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The 2nd Annual Penobscot Music Festival set for May 24

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The 2nd Annual Penobscot Music Festival is scheduled for Sunday, May 24, from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight at Jeff's Catering in Brewer.

A celebration of the area's local music scene, the benefit concert will feature eight bands for a $3 cover at the door.

Festival organizer Vinny Cormier, vocalist and guitarist for Dakota, says the festival's debut last year surpassed all expectations.

'The response last year totally blew us away,' Cormier told me in a phone interview last week. 'Over the course of the evening, more than 1,400 people attended and we raised close to $6,000 for the Autism Society of Maine.'

The cause is close to Cormier, a school bus driver by day. 'I see autism firsthand and the numbers are scary,' he told me. 'There's a one in 68 chance that a child in Maine will be born with autism. A lot of the money that we raised stayed in this area, and I'm happy about that.'

According to Cormier, attendees will have plenty of room to rock, as Jeff's Catering plans to open all three rooms to create an expanded concert space with two stages.

'As one band plays, another will set up, which means no wait time between bands,' Cormier says. He adds that he is grateful to see continued involvement from so many popular area bands on a holiday weekend.

'Each one of these bands is working that weekend, Friday or Saturday or both,' Cormier said. 'And then they're joining together on Sunday for free. Everyone involved is giving their time and talent as a way to thank the fans for their constant support.'

Each band on the bill will play a tightly-timed 50 minute set with the last band finishing just before 11 p.m. During the final hour, between 11 p.m. and midnight, Cormier expects a rollicking jam session with lots of band interaction and possibly even members of the audience joining in.

I asked Cormier for his thoughts on each band participating in this year's Penobscot Music Festival.

Dakota 'This band has been a huge part of my life for over 30 years. Like any band that's lasted this long, we've evolved quite a bit. I'm very happy to have my son Dylan in the band on lead guitar. When people hear him play, they're blown away. I'm very proud of this band and its history.'

Shyboy 'A great rock band. They've been around for a long time, and each member of the band is really talented. When you see them play, you can tell you're watching not only talent but experience.'

Midnight Rose 'They put on a really good show. They're an excellent country-rock band, and they like to interact with the audience. Very entertaining.'

Overdrive- 'Some really good musicians in that band. They do some old-school rock and current stuff, and they do a great job.'

Sideways 'Another good band. They do country rock and some current material. They have a great song selection.'

Right Out Straight 'They're an old-school meat and potatoes rock band. They do everything from southern rock to straight-up rock and roll. They remind me of my band Dakota back in the day.'

Live Wire 'They're a very high energy rock band. They do some metal and hard rock. Live Wire is a very entertaining band.'

The Allison Ames Band 'Incredible vocals in that band. Allison is just great. If you want to see a band with excellent combined talent and experience, they've got it. They do a lot of country rock and some rock and roll.'

When I mentioned to Vinny Cormier that the $3 admission fee is an incredible value for all of that music, he said that keeping the cost low is important.

'Money is tight for many people, and we want to make it as easy as possible for people to come out the night before Memorial Day and have fun with all of these amazing bands. It's a safe, rocking, official kick-off of summer. We have our own security team, and they provide an atmosphere where people can come out, have fun and stay safe.'

A cash bar will be available for those at least 21 years of age. Young concert-goers are welcome, but ages 16 and under must be accompanied by a parent.

Like last year's festival, food will be provided by Tony and Lisa Brothers. A 50/50 raffle is planned with other raffle prizes to be awarded throughout the evening.

A Washburn Lyon bass guitar, autographed by all of the musicians, will be auctioned off during the festival to benefit the Autism Society of Maine.

'I couldn't do this alone,' Cormier adds. 'My wife Jolene is a great partner in this. Without her, I'd be completely lost. We have a lot of volunteers who come out to help us, and they don't ask for anything.

'This festival is for the fans who support the bands and the clubs who hire them. If you love live music, this festival is for you. All of these bands feel the way I do. We're so grateful to have such great fans who support us, and this is our way of saying thanks and giving back.'

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

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