Roots Report

Okee dokee folks… ‘Tis the season once again that shows we are at the mercy of Mother Nature and the dreaded COVID. If you have been paying attention there have been COVID and weather cancellations already this winter. I strongly advise that if you have tickets to anything that you double-check before you head out just to be sure the show will go on.

Some of the cancellations happen last minute. It is what it is. We are living in a whole new world now. Not only are weather and COVID to blame, but sometimes it is a staff shortage causing the closure. We have to learn to take this all in stride. I hate the expression “the new normal,” but this is where we are. Weather happens, people get sick, and there aren’t enough people willing to work for less than their worth anymore. Adjust.

Read on…

For those of you who worship at the altar of Robert Zimmerman, there is a new exhibit at the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame (FARHOF), located in Boston’s Boch Center Wang Theatre. The exhibit features candid images of Bob Dylan during a historical point in his career. “Don’t Think Twice: The Daniel Kramer Photographs of Bob Dylan, 1964-65” showcases Dylan in an intimate collection of photos of his private and public life as he recorded songs like “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “It’s All over Now, Baby Blue,” and transitioned from acoustic to electric. “Don’t Think Twice” is curated by the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music and the Museum Collective. The display is open until the end of March. For more, take “a trip upon your magic swirling ship” to: folkamericanarootshalloffame.org.

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” This is the famous quote uttered many times during the film The Princess Bride. Inigo was portrayed by Mandy Patinkin who, besides his many movie roles, is also known to the general public for his characters in Criminal Minds and Homeland. Beyond films and television, Patinkin is a critically acclaimed, Tony Award-winning Broadway singer and actor. His theatrical roles include Evita, Sunday in the Park with George, The Secret Garden, The Winter’s Tale, and a myriad of others. Mandy will be bringing his Being Alive show to the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on Thursday, Feb 9. This show is a collection of many of Mandy’s favorite Broadway and classic American tunes. The evening features musical monologues and multiple characters, brought to life with props and Patinkin’s unique flair — from Irving Berlin to Stephen Sondheim, from Cole Porter to Harry Chapin. For more, “Move On” to zeiterion.org.

If you liked the second season of You, you probably remember the character Henderson, the comedian who was described as “vacuum cleaner guy.” Joe, the main character, “offs” Henderson because of his threat to Ellie, who we all now know as the actress Jenna Ortega, who is also Wednesday in the new Netflix series. Did you get that? You probably also know that “Henderson” is the comedian and actor, Chris D’Elia who has a slew of TV and film appearances like Whitney, The Good Doctor, Undateable as well as his Netflix comedy specials “Man On Fire,” “Incorrigible,” and “No Pain.” He also hosts a very popular podcast, Congratulations with Chris D’Elia. He will be bringing his Don’t Push Me tour to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Feb 17. For more, Glory Daze over to: thevetsri.com.

Another comedian whose specials I have repeatedly watched is Tom Papa. If you don’t know his comedy, you should! He reminds me of Jack Benny in appearance (sans violin), and his jokes deliver the realities of day-to-day life in a side-splitting fashion. “There’s no such thing as fitting in. Life is a pair of skinny jeans and you are a big, fat ass!” Papa will be preaching his somewhat wholesome humor on Feb 18 at the Great Cedar Showroom at Foxwoods Casino. You can find his comedy specials, What a Day and You’re Doing Great, streaming on Netflix. For more, be a Winner and get to: foxwoods.com

Finally, here are a bunch of random shows for you all to check out! At the Greenwich Odeum, join 25 RI women as they recite their own Vagina Monologues on Feb 11, The Crash Test Dummies will be “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”-ing on Feb 17, and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be having a party on Feb 18! greenwichodeum.com.

