The All Roads Music Festival will take place in Belfast May 16 and will feature 13 bands and artists from all over the state in multiple venues across Belfast. It fills the void left when the organizers of Free Range, a festival that took place in Belfast between 2010 and 2014, folded the event to enter new phases in their lives. My colleague Emily Burnham has written a bit about what to expect.
All roads will feature 20 bands. According to Emily, these will include:
… Maine favorites like Lady Lamb, the Mallett Brothers Band, Spose, Spencer Albee and Coke Weed, along with up and comers including Tall Horse, Whale Oil, Lisa/Liza, Butcher Boy and B.Aull, and eastern Maine acts including Jim Dandy, Greasy Grass and GoldenOak. A few more acts and a full schedule with specific venues will be announced in the coming weeks.
Lauchpad, an organization overseen and headed by Meg Shorette, is behind the new event. Until last year, Shorette was in a volunteer organizational position at KAHBANG, a Bangor-based arts and music festival. I talked with Shorette about how the event came together.
What is All Roads?
My organization Launchpad, which is something I formed after I left KAHBANG in September, was approached by the city of Belfast in December. They had a festival there called Free Range, which I only attended once. It was great. It was really intimate and in downtown Belfast and featured Maine-themed up-and-coming bands. It was great but in 2013, the organizers moved on, got married, went to grad school, had babies—all things many 30-year-olds move on and do at some point. It left a bit of a void in the city in the spring. The city went around to find out how that void might be filled and they approached me. At the time I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to jump right back into events but when we touched base again in January, we had decided to just do it. We decided we’d make it the festival we’d want it to be and that’s how All Roads came about.
What makes it the festival you would want to be at?
It is multi-venue—there are four venues this year—all across downtown Belfast. In conjunction with the music component, there are panels going on throughout the day. The musicians are sitting on and leading panels about the state of the Maine music scene and the connections between music and farming. There is an acoustic song-writing circle happening. So there are performances and then there are more intimate times where you can go and listen to bands and musicians talk about what it is like to be a musician in this time and place.
What about the multi-format approach appeals to you?
I think that generally people want to see behind the curtain—they want to know more and I think that’s good. We have a favorite band and then we want to hear the members of that band talk about their band, themselves, and why they choose to do what they do. I think maybe we’ve always been this way, but it feels so heightened now. Music festivals, or events generally, are all one giant Side B. You want more, more of all the stuff that didn’t make the cut. We care about that almost more than we do the stuff that’s on the album.
Some of your most recent background has been around organizing the KAHBANG festival, which was an arts and music centered event. You said earlier you weren’t sure if you wanted to jump right back into it, but here you are. What was it that brought you back in?
I had a good time working with KAHBANG. It was great and I learned so much. And it was a completely different animal than what I am working on now. One thing I learned doing that project was that I had way more interest in the smaller events, the local scene, and the side events that were going on than I did the headliner sets every year. So when the opportunity presented itself to work on something focused more on that, it felt almost too good to pass up. Belfast is beautiful. We were really cautious in the beginning—we went to visit it and talked to different arts organizations and the former organizers of Free Range to get their thoughts on it and everyone has been so supportive. This event is really more about the musicians than it is about fireworks and Ferris wheels and everything KAHBANG came about.
This lineup was really hard to put together. I am excited for all of the bands that we have. When I originally started reaching out to bands, I was reaching out cold and asking them to be involved in this thing that didn’t exist yet and we didn’t know who else was on the lineup. Early on the ones that said yes right away were Tall Horse, Mallet Brothers, and Spose and others. I think that’s really great. That’s a really scary thing for them to do without knowing anything about the event and I think it’s amazing.