First of all, let me be clear: This is far from a scientific survey. I took to the quick-draw social media platform Twitter yesterday in the aftermath of the Portland City Council’s decision to allow another open-air concert next summer on the Eastern Promenade.
There, I joined the venerable Jana Barnello and Katie Simpson of our media partner television station WGME, CBS 13, and the city of Portland’s official Twitter account to get a sense for which musical acts people want to see in that next big Eastern Prom show.
It’s fertile ground for daydreaming, because while in its Monday night decision, the City Council voted to allow a nine-hour concert some Saturday next August, the promoter Townsquare Media has not signed any performers to fill that time period.
The parameters are basically that the music starts at 1 p.m., ends at 10 p.m., and can attract as many as 8,000 ticket holders to the waterfront park. This is buzzworthy in part because two years ago, the hit folk-rock band Mumford & Sons played a festival-style show there attracting 15,000 fans and people have been talking about it ever since, largely in the context of, “Hey, when is the city going to have another big concert on the Eastern Prom?”
So here we are. We now know the general answer to that question. (Click here for the full story on the council decision and more context.)
On Twitter, Jana (along with Katie), City Hall and I all asked our followers to weigh in on which performers they’d book for that big show if they were Townsquare Media, and we collectively got a ton of responses.
To narrow down a top 15, I simply counted votes. Every time a given band or performer was suggested, I notched a vote for that band or performer. At a certain point in the thread, I told followers they could “favorite” someone else’s suggestion, and I’d count that as a vote for that band or performer as well.
So when I write “your top 15 picks,” I’m defining “you” as people who follow me, Jana, Katie or City Hall on Twitter and bothered to reply to our Tweets asking for band ideas. Some of you suggested a bunch of different bands, and some of you suggested just one. I counted them all.
Again, this is far from a scientific survey, so this may absolutely not reflect what the results might be if, say, the city added a fill-in-the-blank question on the Nov. 4 ballot about favorite bands.
This is just for fun.
Also, while I had dozens of suggestions pouring in through Twitter, there frankly weren’t a lot of performers who got multiple votes. Maine Twitter users have very diverse tastes, it turns out, and so a bunch of performers who ended up in the top 15 here are basically tied with just a couple of votes each.
To break some of the ties, I gave full Tweets more weight than “favorites.”
It’s crass, but I broke the rest of the ties with the most recent album sales numbers I could find. (Yes, I know nobody buys full albums any more, everyone buys singles through iTunes or streams audio through Spotify… look, I had to break ties somehow.)
It’s probably also worth noting that some of these suggestions are longshots, if not entirely impossible, especially given the 8,000-person cap considered by the council.
So, after all that lead-in, here are your top 15 picks for musical acts to play the Eastern Prom next August.
15. The Fogcutters: I was really excited to see a local band sneak into this list, I’ve got to say. A few other local acts — Kenya Hall, Jason Spooner and BDN photojournalist Troy R. Bennett’s Squid Jiggers — also got votes, so Townsquare Media might be wise to offer a couple of openings in that nine-hour window to Portland area performers. The Fogcutters are a Portland-based 20-piece big band whose annual Big Band Syndrome concert brings in the market’s top vocalists for live collaborations and has become a destination event in Maine music. Below is a clip of The Fogcutters collaborating with the aforementioned Kenya Hall during one of those Big Band Syndrome sets.
14. Dexy’s Midnight Runners: See? Twitter users aren’t all just teens and twentysomethings — or, at least, there are plenty of teens and twentysomethings on there who like music from yesteryear, as this and many other names on this list seem to indicate. If you don’t remember Dexy’s Midnight Runners, watch the video below and it’ll all come flooding back. You’ll be singing that song to yourself for the next week.
13. Bon Iver: Bon Iver is an indie folk band who put out its debut album on an independent label back in 2007 and by 2012 was picking up Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album. I could see Bon Iver being a good fit for the Eastern Prom in the same way that Mumford & Sons was.
12. The Cars: See? These Twitter kids are reaching back for some oldies-but-goodies. These guys broke onto the scene in the late 70s and 80s with new wave hits like “You Might Think” (below), “Just What I Needed” and “Drive,” and don’t appear to have been active since a reunion tour in 2011. But maybe since Portland’s been named by Business Insider as one of the top 14 places on Earth to visit in 2014, they’ll be willing to get back together for another show just to check it off their travel list for the year.
11. FM Belfast: Hey, one Icelandic group — Eimskip — has famously helped revive Portland’s shipping industry, maybe another one can come revive the city’s Eastern Prom concert scene. FM Belfast is a electro-pop band from Reykjavik. If you’ve never heard of them, listen in below — they wouldn’t be too out of place in the same synth era that brought us The Cars.
10. Royksopp: So, Matt Grondin (@matteegee) suggested a triple bill of FM Belfast, Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp and the No. 8 performer on this list, Robyn. The idea garnered some support, with Portland’s new barcade — that’s a bar and an arcade — immediately jumping on board with an offer of free pinball and drinks for these groups if they sign on. Sounds like a compelling offer. Could sweeten any deal Townsquare Media makes, right?
9. Jack Johnson: Need a break from all the electronic suggestions? Jack Johnson could play his whole set without an electrical outlet anywhere in sight — just an acoustic guitar and maybe a few guys with hand drums and maracas. Johnson — who broke out in 1999 as writer and vocalist on G. Love’s “Rodeo Clowns” and went on to have hits like “Upside Down” (below) and “I Got You” — may also be able to relate to Portland’s civic-minded ethos. He’s known for playing concerts and festivals that benefit causes close to his heart, like the environment and arts education. I’m sure the nonprofit Friends of Casco Bay or the popular ArtVan from up in Bath, among others, would be happy to sign on as concert backers and beneficiaries.
