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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: March 3, 2015

Maine Academy of Modern Music’s annual “Girls Rock” show returns to Port City Music Hall in Portland Friday

Written by: Ray Routhier

Bass player Skyler Cummings, at the age of 15, already has a fairly impressive rock resume.

As a member of the all-girl band Yard Sail, she’s played several gigs at the hip Portland bowling alley and music venue Bayside Bowl. She and her band mates also have played at Portland’s Port City Music Hall, which holds several hundred people and draws major rock acts from around the country.

Skyler’s good fortune is partly because she’s involved with a Portland-based music school that thinks of itself as Little League for rock musicians: the Maine Academy of Modern Music. Skyler and the other members of Yard Sail met through MAMM, where staff members organize, teach and coach youngsters who want to be in rock bands.

On Friday Yard Sail will play Port City Music Hall once again, as part of MAMM’s annual Girls Rock concert. The event features 12 acts, mostly made up of girls, though there are some boys. There are some adults, too, in the indie rock band The Box Tiger, which has members from Portland and Canada.

Besides Yard Sail, the younger acts on the bill include Guilty Bystander, The Mean Faces, Sigrid Harmon, Sadie Grant and the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra’s String Quartet.

“That’s what I love about MAMM, getting to play at places like Port City Music Hall,” said Skyler, a sophomore at Casco Bay High School in Portland. “We started out doing covers, but at this show we’ll do a couple of our original songs.”

Friday’s show will be the seventh annual Girls Rock show put on by MAMM, an organization that started about eight years ago. Jeff Shaw, the group’s director, said the shows are a way to celebrate girls and women in music, and to try get more girls involved with rock and pop music.

“When we first started, we had mostly boys in the program,” said Shaw. “Now we have all these groups with girls in them.”

The idea behind all the MAMM programs is to help youngsters play instruments and music that they want to play. Skyler, for instance, takes electric bass lessons at MAMM.

“We are trying to do for garage bands what Little League did for sandlot baseball,” said Shaw. “So we organize the kids, coach them, guide them and give lessons.”

Skyler said she and the other members of Yard Sail began doing covers of songs by the 1960s band The Velvet Underground. Now they still do covers, but of songs by more contemporary bands like The Neighbourhood and Twenty One Pilots.

But as the girls have been playing together over the past two years, they have begun to write original songs and to find their own voice as musicians.

“We definitely have a rock influence,” said Skyler. “But being teen girls, we sort of lean toward pop.”

Girls Rock

WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $10 in advance; $12 day of show; $20 preferred seating; all ages

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