Portland’s Old-Time Revival

There’s a quiet revolution happening in Portland. That’s the LEFT COAST Portland, not the one down east in Maine. It’s a revival of what us folkies call “old-time” music—you know, fiddles and banjos and sangin’. Then you say: oh, you mean bluegrass! Um, no, not really, although one could argue that old-time is a subset of bluegrass, and one might also argue that Portland does indeed have tons of proper bluegrass, and one would be right, but I’m talking about the traditional American folk music from the Appalachian area that preceded the birth of bluegrass. Here’s a clip from one of my favorites, Foghorn Stringband.

Yes siree, old-time music is alive and kickin’ in Portland. The fiddle-banjo fire is being fanned by bands such as Foghorn, Earl White, Government Issue Orchestra, Uncle Wiggily, Whiskey Puppy, and the Flat Mountain Girls. These and more perform regularly at watering holes and bohemian hangouts such as the Alberta Street Pub, Laurelthirst Pub, and the Moon and Sixpence. The 10th Anniversary Portland Old-Time Gathering will be held Jan. 14-18, 2009, with its annual hoohaw of concerts, dances, workshops, jamming, and general mayhem. Traditional contra dances—an opportunity for non-musicians to participate in the fun—are held regularly around town, and are well-attended.

At the core of the Portland scene, the sun around which the above-mentioned planets revolve, is Bubba Bill Martin. He’s a renowned caller of dances and player of tunes, and he maintains, the hub of all things old-time in and around Portland. Check him out, he’s the real deal. We’ll try to publish an interview with Bill in the near future. In the meantime, subscribe to his newsletter to keep updated on Portland oldtime happenings.

(Who did I forget to mention? Comment below!)

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