A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
Grime Studios is the subject of another fundraiser tonight; but this time the revolution will be televised.
Beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, Community Television Network (516 Congress St.) hosts “This Graveyard Is Not Deserted: A Film Screening and Music Show,” featuring music performances by Mome and Wicked Woods (both of whom rehearse at Grime Studios), plus Jeff Beam and The Difference. The event will be televised as part of CTV’s weekly show Turnstyle Thursday.
The event also features a screening of This Graveyard Is Not Deserted — a short documentary film about Grime that has been making the rounds on social media and is available on Vimeo — plus short presentations by people speaking on behalf of the beloved rehearsal space, which has been raising funds in an effort to relocate from its doomed location at Thompson’s Point to a warehouse on Presumpscot Street. The cost is $7.
In October, Grime’s principal owner Justin Curtsinger signed a 10-year lease for the warehouse. Before moving in, however, the site needs more than $100,000 in construction to soundproof the building and partition its wide-open interior into smaller rehearsal spaces for bands.
Curtsinger, who did not organize tonight’s show, said he’s excited by the prospect of seeing Mome perform.
“This is one of three bands to have come out of Maine in recent years that I think have some amazing potential. They are really clever song writers and really understand the blues and where rock’n’roll came from; way more than most bands.”
Curtsinger said their sound is difficult to pin down, but he would recommend them to fans of Blue Oyster Cult, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, Deep Purple, Ash Ra Temple, and “especially The Devil’s Blood.”
We checked in with Grime’s owner this morning to ask a few quick questions. Those questions quickly spooled into a lengthy discussion, as is customary with Mr. Curtsinger, including the potential ripple effects of a larger rehearsal space on greater Portland. In the interest of timeliness, that interview is presented here in full.
Post Mortem: How was Phase 1 of the fundraiser? What was the total amount raised?
Justin Curtsinger: Phase One was, for the most part, pretty discouraging as far as the public crowdfunding goes. The Indiegogo campaign raised $4,710 — minus 9% for indiegogo’s commission — and just under $15,000 was raised via private donations.
PM: Initially, you said that you needed to raise about $70K toward the $100K project, and about $35K could come in the form of a loan. According to the your latest crowdfunding effort, the goal is now $85K. Did the project estimate go up? Did the loan fall through? I would have expected the Phase 2 goal to be more like $30K. Or, if the loan fell through, I would have guessed it would be more like $65K. What changed?
JC: The total cost of the project has been estimated at just under $200,000. That includes Construction Phase 2 — a second floor which is years away and also doesn’t factor in any sweat equity. It also factors in some contingency money. To get this thing rolling and open, I am currently looking to raise approximately $100,000. The $70,000 number, which was in the Portland Phoenix back in October, was the number at which I was advised to not sign a lease unless I had that much raised (in hand or committed), because I would be risking breaking the lease if unable to get the thing built. Plus, being the guarantor for Grime, I’d be in pretty deep shit financially forever.
In a leap of faith, I signed the lease anyway, because of the seven buildings that I have already spent time and money on in just applying for, this is the best option for Grime moving forward and providing the Greater Portland Area with a long term 24/7 access rehearsal studio space which is both affordable and which will never have to worry about noise complaints or neighbors or anything. Plus, the landlord is a really nice guy who understands what the project is about and why it is essential to a city like Portland.
The loan from CEI which is for $35,000 is contingent upon the raising of $70,000 first, via crowd funding or whatever other sources, like grants, several of which have been applied for since converting from an LLC to a non-profit, but grants take time. It is possible that CEI may be more flexible with how much needs to be raised first, but their perfectly understandable position is that if they lend the cash for approximately a quarter the cost of the build-out, they have no assurance that the rest will be raised and they’d have therefore wasted their money.
PM: Why did you choose gofundme this time instead of Indiegogo?
JC: Honestly, the big reason was that it seems to be a bit more “hip” these days. That’s all. Otherwise, being pretty bad with computers in general, I will say that I think it’s a little bit easier to use. Another key reason was that though it is a bit more expensive to use than say kickstarter or indiegogo, there is no deadline on the campaign.
