Roots Report: Mardi Gras Warm-Up and More

Okee dokee folks… The other day I was behind an SUV that was covered with bumper stickers. I strained to read some of them before the light changed. The one that caught my attention stated, “I’m not old, your music really does suck!” I found it kind of funny and sad, but true. Auto-tuned, computer generated, cut and paste songs just don’t do it for me. They are soulless amalgamations of sound and it is amazing that it takes so many people to fabricate these recordings. I posted a comment on my Facebook wall that stated, “Beck is an artist, Beyonce is a product,” in reference to the Grammy Awards. I ruffled feathers with that statement. From what I understand, Beck’s album had one songwriter and one producer, Beyonce’s had 27 songwriters and 19 producers. She can sing, but a lot of folks can. If you had an army behind you, you could conquer the music business as well. Do I need to say more? Yup, I sound like an old fart. Maybe I am. But like another bumper sticker said, “I may be old, but I got to see all the good bands!” I did. If you want to hear REAL musical artists at work, read on.

It’s Fat Tuesday time! Here are two chances to get your Mardi Gras on. At The German Club in Pawtucket on Sun, Feb 22 from 3 – 7pm there will be a Mardi Gras Warm-up. Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys are bringing some red hot Louisiana heat to the German Club, with free Zydeco Bites dance lessons by Jody Rudnick. For more, gator to salsproductions.com. The main Mardi Gras event in RI is the Mardi Gras Ball at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, Sat, Feb 28. This is one HUGE, FUN party! The 2015 soiree includes Beau Soleil avec Michael Doucet, Corey Ledet with his Zydeco Band and Grammy Award winner Steve Riley returns with the Mamou Playboys. Good news is that the Chili Brothers are back to add some authentic Cajun cuisine to the evening! Come in costume or come as you are, but get there for one of the best times you will ever have. Fore more, jambalya to mardigrasri.com

“It’s great day for America!” — actually for Rhode Island. TV’s Craig Ferguson will perform at Veteran’s Auditorium on Sun, March 1. Scottish born Ferguson, a modern day Renaissance man, is an actor, director, songwriter, musician, comedian, author, former host of “The Late, Late Show” on CBS and is currently host of the game show “Celebrity Name Game.” He has had a long, diverse and eclectic career that encompasses film, television and the stage. He was a cast member of “The Drew Carey Show” for nine years, and has written, directed and been featured in many films. Ferguson is also a New York Times bestselling author. For more, Geoff Peterson to vmari.com

Last week, the 2015 inductees to the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame were announced. They are The Schemers/Raindogs, Brenda Bennett, Nelson Eddy, George Masso, George Wein, Duke Belaire, Paco Zimmer, along with Georgie Porgie & The Cry Babies, The Others, The Ascots, Bob Petteruti, Marty Ballou, and Marty Richards. The induction ceremony and concert is set for Sun, April 26. For more, anchor over to rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com

The lengthy list of things to amuse and excite you continues, and these are but a few suggestions. Machines With Magnets presents the return of indie folk rockers the Denver Boot, Só Sol, and Eric and the Nothing on Fri, Feb 20 (machineswithmagnets.com). Blackstone River Theatre presents RI’s own Mary Ann Rossoni on Sat, Feb 21. Mary Ann turns her affinity for ordinary people into beautiful portraits of people in moments of meaning and discovery. Rossoni will be backed by Mederick Bellaire on guitars, mandolin and vocals; Jeff Keithline on stand-up bass and vocals, and Paul Dube on harp and accordion (riverfolk.org). Atwater-Donnelly will bring their music, dancing and tapping lumberjack to Lily Pads in Peacedale on Sun, Feb 22 at 4pm (musicatlilypads.org). On Fri, Feb 27, catch Barn Burning, the Swamp Birds, Gill Moss, and Zack Slik at Firehouse 13 (fh13.com). At Sandywoods on Sat, Feb 28, the husband and wife duo of Chris and Diane Myers, from Portsmouth, will perform as the opening act for Fellswater, a Boston-based instrumental Celtic music ensemble. Chris, on guitar and vocals, and Diane, on vocals, have been singing and performing together for more than 20 years and have played their original acoustic music in coffeehouses throughout southern New England (SandywoodsMusic.org). Becky Chace and Brian Minisce perform all original music at Bristol’s Stone Church on Sat, Feb 28 (stonechurchcoffeehouse.weebly.com). Tony Bennett’s Band features a stellar rhythm section made up of New Englanders. Pianist Mike Renzi is one of the most sought-after accompanists in the industry and a seven-time Emmy winner. The ensemble also includes guitarist Gray Sargent, who has been with Bennett for 17 years, and acoustic bassist Marshall Wood. The show will include a special appearance by the very talented songbird Donna Byrne. The Tony Bennett Band will be at Chan’s on Sat, Feb 28 (chanseggrollsandjazz.com). The Towers in Narragansett has a dynamite show on the afternoon of Sun, March 1. Musette Explosion is a wonderful mix of guitar, accordion and tuba, and are three of New York’s most in-demand virtuoso musicians, each with a distinctive voice on his instrument that explores and expands on the Parisian musette style. Musette Explosion will play a concert, then there will be a pot luck snack and a chance for the audience to hang out with the musicians (thetowersri.com). Diana Krall will return to the Providence Performing Arts Center on Wed, March 4. The Wallflower World Tour will feature Krall performing pop classics such as The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming,” the Eagles’ “Desperado” and Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower,” which inspired the album’s title track. Her unique artistry transcends any single musical style and has made her one of the most recognizable artists of our time ppacri.com). At AS220 on Thurs, March 5, The Providence Poetry Slam presents Olivia Gatwood, 2014 National Poetry Slam finalist, and on Thurs, March 19 Kundiman Fellow and former Providence Youth Team coach, Paul Tran. Both shows will be preceded by an open mic and followed by an all-ages slam (as220.org). They’re havin’ a party, everybody’s swingin, dancin’ to the music, on the radio… Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes with special guests John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band will be at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on Fri, March 6. Over 100 musicians can boast about their tenure as a Juke, including members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and Jon Bon Jovi. This eclectic group has the look and feel of a garage jam band with one very important difference – they play for keeps. With a non-stop set and classic rock ‘n’ roll riffs, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will have you stomping and singing along all night (zeiterion.org). Girls Rock! Ladies, have you always wanted to learn an instrument, but you’ve never taken the time? Want to play on stage and have been secretly practicing in your basement? You’re in luck, because Ladies Rock Camp is here, March 6 – 8, at JamStage! There are scholarships and flexible payment plans available. No experience is necessary so sign up and make your dreams come true (girlsrockri.org)!

