Talk about going out on your own terms.

Members of the holler folk band The Ghost of Paul Revere will say goodbye to thousands of their fans Saturday at a music festival they started.

The Ghostland festival at Thompson’s Point in Portland will be the group’s last show after an 11-year run. During that span, it’s become one of Maine’s most popular bands, appearing on late-night TV, performing around the world and having one of its songs declared Maine’s official state ballad.

In announcing its decision to split up in April, frontman Griffin Sherry said the band’s members always tried to make music for the fun of it, but that’s been harder to do in recent years for some of them.

“It didn’t seem like it was meant for everyone in the band anymore,” Sherry said at the time. “What we’ve always tried to do is make music for our own enjoyment, for our own spirits. Once that started to be harder and harder to come by, it was a decision that felt necessary, even though the immense amount of support makes me want to do this forever.”

The members of the Ghost of Paul Revere have decided to split up and are doing their last Ghostland festival on Saturday at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Photo courtesy of the Ghost of Paul Revere

Making Ghostland the band’s last show makes sense, said Sherry, since it is a great example of how the band has succeeded in ways its members never could have imagined when they first got together. The band includes Sherry, Max Davis, Sean McCarthy and Chuck Gagne.

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“It’s crazy to think that we put on the first one ourselves (in 2014), and we parked cars and put all our own money up for it,” said Sherry. “It’s become this big community event with like 6,000 people. It’s a way for us to do something for our fans and to see some really great bands.”

Other bands performing at Ghostland Saturday include roots rockers Hiss Golden Messenger from North Carolina, singer and multi-instrumentalist Marco Benevento from upstate New York and Portland-based indie-folk band GoldenOak.

The Ghost of Paul Revere is also playing a show Friday, the night before the festival, at Oxbow Blending and Bottling in Portland, that is already sold out. Some people have passes to see both shows, and Sherry said the band will not play the same song twice all weekend. Plenty of the band’s “crowd favorites” will be played on Saturday at Thompson’s Point, Sherry said, while Friday’s show will include more “B-sides and songs we don’t play much.”

While the band has been together for 11 years, most the members have been friends far longer. Sherry, Davis and McCarthy have known each other since childhood, having grown up together in Hollis and Buxton and gone to the same schools. They played in school bands and sang in school choruses together.

The Ghost of Paul Revere playing at Port City Music Hall in Portland in 2017. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

Sherry got a gig playing guitar and singing once a week at Dogfish Bar & Grille in Portland in 2010, and Davis and McCarthy began sitting in with him once in a while, for fun. By 2011, they had formed a band, The Ghost of Paul Revere, playing their own brand of upbeat folk and roots music, which they dubbed “holler folk.”

The band started playing larger venues around Portland and touring around the country. In early 2018, they performed on “Conan,” the late night talk show on TBS hosted by comedian Conan O’Brien. In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill to declare the band’s song “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” as the state’s official ballad.

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The song, written by Sherry, is about the 20th Maine Regiment’s crucial role in winning the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Mills issued a statement after the signing saying that the song reminds Mainers “of our proud heritage, the role our great state has played in the history of our nation and to be forever grateful to those who served and saved our country.”

Sherry, who is planning to continue performing and recording on his own, said that even though Saturday will be the band’s final performance, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Ghostland festival has to end. He said there’s “an idea floating around” about continuing it in some form, though nothing is definite.

For now, band members are focused on their last show together and their last chance to thank their fans.

“Not many bands are given the opportunity to have a giant hometown show as their final show,” said Sherry. “We feel very fortunate.”


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