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All Roads Music Festival returns to Belfast

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All Roads Music Festival returns to Belfast (All photos courtesy of Launchpad/Lauryn Hottinger)

BELFAST – A multitude of Maine’s musical roads are converging once again.

The All Roads Music Festival is returning to Belfast on May 19, bringing one of the biggest collections of Maine musical talent into one place for one jam-packed day of celebration. Spread across five different stages in four different venues, All Roads is playing host to some two dozen bands and individual artists, all devoted to putting what our state’s music scene has to offer.

There will be music from across all genres – whatever you like, you’re almost certainly going to be able to find it on one festival stage or another. In addition, All Roads is playing host to the always-wildly-successful Maine Songwriters Circle, where half-a-dozen talented songwriters get together and share a little of their collected collective wisdom, and a panel discussion on Maine women in music.

For tickets, a full schedule or more information about the festival, visit the All Roads website at www.allroadsmusicfest.org.

The driving force behind All Roads is the Bangor-based arts incubator Launchpad; Meg Shorette and Joshua Gass serve as the organization’s executive director and managing director, respectively. Both are co-founders of All Roads and have played major roles in bringing the event to life once again this year, the festival’s fourth.

Shorette and Gass were kind enough to make time for an interview with The Maine Edge; our conversation took place at the Bangor Arts Exchange, where Launchpad makes its headquarters.

“We’ve got five stages in four locations – one venue has two stages,” Shorette said. “It’s something like 30 acts. In the end, it’s going to be something like 130 musicians in town all at once.”

130 artists. It’s a remarkable number to think about – particularly when you take into account that it’s incredibly rare for this many musicians to be in the same place at the same time. According to Shorette, it’s an opportunity that the participants fully embrace.

“These folks are never together in the same place at the same time,” she said. “They’re always gigging, doing their own thing. So when they get a chance like this, it’s almost a summer camp vibe. They get to hang out, catch up, see one another play – all things that they rarely get to do.”

And making something like All Roads happen is no easy task. There are a TON of moving parts, all of which need to be coordinated and scheduled to maximize the experience. As with any ongoing creative endeavor, the process has evolved over the years.

“We’ve increased the number of performances and added more performers each year,” said Gass. “But we actually scaled it back just a bit for this year. Everything was moving at such a frenetic pace; it was hard to see everything. [This year] we wanted to make it a little easier.”

“It was in the very first year that we realized that the festival wasn’t just about the attendees, but about the musicians as well,” added Shorette. “It’s a chance for them to reconnect and enjoy each other in a way they don’t often get to do. Part of what makes it all work is that we try to give the musicians the best possible time.”

Scheduling those musicians can be tricky; working bands have plenty of commitments.

“We can’t get everyone every year,” Shorette said. “But even the folks who can’t make it will always have a home at the festival. We’re always thrilled to have performers back.”

“We do try to vary the bill,” said Gass. “We’ve flattened the lineup some and gotten away from worrying too much about a huge headliner. Really, it’s all about scheduling. People respond to different acts at different times in different ways. You never really know what people will respond to.

“The artists are laid-back about it all,” he continued. “Take the bingo board. There’s a bingo board at one of the venues. The first year, we wanted to cover it and the bands said no. Now it’s an iconic part of the festival.”

Again, it all boils down to the connection between the musicians and the sense of community that connection evokes.

“When we started, we just didn’t know,” said Shorette. “It evolved into this amazing camaraderie. It’s like we throw a festival for musicians and people show up to watch. It’s a really cool, wonderful day.”

As you might imagine, putting something like the All Roads Music Festival together is far from easy. The logistics alone would be daunting to most of us. But according to Shorette, they tend to get an early start.

“The process actually starts right after the festival,” she said. “We have to do things like follow up with the venues and artists; we immediately start picking away at the checklist. The nitty-gritty work happens in the fall,” she continued. “The lineup’s booked by January. Most of the changeover happens right after the new year.”

Putting together that list is a favorite part of the process – and one of the most difficult.

