The Portland Phoenix launched in 1999, just as the Portland music scene was turning. The Phoenix never saw Raoul's. It never saw Granny Killam's or Morganfield's or the Blue Moon or Leo's. It barely saw the Bitter End. The Kopterz had mostly given up the dream, and Rustic Overtones and Twisted Roots were nearing the end of their first hay days. The era of the Homegrown CDs was replaced by the era of the Greetings from Area Code 207 CDs. Colepitz was about to be the biggest thing that ever was.
As the Phoenix turns 10, we look at 10 bands that have taken us from where we were then to where we are now.
CERBERUS SHOAL The anti-Overtones, the underground mercurial collective to match that larger-than-life mainstream appeal. Similarly, the group's end/hiatus has birthed more than we could have hoped for: Fire on Fire, Threads, Big Blood, dilly dilly, Chriss Sutherland's solo career, for a few. To think they began as a four-piece punk outfit.
THE COMING GRASS One of the first bands written up in the Portland Phoenix, when Ben Monaghan sung their praises in December 1999, the Coming Grass were Portland's premier alt-country band in the early 2000s. Sara Cox is a standard-bearer for Portland's singer/songwriter community; husband Nate Schrock never lost his punk edge. Drummer Ginger Cote is one of the best this town's ever seen and sideman Steve Jones remains a solo artist you're always happy to stumble upon.
THE EXTENDO-RIDE ALL STARS These guys ushered in the era of indie pop/rock that has wound its way into Portland's musical DNA. It's hard to believe their lo-fi clangy guitars first saw Portland stages in 2001, but Jay Lobley, Peet Chamberlain, Joe Lops, and Brandon Davis have gone on to infiltrate indie bands far and wide, Cult Maze, An Evening With, and Metal Feathers among them.
THE STEVE GROVER TRIO(or Quartet or Quintet) When Mark Kleinhaut left town for Cleveland, the mantle seems to have been passed to Grover to keep the momentum going. Jazz's legacy in Maine is great and important, and Grover will make sure the likes of Lenny Breau and Brad Terry continue to be remembered and enjoyed.
JERKS OF GRASS They've essentially founded a bluegrass academy in Yarmouth, they've likely played more gigs than any other band in Portland (mostly at the Bramhall), and they've done nothing but up their game continuously over the past 10 years. It's no wonder they remain the core of the Maine bluegrass scene.
KNOW COMPLEX The kNOw Complex-hosted open-mic night at the Stonecoast may not have gotten Portland hip-hop started, but it definitely brought it into the mainstream (the $2 420s didn't hurt, either). Moshe went on to found Milled Pavement Records, Sontiago became the most recognizable name in Portland hip-hop, and Bread carved out an excellent pair of solo albums. Wally Wentzel continues to be one of Portland's finest soundmen and Navillus . . . well Navillus sort of made Poverty happen, right?
MUNJOY HILL SOCIETY This is the band I'll forever associate with the Skinny, the club that may have had the best run of the past 10 years, even if it was too short. The combined talents of Darien Brahms, Chicky Stoltz, Paul Chamberlain, and John Clark made this a supergroup in every sense of that word.
OCEAN A Geno's band that showed you can be more popular outside of Portland than you are inside it. They are a supergroup in their own right — Candy, Eric Brackett, John Lennon, and Reuben Little — with long histories in local metal scene, but it is their attention to their singular craft that make them notable.
RUSTIC OVERTONES This seems like a no-brainer, but this really wasn't their decade. The best thing that happened to them in the last 10 years might have been their break-up, leading to bands like Rocktopus, As Fast As, Paranoid Social Club, Tony McNaboe's solo project, Seekonk, the Plains, Dulce de Leche, and more. Getting back together was just gravy.
SLY-CHI Recently, Model Airplane wrapped up a summer of Mondays at the Big Easy, but no one did a weekly gig at the Big Easy like Sly-Chi, full of danceable soul and funk covers and originals with a big band that almost anyone could love. Along with bands like Inside Straight, Sly-Chi help found a soul scene in Portland that is surprisingly diverse and active.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at email@example.com.