Show your “Pride” and celebrate Women in the Arts at the 16th Annual Goddess Show. This year’s installment features Xelle, Heather Rose in Clover, Kristen Minsky, Bettysioux Tailor, Carrie Ashton, comic Elana Jawitz, poet Marie Michaelle, Mya Byrne and host Ellen Moschetto. All this happens at Olive’s on North Main in PVD on Sun, March 8 from 1 – 5pm.

Just a note to check on a show’s status before you head out. There have been quite a few weather-related cancellations lately. Be safe and stay warm! Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

For those of you who didn’t get to the Indigo Girls/RI Philharmonic show at the Providence Performing Arts Center on February 13th you missed a pretty memorable evening. This was real music performed by top notch songwriters and musicians. I admit I was a little torn about going to this one as I was not sure how it was going to play. Even though Indigo Girls are one of my favorite acts I just couldn’t wrap my brain around one of the most popular folk duos paired with a philharmonic orchestra. I thought that it might come off as more of a novelty event. It wasn’t. I am VERY glad that I attended. The evening began with the orchestra on stage and the first violinist taking a bow and leading the instrumentalists in the “ceremonial” group tuning. Then conductor Francisco Noya took the stage, bowed to the audience, stepped onto the platform and readied his baton. He was followed by Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers who donned their guitars to thunderous applause and launched into their first song. The mix for the first two songs was a little rough and the Indigos were a bit buried in the blend. By the third song things were perceptively much better and the Saliers’ song, “The Power of Two”, was taken to a whole new level with the accompaniment of the fifty or so varied instruments. Near the beginning of the night, Emily lightened what she may have thought was a conceived stiffness to an orchestral recital by saying, “Don’t be intimidated by all the black outfits, it’s still a sing-a-long!” Any misconception that the night would be serious due to the stoic façade of a symphonic show was dashed early on as folks got up to dance, waved their arms in the air, and hooted and hollered with excitement. You would expect a formal philharmonic performance to be fronted by gals in gowns and arm length gloves but Ray was decked out in her usual plaid pants and t-shirt and Saliers in black jeans, T and oversized denim shirt. Taking turns leading songs, Emily and Amy provided a powerful first set that ended with Ray’s Kid Fears and Salier’s very popular Galileo that brought a standing ovation from the crowd. The singing voices of a couple of thousand audience members added to the orchestra and filled PPAC with the sound of a lot of folks having a great time. At one point Emily exclaimed, “We love our band!” After a brief intermission and a reconvening of the slew of musicians on stage, Ray took the lead on the first song. During her between song banter she mentioned that a friend was supposed to come from Boston to catch the show but she had been shoveling the snow from her roof and couldn’t make it down. Then, in reference to our harsh winter, she blurted out, “You should come to Georgia!” Saliers’ “Ghost” and Ray’s “Chicken Man” were the bigger songs of the second half. Ray dedicated the song “Go” to the Amnesty International contingency that were staffing a table in PPAC’s lobby. That song took on a James Bond theme-like feel with the added instrumentation. Although I am a big fan of the Indigo Girls and have seen them many, many times either as a bare bones duo or full band I am not a rabid fan like so many of the PPAC patrons were. I was not familiar with a lot of the songs they performed but everything that they did play had a new sound to it anyway thanks to the brilliant orchestral arrangements. They concluded the concert with their biggest hit “Closer To Fine.” Whoever was left sitting at this point got on their feet and added their voice to the verses and chorus. With a wave of his hand, Maestro Noya used his “conductive powers”, not that it was at all needed, to entice the added vocalists. During the standing ovation the orchestra took a bow, followed the group bows of Ray, Saliers and Noya. It was obvious that they all had fun. It must be an amazing experience to front a group as accomplished as the Rhode Island Philharmonic. As much as the audience pleaded there was no encore. This was understandable. The sixteen song show was a very formal approach to what are usually looser concerts. Every note the orchestra played was carefully read and translated from sheet music to sound. They were provided the score in advance but only rehearsed with “the girls” for a couple of hours earlier that day. Orchestras are tight groups that rely on the formality of the lines and dots that appear on the page. They play what they see. There is not a lot of room for improvisation or undocumented playing. I think that even though the program only included a few of the more popular Indigo compositions it was a very fulfilling evening. The addition of the array of instruments backed the Indigo Girls with a wall of sound that was accented by harp, violin, timpani and brass. This was a rare opportunity to enjoy Indigo tunes with a huge and superbly talented backing band. PPAC’s glitz and glamour provided the perfect arena for presentation of this kind. There were moments that gave me goose bumps. I am so glad that I went.

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