Mumbles headline Strawberry Moon festival June 20-21-22

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — Pocket Full of Mumbles, those increasingly percussive purveyors of smart twang and Scarborough Fair-caliber harmonies, will return to Pineland Farms June 20, 21 and 22 to play the annual Strawberry Moon Celebration here at the former Gillespie Farms.

Show times and picking hours are identical: 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Parking is free here at the expansive and idyllic Pineland Farms, located at 752 Mayall Road in New Gloucester.

Come June, all sensible Mainers make time for at least one pick-your-own strawberry outing. Strawberry Moon takes the experience up a notch, or two, by providing a grassy commons area where visitors can sit back and soak up the sun, avail themselves of food-truck and craft beer/beverage vendors, and listen to the dulcet, alt-country tones of Pocket Full of Mumbles.

“Don’t forget the goats,” says Mumbles bassist and fiddler Mike Conant. “There are always animals to pet and tractors to climb. It’s a pretty great family event. The ultimate yard party, though I don’t know that I’ve ever attended a yard party with a strawberry shortcake station.”

Entry to Strawberry Moon, inclusive of parking, is just $6 per person. Folks have the option of putting their ticket price toward their respective pick-your-own strawberry purchases, at checkout. Or just spread out on a blanket, or at a picnic table, and enjoy a beverage, inventive comestibles and live music. Children under 2 are free. 

Pocket Full of Mumbles have headlined the Strawberry Moon festival each year since 2021. The band considers this event the unofficial kickoff to its busy summer season. The Mumbles will play Side by Each Brewing Co. in Auburn on Saturday night, July 20. It will return to the Topsham Fair on Aug. 7. For more gig and band information, visit www.PocketFullOfMumbles.com

Mumbles return to Side By Each Saturday night, Dec. 30

AUBURN, Maine — Pocket Full of Mumbles, those expert purveyors of smart alt-country twang, are back at Side By Each on Saturday night, Dec. 30, just in time to prepare one’s groove for 2024. Show time at the popular Minot Avenue brewing company & eatery is 7 p.m. 

Pocket Full of Mumbles debuted in 2017 as a Simon & Garfunkel tribute act, featuring  close harmonies and largely acoustic instrumentation from fiddler/bassist Mike Conant and guitarist Hal Phillips. Early in the pandemic, they added Tim Howie on pedal steel, Telecaster and banjo, lending amplification and twang to their portfolio of S&G and original songs. 

With a variety of guest drummers and soloists, the Mumbles today complement those originals with canny selections from Son Volt, CSN, Neil Young, Cracker, vintage Jackson Browne, fIREhOSE and Bob Mould, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Ryan Adams, James Taylor, Liz Phair and The Band. PFOM last appeared at Side By Each in June 2023. 

The lovely and talented Nancy Durham will join PFOM on percussion Dec. 30. The Mumbles will also debut their newly dedicated “Telecaster Set”, featuring Mr. Howie on his vintage, case-less Fender which, while it appears to be held together with chewing gum and baling wire, really hums.

Beer tip: Side By Each remains one of Maine’s most innovative and skilled brewing operations. If you like a brown ale — good examples of which are notoriously hard to find in North America — check out SBE’s Fat Charlie the Archangel. 

Mumbles back at SBE Friday, June 9; Sebago Days July 15 & Topsham Fair Aug. 9

Pocket Full of Mumbles, Maine’s favorite purveyors of eclectic, crowd-pleasing twang, will return to Side By Each Brewing Co. in Auburn this Friday night, June 9. Showtime is 7-10 p.m.

Pocket Full of Mumbles debuted in 2017 as a Simon & Garfunkel tribute act, featuring close harmonies and largely acoustic instrumentation from fiddler/bassist Mike Conant and guitarist Hal Phillips. Early in the pandemic, they added Tim Howie on pedal steel, Telecaster and banjo, lending amplification and twang to their portfolio of S&G and original tunes.

