Roots Report: Cruel Summer Breeze

National and Local Music Surround Rhode Island Summer

rootsOkee dokee folks … I know I say this every year; summer is NOT my favorite season. That being said (again), Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” is the perfect summer song and I think of it on those hot, hot days when I can’t breathe. On the flip side, “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts is what plays in my head when it cools enough to be bearable. Seals and Crofts was my first concert back in June of 1976. They played the Providence Civic Center and that show started my addiction to concerts. I still can’t believe that my parents used to shuttle me back and forth to concerts downtown, almost weekly. In the ’70s it seemed that just about every act played arenas. These days, most people probably don’t even remember who Seals and Crofts are, though I did hear a nice version of “Summer Breeze” by Lisa Couto and Ray Cooke last week at the Downtown Sundown Series. Today, national touring acts are lucky to fill smaller venues. Yes, BIG headliners like Springsteen can still fill arenas, but there really aren’t many others who can. I paid FIVE dollars the NIGHT OF THE SHOW for a Bruce Springsteen concert ticket at the Civic Center back in 1977. Man, I feel old, but like the rest of the saying goes, “I got to see all the good bands!” Anyway, summer was the time that most of the big rock shows rolled into town. Sometimes I would be going to a show a week at the Civic Center, sometimes even two. Summer is still one of the best times to catch live music and a lot of the time it is outdoors. Last month’s Motif Summer Guide had a pretty full listing of summer music, but I will highlight some of the good stuff happening in July, inside AND out! Read on.

The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River has some of the best shows around all year long and even if the heat of summer becomes oppressive, they have a state-of-the-art air conditioning system to keep everything cool. On Friday, July 11, the Grammy Award winning songstress of the ’90s folk boom, Shawn Colvin, will play the Narrows. Colvin is best known for her hits such as “Sunny Came Home,” “Steady On,” “Diamond in the Rough,” “Shotgun Down the Avalanche” and “I Don’t Know Why.” Get your tix for this ASAP; they won’t last. A few months ago I was checking some links for cigar box guitars and I came across Samantha Fish. She was making amazing things happen with the little 4-string instrument. I watched a few YouTube videos of her playing electric guitar and was wowed by her skills. Her cover of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath is incredible. This blues diva slides into the Narrows on Saturday, July 12. This is a must-see show! If you are looking for a great FREE show, you’re in luck. Thursday, July 17 it’s Block-a-palooza 2 featuring Buckwheat Zydeco and Girls, Guns and Glory. This is a free show that takes place in downtown Fall River in front of the District Court House and is sponsored by the Narrows. There is always something good going at the venue on the other side of the big, old Braga Bridge. Cross over to narrowscenter.org and find out more.

One of the best summertime venues around is the Yachting Center in Newport. The big white tent off of America’s Cup Avenue went up earlier this year for the Newport Concert Series. I am very excited that Alanis Morissette will be playing what is advertised as an “intimate and acoustic” show on Thursday, August 21. Tickets for that show go on sale on July 10. Also playing is Kenny Wayne Shepherd on Sunday, August 31. Do a little dance, make a little love and get down with KC and the Sunshine Band on July 9. Have a little faith that the John Hiatt/Robert Cray will knock you out on July 12. Get close to the edge with Yes on July 13. You don’t need a million dollars to see Barenaked Ladies on July 18. Welcome The Machine’s Pink Floyd Tribute and laser show on July 25. Don’t forget to get there early (6pm) and relax in the dockside courtyard and listen to the sounds of the local performers such as Heather Rose, Steve Allain, Ed McGuirl, Bob Kendall, Joe Auger and others at the Point Stage! For more, sail to newportwaterfront events.com

If you don’t already have tickets for the Folk Festival in Newport, you are probably out of luck. You can always try. Don’t worry; there is more music than you can shake a stick at in Newport. What the hell does “shake a stick at” mean, anyway? Nimfest presents FREE afternoon concerts in King’s Park on Wellington Avenue. Right on the water, in the Gazebo, you can hear music every Sunday, all summer. Former Newport resident and RI Music Hall of Famer, Susan Cowsill of the legendary Cowsills band, will prove to you why she is worthy of RIMHOF status on July 13. Other shows on the summer schedule include: JP Jones on Aug 3, and Li’l Anne and Hot Cayenne on the 17. For more, nimbo over to: facebook.com/nimfest. BridgeFest is the music festival between music festivals. Taking place during the four days that link Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, BridgeFest presents “high quality, local music in Newport County venues.” Highlights of the many events are Songwriters in the Round featuring Allysen Callery, Mark Cutler, Bob Kendall and Ken Shane to benefit the Rhode Island Food Bank on Tuesday, July 29 at the Channing Memorial Church; on July 31 is Americana Folk Rock Night featuring The Mighty Good Boys, The Little Compton Band, Able Thought and Shotgun at Sandywoods in Tiverton; Sync or Swim at the Jamestown Central Baptist Church happens on Wednesday, July 30. Busking at Bowens has been added to this year’s fest. Chris and Diane Myers play on the 29 from 7:30 – 10pm, and Perrotti and Wright crank out the tunes on Thursday, July 31. Span over to newportbridgefest.com for more.

