Alt-Nation: Sink into Summer Shows

Horse Eyed Men

Noah and Dylan Harley of Horse Eyed Men

WHEM: Father’s Day Special

WHEM (W-Horse Eyed Men) is a live music radio show at The Columbus Theatre hosted by the Horse Eyed Men, a fraternal duo that mixes country, ragtime, folk and rock. Their WHEM residency features sets from both the band and special guests, with the Harley Brothers performing mock radio skits and zany characters. Probably the best part is the brothers trying to land little barbs at the other’s expense throughout the performance.

I know of no other group more supportive of family values, and this particular one is a belated Father’s Day event, with each guest appearing with some paternal support. The Harley Bros’ dad is noted children’s musician and storyteller Bill Harley. Guests will also include Roz Raskin (of Roz and the Rice Cakes fame) with her father Allan Raskin, and Amato Zinno (Z Boys bassist) will join his father Dave Zinno in an old- fashioned “bass off.”

A statement from the band reads: “WHEM is a monthly live radio show hosted by Providence’s worst looking and best smelling fraternal musical act, the Horse Eyed Men. The show offers a free-range, grass-fed selection of local and national musical talent, skits, imaginary promotional offers, fascinating interviews and a Freudian dose of sibling rivalry.”

For a primer, check out HEM’s superb 2014 debut Grave Country, an album I still revisit often. It moves from tongue-in-cheek humor to bone-chilling moroseness, and all with fantastic musicianship and songwriting.

If you’ve never been to a show upstairs at the Columbus, a) you are woefully behind and b) this is a perfect chance to check out the space. Its pristine sound and vintage charm make it the best place to see a show in Providence. They just don’t make these places like they used to.

WHEM: Father’s Day Edition happens Thu, Jul 6, Doors 7. WHEM takes place every first Thursday of the month.

 Narrows Annual Block a Palooza NRBQ

Speaking of excellent venues: For those who haven’t been to the Narrows Center for the Arts, it’s a converted mill venue in Fall River, Massachusetts, and next week they’re throwing their 5th annual “Block a Palooza” outdoor show.

Headlining is NRBQ, The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, a band with a rotating cast of musicians that has been bringing the party since the 1960s. Their energetic live shows have gained them a cult following, and they seem to be a New England favorite.

Opening the show is blues/country/rock act Girls Guns and Glory. The best point of reference is probably  Hank Williams, to whom they made a tribute album in 2015. Though they are from Boston, frontman Ward Hayden nails the country tone, and the musicianship is stellar.

Their regular programming is also worth a look; they bring a great selection of blues, folk and rock, and the acts have only gotten better over the years. Upcoming shows includes the Yardbirds, Matthew Sweet and long-time NRBQ axeman Big Al Anderson.

The Narrows is a great place to see a show in its own right, but Block a Palooza, along with their free outdoor Festival of the Arts in the fall, are no-brainers.

The Narrows Block a Palooza takes place on South Main Street in front of the District Court House in downtown Fall River (not at the Narrows) on July 13. Show starts at 6pm.

Thoughts on United Folk Fest

At the time of this writing, I’m about to head to United Folk Fest at Wilcox Park, in the heart of downtown Westerly. Aside from it being a fantastic excuse to spend some time down there, it also a provides a top-tier lineup, somehow for free.

I’m most excited for the orchestral, noisy folk of the Barr Brothers and the throwback riffs of Blitzen Trapper. Other notables include hometown heroes The Low Anthem, Woods and Langhorne Slim. And many of the other bands, from what little I’ve heard, sound promising as well.

I have it on good authority that they will be trying to make it an annual thing moving forward, though my source didn’t say how they’re able to give the big festivals a run for their money for nothing. I’m no economics whiz, but I’m guessing it involves the bands sneaking the names of huge corporations into every song. This fest is part of a larger effort to turn the United Theater in downtown Westerly into an arts and entertainment hub, and it seems like they are really pushing to become a major player in the area.

Opened in 1926, The United was, in simpler times, a vaudeville theater, which eventually showed films and was shuttered in 1986. The Westerly Land Trust acquired the property in 2006, and the United organization is currently pumping millions into the renovations. According to The Day newspaper, they aim to turn it into a “culture and arts education center where students will be able to learn, artists will display their work or perform and the public will come to be entertained.” I have to think they’re probably using the Columbus as an example.

Sean Spellman, frontman of Quiet Life (who played last year) is the one behind the booking. I’m hoping it serves as an antidote to the hot ticket sweatfest that is Newport Folk, and I think that Rhode Islanders can expect big things from The United in the future.

Lydia Lunch Retrovirus @ AS220

The always-unapologetic Lydia Lunch and her band Retrovirus are coming to AS220. She’s been making noisy, confrentional music for decades, first making a splash in the NY “no wave” scene. She has tons of solo albums, and is known for her bands 8-Eyed Spy and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. The accomplished Retrovirus band includes veteran musicians: guitarist Weasel Walter, bassist Algis Kizys (Swans) and drummer Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore).

Whore Paint, the perfect headliners for this show, give themselves the awesome description of “suitable expression of political discontent, borderline social anxiety, occasional violent outbursts, sexual discernment, periodic bouts of euphoria, & whatever that feeling is you get after a good high five.”

Lydia Lunch Retrovirus/Whore Paint/Finished/Gyna Bootleg hits AS220 on Jul 16. Show starts at 7:30pm

Foo Fest Headliner

And speaking of AS220, the organization recently announced that Cake da Killa, a young, queer rapper from Brooklyn, will be headlining at Foo Fest.

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