One of the only downsides to summer in Maine is that the weekends can get so full there’s no time to do anything else. That’s why music festivals in the times of year where it’s not quite as warm out are so welcome – less pressure. Especially in fall, when the weather is crisp, and, at least to me, music sounds even better than usual.
There are two festivals this weekend in two parts of the state. First, the Great North Music & Art Festival kicks off its inaugural celebration at 3 p.m. Friday at Last Breath Farm in Norridgewock, near Skowhegan in Somerset County. The three-day festival (Sept. 27-29) focuses on electronic music, hip hop and jam bands, as well as visual arts and dance.
Some of the bigger names set to appear on the festival’s three stages include rapper Mr. Lif and influential DJ and composer RJD2, both set for Friday night, and on Saturday night the world fusion electronic ensemble Beats Antique (pictured at left) will take the stage. That’s just the icing on the cake, though; jam band favorites like Papadosio, Roots of Creation, Twiddle, the Cyborg Trio and Gorilla Finger, electronic acts like Of The Trees, Bluetech and Phutureprimitive, and nearly 30 DJs from around the Northeast round out the lineup.
Great North will also feature a special appearance from visual artists Alex and Allyson Grey, both of whom are renowned for their works of spiritual and visionary arts. Alex Grey’s psychedelic designs have been featured on album covers for the likes of Tool, Nirvana, the Beastie Boys and Bassnectar; during the festival, he and Allyson will create a large-scale work of art, and then will give a talk Sunday morning about their process.
Tickets are available online at http://greatnorth.me; it is $155 for a weekend pass, with camping, or $75 per day.
Further south, the eclectic Biddeford venue The Oak and the Ax, located at 140 Main St, will host its second annual eponymous festival — another three days of music, art and dance, but with this festival the focus is on indie rock, alternative folk and experimental music. Owner Greg Jamie — lead singer and songwriter of acclaimed indie folk band O’Death — has curated an interesting lineup of bands, including nationally-known acts like Rhode Island’s The Low Anthem, New York indie songwriter Tim Fite, New Orleans bounce artist Vockah Redu (pictured above), and Olympia, WA-based rockers Lake.
The majority of the Oak and the Ax Festival lineup is from right here in Maine, however, including bands like indie pop group Phantom Buffalo, atmospheric electronic band Afraid, heavy punk rock from AWAAS, laid back psychedelic pop from ShaShaSha, and the haunting folk duo Arborea. There’s also Portland-based collaboration Video Nasties, who add video installations to their performance, and DJ sets by Matt Lajoie of Herbcraft and Will Eldridge of Eternal Otter Records.
Uniquely to Oak and the Ax Festival is an emphasis on Portland’s burgeoning burlesque scene, with performances taking place at Elements Bookstore & Cafe in Biddeford as well as at the Oak and the Ax itself, and a special burlesque workshop at Engine, also in Biddeford. Both Elements and Engine are located at 265 Main St. There’s also a vinyl record fair on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A three day pass to the festival is $30; individual days are $15, $12 and $10. For information, visit http://theoakandtheax.com/festival.