In days of yore, tipsy Mainers would crowd into dim, smoke-filled rooms underneath coloured occasion lights, their sweaty our bodies swaying collectively on sanded dance flooring. On stage, guitar slingers twanged away whereas candy singers crooned about their dishonest hearts. Holding one another shut, palms slipping down into reverse again pockets, the dancers’ faces met, inches aside.
Locking eyes, they often kissed.
In these pandemic days of isolation and life-saving private area, it feels like a fairy story — or a nightmare. Both manner, it’s true.
From the Nineteen Seventies by the Nineties, Maine had a thriving bottle membership scene. Again then, dozens of dance halls like The Purple Barn, The Wagon Wheel and Nation Crossroads dotted the state — and so they have been all full, each weekend. There have been loads of gigs to go round for nation teams like The Silver Greenback Band, Streamliner and Hurricane Mountain.
It was strictly BYOB, therefore the bottle membership moniker. Patrons hauled in their very own booze by the case and cooler full.
These glory days of dancing and ingesting are lengthy gone. Almost all of the previous dance halls have closed. When the pandemic hit, solely two have been nonetheless working within the state. Each have now been shuttered for over a yr.
Clockwise, from left: Bucky Mitchell sits on the drums for a publicity photograph with the Stan Jr. Present circa 1975; Mitchell performs with Rick Wells’ Wagon Wheel bottle membership home band round 1972; Mitchell, photographed in April 2021, performed with a number of the state’s hottest bands and later toured North America. Credit score: Courtesy of Bucky Mitchell; Troy R. Bennett / BDN
The Nineteen Seventies
Drummer Bucky Mitchell, 69, of Windham was there when the bottle membership craze began and ended up taking part in at most of them within the early ’70s.
“All of the golf equipment have been packed to the hilt, each Saturday night time — each one among them,” he stated.
Earlier than state regulation allowed patrons to carry their very own liquor into dance halls, of us nonetheless discovered methods to take pleasure in a nip on their nights out. Mitchell remembers the scene when he was beginning to sit in with native bands, as a teen, within the Nineteen Sixties.
“What folks did was, they danced inside and loved the present however when the band took a break, they’d exit to their vehicles to drink,” Mitchell stated. “All of the fights have been out within the parking zone. Then, when the music began, they’d get again up, mud themselves off and return inside to bop.”
However by 1970, dancers have been allowed to carry their drinks inside and the bottle membership increase was underneath manner. After getting out of radio broadcast faculty in Boston, Mitchell got here residence to Maine and received a gradual gig with Rick Wells’ home band at The Wagon Wheel, only a few tons down from his mother and father’ home in Steep Falls.
“That place was going like gangbusters,” he stated.
It was so widespread that Portland nation music radio station WPOR would broadcast dwell from there each Saturday night time, from midnight till 1 a.m.
With The Wagon Wheel packed to capability each weekend, different golf equipment began popping up within the space. The Lakeview Membership opened above a bowling alley in Sebago Lake Village, then morphed into the 400-person capability Nation Crossroads in the identical city, close to Standish Nook. Then, the Pinkham household, who owned a sawmill, opened The Roost only a few miles away in Buxton. It sported an expensive, knotty pine inside with uncovered, rough-sawn beams and a balcony.
“Then Concord Corridor out in Yarmouth got here into the image,” Mitchell stated. “They constructed one that would maintain 650 folks. They have been packing that one, too.”
Mitchell remembers taking part in the 10-4 membership in Liberty one night time with Maine nation music large Dick Curless.
“Midway by the night time, and in comes the fireplace inspector,” he stated.
The inspector informed the proprietor he was going to must shut down instantly as a result of there was just one door. With the scale of the gang, it was a hearth hazard.
However the proprietor was having none of it.
“He received his chainsaw, went proper to the center of the constructing and voop-voop, minimize a door into the wall, flopped it out into the parking zone and stated, ‘There’s your second door.’”
Curless, Mitchell and the remainder of the band saved on taking part in by the entire incident.
On the finish of a mean bottle membership night time, the lights would come up and Mitchell would get a have a look at the carnage within the room.
“There’d be bottles and cans everywhere in the tables, water and liquid everywhere in the flooring,” he stated, “and perhaps a pile or two of throw-up. Everybody smoked cigarettes again then. You can minimize the smoke within the air with a knife.”
Mitchell credit bottle golf equipment’ long-running reputation to native media, economics and an absence of the rest to do in rural Maine on a Saturday night time.
At round $5 per couple, it was cheap. Most radio stations have been additionally nonetheless domestically owned again then and prepared to spin regional musicians’ information and plug their gigs.
“And, there weren’t 200 channels of TV to observe,” Mitchell stated. “Each Saturday night time, folks went out — as a result of that’s what you probably did. You and the spouse received a babysitter and also you went dancing. That’s what all people did.”
From left: A teenage Mike Preston (proper) is all smiles whereas onstage together with his idol, Maine nation music legend Dick Curless, at The Roost bottle membership in Buxton someday within the early Nineties; Preston poses for a photograph with two followers round 1991 when he was simply a teen; Preston, now in his 40s, has been taking part in and singing nation music throughout New England since he was a toddler. Credit score: Courtesy of Mike Preston; Courtesy of Angela Jean McGraw; Troy R. Bennett / BDN
The Nineteen Eighties
Tim Emery was a twentysomething, hotshot rock and roll guitarist when he was recruited by one among southern Maine’s hottest bottle membership bands, Streamliner, within the mid-Nineteen Eighties. Emery particularly remembers the vigorous Friday nights — which have been singles-only — at Nation Crossroads.
“It was packed. It was loopy. It was call-of-the-wild mating season,” he stated.
