The Midcoast is flush with musical talent, and opportunities to hear — and play — live music abound. Not everyone is performing original music, however, and venues are expected to pay performance royalty fees for other tunes — a struggle for many, as outlined on this site a few weeks ago (see link below).

One business that hosts a number of musical sessions is The Highlands Coffee House on Main Street/Route 1. As has many a Midcoast enterprise, it is coming off a lean winter … and now it has an unexpected bill to pay. Many of the musicians who regularly play the downtown café are joining together to give The Highlands a hand via a benefit Save Our Music Night Thursday, May 28, from 6 to 10 p.m.

“Between ASCAP and SESAC, it comes to about a grand a year. I approached them [owners Sean and Tracey Beaudry] with the idea,” said Vince “Blind Albert” Gabriel of Rockland, who is organizing the event and has for going on a year run the weekly open mic on Thursdays.

While the benefit night — donations and CD sale proceeds will go toward paying the coffee house’s fees — is taking place in the regular open mic slot, musicians from all of The Highlands' music slots are taking part. There is an afternoon First Sunday Jazz Jam, another once-a-month Sunday jazz afternoon and a number of Friday and Saturday performances.

Some of these performers are professionals, with paying gigs and recorded music in their instrument cases, while others, particularly at the open mic, are talented people of all ages getting up on stage for the first time. Fortunately, said stage is only a few inches high and the audience is welcoming.

“We get a real mixed crowd of all ages, both to listen and play, the young folk and old ones like me,” Gabriel said. “It’s amazing who comes out of the woodwork.”

A donation of $5 or more is requested for the benefit, and the CD — or CDs — will be $10. Gabriel expects to be mixing, burning, printing and assembling them up to the last minute in his home studio.

“I think it’s going to fit on one, but we’ll see. I think there’s going to be 18 to 20 original songs,” he said.

Some of the tracks came to him from other musicians’ own recordings. Gabriel, who has done recording and media transfers for years, offered to record others in his studio for free. In the case of one performer, a niece of the Beaudrys, he offered one of his own tracks, since it was original.

“She’s going to write her own lyrics to mix with it; I didn’t want to be left off the CD, and she’ll have an original song,” he said.

Gabriel did a small GoFundMe campaign for the recording project, raising some $380. That will cover most of his expenses and he’ll handle the rest. The CD offers a range of styles. Performers include Kat Logan, Jim Loney, Will Brown, Peter Neils, Chris Lane, Dana Rader, Mike Cole, People Of Earth, Spike Hyssong, Heather Ellsworth, Sam Minot, Lynne Frey, John Ruis, John Coleman, Charles Wilton, Nicole Provonsil, Ariel Haskins, Brian Hallinan, Jim James, Lenny Arey and more. Many will be on hand for the benefit.

“It’s all for the music,” he said. “We just want to keep our venue so we can play there.”