With a variety of guest soloists (the lovely and talented Nancy Durham will sit in on the drums this Friday), the Mumbles do indeed stock each set with eclectic crowd pleasers. On June 9, expect newly worked up selections from Warren Zevon, the Grateful Dead and Son Volt, to go along with heapin’ helpings of originals, CSNY, Chris Stapleton, vintage Jackson Browne, Bob Mould, The Dillards, Ryan Adams, James Taylor, Liz Phair and Tom Petty.

Later this month, the Mumbles will play in residence at the annual Strawberry Festival, a three-day, pick-your-own extravaganza scheduled for June 22-23-24 at Pineland Farms on the Mayall Road in Gray. As it has done the last three Junes, PFOM will preside from its flatbed stage Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4-7 p.m. The band will also play the Sebago Days festival on July 15 (2 p.m.), and the Topsham Fair Aug. 9 (11 a.m.), so mark your calendars.

Mumbles Make Side By Each Debut Saturday Night, May 6

Pocket Full of Mumbles, Maine’s favorite purveyors of smart twang, has emerged from winter hibernation straight into show season. The three-piece will make its 2023 debut at Side By Each Brewing Co. in Auburn this Saturday night, May 6, with a return engagement scheduled for Friday June 9. Each show will run 6-9 p.m.

Pocket Full of Mumbles debuted in 2017 as a Simon & Garfunkel tribute act, featuring close harmonies and largely acoustic instrumentation from fiddler/bassist Mike Conant and guitarist Hal Phillips. Early in the pandemic, they added Tim Howie on pedal steel, Telecaster and banjo, lending amplification and twang to their portfolio of S&G and original songs. With a variety of guest drummers and soloists (Bald Hill mando player Ben DeTroy will sit in June 9), the Mumbles stock each set with selections from Son Volt, CSN, Neil Young, Cracker, vintage Jackson Browne, fIREhOSE and Bob Mould, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Ryan Adams, James Taylor, Liz Phair and The Band.

Later in June, the Mumbles will again play in residence at the annual Strawberry Festival, a three-day, pick-your-own extravaganza held June 24-25-26 at Pineland Farms on the Mayall Road in Gray. The event has grown a great deal through the years: What had been a quiet, 1-day, pick-your-own affair has matured into a three-day family-friendly blowout complete with food trucks, craft brew vendors, farm equipment (for climbing) and, of course

Mumbles Play the Topsham Fair, Aug. 10

TOPSHAM, Maine — Pocket Full of Mumbles, everyone’s favorite Simon & Garfunkel tribute band turned alt-country darlings, will return to the midway on Wednesday, Aug. 10,  when they play the Topsham Fair.

The Mumbles will take the Area 3 stage at 11 a.m. to play the first of three, consecutive 1-hour sets.

Regular admission on Wednesday is $15, which includes an unlimited ride bracelet. Pocket Full of Mumbles are pleased to share the Area 3 stage and others with a crew of fine musical acts including Ranger D Singing Cowboy (Aug. 10, 5 p.m.), Murlyn Greenleaf (Aug. 11, 1 p.m.), Always Sometimes (Aug. 12, 6 p.m.), and As Friends on Aug. 13, beginning at 4 p.m.

Maine carnivals generally celebrate local agriculture, its products & produce, but the farm community as well. The Topsham Fair is no exception but the schedule, starting Aug. 8 and stretching through the weekend, is particularly ambitious. It includes these must-see attractions, among others:

• Youth Dairy and Beef Show

• Whoopi Pie Contest

• Multiple Goat Milking Demonstrations

• Princess and Superheroes Meet and Greet

• Pig Scrambles, Demolition Derbies, Ox and Horse Pulling, and Fireworks on Saturday night starting at 9:15 p.m.

The Mumbles, who made their public debut at the Litchfield Fair in 2017, are duly daunted but unbowed by the prospect of competing with this diverse lineup of stimuli. As such, the boys will be breaking out several new tunes —  from Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Liz Phair and Bob Mould — to go with a bunch of originals and healthy portions of S&G, Jackson Browne, Son Volt, Neil Young and Stephen Stills. See you in Topsham.