8. Robyn: As I alluded to earlier, the Swedish Robyn would be a great pairing with Royksopp, with whom she’s done great collaborations in the past. The dance/synth pop Robyn isn’t a megastar in the U.S. like a few of the names on this list, but she’s a Madonna-like diva in her native Scandinavia, starting out there at the age of 16 in 1994, and over the past 10 years has started to break through in the U.K. and U.S.
7. The Black Keys: The duo The Black Keys have a huge following built up over years of hard work and self promotion, only busting into the mainstream about four years ago with a hit single “Tighten Up” (below) and a handful of Grammy Awards. Twitter follower Matt — a different Matt, @mainebeard — told Jana Barnello he’d pair The Black Keys with Jack Johnson for a double billing: “Black Keys to rock out in the afternoon. Jack Johnson to calm it down at night!”
6. Miranda Lambert: Townsquare Media’s got a history booking shows with country star Miranda Lambert, and she’s got a history playing shows in Maine, having taken the stage on Bangor’s waterfront twice in the last five years. Would she come back again? In 2010, she attracted about 8,000 people to the Queen City, which would be about right for this Eastern Prom show. But since then, Lambert has become a much bigger star, and her 2013 show attracted higher ticket prices and a bigger audience. The Eastern Prom might not be a sizable enough venue for her any more.
5. Taylor Swift: Speaking of people who are too big for an 8,000-capacity concert site, here’s pop-country superstar Taylor Swift, who’s currently riding high on anticipation for her next certain-to-be-smash album “1989,” set to be released next week. While I’d put the odds of Swift playing the Eastern Prom pretty low, she does apparently have a soft spot for Maine, choosing Kennebunk and Cape Elizabeth as the locations to film her 2010 music video for the song “Mine” (below) — and then returning for a half-hour live video release special and intimate concert for her fans here. Could she be talked into an intimate 8,000-person show?
4. Toad the Wet Sprocket: In full disclosure, Toad the Wet Sprocket and the No. 3 band, Counting Crows, were my suggestions to Jana, but I got the “favorites” to warrant their elevation to this placement on the list. I didn’t make anyone agree with me. Toad’s been active for almost three decades now, with a few breakups and reunions along the way. Their most recent album came out last year and was called “New Constellation,” and they’ve been touring with the aforementioned Counting Crows. But most mainstream listeners probably remember them best for singles like 1991’s “All I Want” and “Walk On The Ocean” (below), the latter of which always makes me think of Popham Beach.
3. Counting Crows: As I mentioned above, I suggested Counting Crows, and not only are they one of my favorite bands of all time, I think they’d be a great fit for the Eastern Prom, both in terms of music style and venue size. A lot of people write off Counting Crows as a one-hit-wonder, thinking of 1993’s “Mr. Jones,” but folks tend to forget about the somewhat under-the-radar-but-commercially-successful “A Long December,” (below) “Accidentally in Love” and their cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”
2. Duran Duran: Come on, be honest. You’d totally go see Duran Duran at the Eastern Prom. I bet 7,999 other people would, too, especially if they headlined a “80s/90s power hour” with openers like Tears for Fears, like @realmaineperson suggested in a Tweet to Jana. Duran Duran formed in England in 1978 and they’ve had some rough patches along the way, but they’re still chugging along, and even have a new studio album due to come out next spring. So they should be touring right around when this Eastern Prom gig will be scheduled. In addition to my personal favorite Duran Duran tune “Come Undone” (below), you probably remember them for 1980s hits like “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf.”
1. Bruce Springsteen: Whereas I had to break a lot of ties along the way to compile this list — again, very unscientifically — there was no doubt who the No. 1 choice was among Twitter respondents. The Boss got the most votes and favorites. But yes, the legendary rocker may be the longest longshot of everyone on this list. With 120-million-plus albums sold, Springsteen’s one of the best-selling musicians of all time, he’s earned 20 Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, and he’s in two halls of fame. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t played in Maine since 1977, when he played a March concert at what is now the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, with a set list that included songs like “Thunder Road” and “Spirit in the Night.” Isn’t it about time for a Maine encore, Bruce?
Honorable Mention (all the acts to receive at least one vote, and still be alive): Uncle Tupelo, Janelle Monae, Alicia Keys, Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, Graham Parker, The Bob Band, The Squid Jiggers, Jason Spooner, Kenya Hall Band, Annie Lenox, Robert Plant, Pearl Jam, Tears for Fears, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Leah Turner, Karmin, Kiesza, Danielle Bradbury, Hall & Oates, Huey Lewis & the News, Little Big Town, Little Mix, Christina Aguilera, Yvlis, Rae Lynn, Blake Shelton, Alex Preston, Gwen Stefani, 5 Seconds of Summer, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lexi James, Jillian Jensen, Jana Kramer, Olivia Somerlyn, The Band Perry, Leann Rimes, Lucy Hale, Maggie Rose, Emily West, Haley from Paramore, Demi Lovato, Paul Simon, Wilco, Phish, Chrissy Hynde, Carrie Underwood, Usher, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, John Mayer, Luke Bryan, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Cold Play, Phillip Phillips, Tim McGraw, Prince, Foster the People, Radiohead, Fifth Harmony.