The Americana roots-rock quintet Say Darling, who are out in support of their newest release, Before & After, will be at the Knickerbocker in Westerly on Feb 10 with the delicious-sounding Soggy Po Boys. knickmusic.com

At The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Robert Cray brings his “Smoking Gun” and guitar blues bullets on Feb 28, An Evening with Tom Rush on Feb 18 demonstrates why the folk legend has been entertaining audiences for over 60 years, and modern fingerstyle guitarist Mikes Dawes dazzles with his performing of multiple parts simultaneously on a single guitar on Feb 11. narrowscenter.org.

The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed album will be performed in its entirety by MB bassist/singer/songwriter John Lodge at The Jane Pickens in Newport on Sunday, Feb 26. janepickens.com.

OK, I REALLY mean it this time! I have FINALLY gotten back to podcasting. Yes, there was a bit of a holiday pause, but then there was an additional unscheduled intermission when I learned the hard way that my phone doesn’t like water. I had to WAIT for a new FLIP PHONE to be delivered! That coupled with a bout of the flu and bronchitis lengthened that lapse. You can listen at: motifri.com/rootsreportpodcast. You can find my concert photographs at motifri.com/fuzeksfotos. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.


Roots Report: Health considerations for musicians and upcoming shows

Okee dokee folks…

This January edition of Motif Magazine is the annual Health Issue. I know that we all have had enough of hearing about health issues over the past couple of years, but right now you only have one body and it has to last a lifetime. At the rate we are going, future generations will probably have spares, but unless you know something I don’t, we are one and done. When I think about health and music a few things come to mind. First is HEARING. A few years back, I did extensive research about hearing protection and have republished and posted that information many, many times since. I am a strong advocate of hearing protection. If you are a musician, fan, or are constantly dealing with loudness in your life, you NEED hearing protection! You can read (or reread) that old column here: motifri.com/hearingprotection. I have tinnitus and it’s not fun. Start protecting your hearing now!

If you are a guitarist or play any instrument, you should be concerned about repetitive strain injuries from overuse or bad technique. This is yet another issue I deal with. For me, it is probably caused by a combination of several things: overuse, technique, and cervical stenosis. I have been playing guitar for nearly 50 years and it does take its toll. In my interviews with musicians (of a certain age), I usually ask them if they suffer from playing problems, and oftentimes the answer is, “Yes.” Some have surgery or must relearn techniques to correct the damage. Currently, I use a hand/wrist brace when I play and that helps quite a bit. If you are younger or just starting out, pay attention to your technique, take precautions, and try to head off any future, long-term afflictions.

Lastly, for now, is COVID. I KNOW we are all sick of it, but COVID is still omnipresent. If you haven’t gotten your vaccine, please do so. Masks have fallen from fashion so transmission rates of winter illnesses have risen, but you can still TRY to avoid getting sick. One of my (many) human peeves is the protocol of handshaking. I have never liked this. It is dumb, as are most customs. I think it’s way past time that this practice is retired. Many years ago comedian Steven Wright was at one of my band’s shows and we all went to talk with him during the break. As is customary, and seemingly obligated, I offered my hand. He said, “elbow bump” and stuck out his elbow. This was the first time I had experienced this, but it made sense to me. I have taken to this as a means of greeting and prefer it. I don’t know where your hand has been and you sure as hell don’t know where mine was. Better to keep it all to yourselves!

Back in the ‘90s, when I was beefing up my CD collection by joining ten for a penny record clubs and then defaulting, one album I acquired was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette. That disc spent countless hours spinning in my player and at one point I actually blew the grilles off of my speakers and disintegrated the cones with the volume. I was a fan of this music for quite a while until, as usual, the radio/TV overplayed it all.