PFOM to play Strawberry Moon forever (actually, just June 24-26)

NEW GLOUCESTER — Pocket Full of Mumbles will make their public 2021 debut June 24-26 as part of the Strawberry Moon Celebration here at idyllic Gillespie Farm, the Pineland Farm location on Mayall Road. South/Central Maine’s favorite alt-country interpreters of Simon & Garfunkel, Son Volt and Jackson Browne will preside Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4-7 p.m.

Strawberry Moon has become a highlight of the pick-your-own strawberry season north of Portland. The three-day event, hosted at 752 Mayall Road in New Gloucester, features live music but also food trucks, cash bar, dessert tables, horse-drawn carriage rides and special moonlit picking hours. For more information, visit Gillespie’s Facebook page or call the Farm at (207) 657-2877.

But don’t overthink it: Just drop by, harvest a few quarts of delicious strawberries from the rich Maine soil, listen to the music, have a beverage and, if you need more strawberries, come back the next day and do it all again. Strawberry season in Maine is like life: All too short. So don’t miss out.

The members of Pocket Full of Mumbles (PFOM) are greatly looking forward to this engagement, as the last 15 months have been very tough on musical acts in Maine and around the world. The band looks forward to communing again with its massive, devoted fan base (known as “The Mumble Core”) and riding what feels like a significant wave of pent-up demand for live music.

Indeed, for PFOM, the Strawberry Moon event is only the first public event of 2021. The band has already played several private parties and looks forward to many more. Anyone interested in booking such an event should reach out at booking@pocketfullofmumbles.com.

“I don’t think it’s clear to anyone, at this stage of the pandemic, just how practical it is to play traditional shows inside,” said PFOM fiddler/guitarist Mike Conant. “It’s starting to happen, but unknowns remain: from the perspective of host venues, from the folks who might attend, and bands providing the music. We in Pocket Full of Mumbles are all vaccinated and ready to play anywhere. But we understand why clubs, fans and bands might feel differently.

“We’ve always played private parties because we love the casual vibe, the requests, the intimacy. And today, in 2021, they’re certainly an excellent way around all those concerns, especially when they’re held outside.”

Jamulus, pedal steel & Pockets writ larger

That’s our new hero, second from left, on lead guitar, circa 1979.

While the prevailing pandemic has wrought considerable havoc with pretty much every nook and cranny of the music scene, nationwide, Pocket Full of Mumbles has managed to emerge all the stronger — and 50 percent bigger.

Founding members Mike Conant and Hal Phillips are pleased to have welcomed Tim Howie on pedal steel and Telecaster. He joined the band in April, when all musicians could do was practice. PFOM debuted the new three-piece lineup and its ever-evolving sound at a private party in Poland early in July.

That gig felt several worlds away from the dark, secluded months of March and April, when Conant and Phillips could do nothing but practice remotely via the online application Jamulus, a quite marvelous technology that allows musicians from the around the world to convene and play together via a specific, remote, third-party server. Conant and Phillips actually stretched the technology one step further, using Jamulus to access each other’s Internet servers directly.

“For the host, the delay was negligible because the server is right there next to him,” Conant explained. “For the visitor, there was a latency of 40-60 milliseconds, which can feel like quite a lot. Try playing in a field with someone standing 25 feet away. But like anything else, you can account for that delay with practice. And if the connection is good, it starts to feel quite natural.

“One thing’s for certain: It was great practice for us — especially all our close-harmony singing. After doing that remotely, singing together in the same room is a great luxury. It also sounds great because to us, it feels almost effortless.”

Conant has continued to play via Jamulus with dozens of strangers spanning the globe. He and Howie were no strangers, however. For several years they have played together as contributors to the free-form, practice-averse jammers known especially to Grateful Dead mavens across southern Maine as the Kennebunk River Band.

