The following post, which is about Douglas Porter—one of the most prolific musicians in the Portland scene—comes as a guest contribution by Ben McCanna. It originally ran on his blog Post Mortem Portland, a site which bills itself as a “photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine.” As I have long admired Porter, and I love how beautifully McCanna tells (and illustrates) a story about the Portland nightlife I used to very much adore being a part of before retreating back into the woods a handful of years back.
In recent months, the scope of Post Mortem Portland has broadened to include feature stories, show previews and news. The blog was launched in May by McCanna, a freelance photographer and writer with a background in journalism. His work has appeared here in the Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald, The Forecaster, Lewiston Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, Down East.
That was the total haul for guitarist Douglas Porter last night after playing two gigs at two venues with two bands.
“That’s driving out to rehearsal spaces, heavy lifting, jumping up and down, singing and screaming, the usual guitar acrobats and crowd-stunning at two different clubs,” Porter said. “At the end of the night I made $25.”
Early last night, we caught up with Porter at Empire for his show with prog-metal band Sunrunner, then followed him over to Geno’s for his appearance with death punk band Covered in Bees. (We also caught an awesome set by punk band Mamá Ladilla from Madrid, Spain.)
Porter is one of the hardest-working musicians in Portland. At the moment, the 35-year-old multi-instrumentalist plays guitar in five bands (Covered in Bees, The Ghosts of Johnson City, Johnny Cremains, Sunrunner, and The Watchers), and there are tentative plans for a sixth. Since moving to Portland from Bangor in 2002, Porter has also played in Confusatron, Frosted Porn Flakes, and No.
He rehearses five nights a week, for an average of two to five hours per night.
Porter began playing guitar at age 9, and joined his first band, Addison, at 13. He’s lost track of how many bands he’s played in since then.
In addition to guitar, Porter can play harps, whistles, bagpipes, hammered dulcimers, bazoukis, banjos, tenor sax, piano and more.
“I used to work in a folk music store, my job was to demonstrate a variety of musical instruments,” he said.
The best part of being a musician in Portland is being part of a “community of astoundingly talented, amazingly unique people I get to associate with in the scene here,” he said.
The worst part, aside from the crummy pay, is attitude from people who don’t get it.
“Some people still see what I do as childish or a waste of time,” he said. “I think musicians should be seen as fucking saints. There’s a lot of sacrifice and determination that goes with this stuff.
“More than anything, this is a spiritual quest for me. It’s about following a vision. I feel very driven and passionate about what I do, and I feel like it makes a lot of people happy. That’s the main reason I do this, and I’m not going to stop until my final breath.”
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