July/August 2017 | view story as a pdf
Live music on the oceanfront is what summer memories are made of. Let’s hear it, Old Crow Medicine Show.
By Sarah Moore
If Portland understands one thing, it’s the power of live music on the waterfront. That’s why the decks at Portland Lobster Company and The Porthole groan under the weight of summer revelers almost every night, and Thompson’s Point can snag stellar acts like The XX and Alabama Shakes in only its second season. They understand the potent pull of the waterfront. As it turns out, if there’s one thing that can make your favorite band sound better, it’s the rhythm of lapping water and the chimes of calling seagulls. A little craft beer doesn’t hurt either.
On August 22, Grammy Award-winners Old Crow Medicine Show will deliver a little Southern charm and Nashville swagger to Maine State Pier. If you think haven’t heard of Old Crow Medicine Show, you have. The band’s mainstream breakout song, “Wagon Wheel,” has been played by every radio station and every drunk-guy-with-a-guitar since 2004.
“The banjos, the fiddles, the harmonicas– this music is made for a working waterfront,” says band member Ketch Secor. “I can picture the Aucocisco setting out for Casco Bay as we play.” Secor has deep ties to Portland. “I’ve spent a lot of time here. I was busking in 1997 on a snowy winter day with [Old Crow bandmate] Critter, ten days later, we were featured in the Press Herald. Portland was one of my first musical homes.”
Old Crow’s first Maine gig was at Geno’s Rock Club in 2003. Secor might have New England connections, but the band’s sound is deeply rooted in Tennessee. They’re even members of the legendary Grand Old Oprey (“I discovered I could tune into the Oprey station from Maine on a clear day at AM frequency 650”). So does country music have a home in Maine? “It’s the music of working people,” Secor says. “Maine has the same natural splendor and sense of open space as the Southern states where this music originates. Loretta Lynn might have sung ‘The Clam Digger’s Daughter’ if she’d been born here instead of Kentucky.”
With 19 years of touring under their belt, what can crowds expect from an Old Crow show? “Live music is what we do best. It’s our lifeblood,” Secor says. “But a good audience makes all the difference–they’re the fifth Beatle.” Imagine barn-stomping tunes, plaintive country melodies, and Bob Dylan covers floating through the salty breeze.
As a long-time visitor, Secor is the unofficial tour guide for the five other bandmates: Critter Fuqua, Kevin Hayes, Morgan Jahnig, Chance McCoy, Cory Younts. “I plan to visit Mackworth Island and see the fairy houses. I’ll make sure the boys are well fed at Hot Suppa before the show. Then afterward, who knows? Maybe Old Port Tavern for some karaoke. I remember doing that once. I went head-to-head with a guy singing ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’ by Elton John. I sang ‘Strawberry Wine.’ He won.”
Sounds like a plan! See you there.