You’re in your 20s. You love your hometown. You also love rock n’ roll, both playing it and seeing other people play it. But your hometown — say, a rural Maine community — doesn’t exactly have clubs and venues or any kind of infrastructure to host rock shows. What do you do?
If you’re an enthusiastic young musician from Belfast, like Wes Sterrs and Hunter Finden, you start your own scene. Book your own shows. Start your own label. Do it all yourself.
It still happens, and it’s happening in Belfast right now. Sterrs and Finden, two-thirds of the high energy, hilariously crass punk band Jim Dandy, have in the past year booked monthly rock shows at community arts center Waterfall Arts, have built their own recording studio, and have started a record label, Sweet Pizza, to put out music from the bands and artists they like.
“Our main focus is to get people to hear the bands we really like, and find ways to promote them,” said Finden. “We just want people to hear the stuff we love.”
According to Sterrs, it all started when Jim Dandy was looking for places to play in the Midcoast. Aside from one or two appearances at events like the Belfast Free Range Music Festival, there was no place to for a louder band to play. Nobody wanted to book them or any of the bands that they’d be playing with around the state — so they took matters into their own hands and booked a couple shows in the basement Fallout Gallery at Waterfall Arts.
“We just jumped right into setting up shows ourselves, building bills and promoting, and they were pretty successful to start,” said Sterrs, 21, who also has his own garage-punk solo project called Wilder Thing, in addition to playing drums for Jim Dandy. “Now we and Waterfall are working together to make these gnarly little gigs a more consistent thing in town. The crowds are really diverse and energetic and everyone seems to be having a good time. Each time we throw a show I see more and more people I’ve never seen before. The word must be spreading.”
Sweet Pizza has hosted bands from all over Maine, including rock duo When Particles Collide, one man psychedelic band Earth Person, funk-rock band Merther, punk band Lunch Cult, songwriter Ethan Andrews, ambient percussion project Quantum, and Jim Dandy themselves, naturally. That stylistic diversity — punk rock, funk, experimental, folk, jazz, whatever — is featured on Sweet Pizza’s new compilation of Maine music, “The Sounds of Old Men,” out a few weeks ago on Bandcamp.
“We don’t really care about being focused on a couple of genres,” said Finden, who also records spacey pop-folk under his own name. “If we like it we want to promote it. We’ll totally put a really loud band on a show with something that isn’t… if people are willing to pay five bucks to see some local music and the bands get to make a little money, we’re happy.”
The next Sweet Pizza show is the Fallout Shelter Festival at Waterfall Arts, set for 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 20, featuring a wide array of Maine bands from multiple genres; proceeds will benefit Waterfall Arts.