Grammy winners helped make history in Portland in 2012

Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons sings in Portland August 4, 2012 on the “Gentlemen of the Road” tour stop on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. (Bangor Daily News photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Two of the big winners during the 55th Annual Grammy Awards last night played big — perhaps arguably historic — roles in Portland’s arts and lifestyle scene in 2012.

Mumford & Sons, which claimed the coveted Album of the Year award for Babel, headlined a daylong music festival on Portland’s Eastern Promenade in early August. The show attracted 16,000 people to the city, and represented a groundbreaking use of a city-owned outdoor park.

While it didn’t go without some complaints — long lines for food and portable toilets irritated some attendees — the concert festival was largely lauded as a success, not only for boosting business traffic for Portland restaurants and shops during what would otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill summer weekend, but also for elevating the pop profile of Maine’s largest city in the larger music world.

Event organizers from The State Theatre and city officials have since been essentially on the same page that big concerts like that should be considered again in the future. By breaking in the Eastern Prom, Mumford & Sons paved the way for Portland to host shows two or three times larger than the city has ever had the capacity to host in the past (Portland’s largest indoor venue is the Cumberland County Civic Center, which has fewer than 7,000 seats).

Guitarist Jack Antonoff of the rock band fun. speaks about wanting to be on the “right side of history” by supporting gay marriage in Maine before his show at the State Theatre in Portland Wednesday night Oct. 31, 2012. (Bangor Daily News photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Another notable Grammy winner was the band fun., which — in addition to confusing my grammar check program by including a stylized period in its title and crossing my personal sensibilities by featuring a lowercase first letter — found itself in the middle of Portland history last year as well.

fun. used its Halloween night show at The State Theatre as a de facto campaign event in support of same sex marriage, which Maine residents ultimately legalized less than a week later by passing a referendum on the subject.

Two months later, Portland would be home to the first gay marriage in the state’s history, opening City Hall at midnight on the first date the unions would be legal, but fun. represented arguably the highest profile advocates for the new law during the campaign season.

Last night, fun. took home Grammys for Song of the Year — for “We Are Young” — and Best New Artist, proving Maine wasn’t the only place where they broke through.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.