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How scary has the shutdown been for musicians? Many professional players and music teachers have spent most of their lives working toward the goal of supporting themselves and their families by playing music. Some are classically trained and have spent years or decades mastering their craft after obtaining prestigious and pricey degrees while others are self-taught. Many rely on filling their schedules with gigs wherever they can find them in restaurants, bars or at weddings. For those who can do it, it’s a dream come true, but when it all stops, the black void of uncertainty that is our current reality can be soul-crushing.

Soon after last spring’s shutdown, the New England Musician’s Relief Fund (NEMRF) was established to assist musicians in easing the financial strain. Nine months later, the fund has distributed more than $300,000 to musicians in New England and New York’s Upper Hudson Valley to help make ends meet.

Monday, 11 January 2021 16:49

Paying a visit to ‘Mr. Ben’s Playhouse’

Written by Allen Adams

BANGOR – There’s a brand-new Saturday morning crew coming to screens near and far courtesy of Penobscot Theatre Company.

“Mr. Ben’s Playhouse” is the latest offering as part of PTC’s Digitus Theatrum season, a collection of digital and streaming works assembled as a way to carry forward the theatre’s mission in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

The show, consisting of five 15-minute episodes, is inspired by an assortment of children’s programming and features a motley crew of people and puppets, including a number of favorites from the greater PTC community. The first episode, with the theme of “Imagination,” arrived on Jan. 9, with subsequent episodes – addressing a variety of themes ranging from listening to fitness to empathy – landing each following Saturday.

All five episodes can be purchased for $40 and all will remain available throughout the series run. If you’d like to purchase access to “Mr. Ben’s Playhouse” or get more information, visit the Penobscot Theatre website at www.penobscottheatre.org or call the box office at 942-3333.

Sunday, 27 December 2020 17:48

The Maine Edge Year in Review: 2020

Written by Allen Adams & Mike Dow

I’ll be honest – after the seemingly unending bizarreness of 2020, I strongly considered giving our annual Year in Review edition a miss. Was this a year that people wanted to look back on? Did I want to look back?

Ultimately, I decided we should go forward. After all, even as we continue to deal with the ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, life has gone on. It has gone on differently, rife with challenges both large and small, but it has gone on.

We here at the Edge encountered our own challenges, including shutting down our print edition for over three months, from mid-March to the end of June. However, we kept producing new content for our website and generally refused to go anywhere. We resumed printing in July, spending a couple of months as a bi-weekly publication before finally resuming our usual weekly run this fall.

We also bore witness to just how hard it was for our longtime partners, the many local businesses who have been loyal advertisers, the arts and cultural organizations who have been in many ways our raison d’etre and – of course – our readers, without whom we wouldn’t be here. This year, more than any other, we want to express our gratitude for the support we’ve received from so many.

And so, here are a few of our favorite stories from the past year.

What? You didn’t think that a college football season utterly upended by the pandemic would be enough to keep me from undertaking this annual bit of nonsense, did you? That’s right – for the umpteenth year in a row, I am embarking on my lunatic quest to pick the winners of each and every college bowl game.

Now, 2020 being 2020, this is going to be a significantly different feature than it has been in the past. First of all, we’re starting later than we have in past years because the bowl selection process took place later in the year. This means that a few bowl games will have already taken place before this story sees print – we’ll be looking at games starting on December 23 and going forward. This means that you won’t see predictions for the Myrtle Beach Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl and annual favorite the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Secondly, a number of the usual games have already been cancelled due to the pandemic. Those bowls are as follows:

Birmingham Bowl; Frisco Bowl; Guaranteed Rate Bowl; Bahamas Bowl; Celebration Bowl; Fenway Bowl; Hawaii Bowl; Independence Bowl; Las Vegas Bowl; Los Angeles Bowl; Military Bowl; Pinstripe Bowl; Quick Lane Bowl; Redbox Bowl; and Sun Bowl.

In addition, a number of programs have already opted out of bowl season participation. These schools include:

Arizona State; Boise State; Boston College; Florida State; Georgia Tech; Kansas State; Louisville; Maryland; Michigan State; Penn State; Pitt; San Diego State; SMU; Stanford; UCLA; USC; Utah; Virginia; Virginia Tech; Washington; and Washington State.

(Note: There exists a very real possibility that more games will be canceled and more schools will opt out. The preceding information is accurate as of press time.)

On top of all of that, the NCAA has done away with restrictions on bowl participants with regard to win-loss records. Basically, this means that every single FBS program is bowl-eligible this year, though again, many programs have and/or will opt out.

So what does this mean for Going Bowling?

Well, it means that I have fewer games about which to have unfounded opinions. And it means that I know even less about what is going on than usual. How much less, you ask? Well, would you believe that I have yet to watch any college football at all this season?

That’s right, friends. I am going to attempt to predict the outcome of each of these bowl matchups despite not having watched a single snap by any of the teams involved. Some of my predictions will be informed by research, but some will be simple wild guesses based on zero information. It’s up to you to determine which is which. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t place any bets based on these picks. You wouldn’t think I would be able to make this exercise even more absurd after all these years, but here we are.

Let’s go bowling.

As with literally every other aspect of our lives, 2020 has been a weird one when it comes to movies.

Despite the fact that movie theaters have been largely dormant for much of the year, we’ve still had the opportunity to watch a LOT of movies. I myself will have seen and reviewed more than 150 films in 2020. A lot of them have been good and some have been great.

