Superstar Servers of Nolan’s Corner Pub

Communities formed around music often serve as bedrocks for progressive ideas, and Providence has a long-held reputation for serving as a hub for these communities, no doubt influenced by the migratory pattern of students, the city’s historic slate of venues and DIY/warehouse spaces, and the clear division of wealth and power that defines the city geographically.

The late-1970s and 1980s art-punk explosion that yielded David Byrne and Co. The 1990s loft spaces that featured experimental shows by Lightning Bolt, Black Dice and Arab on Radar/The Chinese Stars. The downtown Amazing Royal Crowns and Sasquatch-led punkabilly circuit. The powerful Strange Famous Records world. The early 2000s collegiate Zox fanbase. This decade’s folk, alternative and indie ecosystem fostered by The Columbus Theatre and Deer Tick. PVD has turned through many musical revolutions that helped shape the city’s cultural and physical landscapes and developed strong communities filled with artists who share a passion for being among allies.

A proper infrastructure, which includes performance venues, workspaces, affordable housing and perhaps most critically, flexible work opportunities, must be in place to support the drivers of these movements, and many core members of today’s PVD music scene have found both a means to support themselves and develop communities by bartending — one of the most flexible of flexible work opportunities.

While it is hardly uncommon to find a musician who has done their time in the service industry, for many of the artists holding up Providence’s contemporary music scene, bartending has become not only a means to support themselves, but an extension of their art.

At Nolan’s Corner Pub in Olneyville, a peer group of bartenders has emerged that constitutes members of some of the most popular Providence-based musical acts. Working at Nolan’s plays a critical role in their community, because it not only allows them to support themselves, but the bar serves as a clubhouse of sorts. We recently sat down with some of these superstar servers of PVD to talk about their work, their art and the organic way their chosen family formed.

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