“I love music,” said Shorette. “It’s my favorite thing. And I love working with local musicians.The list is huge. There are so many great bands out there, so many great musicians. You try to get a good representation of different genres, try to mix it up in terms of the bands you book. But some groups are touring or otherwise unavailable. People will ask about Spose or Rustic Overtones, who have been great at past festivals, but it’s important to vary the lineup.”

“Showcasing Maine artists is a huge part of the Launchpad mandate,” Gass added.

And all that leaves aside the reality that a relatively insular music scene like Maine’s means some overlap – performers in multiple bands.

“Building a schedule with musicians in multiple bands is tough,” Shorette said. “We have one artist – her name is Renee Coolbrith – who is in five different bands. We do our best to put people in the right spots and avoid conflict.”

This marks the fourth year for All Roads; the folks involved are starting to think about what’s going to happen with the festival going forward.

“We’ve had some sustainability discussions,” said Gass. “When you start something like this, you don’t necessarily think about how it will work as an ongoing concern. But Belfast has been a great community for us; they have the infrastructure we need and they have been so welcoming. They’re a generous place; Belfast gets it. We’re pretty secure in the growth [of All Roads]. And we’ve grown in the right ways. Growth is important, but it all comes down to demand. There’s still a lot of work ahead.”

You’d think that with all the passion for the festival that Shorette and Gass express, they’d be looking forward to really kicking back and enjoying the day on May 19. You’d think that – and you’d be wrong, alas.

“I usually get to see maybe three or four sets,” said Shorette. “If I’m lucky.”

“It comes fast and it leaves fast,” Gass said. “I don’t really get to enjoy it, but people do. I mean, I see a lot of pictures of people having fun, so they must be.”

Yeah – they are.

Ambitious undertakings like this one are gambles. They’re risky propositions. So to see one not only survive, but thrive as the years pass is impressive. The work that Shorette, Gass and all the artists and volunteers do to make something like the All Roads Music Festival happen never really fully stops. And there’s a lot more that goes into it than you might think. Keeping so many plates spinning for four years is worth celebrating.

All Roads meet in Belfast. If you’re a fan of Maine music – or great music in general – you really shouldn’t miss out.

(The All Roads Music Festival will take place in Belfast on May 19. For tickets, a schedule of events or other information, you can visit the All Roads website at www.allroadsmusicfest.org. To learn more about Launchpad, visit www.wearelaunchpad.org.)

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Schedule of Events

Crosby Center Main Stage

Turner – 2:30 p.m.

Capture the Sun – 4:00 p.m.

The Breakfast Cowboy – 5:15 p.m.

KGFreeze – 6:15 p.m.

Wait – 7:15 p.m.

Weakened Friends – 8:15 p.m.

Goldenoak w/Maine Youth Rock Orchestra – 9:30 p.m.

The Mallett Brothers Band – 10:45 p.m.

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Crosby Center Small Stage

Other Order – 3:00 p.m.

Motherhood – 4:30 p.m.

Sarah Violette – 10:15 p.m.

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American Legion Hall

Mouth Washington – 1:15 p.m.

Dan Blakeslee – 2:15 p.m.

MAMM Slamm Winner – 2:45 p.m.

Stephen Lewis – 4:15 p.m.

Johnny Cremains – 5:45 p.m.

Pretty Sad – 7:00 p.m.

Spencer Albee – 8:00 p.m.

Chris Ross and the North – 9:00 p.m.

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The Colonial Theatre

Maine Songwriters Circle – 1:00 p.m.

Panel: Maine Women in Music – 2:30 p.m.

Micromasse – 3:45 p.m.

Beards – 4:45 p.m.

Katie Matzell – 6:30 p.m.

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The First Church

King Kyote – 2:00 p.m.

Janaesound – 3:00 p.m.

Oshima Brothers – 4:00 p.m.

Dominic Lavoie – 5:00 p.m.

Builder of the House – 6:00 p.m.

Kenya Hall – 7:30 p.m.

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