The Maine State Pier has been pretty quiet the past few years.
Sure, there’s an occasional fisherman yelling because he finally hooked the big one. But the drum thumps and guitar twangs of rock concerts, which were pretty much an annual event on the pier between 2006 and 2011, have been absent.
That will change starting Thursday, when a concert by country star Dierks Bentley is scheduled to take place at water’s edge. The show is the first of five scheduled for the city-run Maine State Pier this year, and a couple more could be scheduled for early fall.
Besides the Bentley show, with locals North of Nashville opening, the other shows are a diverse lot to say the least. Shipyard Brewing’s summer fest on July 12 will include a free concert on the pier with seven local bands, including Rustic Overtones. The nationally-known rock band 3 Doors Down will do an acoustic show on the pier Aug. 3, followed by reggae veteran Freddie McGregor headlining the Portland Reggae Festival on Aug. 10. Classic rock legends ZZ Top will do a show on the pier Sept. 27.
Bentley, 38, hit country charts in 2003 following the release of his debut album. He also won Top New Artist from the Academy of Country Music.
His first single “What Was I Thinkin” went to number one on the country chart. He’s gone on to have nine other number one hits. His most recent album, “Riser,” was released in February and debuted at number 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Bentley was born in Phoenix, Arizona, the son of a banker, and spent time at the University of Vermont before attending and graduating from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
In past interviews with the Press Herald, Bentley said he was a fan of rockers like Van Halen and Billy Idol when he started playing guitar as a teen. He later discovered Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings and decided that country was his bag. He’s also a big bluegrass fan, having toured and recorded with Del McCoury.
Bentley played Bangor last summer, Augusta in 2012, and Lewiston in 2006 and 2011. This will be his first show on Portland’s waterfront.
All of the shows scheduled for the Maine State Pier this summer, except the Shipyard event, are being promoted and produced by Alex Gray of Maine-based Waterfront Concerts. Gray has been putting on shows at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor for five years, establishing that riverfront venue as one of the top spots to see big-name music in Maine in the summer.
Gray said he decided to put on shows at the Maine State Pier after being hired by Shipyard to help the brewer set up its July festival concert event.
The pier had hosted no concerts in 2012 and 2013, after hosting three in 2011 and at least one a year between 2006 and 2010. Gray said he had heard that the pier was a difficult place to put on a show for promoters, but he thinks that’s because other promoters don’t own the kind of equipment he does, including portable staging, dressing room trailers, barricades, concession stands and portable toilets. He uses the equipment to put on shows at fairs and festivals around the state.
“We spent so much time with city staff (organizing the Shipyard event) and we just fell in love with the pier,” said Gray.
Any promoter putting on a concert on the pier needs city approval, and has to pay a fee to the city plus cover all set up and clean up costs, said Jessica Grondin, spokesperson for the city of Portland. The pier has a maximum capacity of 3,000 people.
For the Bentley concert, there will be about 700 seats and the rest of the audience will be in a standing area. The stage will be set near the harbor end of the pier, so fans will be looking out at the water toward South Portland. The show will go on rain or shine, unless the weather is severe. Umbrellas are not allowed.
Fees for the Maine State Pier vary from show to show, but the city typically nets $2,000 to $5,000, and the promoter’s expenses can run $5,000 to $7,000, Grondin said.
Gray said there are two other shows “out there” that he might be able to book for the pier in the fall.
June 12 – Dierks Bentley with North of Nashville, 6:30 p.m.,$40.75 to $60.75. Waterfrontconcerts.com
July 12 – Shipyard Old Port Summer Festival, featuring Rustic Overtones, Sly Chi, North of Nashville, Model Airplane, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Jason Spooner Band and Amy Allen, noon, free. Oldporthalfmarathon.com
Aug. 3 – 3 Doors Down, 6:30 p.m., $31.75 to $61.75. Waterfrontconcerts.com
Aug. 10 – Portland Reggae Festival featuring Freddie McGregor, John Brown’s Body, Mighty Mystic and more, noon, $30 to $40. Waterfrontconcerts.com
Sept. 27 – ZZ Top, 6 p.m., $47.75 to $81.75. Waterfrontconcerts.com