If you’re in the Portland area, it’ll only take you an hour or so to cruise on over to Denmark. There you can submerse yourself in the 2015 DamJam, a daylong festival of music, art, food and drink.
There will be local food, including a pop-up organic veggie stand, a beer garden and an artists’ midway featuring interactive art experiences.
All of these things are fantastic in their own right, but the No. 1 reason to head to this year’s DamJam is the music. The list is Arabiqa, Saintseneca, O’Death, Ruby Rose Fox, Jeff Beam & Friends and Leveret. And while you can do your own research on all of these acts, permit me to break it down for you.
Arabiqa is the one-man mission of Karim Nagi, whose goal it is to connect the Arabic and Western worlds through music and dance. Nagi is a highly respected and sought-after lecturer and performer and has appeared at Harvard, MIT, Yale, Bowdoin, Princeton and several other colleges.
Nagi will open the festivities with an invocation and performance, then he’ll lead a workshop for kids. I watched the Nagi clip “The Mash of Civilization,” and it’s a spoken-word essay of sorts about cultural diversity set against a fast-moving melange of Arabic and Western music.
DamJam’s co-headliners are O’Death and Saintseneca. If O’Death rings a bell it’s because lyricist, singer and guitarist Greg Jamie was the owner of the now-closed The Oak and The Ax venue in Biddeford. And also because O’Death has released four albums of what their Facebook page describes as “Appalachian gospel, punk energy.” Add in there some American roots and alt-country.
The band members met between 2000 and 2003 at SUNY Purchase, and at present Jamie is in Maine, two guys are in Queens, one’s in Brooklyn and the other is in Rochester, New York.
Saintseneca is a folk rock band out of Columbus, Ohio. Last year, they released “Dark Arc” and over the course of listening to its 14 tracks, the album and the band won me over.
The song “Visions” exemplifies the poetry of Saintseneca’s lyricism: “You’re the freckles all along the hairline/Revelations from feeble spirit half-lifes/You’re the ghost that I was born to know/You’re the throat from which the echo’s thrown.”
We’re not done. DamJam’s got three more bands for you to see, hear and love. Portland’s Jeff Beam and a posse of his pals will play psychedelic rock, which will likely include Beam’s brand new single “Auspicious Minds.” The full album “Is Believed to Have Been” is due out in the fall.
Electronica fans, DamJam’s got something for you in the form of Portland band Leveret. Their latest album is “Action at a Distance,” and their bag is to throw garage rock at synth pop with guitar hooks to see what sticks. I listened to “Unclothing,” and it left me wanting to hear more. The song’s momentum kept building but didn’t need to reach the top of a mountain to make a statement. Just when you think the song has landed on a comfortable, chill plateau, the electric guitar takes over and laser beams are fired right at you.
Lastly, and most excitedly for this new fan, there’s Ruby Rose Fox. She is not from “Orange is the New Black.” This Ruby Rose is out of Boston, where she’s a rising star that Beantown media seem to be madly in love with. So I did what I do: I listened.
After picking my jaw up off the floor and shaming myself for not being hip to RRF before now, I listened more. And more. Whoa nelly. What a voice! She could level a brick house while also soothing the saddest soul.
Her music has a retro thing going on, driven by her huge, gorgeous vocals. Two recent tunes are “Blue Angel” and “Good Friday.” After playing both I was struck by that feeling of “there’s no way she’s not going to be huge.”
The music is a pastiche of rock, pop and even gospel with a sensational chorus of female backing vocals. BTW, Ruby Rose Fox is actually her grandmother’s name and she’s taken it as her performing name. As if I need another reason to fall at her feet.
Hey, Ruby Rose Fox, have a blast at DamJam and promise me you’ll swing back through Portland soon for a show. I can’t even. … Somebody please book her.
Listen to this!
DamJam2015, 3-11 p.m. Saturday, Bicentennial Park, Firelane 98, Denmark, $15. thedamjam.com