The next best thing to the Beatles that came out of the ’60s was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Their album Four Way Street was a major influence on me and was the main reason I switched to acoustic music (wooden, as Crosby puts it) when I was 16. You can hear the CSN part of CSNY at PPAC on Tuesday, July 15. I have seen CSN many, many times and have even met them, although it did take 35 years for the trifecta. Does anyone remember the time Stephen Stills played in the cafeteria of CCRI in Lincoln on a rainy afternoon about 25 years ago? It was a short, three-song set, but was an amazing experience. Don’t miss this one. The group will perform songs from their extensive catalogue, as well as new material from each member. Carry on to ppacri.org for more info.

If you would like to see another letter-named band, then get to The Met. It was January 1966 when pianist Terry Adams started NRBQ in his Louisville home. Adams soon met guitarist Steve Ferguson while both were still teenagers, and that meeting was the catalyst to take the show out of the house and onto the stage. NRBQ released its self-titled debut album for Columbia Records in 1969. Forty-five years later, after more than 20 studio albums, more than a dozen live albums and numerous compilations, not to mention countless and legendary, live performances around the world, NRBQ  released a new studio album, Brass Tacks. Recorded with Terry Adams on keyboards and vocals, Scott Ligon on guitar and vocals, Conrad Choucroun on drums (Ligon and Choucroun have been playing with Adams for seven years) and Casey McDonough (who joined the Q in 2012) on bass and vocals, Brass Tacks is brimming with swinging rhythms, sweet vocals, and sparkling sound. The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet swing the tour in support of this disc by The Met on Friday, July 18. For more, hammer your way to: themetri.com

Finally, here are some random shows to satisfy your summer music cravings. The 2014 New Bedford Folk Festival happens on Saturday and Sunday, July 5 – 6. Performers include Ronny Cox, Cliff Eberhardt, Jonathan Edwards, Vance Gilbert, John Gorka, Grace Morrison, Bill Harley, Poor Old Shine, Chris Smither, and many, many more. newbedfordfolkfestival.com

The Towers in Narragansett has Thursday concerts/dances all season. Notable are Reminisce on July 10, James Montgomery Blues Band on July 17 and Original Jelly Roll Soul on July 31. thetowersri.com

If you would rather play music than dance to it, the the Mediator Stage is for you. The weekly open mic gives you a chance to play, but also features some great talent. Coming up is Charlie Cover on July 10, Fred Meltzer on July 17, Kari Tieger on July 24 and Tammy Laforest on July 31. Dial up their new website: mediatorfellowship.org

If you’re jonesin’ for some coffeehouse music, this’ll give you your fix … outdoors. The Downtown Sundown Series is a FREE event that happens at Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 North Main Street in Providence. On Saturday, July 12 from 7 – 9:30pm, enjoy the music of Kala Farnham, Heather Rose, Kristen and J, and The Rank Strangers (hearinrhodeisland.com). Chuck Mead will be at Norey’s in Newport on Sunday, July 13 at 8pm (chuckmead.com). Jim Carpenter and the Hoolios will be at the Greenwich Odeum on July 19. Opening the show will be the MacLean Sisters (theodeum.org). Music At Lily Pads brings you Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche on Sunday, July 20 (musicatlilypads.org). At Sandywoods, it’s The Little Compton Band and Four Bridges on July 5, Jim McGrath on July 11, Wise Old Moon and the Meadows Brothers on July 13, The Rank Strangers on July 25, and Session Americana on July 26 (sandywoodsmusic.com). Multi-instrumentalist Tristan Ethier will perform Sunday, July 27 at 11am at Java Madness in Wakefield. This 14-year-old Coventry High School sophomore will sing and perform jazz, blues and rock on acoustic and electric guitar and tenor saxophone (javamadness.com).

That’s it for now. If, in the future, you would like me to consider something for my column, please send an e-mail to roots@motifri.com. Thanks for reading!  John Fuzek www.johnfuzek.com

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