“Acquiring the twang of pedal steel has always been part of the plan for Pocket Full of Mumbles,” Phillips says, “mainly on account of all the Son Volt and Jackson Browne tunes we do. And those tunes really sound great with Tim on board.

“What we hadn’t expected was just how great the pedal sounds — along with his occasionally ripping electric guitar — on the Simon & Garfunkel songs we play, and our originals. A classic folky tune like Wednesday Morning 3 a.m. is completely transformed. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Tim has totally changed the sound of PFOM, for the better.”

Howie is a multi-instrumentalist from way back, having played trumpet, drums and guitar with a succession of “rock ‘n roll bands” while still in his teens.

“I picked up the banjo when I was in Texas, playing with a country band,” says Howie, who, in addition to playing with Kennebunk River Band, did a recent stint playing with Maine’s own Rock Bottom Band. “But when I was relocated to northern Maine, in 1984, that’s when I picked up pedal steel guitar and played with different bands in Aroostook County. I’ve stuck with guitar and pedal ever since, when my family relocated to the central Missouri area, and after we returned here to southern Maine.”

Live Music on the Patio at Allegash Brewery, 12/21

Pocket Full of Mumbles returns to Portland’s Allagash Brewery on Saturday night, Dec. 21, and fear not — the boys will come prepared to celebrate the season. 

Oh sure, starting at 5 p.m., patrons can expect only the finest collection of Simon & Garfunkel homage (including a new medley of tunes from the Sound of Silence LP), not to mention several originals and selections from Jackson Browne, alt-country darlings Son Volt, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Stephen Stills. 

But Pocket Full of Mumbles will show up on Riverside — four days before Christmas — withan eclectic set of Christmas songs in tow, some of them requiring no instrumentation whatsoever. These a cappella selections include:

  • While Shepherds Watched their Flocks, a venerable English hymn (dating to the 16thcentury) that describes the “Annunciation to the Shepherds” who, having watched the angels gatheron high (and the wise men roll in from the East), rightly wondered what exactly was going down in their sleepy little town (of Bethlehem). Some folks may recognize this song but even they may not realize just how popular this carol used to be. In fact, it was the only Christmas-specific hymn authorized to be sung by the Anglican Church prior to 1700, along with the Psalms of David.
  • Away in a Manger, another standby (but not quite so old) that boasts a curiously international backstory. Legend routinely ascribed the lyrics to Protestant reformer Martin Luther; many went so far as to call it “Luther’s Cradle Song” or “Luther’s Cradle Hymn”, arguing that its English lyrics had been translated from Luther’s German. It is in fact wholly American in origin, the work of two late 19th century hymnsmiths, William Kirkpatrick and James Ramsey Murray. For whatever reason, it remains extraordinarily popular in England, where a 1996 Gallup poll ranked it joint second among all Christmas carols. 
  • Comfort and Joy, Simon & Garfunkel’s spare but compelling take on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlementhat appeared on the 1997 anthology, Old Friends. It was recorded in 1967. 

Mike and Hal are keeping their options open prior to the Allagash gig; there may well be more seasonal additions to the set list. 

But one thing’s for certain: On Dec. 21, the duo will perform Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me, a tune written by Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius but made famous by the one and only Elvis Presley. This song first appeared in 1957, as part of an RCA Victor 45 EP, Elvis’ Christmas Album, along with Santa Claus is Back in Town, Blue Christmas, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Not surprisingly, the album would eventually reach#1 on the Billboard EP chart.

Stephen Never Really Got Over Judy

Besotted young men have for centuries been composing love songs for/about the objects of their affection. When it comes to qualitative productivity, however, it’s tough to match Stephen Stills’ preoccupation with Judy Collins.

They met in 1967, when Stills was immediately post Buffalo Springfield and pre CSN — a tremendously productive songwriting period for the young Canadians. She’d just released “Wildflowers”, the highest charting album of her career (wherein she covered Both Sides Now, the work of another young Canadian, Joni Mitchell). Apparently, Stills spied Collins in the audience at West Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go and the rest is history.