Though I am very grateful to everyone who has donated to both campaigns, I don’t really feel like this project is something that these online fundraisers are very effective for. Maybe five years ago things were different, but I think a lot of these things are in the process of being phased out. I will say that I don’t believe — and never have — that this project is going to be funded via crowd funding or benefit shows, but please prove me wrong. Every little bit does help, but the cost of building this thing is pretty huge. Several grant foundations have been approached and applied to and there are a few more in the works, as well as some potential bit-hitters who have expressed interest. Oddly enough, one of these big-hitters has never even been to Maine.
PM: If all goes according to your current plans, when would you move in?
JC: There are too many things up in the air to say at this point, but I would really like to get the contractor in there by the first of the year. What it all really depends on is how fast this cash can be raised and unfortunately, Phase One of construction must include the bulk, and most expensive chunk, of the work. The sprinkler guy has been paid for all of his prep work and he should be in there pretty soon. I’ve taken a bunch of the current Grime renters over there and shown them all around. Everyone is psyched.
PM: How much longer can you stay at Thompson’s Point?
It’s still up in the air.
PM: Any other benefit shows planned?
JC: There are four-ish shows in the works. The earliest on is Friday, Jan. 16.
PM: Anything else you want to get out there?
JC: The Presumpscot Street location presents Grime with the best option — both financially and logistically — for establishing a longterm backbone for the Portland Music scene. I have no reservations about running Grime long term at all, even if the economy takes another dive. I know how to do this and to do it right, plus on top of that, the nonprofit status provides a much bigger cushion than what was in place when Grime was still an LLC, which also worked just fine.
Some of the likely ripple effects of Grime relocating and expanding are pretty neat too. I think that this is how Portland will graduate from its constant state of being a half-assed music town with serious potential, to a real music town with a thriving local music scene, with more local bands kicking ass both here and out touring.
In time, another likely ripple effect is that bands from out of town, when considering which of the respective “music towns” around the country to move to, may indeed pick Portland, Maine, instead of the other Portland, or Austin, or whereever.
An even more likely ripple effect of a strong local music scene is that those who book national or regional tours will be more inclined to bring shows up here as opposed to turning everything around in Worcester or Boston. A big part of the problem of Portland being left out of many tour routes is simply geography. It is the end of the line. But its local music scene — which is in a constant state of going up and down, and never really reaching anywhere near it’s potential — doesn’t help either. Ask anyone who books shows up here on a semi-regular basis what the biggest challenge is with bringing out of town acts to Portland. Guaranteed, your answer will be “the guarantees are too much for such a small scene.”
Since this is a metal blog, a good example would be a band from Cleveland called Midnight, which is signed to a somewhat underground label — Hell’s Headbangers, also out of Cleveland — and have a pretty good following all over the country, at least in the underground metal world. They are a very accessible and universally appreciated band, appealing to fans all kinds of different sub-genres of heavy metal, and often to those who don’t really care for heavier stuff,. Their current standard guarantee is a thousand dollars to play a show. Would a promoter be able to pay them that for putting them in at one of the venues here in town? If they charge $10 and it sells out, maybe. Assuming the rest of the bands play for free or cheap and the promoter is ready to take the fall for everything. With a strong local music scene in place, one that is safe from being wiped out by development for a very long time and one which draws musicians from out of town here regularly to set up shop, promoters eventually won’t be taking such a big risk by bringing a band like Midnight to Portland, not to mention bands from Europe.
All this “fun, longterm ripple effect” stuff aside, without a place to practice, there is nothing to record or to bring to a stage later. If Grime is not relocated the current total of rehearsal rooms in town which can be rented publicly — as in you don’t have to know someone who is already there — will drop from 43 to 28 and none of those 28 have 24/7 access.
I’d encourage everyone who sees potential in Portland as a music town to think about all of this long and hard.