Whether you’re a casual local music fan or the hardcore groupie kind, the All Roads Music Festival in beautiful Belfast is worth the drive because it’s truly one-stop shopping for local-music immersion across many genres, with nearly 30 acts scheduled to perform.
The fact that it’s held in Belfast makes it all the more special because sometimes we all need to get the heck out of Dodge, and festival director Meg Shorette chose wisely when she and her crew picked the quaint coastal city.
This is the fourth year of the festival, and if you haven’t been yet, do yourself a favor and make it happen. In fact, you may even want to make a weekend out of it, but you had best jump on hotel rooms immediately, as the supply is likely dwindling. Or maybe you live within striking distance and can easily get there on Friday night. If you can, be sure to hit the opening party at Waterfall Arts on High Street. There will be music from Z2K and Renee Coolbrith. It’s $10 to get in or included in the festival’s $40 VIP ticket. And should you have any energy left after the last act finishes on Saturday night, $7 (included with VIP pass) will get you into the closing party at Three Tides on Marshall Wharf, where you’ll hear Jeff Beam play while sipping beers from Marshall Wharf Brewing.
Shorette’s head is spinning at the moment with last minute logistics, but she was able to fire off a response to my question about what makes this festival so special and worth the trip. She said her favorite thing about it is the sense of community among the artists who attend each year. “Each year we bring in over two dozen bands to play five venues. That means, for one day in Belfast, nearly 150 Maine musicians are in one place. I can’t think of another day in the year where this happens, and it’s a pretty cool experience to be a part of,” she said.
NOW THEN … onto the music! For the entire schedule, head to allroadsmusicfest.org, where you’ll find not only all the bands and where and when they are playing, but also information about the Maine Songwriters Circle and the Maine Women in Music panel discussion.
I’m gonna throw some love at two acts that are jumping out at me, but know that everyone on this list was chosen because they’re doing something right. Some are newer artists, some are downright cornerstones of what makes Maine music so outstanding and so worthy of a festival like All Roads. If word count weren’t a factor, I would be waxing poetic about Pretty Sad, Micromasse, Katie Matzell, Builder of the House and Kenya Hall. In fact, I am certain that even of the acts that are new to me, I would find kind things to say; if they pass “Meg muster,” they surely are worth my time and yours.
I’ll start with Janay Woodruff, who performs under the name Janaesound. She got serious about music when she was 9, while living in St. Louis, by way of the Opera Theatre. Fast-forward to last summer, when she opened for megastar rapper Flo Rida in Missouri. Around here, JanaeSound has played all over Portland, including at the recent Sunaana Festival. At present, she’s working on an EP recorded at The Halo Studio. I’ll be sure to let you know when that drops. Keep up with her at janaesound.com and find her on all the usual social media platforms.
But what does she sound like? Here’s a short, true story. Last weekend, I was at a sold-out Brandi Carlile show in Boston and shared on Facebook that Carlile had blown my mind with her cover of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” a song most famously recorded by Led Zeppelin. Woodruff saw my post and sent me a dropbox link to her recording of the same song.
A few days later, in the early hours of a Monday morning, I put on my headphones and all but fell out of my chair listening to her tremendous take on it. Her voice is huge, and she wraps it around that song with the force of a tsunami. Said another way, it’s glorious. Her voice soars to heights only reached by rockets. At the end, I felt like Oliver with his soup bowl standing there saying, “More, please!” Woodruff said the song will be on her site by this weekend. I’m going to hold her to it. It simply must be heard to be believed.
Breaking news…she’s just added a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” to her SoundCloud page and I’m dying listening to it at this very moment.
THE OTHER ACT I’m nerding out over is Weakened Friends. I’m so excited for them because they’ll be performing one of Boston Calling’s massive stages on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. This is a huge deal, as this three-day festival attracts 40,000 fans and is one of the hottest tickets in New England this year, with acts like Eminem, Jack White, Maggie Rogers, St. Vincent, The National and dozens of other big names.
Weakened Friends is the rock trio of Sonia Sturino, Annie Hoffman and Cam Jones. Last year, it was the unsigned artist of the year winner at the Boston Music Awards. Last year also saw the release of the single “Hate Mail,” featuring blistering guitar from Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis. This band is getting bigger by the minute, and I’m thrilled. Weakened Friends reminds me to properly rock out with spectacular hooks and Sturino’s firehouse vocals.
At the moment, the band is in the midst of a tour through Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont and, of course, Maine, with the last stop being Boston Calling.
SO HERE ARE YOUR TAKEAWAYS, in case they’re not abundantly clear: Belfast is gorgeous, Meg Shorette’s my hero, Maine music is spectacular and the All Roads Music Festival is a shining star on this year’s music calendar and the perfect jumping-off point into the rest of spring as we all get ready for the best summers of our lives. Can I get an “amen?”
WHEN: 1 p.m. to midnight. Saturday. Multiple locations, downtown Belfast
HOW MUCH: $25, $40 VIP.