The resulting 18-month relationship would move Stills to write three Judy-centric tunes: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and Helplessly Hoping both showed up two years later on CSN’s eponymous, much-heralded debut album. Another ode to Judy — So Begins the Task, wherein Stills addresses the difficulties in accepting her rejection — didn’t make the cut. It wouldn’t be recorded until 1972, when it appeared on Still’s solo album, Manassas.

Nevertheless, Pocket Full of Mumbles will cover it (along with the epic, 8.5-minute Suite) this Friday, June 28 at the Allagash Brewery in Portland.

Reproducing CSN’s 3- and 4-part harmonies is no small matter, especially for a duo, but it can be done. PFOM proves it (see the Video/Audio tab for evidence). Collins and Stills themselves further this argument: Their 2017 album, “Everybody Knows”, featured an attractive mix of new songs, catalogue selections and CSN covers. Indeed, another PFOM tune on tap Friday night, You Don’t Have To Cry, was a staple of the tour Collins and Stills undertook in support of “Everybody Knows”.

That album and tour may not have transpired had David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stills made plain, in 2016, that they’d finally had enough of one another. Each has indicated they will never perform with the others again — a sentiment Neil Young made plain (but kept reneging on) starting in 1974. Prior to her 50th anniversary tour with Stills, Collins was dismissive of the idea that she was ever some sort of stand-in.

“I’m the original girl,” she told The Guardian in 2017. “I was there before any of them.”

What ever happened to that guy who robbed the liquor store?

We often tell audiences that a particular tune we perform (and recently recorded, see below), “Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.”, contains perhaps the most unlikely Paul Simon lyric ever written down. Give a listen and pay special attention to the third verse… The notion that effete, petit Paul Simon would ever knock over a liquor store, or commit a violent felony of any kind, is patently absurd. The same could be said of Art Garfunkel, who is taller but no less the sensitive, urbane sophisticate.

No one claims this or any S&G song is explicitly autobiographical, but this unlikely outlaw theme is one that Simon & Garfunkel must have fancied because they resurrect and amplify it on their very next album with the song, “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me”.

In an earlier blog (from July 2018, see below), we remark on the fact that S&G’s debut album, Wednesday Morning 3 a.m., was something of a dud. Indeed, Simon’s next batch of spare folk tunes didn’t thrill the executives at Columbia Records, and so he fucked off to England, with Kathy (she of the song), to concentrate on becoming the next Bob Dylan. It wasn’t until producer Tom Wilson rocked up the single, “Sounds of Silence” (in post production), that S&G would reform. Indeed, this new Byrds-inspired version would go straight to #1, which led Simon, Garfunkel and Wilson to affix more orchestration to many of the remaining songs on this second album, the now iconic Sounds of Silence.

One of those cuts, “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me”, doesn’t merely harken back to the criminal storyline detailed in the previous album’s title cut; it reprises nearly the entire lyric and updates the story.

In the wistful original, our antihero narrator has committed a crime, broken the law… In the middle of the night, his girlfriend asleep at his side, he wonders aloud (amid rich harmonies) what fate the dawn will bring.

Artists will sometimes refer back to previous lyrics, dropping little references or inside jokes to the listener. But with “Somewhere” we find something quite different: Simon deploys the original “Wednesday Morning” lyric to create a brand new song. A newly inserted chorus spells out next steps: I’ve got to creep down the alleyway, fly down the highway

These urgent new lyrics and tone reveal that our unlikely felon has resolved to go on the lam — Before they come and get me I’ll be gone! Somewhere, where they can’t find me…

It’s not clear, but it seems his girlfriend may have woken up in time to hear all this. One can imagine her surprise: That this poetic, nebbish (a nice Jewish boy?) has A) robbed a liquor store; and B) now intends to elude the long arm of justice like some turtle-necked, scarf-wearing Clyde Barrow. It’s all a bit grandiose but it does lead us to wonder (and further consult the S&G songbook) as to whatever happened to that guy…