Many of those great ones appear on this list.

Now, we’ve got 20 of my favorites from 2020 here. I’ve also included some honorable mentions, many of which might well have landed on this list had I written it on a different day. There’s a lot of fungibility here and the margins between most of these are VERY thin. Still, this is pretty close – at the very least, you can rest assured that these are among the films that I enjoyed and/or engaged with most in this very weird, very long year.

(And don’t worry – I’ll be doing my annual worst-of list as well. I wouldn’t dream of depriving you of all that fun. You’ll get that in a week or two.)

So here you have it – 20 of my 2020 favorites.

(Please note: this list is in alphabetical order rather than order of preference.)

Monday, 07 December 2020 16:45

Holiday happenings! Celebrate the season in 2020

Written by Allen Adams

Let’s be real: 2020 has been a year like none other that we’ve experienced. So much about these past months has been different and difficult. Our celebrations of the holiday season have been and will continue to be impacted by the circumstances of this pandemic.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we are without ways to celebrate the season.

Sure, some of our traditions will have to fall by the wayside so that we might try to ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. But many of our favorite things to do in this Yuletide season can still happen, albeit in ways that have changed considerably.

Area organizations have found ways to pivot, giving us the opportunity to enjoy versions of happenings and events that we’ve long loved over the years. Will these happenings be the same? Of course not. Will they still be welcome, wonderful parts of our seasonal celebrations? Absolutely.

Monday, 30 November 2020 14:46

Turn the page: 2020’s recommended reads

Written by Allen Adams

Despite everything that we’ve been through this year, it hasn’t stopped the literary machine from continuing to churn; we’ve seen many tremendous literary offerings hitting shelves in 2020.

Reviewing books is one of the best parts of my job. As part of that job, I’ve read dozens of books over the course of the past year. I freely admit that I tend to seek out works that I know will resonate for me – and hence usually enjoy the books I review – but even with that degree of curation, there’s no denying that there are always some that particularly stand out.

This is not your traditional “best of” list – not my style. Instead, consider this a collection of recommendations. These are suggestions; I enjoyed them, so I thought that you might as well. I’ve also included selections from my writings about these books (please note that the full reviews are available on our website). Bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive list – there are scores more books out there, exceptional works that I simply never got a chance to read.

I’m not arrogant enough to call these the best books of the year – it’s all subjective and this is just one man’s opinion. What I can say is that every one of these works captured my imagination and my attention … and perhaps one or more of them will do the same for you.

And now, without further ado, here are my recommended reads from 2020.

Monday, 23 November 2020 16:41

And the band played on – BSO goes digital

Written by Allen Adams

BANGOR – It’s an old adage in the arts – one of the oldest, really: “The show must go on.”

Artistic organizations find themselves putting that sentiment to the test these days, with everyone searching for ways to move forward even as the ongoing pandemic hinders their ability to do so. Everyone is adapting on the fly, searching for ways to continue their respective missions while also doing the right thing and keeping performers and audiences safe.

Suffice it to say, this wasn’t what the Bangor Symphony Orchestra intended for its celebratory 125th season.

And yet, even in the face of the these obstacles, the folks at the BSO have found a way to assemble a first-rate program for this auspicious anniversary, one that – thanks to tremendous effort and patience from many – looks to be an exceptional continuation of the orchestra’s ongoing mission.

“If we could find one more wire recording of Robert Johnson, it would be fantastic. If you find something that reveals just a little more of these incredible unique artists, that’s the thing you get excited about.” - John McDermott, producer and catalog manager for Experience Hendrix

The full story behind what might be the strangest chapter of Jimi Hendrix’s all-too-brief career is about to come to light when Sony Legacy/Experience Hendrix releases the documentary film “Music, Money, Madness…Jimi Hendrix in Maui” on November 20, accompanied by the album “Live in Maui,” released on two CDs and three LPs. The doc traces the origins of Hendrix’s involvement in a counterculture movie shot on the Hawaiian island, and the surprise concert he was coaxed into performing there on the side of a volcano as an attempt to rescue the ill-fated film.

In just 48 months, from his September 1966 arrival in London to his untimely September 1970 death in the same city, Jimi Hendrix managed to turn popular music on its head with the game-changing albums “Are You Experienced” (1967), “Axis: Bold as Love” (1967) and the double LP “Electric Ladyland” (1968). Each release marked a step forward in songwriting, musicianship and production, while a 1970 live album of new material, “Band of Gypsys” showcased a move toward searing funk and rhythm and blues and has been cited as a seminal influence by a range of artists including Prince, Slash, George Clinton, Nile Rodgers and Trey Anastasio.

Hendrix’s guitar mastery inspired both envy and fear in his contemporaries, while his reputation as an outrageous and dynamic live performer made him one of the top concert draws of his time. Offstage, the trailblazing musician was said to be a sweet and self-effacing figure with an eternally curious mind, wicked sense of humor and a deep obsession with music.

I think I had convinced myself that he was going to beat it. No – that he HAD beaten it.

Alex Trebek has been a part of my life for nearly 40 years. He was there when I was a kid, when I was in college, when I was stumbling my way through early adulthood and when I finally more or less grew up. And he was there when I finally realized my dream of appearing on “Jeopardy!” just a hair over two years ago.

It hurts to think about him not being there anymore.

The legendary host of “Jeopardy!” passed away on Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer; he was 80 years old. He leaves behind a decades-long television legacy – a legacy the likes of which we have never seen before and will likely never see again.

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