are swirling cauldrons of emotion and first-rate musicianship. P.S. If you'd rather see Ani in the great
indoors, she'll be at the State Theatre the night before this outdoor show.
Photo by GMD Three
Fitz and the Tantrums and X Ambassadors
6 p.m. June 16. Thompson's Point, Portland, $38.50 in advance, $42 day of show. statetheatreportland.com
Dance-poppers Fitz and the Tantrums is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. It's three albums
into its recording career, and I included this show on my list on the strength of the highly addictive tune
"HandClap." Here's hoping the band plays a 15-minute mega version, and that the line "every night when the stars
come out" coincides with the sunset. I am certain that if I had put this song on my Beach to Beacon mix last year,
I would have set a record. But Fitz is no one-hit wonder, with other hits like "Out Of My League" and "The Walker,"
both worthy of my next running mix. I also need to throw some love at X Ambassadors because "Unsteady" hits me
square in the feels. "Renegades" and "Jungle" will also elicit some seriously enthusiastic screams.
Photo by Joseph Cultice
7:30 p.m. June 16. Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery, 175 Barrett Hill Road, Union, $75. savageoakes.com
You haven't truly experienced the music of Melissa Etheridge until you've seen her live, and here's a
chance to see her with a full band smack dab in the middle of summer. I can't think of any other song that rages
with heartache and jealousy quite like "Like the Way I Do" from Etheridge's debut album, which is now three decades
old. That same album is home to "Bring Me Some Water," "Chrome Plated Heart" and "Similar Features," all of which
she'll hopefully hit us with at this show. I'd also like to request "No Souvenirs," "You Can Sleep While I Drive"
and "Nowhere to Go" while I'm at it. I've seen Etheridge probably a half-dozen times dating back to the days of
"Brave and Crazy," and she never disappoints with, those raspy, potent pipes and tremendous guitar chops.
Photo by Myriam Santos
The Ballroom Thieves
7 p.m. June 27. Prescott Park, Portsmouth, $10 donation. prescottpark.org
My love for folk-rock trio The Ballroom Thieves keeps growing by leaps and bounds, and it just took another
upward turn with the release of their latest EP, "Paper Crown." The band is Martin Earley (guitar, vocals), Calin
Peters (vocals, cello) and Devin Mauch (percussion, vocals). The albums "A Wolf in the Doorway" (2015) and
"Deadeye" (2016) came before "Paper Crown," and all three releases are fantastic. I've seen the Thieves live a
couple of times, and hearing those harmonies in person is chills-inducing, especially when paired with guitar,
cello and percussion.
Photo courtesy of the artist
Ray LaMontagne and Neko Case
7 p.m. June 28. Darling's Waterfront Pavilion, 1 Railroad St., Bangor $25 general admission lawn seating, $69.75
to $69 for reserved seating. waterfrontconcerts.com
Simply put, I'm in deluxe-swoon mode over Ray LaMontagne's gorgeous new song "Such a Simple Thing," and I
pretty much worship every single thing Neko Case has ever done, so to say I'm looking forward to this show is the
understatement of the year. But wait. What's this? Another new Ray song has been released. It's called "Paper Man,"
and it, too, is fantastic. The entire new album, "Part of the Light," dropped on May 18, and I plan on taking the
Nestea plunge into it ASAP. As for Case, her forthcoming album, "Hell On," is due out on June 1, and the first two
tracks, "Bad Luck" and "Curse of the I-5 Corridor," are in heavy rotation in this fan's ears. Case is one of those
singers that I could listen to endlessly, I love her voice and songwriting so much. Her live show also doesn't
disappoint, and I can't believe we'll get to hear her, then LaMontagne, both play a bunch of new material.
Photo courtesy of the artist