THE RESURGAM FESTIVAL: the spirit of the city’s love of music and the arts is reborn
Singer-songwriter Emma Ivy was 12 when she first experienced the thrill of performing live at the Old Port Festival in Portland, which drew thousands of people every year.
“I felt like a rock star,” Ivy, 21, said of her performance with student band Yard Sail. “It was definitely the biggest crowd we had ever played for.”
Ivy, along with dozens of other Maine musicians, will get a chance to experience the thrill of performing in front of a festival crowd again on Sunday. That’s when the new Resurgam Music and Arts Festival is to be held at Thompson’s Point in Portland.
The Maine Academy of Modern Music is organizing the new festival, in part to fill the void left when the Old Port Festival ended its 46th anniversary in 2019, but also to create a Portland event focused more heavily on the thriving arts. of the city and cultural scene, including musicians of all ages, said MAMM Executive Director and Founder Jeff Shaw. The MAMM had sponsored a stage at the Festival du Vieux-Port for many years.
The Old Port Festival was created in the 1970s to attract people to this area of the city and introduce them to its restaurants and shops. But the Old Port is arguably Maine’s trendiest and most popular dining and shopping destination today. The festival organizers therefore decided that the event had lost its usefulness.
While the Old Port Festival over the years has brought in a few national musical acts, as well as carnival-like rides, Resurgam will focus on local musicians, performers, artisans and food vendors, Shaw said. The Sunday of the festival will feature over 60 musical acts or performance groups on six stages – five outdoor and one indoor. Of these, approximately 30 acts will include MAMM students, in groups or solo, and some MAMM teachers. The other half will represent a wide variety of Maine artists, from young musicians trying to build careers to veterans who have performed all over the world. There will also be stages for international music performers and for some non-musical performances, including readings and a hula hooper.
The festival kicks off at noon with one of the most beloved features of the Old Port Festival, a parade featuring the towering puppets of Portland’s Shoestring Theatre. Find the complete list of artists on maineacademyofmodernmusic.org.
The name of the festival comes from the motto of the city of Portland, adopted in 1832, which means “I will rise again” in Latin. The city rises from the ashes, quite literally, more than once – after being bombarded by the British Navy in 1775 and after a devastating fire in 1866. Shaw said he thinks “resurgam” would also have special meaning at this time, as we all seek to return to more normal everyday life after more than two years of COVID, including celebrating arts and culture together.
“I think it’s a necessity for Portland to have something like this, where so much local talent will have a chance to be seen,” said King Kyote, whose real name is Jon King and who will play Sunday on the Resurgam rock scene. “There aren’t too many music festivals in Maine, so it’s great to be able to have something like this in Portland.”
King was seen by audiences across the country this spring when he represented Maine at NBC’s “American Song Contest.” Another well-known Maine musician playing Resurgam is Dave Gutter who had a 25 year career as a singer, songwriter and musician, best known as the frontman of the popular Maine band Rustic Overtones. Jeff Beam, a singer-songwriter who has toured the United States and Canada and who manages the One Longfellow Square concert hall, will perform on the rock scene.
Ivy is one of MAMM’s young non-student musicians and will perform her original songs on guitar, accompanied by a drummer, on the festival’s outdoor acoustic stage. She comes from the MAMM programs and has performed four times at the Festival du Vieux-Port as a MAMM student. Raised in Portland, she is currently a student at New York University and in 2020 released an album, “Aphid”. Other young or up-and-coming artists from Maine performing at the festival include soul, jazz and R&B singer Angelikah Fahray and the Portland Conservatory Jazz Ensemble.
The six stages will be spread across Thompson’s Point, a privately owned 30-acre arts, entertainment, retail and events complex located on the River Fore. The MAMM Stage will be on the waterfront grounds where the State Theater hosts major concerts in the summer, while the Community Stage – featuring Portland Youth Dance and hula hooper Nettie Loops, among others – will be nearby under a giant train shed roof, where there is an ice rink in winter.
The international stage will be located outside the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine building, while the outdoor acoustic stage will be on the terrace of the Rosemont Market and Wine Bar. The rock scene will be in the beer garden outside the event building known as Brick South, where artisans and other makers will be selling their wares inside. Another acoustic stage will be inside the Stroudwater Distillery.
Along with the various stages, there will also be a children’s activity area featuring the Portland Public Library bookmobile and print.
The international music scene features musicians from around the world, based in Maine, performing a wide variety of music. Bondeko, for example, has Albanian, Guinean and French members. The Burnurwurbskek Singers represent many of Maine’s Wabanaki, performing traditional songs. The Maine Marimba Ensemble is inspired by the traditional and contemporary music of Zimbabwe.
Batimbo United is a group of approximately 10 Portland-based drummers from the African nation of Burundi who have performed statewide and in the United States and appeared at Governor Janet Mills’ Inaugural Gala in 2019. Most members of the band knew each other growing up in Burundi and have been playing together as a band in Portland since around 2016. The band wear flowing dresses in the colors of the Burundian flag – red, white and green – and put on an energetic, fast-paced show. A big crowd-pleasing moment is when they play while balancing barrel-sized drums on their heads.
“When we met here and decided to stay in America, we decided to do this to keep our culture alive,” said Yves Karubu, 40, one of the members. “We have to keep doing this so that our children don’t forget.”