On these singles’ nights the band can be anticipated to play a “circle dance,” he remembers. Girls would dance in a rotating circle, with males dancing in a bigger circle, rotating in the wrong way, round them.
“We’d play a quick track after which cease. Then we’d play a sluggish track and so they’d have to bop with whoever they have been going through,” Emery stated. “That was at all times fascinating.”
It was a vivid scene on stage, too.
“There have been nights when articles of clothes received thrown on the stage,” Emery stated. “I don’t know if there have been ever any lingerie however I positively noticed a bra come up as soon as. It was time to be a younger, single man in a band.”
At some golf equipment, he remembers, musicians can be anticipated to play “God Bless America” on the finish of the night time, as a form of settle down.
“One membership would make everybody stand in a circle, maintain palms and sing alongside,” he stated. “Every place had their very own rituals, belongings you needed to do.”
A classic signal reminds patrons of the principles at Crystal Falls dance corridor in Chelsea. Crystal Falls dance corridor and has been closed for the reason that pandemic hit in 2020. Credit score: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
Round 1991, simply because the scene started to wane, Maine nation singer Mike Preston performed his first paying gig at Tuxedo Junction, a bottle membership in Wiscasset. He was 13.
“Bottle golf equipment had the whole lot a teenage boy was on the lookout for,” he stated. “It was my first introduction to ingesting, smoking cigarettes and ladies. I didn’t want rock and roll.”
Preston was a toddler prodigy. Chauffeured by his mom, he’d sit in with artists like Curless and Yodeling Slim Clark. Preston would arrive at golf equipment in full, fringed, singing cowboy regalia — together with a colourful bandana tied tight round his Adam’s apple.
“I keep in mind the scent. It smelled like low cost fragrance, cigarette smoke and off booze,” Preston stated, savoring the reminiscence. “There was sawdust on the ground, warmth from the amplifiers, the sound of shuffling ft. It was thrilling, enjoyable. I cherished it.”
Again then, he stated, going out was nonetheless a giant deal.
“The women, they mounted their hair, wore good garments,” Preston stated. “The boys combed their hair, tucked of their shirts. They wore their finest, western garments. They’d particular, going-out-on-a-Saturday-night denims.”
From left: A mirror ball and coloured lights cling from the ceiling at The Silver Spur in Mechanic Falls; a light-weight is mirrored in a mirror formed like a pair of dancers; an indication states the plain at The Silver Spur. Credit score: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
The long run
When the pandemic hit a yr in the past, solely two of Maine’s nation music bottle golf equipment have been nonetheless working: Crystal Falls in Chelsea and The Silver Spur in Mechanic Falls.
Brothers Lionel and Raymond Rodrigue opened Crystal Falls dance corridor in March 1989, making it the youngest bottle membership within the state.
The Rodrigues constructed the large constructing themselves on busy Route 17. Taxidermied trophies from Raymond Rodrigue’s looking journeys cling within the lobby. Hand-lettered indicators advise dancers of the strict gown code. No T-shirts, work boots, naked ft or tank tops allowed. Soiled dancing can also be not tolerated.
DeeDee Allen runs The Silver Spur together with her husband, Peter.
The Spur’s unassuming picket constructing off Route 121 homes a big, 60-foot broad picket dance flooring and big stage. Coloured lights and a disco ball dangle from the ceiling. One wall is roofed with portraits of Maine nation music stars. A full size mirror hangs on the wall within the lobby, so dancers can examine their look earlier than making an entrance.
Each venues have been closed for the reason that pandemic arrived in Maine in March 2020.
Till they open the doorways to dancers once more, the brothers stated they’ll dwell off their financial savings, social safety and some investments. However even earlier than the pandemic, enterprise wasn’t what it was. If 100 units of footwear scuffed throughout the Rodrigues’ dance flooring, it was night time.
“The cell telephones have ruined the whole lot,” Lionel Rodrigue stated. “Individuals simply need to sit residence and play video games. Typically I look on the market and see folks messaging one another proper there on the dance flooring.”
The Allens, nevertheless, are hopeful in regards to the future.
“We had our first sellout crowd in February final yr,” Allen stated. “Two weeks later we have been shut down.”
The Allens have stayed afloat for the previous yr renting out an upstairs condominium in addition to an adjoining constructing. Peter additionally works a day job at Hancock Lumber, working a increase truck. They let a small area within the corridor’s basement to the Maine Nation Music Corridor of Fame, too.
Allen stated a mortgage from the Small Enterprise Administration has helped.
“Or we wouldn’t have made it,” she stated. “This enterprise revolves solely round what we will’t do: Reside music and dancing. Individuals aren’t going to return sit for exhibits. They need to dance.”
Final fall, Allen put up a stage exterior and had a band play. Patrons got here and danced within the dusty grass. Some introduced sheets of plywood to shuffle and scoot throughout.
The Rodrigue brothers say they’d wish to reopen however solely when all pandemic restrictions are lifted. It’s the one manner it might make sense to them.
“Not if I’ve to babysit folks,” Raymond Rodrigue, 75, stated. “I’m not going to be right here telling folks to put on masks and dance 6 ft aside.”
However what the dancefloor will appear like after they reopen stays a thriller.
“Typically, you’re employed all week for nothing,” Lionel Rodrigue stated. “However at my age, that is all I understand how to do. Dancing has been my life. It’s not prefer it was. I believe the dance halls are a factor that’s passing.”
Allen sees it in a different way. She stated she will get a number of messages a day from folks asking when she’ll reopen. They see bars and eating places working and need to come again.
“Individuals assume we’re simply going to have the ability to begin dancing tonight — and I need to,” Allen stated. “I believe we’ll be OK if we will simply get again open.”