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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: February 27, 2017

Embracing Iceland’s influence with Sunaana

Written by: Ray Routhier
Rozes Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping company known for helping export Maine blueberries and potatoes worldwide, is also interested in importing and exporting culture.

The company helped local organizers come up with the idea for a midwinter festival of music, beer and performance called Sunaana, scheduled for Saturday at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Eimskip even helped arrange for an Icelandic pop-rock band Mammut to play. The day-long festival features music from a dozen national and local acts, including the singer-songwriter Rozes, who last year had a pop hit on the radio called “Roses” with The Chainsmokers. There will also be nearly two dozen beers to sample, a selection curated by Portland’s own Bissell Brothers brewery, plus performances by Circus Maine. The musical lineup was assembled by Darren Elder of The Halo Studio, a recording studio in Windham.

Here’s “Under the Grave” by Rozes

Eimskip makes it a point to try to build cultural connections in all the cities it ships to, said Larus Isfeld, managing director for Eimskip USA. So, shortly after starting to do business in Portland, in 2013, Eimskip started reaching out to businesses and community members, looking for ways to collaborate. Several Maine entrepreneurs went to Iceland and attended a cold-weather music festival there called Airwaves. That put an idea in their heads about doing something similar in Portland.

Mainers, as well as Icelanders, embrace cold weather. So, even though summer is the time you normally find beer and music festivals, who says you can’t have one in early March, too?

“We went over to check out Airwaves, and we were astounded. The city becomes the festival,” said Chris Thompson, who with Jed Troubh is leading the redevelopment of Thompson’s Point. “We’re launching the festival here (at Thompson’s Point) but would love to see it grow throughout the city.”

Thompson’s Point’s winter attractions, a covered outdoor skating rink and ice-covered tubing hill, will be open to the general public during the festival and festival-goers will get a discount on them. The main performance and beer tasting space will be indoors, in the massive old brick building known as Brick South, a vestige of Thompson’s Point’s history as an industrial hub. The land is currently being developed for a mix of entertainment, business and residential uses, and both Bissell Brothers and Circus Maine are among the tenants.

Sunaana is Greenlandic for “What is it?” which leaves a lot of room for defining the festival. But this year, the main components are music and beer, with performances as well. The festival is scheduled for 1 p.m. to midnight, with music starting around 2 p.m. Maine-based bands performing include: Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters, an indie-folk group; Hours North, doing a blend of acoustic rock, hip hop and folk; Armies, an electro pop band inspired by French pop duets and led by singers Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard; The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, performing with Massachusetts band Town Meeting; Dylan Raw, a hip hop artist from South Portland, and Fort Gorgeous, a Brooklyn, New York, outfit led by former Maine resident Billy Libby, a songwriter and guitarist.

 Scott Sorry Photo courtesy of the artist

Scott Sorry
Photo courtesy of the artist

Some of the other bands on the bill include Valleyheart and Lannen, two rock bands out of Massachusetts; singer-songwriter Scott Sorry, a Philadelphia native, and Mammut, the pop band from Reykjavik, Iceland. Rozes will perform last, closing the festival.

Rozes, whose real name is Elizabeth Mencel, experienced her first national success last year when she was the vocalist on the song “Roses” by the electronic music duo The Chainsmokers. The song was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 30 weeks, peaking at No. 6. She took her stage name partly because her grandmother’s name is Rose.

Mencel wrote the song with The Chainsmokers’ Drew Taggart, who is from Freeport. The partnership came about “randomly,” she said during a phone interview for this story. She had written a song for a deejay, and The Chainsmokers heard it and found other songs by her on the Internet. Then Alex Pall, Taggart’s partner in The Chainsmokers, called Mencel up and asked her if she wanted to write a song with them.

“And so we just ended up in Drew’s apartment, talking about life, about music,” Mencel, 23, said. “Drew and I are both in relationships, both new at the time and wanting to take it slow but knowing what a great thing we have. So we drew on that for the song.”

Based in Philadelphia, Mencel is a singer-songwriter who performs all her own material. She said she grew up playing piano and was influenced early on by singer-songwriters, including Ingrid Michaelson. She was especially influenced by the music of Adele, which she says speaks to lonely and vulnerable people.

“I was that girl sitting alone at the lunch table,” said Mencel. “I want my music to be genuine and honest in the way Adele’s is.”

 Iceland's Mammut Photo courtesy of the artist

Iceland’s Mammut
Photo courtesy of the artist

Mammut, the band from Iceland, has been together since its members were 13, said singer Katrína Mogensen, 27. The band tours in Europe and plays a lot in Iceland, but is in “no big hurry to make a plan of success,” said Mogensen. She said that Reykjavík has a thriving music scene, and bands sort of feed off each other. But when she was starting out, she listened to a lot of American pop on the radio and was especially fond of Britney Spears in her early teen years.

“We certainly were influenced by American music. We heard a lot of that on the radio,” said Mogensen.

And now Americans can hear her Icelandic band, live, at Sunaana.


WHEN: 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday
WHERE: Brick South, 8 Thompson s Point, Portland
HOW MUCH: $45to $75

(In scheduled order of appearance)
Hours North
Hannah Daman and The Martelle Sisters
The Very Reverend
Dylan Raw
Fort Gorgeous
Town Meeting with The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra
Scott Sorry

Austin Street
Banded Horn
Barreled Souls
Bissell Brothers
Maine Beer Co.
Mast Landing
Rising Tide

Foam Brewing
Good Measure
The Answer
The Veil
Upper Pass


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