August 1, 2008
Beltek a Once-a-Year Chance for Maine Techno Marathon
By EMILY BURNHAM
I came upon a child of God - he was walking along the road. I asked him, "Where are you going?" and this he told me."I'm going on down to Kidson's farm. I'm going to join in a DJ dance party," said child of God. "I'm going to camp out on the land. I'm going to try to get my soul free."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I (sort of) quoted Joni Mitchell. So sue me. But hey - the Beltek Festival, set for this weekend at a 14-acre farm in the Waldo County town of Belmont, is part of a tradition that stretches all the way back to that big festival 40 years ago at Yasgur's farm. Tons of progressive and fun music and art in a big field in the middle of the summer. Good vibes, dancing and an array of interesting people, ranging from the mildly curious to the out- and-out freaky. Pretty lights. Booming bass. We are stardust, we are golden, etc, etc.
Beltek, now in its sixth year, is the work of Rick Kidson, Erik Klausmeyer, and a small army of DJs, musicians, artists, vendors and volunteers. Klausmeyer and Kidson both spent one evening a week broadcasting techno over the airwaves on WERU-FM. As their immersion into the world of electronic music deepened, their desire to bring it to more people increased.
"Rick had this property in Belmont that I thought would be perfect for having a big party. At first, he said 'No way,'" recalled Klausmeyer, who still does his show, "Databass," from 10 p.m. to midnight Fridays on WERU. "That was in 2003. As summer approached, though, we actually started to consider it. We made up a flier that basically said, 'Hey, you're invited to a free thing' and handed it out to people we thought would be interested."
That free thing was the inaugural Beltek, which attracted a small group of electronic music fans to Kidson's farm. It's grown exponentially each year - last year's Beltek attracted more than 600 people, and featured DJs from all over the country and the world.
This year, more than 30 DJs are set for the three-day festival, many of whom are from Maine, but some of whom hail from as far away as Los Angeles (DJ Legal Limit) and St. Petersburg, Russia - Hydrator, who attended Beltek last year, and was so blown away he decided to make the trek back to the States to spin at this year's festival.
Maine's electronic scene is thriving, thanks in no small part to people such as Klausmeyer and Kidson, who work to bring together the disparate elements of Maine DJ culture. DJs from the Portland-based Brick City Media label mix it up with DJs from Down East, or the midcoast, or western Maine. As any fan of Maine music is aware, there's often a huge disconnect between the Portland scene and basically the rest of the state, so the fact that there's such communication and sharing of ideas in the realm of techno is very refreshing and encouraging.
"There's definitely been an explosion of electronic music here in Maine, and a lot of it has to do with people meeting at Beltek," said Klausmeyer. "There are dozens of DJs that come and trade records and talk with each other and connect. And for music fans, it's definitely a great place to be. Where else in Maine can you hear 36 hours of music that you've never heard before?"
Klausmeyer and Kidson encourage festival attendees to camp out, and do everything they can to provide a safe, welcoming atmosphere for everyone. They work with local authorities and businesses to provide necessary amenities (water, toilets, EMTs on-site), and they bring in local artists, performers and vendors to add to the fun.
Most importantly, they rely on volunteers and donations to keep Beltek 100 percent free. Just show up with a tent, some snacks and a couple cans of Red Bull, and get ready to dance from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday. Apart from some miserable excuses for human beings who stole donation money last year, all behave themselves wonderfully. And this actually happens, people. It happens in Maine. And it works.
"People want something different. There's some stuff out there that's an alternative, and then there's an alternative to the alternative," said Klausmeyer. "That's what we provide. I'm looking forward to literally thousands of people coming here and immersing themselves in alternative arts and culture, and having it spawn more parties and DJ nights throughout the rest of the year. It's kind of like, 'If you build it, they will come,' you know?"
For a full schedule, a list of DJs, vendors and artists, guidelines and directions, visit www.beltekfestival.com. Emily Burnham has invested in a case of energy drinks and some comfortable shoes.
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