Alt-Nation: Narrows Center Thinking Big, Harvey Garbage and More

Narrows Center Plans to Expand

“Music that matters, art that inspires” is the apt motto of Narrows Center for the Arts, an arts collective and concert venue in Fall River, Mass. Motif readers might have heard a mention here and there, but it’s a underrated spot that’s well worth the drive. Their eclectic programming, respectful audience and overall relaxed vibe have helped the Narrows put Fall River on the map for legends like Richard Thompson and Leon Russell. Also, and not a minor detail, all shows are BYOB.

The Narrows has been building in quality and popularity over the years, but in a very grassroots way. A big part of that is executive director Patrick Norton, who still introduces himself and welcomes people to the Narrows before every show. I talked to Patrick about some new renovations, and how this third-floor mill space developed a devoted following.

Jake Bissaro: How did the Narrows start out?

Patrick Norton: We started in a small venue on the other side of town with a small gallery and about 40 seats. We moved to Anawan St in 2001, and we’ve been growing ever since. I’ve been involved for 20 years, and was a volunteer for 13 years until I worked part-time.

JB: Talk a little bit about the expansion.

PN: We’ve purchased our entire three-floor building, and we’re adding 150 stadium-style seats to the back of our performance space. We’re moving our art studios down a floor to accommodate, and we’re also looking at putting in a brewery in the first floor.

JB: What made you decide to expand?

PN: Currently, we’re doing about 150 shows a year, and we sold out 36% of them last year. This will give us a way to allow more fans into the sellout shows. We want it to be a scalable thing – we pride ourselves on acts that have grown with us over the years like Grace Potter, Lake Street Dive and the Wood Brothers. I think our new capacity will hopefully allow us to keep these bands a little longer. The easiest next step would’ve been getting a liquor license in the venue, but we’re serious about keeping the vibe the way it is.

JB: What are some upcoming shows at your new capacity?

PN: We have Blue Oyster Cult (Mar 31) and Cowboy Junkies (Apr 7) coming up soon. We’re also going to have a curtain to close the new seats off for the smaller shows, and maintain the feel of an intimate space.

JB: What do you think has kept people coming back?

PN: We’ve always tried to keep the quality of the programming really high. I think people here take the chance on something they don’t know, but because it’s here, they’ll check it out. We still try to be ambitious with booking, even if we can only break even with a new band. We’ve had jazz, reggae, belly dancing, comedy, classical, comedy, all kinds of stuff.

JB: What have been some highlights for you?

PN: Definitely more than one, but I’d say Richie Havens is the “show that made us.” We needed something big to generate some publicity, so we took a chance in 2003 and splurged on Richie. He was great in person. It was our first sellout crowd, and it was on from there.

Notable upcoming shows include “younger crowd” acts Shovels and Rope (Mar 23), Dustbowl Revival (Mar 15) and Trevor Hall (Mar 8).

To view the Narrows entire calendar and buy tickets, visit showclix.com/events/26362

Harvey Garbage + The Flowers — Numbskulls EP

Reppin’ my adopted hometown of Pawtucket is Harvey Garbage and The Flowers, whose new EP is a fun, grungy punk rock statement. “U Rat Bastid” and “Refuse” are like fuzzy doo-wop on speed. “Dog Grave” is a melancholy dirge with killer dynamics about giving yourself a dog grave.

If you’ll allow a bloated, grandiose analogy, I think bands like HG&TF harken back to the spirit of commercial innovation that originally led industrious types to strike it rich in Pawtucket. Although, more the general essence of that whole deal, and not the unscrupulous exploitation of immigrant labor. The DIY ethic means you don’t have to wait for approval or permission, just write it and rip it. It’s good to see folks still making earnest, urgent music, so check this stuff out.

Also, a shout out to Justin at The News Café in Pawtucket, where you can check out HG&TF on March 1, for putting together solid programming week after week.

Numbskulls EP is available at harveygarbage.bandcamp.com/

Parsonfield

Coming to Fete on March 11 is Parsonfield, a Western Mass-based quintet with a baroquey sound that I’d say sounds sort of like a folksy Paul McCartney. Much like the Avett Brothers, they’re adding some production and energy to old-timey-style folk. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but might be a nice excuse to go out on a Sunday night.

Parsonfield takes the stage at Fete on Sunday, March 11. Doors are at 7.

Titus Andronicus @ AS220

Arguably no artist in the past decade has broken more ground in the punk rock arena than New York’s Titus Andronicus, constantly pushing the boundaries with ambitious and experimental material. Their last studio release was 2015’s triumphant 90-minute The Most Lamentable Tragedy, a rock opera about frontman Patrick Stickles’ mental illness and inner demons. It’s, in my opinion, their best work and their most engaging start to finish, which is saying something considering that everyone has the attention span of a newt these days. Stickles has a knack for building a whole world with his lyrics, with self-referential ideas and grandiose themes.

Stickles has been teasing their forthcoming album, A Productive Cough, in interviews, and has described a softer, more spacious record than previous work. Released so far is “Number One (in New York),” an eight-minute power-ballad diatribe on the world as Stickles sees it. New York becomes a menacing character in his music, asking, “When does it get any closer to ending?/And can I just mention the stench?” The other, “Above the Bodega (Local Business),” is about how Stickles “can’t keep a secret from the guy at the store downstairs.”

This show appears to be “acoustic,” with just Stickles with his guitar and keyboard accompaniment. Rick Maguire from Boston rockers Pile will open the show.

Titus Andronicus takes the stage at AS220 Friday, March 9 at 9pm. 

Summer Showdown

This is the time of year when concert enthusiasts have to decide which “big box” tours they’re going to take in (if there are even still any tickets left). Whether that state-of-the-art light show and the killer fog machines are worth crowding in next to 20,000 people and shelling out for the hefty price tag is something each man or woman must weigh for themselves. For my money, the one to see is David Byrne in Boston (Blue Hill Pavillion, July 31 and Aug 1), which is always a fantastic, multi-dimensional performance, and news just broke about a Radiohead tour. Also,: Foo Fighters at Fenway (Jul 21 and 22), Weezer/Pixies at the Comcast Center (Aug 17) and the Smashing Pumpkins at TD Garden (Jul 31).

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