Jamie and Wren
52 Loring Lane
Pownal might be an out-of-the-way place to some, and Loring Lane is a quiet place even for Pownal – but not on Open Mic Music Nights at a place called Fuego Diablo.
Wren and Jamie Pearson invite all comers to bring their instruments and play, enjoy food and drink in a celebration they describe as “free range art and music.”
With their art gallery as a backdrop, the Pearsons relish the opportunity to share art with people. About two-thirds of both the audience and performers are baby boomers. Jamie Pearson gets in on the act regularly, as he plays no less than 15 instruments. Wren plays piano, and sings.
Fuego Diablo offers the music nights year-around, and the schedule is what they call “pretty fluid.” Right now the music nights are happening every six to eight weeks, but it all depends on the Pearsons’ personal schedules. They usually do not have music nights November through early January, because of the holidays.
“We have our holiday art and craft sale late November into early December, which ties up the entire house so no room for musical gatherings,” Jamie Pearson said. “The gatherings start at 5:30, with food served until 6:30, then music begins promptly at 6:30 and goes on until everyone has had a chance to perform.”
On the summer music nights, held outdoors, people sit in a circle and run the evening as a folk circle. For the events that are held inside the rest of the year or due to weather, the format is standard “open mic,” with each performer having around 15 minutes to perform.
One of the Fuego Diablo regulars is the MidCoast Boomer Band out of the Freeport area, composed of Lisa, Mark and Eric Evans and their mandolin player, Fred, who declined to share his last name. They play folk, bluegrass, and boomer favorites at open mics, coffee houses and nursing homes.
Jamie Pearson wears many hats.
“I am a musician, hot sauce merchant, cartoonist, yo-yo guy, co-founder and manager of Fuego Diablo, and in my spare time I work in a warehouse, moving things from here to there, and often back again,” he said. “All my family still live in the north of England – my parents, grandparents, two brothers and a sister. I miss them every day. I was born in Leeds, England, and grew up in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, England. After living in various cities, towns and villages in England and Scotland, I emigrated to America after meeting my wife on Myspace in 2006, when I was living in London, fixing printers and copiers and shifting furniture for Random House publishing. We were pen-pals for a year, chatting everyday online, and sending letters over the Atlantic. In 2009, I emigrated to Texas, and in 2010, we were married atop a hill in Driftwood, Texas.”
Wren Pearson grew up in Freeport. She was living in Pownal during her 14 years working at the Freeport Community Library. Then came a job opportunity in Austin, Texas, as a librarian, writer and artist, and she grabbed it. Then came the “online courtship” with Jamie.
She said she never thought she’d be married at 45, “especially to someone a decade younger.” It’s been a “pretty zany time,” she said, since that first hello on MySpace.
She grew up listening to Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith and Dave Mallett, “and MTV in the ’80s.” Her parents always had classical music and Sousa marches on their 8-track tapes.
The Pearsons moved to Pownal in July 2012, after spending some time in Bradenton, Fla.
“The space we now occupy became available to us during our stay in the south, and we utilized it as best we could, with art space, personal art and music studio, open workshops, art and craft sales, and regular music/open mic nights,” Jamie Pearson said. “From time to time, we actually sleep.”
Jamie Pearson answered questions regarding Fuego Diablo for My Generation.
Q Fuego Diablo, the name. Where did it come from, in this context?
A It wasn’t really planned, or had any great concept behind it. We had played around with a few names, just saying them, and repeating them, to hear if they sounded catchy, and made us smile. I forget some of the names, but I seem to remember Hat Fish, Art, Food, Music, Big Phil’s and The Pig and Whippet being thrown around. Wren came up with Fuego Diablo, (Spanish for fire devil), as part of the whole business was my production of hot sauce, and other chili pepper-based products, and our time in Texas had had a lasting effect on what we were making, so the Southwestern feel seemed to fit. And besides, it felt good to say, “Fuego Diablo!”
Q How did you conceive of the summer music nights? Was that the first step in Fuego Diablo? Where do the art school and the art gallery come in?
A We actually began the music nights in the early winter of our first year in Maine, as part of our first winter sale. We turned our kitchen and living room into shop space, leaving a little room for a stage area, where I played some of my old busking set, and we invited other local musicians to perform throughout the day. Running the sale and music at the same time made things a little cramped, so we ran our first music night not long after the sale. We filled the crockpots with chili, soup and beans, got the coffee pot going, and hoped for the best. We continued to do the music nights throughout the winter, gradually daring to open the windows a little more when spring finally got around to doing its thing. After numerous suggestions from our growing regular attendees about moving the music outside into the garden in good weather, we decided to do it one June or July in 2013. The first one ran like an open mic, with performers each doing a 15-minute slot. The next one was much more relaxed, as all the guests and performers gathered in a large circle, and we went round the whole circle, each performer doing one piece each until it was too dark to see anything. With the exception of Slygo Road, who played a full plugged-in set this year, this is how we have hosted the outdoor music nights every time. Indoors, because of space, we stick to the open-mic format.
Q Do baby boomers make up a big part of your audience and/or the performers?
A Boomers probably make up about two-thirds of our audience and performers. What is cool is that within these boomer performers, some are seasoned musicians and some have taken up performing relatively recently, fulfilling dreams that they were too busy to try out earlier. It’s great.
Q Are the summer music nights a stomping good time, or a little more mellow than that?
A They are often both. It all depends on who shows up to play. They are probably more mellow than anything else, but as more performers and audience members show up to events, who can say?
Q What do you two play for instruments, and what are your musical influences?
A I play acoustic and electric guitar, acoustic, electric and upright bass, melodica, piano, mandolin, sitar, tin whistle and theramin. I also produce electronic dance, pop, ambient and experimental music on a laptop, utilizing as many music programs as I can, and performing it with an Akai APC30 midi controller. I have so many musical influences, which can change daily. I would say my major lasting influences are the music of Kraftwerk, Mike Patton, J.K. Broadrick, William Basinski, Cardiacs, Brian Eno, plus anything electronic, reggae, punk, metal, ska and soul. And that’s just this week.
Q How does Maine measure up, in terms of a good place for artists to live?
A In my brief experience of living in Maine, I find it to be more of a cooperative, rather than competitive, atmosphere for artists, musicians and small businesses alike.
Jamie and Wren Pearson are all about the arts, and having a good time in the venue they call Fuego Diablo, at their home on a country road in Pownal. They say boomers “probably make up about two-thirds of our audience and performers.” File photo