Riot Act

MaineList Article: Riot Act

Riot Act

Riot Act is one of Maine’s top performing acts, covering a wide variety of hit songs that span across four decades of rock music. This Old Orchard Beach based rock band is able to cover even some of the more difficult arrangements, no matter what the feat, with solid percussion, multi-layered vocal harmonies, slick guitar riffs, pounding bass-lines,and a vocalist who’s charisma and ability to express himself before a live audience far exceeds the expectations of most Maine rock cover band enthusiasts.

Riot Act’s show resembles a live concert atmosphere, big lights and sound are important for delivering a high-energy evening of rock entertainment. “We try to stay true to the original feel of the songs that we perform, and we try to select a wider variety of songs than a lot of other bands are capable of doing.” Says Johnny, the band’s vocal front-man and part-owner of Mr.Goodbars, an Old Orchard Beach rock club known to provide the band with gigs throughout the summer months.

Set List

(Richie Dugal, Andrew Pelletier, Masa Takahashi, Moe McKenna & Johnny Jam Martinez)

The band tries to pick songs that have made a lasting impression. Or “Big hits!”, as Johnny likes to put it. They also find it relatively important to select some songs that other bands might not be capable of pulling off tastefully, in order to showcase the fine musicianship that always exists within the band’s structure.

“We get a lot of requests for new songs on the radio.” Confessed Johnny, who understands that music is always evolving, and so should a band’s set list. It might be difficult to believe that the same band who’s getting a lot of requests to perform “Crazy Bitch” by Buck Cherry is also getting requests for “Fat Bottom Girls” by Queen! Multi-part A Capella harmony isn’t the kind of thing you see a lot of local cover bands doing these days.

Band Lineup

(Mike Leffler, Moe McKenna, Johnny Jam Martinez, and Richie Dugal)

The band’s current lineup includes; Johnny “Jam” Martinez (vocals), Andrew Pelletier (drums/vocals), Moe McKenna (bass/vocals), Richie Dugal (guitar/vocals), and Masa Takahashi (guitar).

Riot Act has been around for over 15 years booking gigs across New England and even spent some time touring the eastern coastline back in early-to-mid-90’s. The band originally formed in Rutland Vermont about 15 years ago, and was already named “Riot Act” when Johnny, the group’s only remaining full-time original member, became a part of the band. The band’s lineup at that time included; Craig Wing, who is currently gigging with “Stairway To Hell” and “Zebrah”, on lead guitar, Jeff Hemllep also on guitar, Bob Cameron played bass, and Mike Leffler on the drums, which by the way… Mike still fills in for the band from time to time. I still remember the days over a decade ago, when Riot Act was the house band for places like “The Whitehall” and “Porky’s” in Old Orchard Beach.

There have been many great musicians who have been a part of the band over the years such as John Anthony and Kurt Keller, previous drummer and bassist respectively, who helped the band evolve in their earlier years together.

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Behind The NameI asked Johnny what “Riot Act” actually meant, and he explained.

“There was an act that was declared a long time ago that said something like… If twelve or more people organized into a group, they would be considered an unlawful assembly, and could be punished if they refused to break up their clan.”

Apparently the band discovered this historical Parliament Act and elected to use it as the band’s name. The name seemed to have stuck, because even after 15 years, it's continued to make an impact on the local music scene.

A Contribution to Local Original Music

In their decade and a half of booking gigs, rehearsing, writing and recording, the band has accomplished two CDs featuring their own original music.

Their first CD was entitled; “Intense Socialization” which was recorded in 1996. That CD featured “Distant Early Warning”, a song that is still remembered today by many friends and fans of the band.

Their second CD “Write My Name On The Wall”, featured their song “Mystery”, and was released shortly afterwards, but the band has focused more on covers since their second original CD release.

Riot Act actually won a Battle of the Bands contest held in 2000 at ASYLUM in Portland. They were pitted against some of Maine’s top bands of that time, including the widely popular Biddeford band; “David’s Playground”, amongst other rivals. “It was a close competition.” Says Johnny, reflecting back on the event. “They came awfully close to taking the win from us that day!”

Now, it seems that the band is ready to launch another attack on the original music scene with a third CD of their own. The band isn’t ready to release any official news today, but Johnny pointed out an idea for a title that he’s been throwing around… “Twelve Or More Gathered”, which is obviously in reference to the band name’s original influence, as discussed previously in this article. “We are working on a music video for one of our original songs.” Johnny’s enthusiasm for contributing to the local original music scene seemed pretty high.

The song writing process is pretty straight-forward. Any one of the band’s members could bring an idea to the table, and the rest of the members will contribute by adding their own complimentary ideas to it. It’s a formula that seems to work, especially for a band that has spent so much time performing other people’s music for such a long time. Each member of the band shares the same enthusiasm to showcase their own creative ideas in the band, in addition to performing the cover song material that had turned this once ordinary band into a Maine legacy.

Side Project: Quiet Act

Quiet Act is an acoustic performance featuring, some, but not all of the members of Riot Act. This acoustic jam is really the musical marriage between Johnny Jam and Scott Lank, a full time working class acoustic singer / guitarist also from the Old Orchard Beach area, and long time friend of Johnny.

Quiet Act currently features; Johnnny "Jam" Martinez (vocals), Scott Lank (vocals/guitar), Masa Takahashi (guitar), and Andrew Pelletier (percussion).

Their set list is not the same as Riot Act, and the band really isn't even directly affiliated with Jam's full band lineup. This gives some of Riot Act's members the opportunity to book gigs throughout the week, rather than merely on the weekend, as many bands are accustomed to.


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