July 25, 2008

Shangri Lovin’ It Music Festival Kicks Off in Blue Hill


In the 1933 novel "Lost Horizon," Shangri-La is reachable only by a treacherous trek through the Himalayas. Once you're there, though, you're in an earthly paradise - a perfect utopia in which everyone lives permanently happy, peaceful, long lives.

To get to the Shangri-La in Maine, you have to drive down Route 1 and avoid crazed tourists. And then you have to pitch a tent, and make sure you save some cash for a falafel. But it's another kind of paradise - a musical one.

The first-ever Shangri-La Music and Arts Festival is set for Aug. 1-3 at the Blue Hill Fairgrounds and features more than 20 bands and artists from around the world, from South America to Southwest Harbor. It's the years-in-the-making project of local promoter Joel Raymond and his son Joshua. If the two have their way, by the time the show wraps up Sunday night with an acoustic performance from Steve Earle, it'll be well on its way to being one of the biggest, best festivals in the state.

Here's a rundown of some of the musicians who will be appearing at Shangri-La next weekend - some you may be familiar with, and some you probably aren't.

Bill Evans Soulgrass with Sam Bush

6:30 p.m. Friday

Bill Evans is a jazz saxophonist and is a legend in both jazz and bluegrass circles - primarily because he blurs the lines between the two genres. Evans, who has played with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Bela Fleck, released the groundbreaking fusion album "Soulgrass" to wide critical acclaim, and received a Grammy nomination for his album "Soul Insider."

Terrance Simien and Zydeco Experience

8 p.m. Friday

Nothing makes a party quite like a zydeco band. Terrance Simien takes it to another level, though, incorporating funk and Afrobeat influences into his sound. Blessed with a voice and stage presence that compels you to dance, Simien is one of the foremost torchbearers for the traditional Louisiana music.

Tim Krekel

Noon Saturday

Tim Krekel has quietly made straight-up, no B.S. rock 'n' roll for decades, writing songs for the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Delbert McClinton and touring the U.S. and Europe regularly. He's one of those hidden gems in the world of rock who has done his thing for years with little recognition - but has gained the respect of just about everyone in the music biz.

Luke Rathbone

1:45 p.m. Saturday

At the tender age of 20, Luke Rathbone is poised to hit the big time. Rathbone lived in southern Maine for several years, writing songs in a cabin in the woods before returning to his former home of New York City. His first album, "After Dark," is a self-produced collection of intimate, smart, authentic alt-folk.

Juana Molina

4 p.m. Saturday

This Argentinean musical chameleon is a spellbinding presence onstage. Making use of an array of pedals and computers, she takes sound effects, her guitar and her beguiling voice and slowly builds a gentle, hypnotic song out of many elements. Her music combines folk, electronic and Latin elements into something truly unique.

The Infamous Stringdusters

7 p.m. Saturday

The term "newgrass" is a weird one - bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and Nickel Creek fall loosely into that camp. But the whole point of newgrass is that it takes the traditional bluegrass sound and turns it on its head, incorporating many different elements into the old-timey framework. The Infamous Stringdusters are among the foremost practitioners of this new approach to bluegrass.

The Barra MacNeils

1:30 p.m. Sunday

For 20 years, the six siblings in the Barra MacNeils have made a name for themselves in playing pitch-perfect Cape Breton Celtic music. Eight albums and thousands of live shows, featuring their crystal-clear harmonies, inventive instrumentation and humorous storytelling have cemented the group as one of the best in the Celtic world.

Southern Culture on the Skids

3 p.m. Sunday

"The way you eat that oatmeal pie just makes me wanna die!" Recognize that? That's from Southern Culture on the Skids' song "Camel Walk," which has been played regularly by WKIT 100.3 since the late '90s. SCOTS plays a wild hybrid of country, surf, rockabilly, punk and r&b. Rolling Stone called their live shows a "hell-raising rock 'n' roll party."

If you go

What: The Shangri-La Music and Arts Festival

Where: Blue Hill Fairgrounds

When: 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1; 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2; 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3.

How much? $40 per day; camping extra.

What else is there to do, besides see bands? View work by local and regional visual artists, attend a film festival, watch a big- screen video game tournament, take educational workshops, go on hikes, practice yoga, go to a dance party, check out food and craft vendors, and meet lots of interesting people.

What to bring: If youre just there for the day, bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, snacks, a blanket or camp chair and a healthy appetite for music. If youre camping, bring the usual camping accoutrements. Water, alcoholic beverages and a wide variety of very reasonably priced food will be available on-site.

Dont bring: Alcohol, glass, large folding chairs, large grills, pets, bicycles, bad vibes.

How can I get tickets and find out more? Visit the Web site, www.sha-la.com.

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