It took me years to see Alanis in concert and when I finally did, I wasn’t in the mood for the show. My dog had just died and I sat like a zombie in the audience listening to Alanis perform acoustic renditions of her hits. Now I have another chance to hear this music performed live, though it won’t be by Morissette. Alanis’ songs have been adapted into a jukebox musical with a story by Tony and Academy Award-winning writer, Diablo Cody. The plot is based on family and social issues, sexual assault, and drug use. The score includes many popular songs from the seminal Jagged Little Pill album such as “You Oughta Know,” “Hand In My Pocket,” and “Ironic,” as well as new numbers written for the show. Jagged Little Pill hits Providence Performing Arts Center on Jan 17 and runs through Jan 22. Themes portrayed in the production may be triggering for some. Keep an eye out for my review of the show. For more, “Head Over Feet” to ppacri.org.

Finally here are a few shows for your consideration. At The Narrows in Fall River you can catch the Funky White Honkies on Jan 6, Greg Abate on Jan 7, and my band Forever Young will be playing our award-winning tribute to Neil Young on Jan 13. On Jan 14, WinterStock 2023 will raise funding for Samaritans Southcoast and feature performances by Beth Barron, Lori Silvia, 3 Legged Dog, and many others from noon12 – 4pm. At 8pm there is another show featuring The Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em co-headlining a tour with Miss Tess and Sarah Borges. narrowscenter.org

Boston’s Fellswater, whose members include RI natives Chris and Diane Myers of Portsmouth, will be at Blackstone River Theatre on Jan 28. They play a wide range of music from tTraditional to modern and draw from the heritage of all the Celtic nations, especially Scotland, Ireland, Galicia, and Canada. riverfolk.org

Also on Jan 28, Dustbowl Revival will be pushing the boundaries of American roots music at the Greenwich Odeum. greenwichodeum.com

On Feb 4 at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket you can catch original Lynyrd Skynyrd band member Artimus Pyle with his own band, the Artimus Pyle band. stadiumtheatre.com

December was a light month for my Roots Report Podcast. Now that the “holidaze” are over we can get back to regularly scheduled programming! motifri.com/rootsreportpodcast. You can find my concert photographs at motifri.com/fuzeksfotos. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. johnfuzek.com

Roots Report: December music

Okee dokee folks… ‘Tis the season once again. I am still in the trenches fighting the war on Christmas. After over 35 years in the battle, I have now earned five-star general status. In spite of my disdain for the holidays, I must acquiesce and write some “Christmasy” stuff here for you folks who celebrate. This year I will spare you the usual “Johnny Scrooge-ek’s” view of the holidays. Humbug! Read on…

I always try to include this in my December column because I like to promote events that help animals. Every year around this time, musician John Speziale holds a fundraiser for the cute critters. The ninth annual Rock and Roll Christmas Benefit Stand Up for Animals will take place Sunday, Dec 11 at The Knickerbocker in Westerly. Speziale’s Mr. Santa puppet issued a statement about this year’s show: “We made big decisions today, bigger than anything, and everybody agrees how big they are. All designed to make our event more fun than ever. Big decisions – and important – did I say important? Very, very important. Because this thing is going to be so spectacular… Really, really big. Bigger than anything!” Scheduled to appear are John Speziale and friends, as well as The Carleans. The benefit always has lots of great music, contests, food, and fun. It’s all for a good cause. For more, roll over to knickmusic.com.

Providence-based piano player and singer-songwriter Shannon Corey brings her Swinging Christmas Show to the Music Mansion in PVD on Dec 17. Corey has toured and sung with Stephen Stills, as well as opening for Lady Gaga. Shannon and friends will be playing selections from her I Wish I Had A River holiday CD and other swinging Christmas classics. For more, skate over to shannoncoreymusic.com.

The RI Bluegrass Alliance (RIBA) is having a holiday potluck pickin’ party on Dec 11! Celebrate the season by jamming with fellow RIBA members and enjoy plenty of food, picking, and music! Come to play or just to listen. Please bring an appetizer, entree, salad, or dessert. Cash bar. They are also collecting coats, hats, gloves, socks, and sweatpants – any warm clothing for adults and children ages 3-12 for donations to Crossroads in PVD. Please bring your donations to the party. It all takes place at the Elks Lodge 2285, 42 Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich. For more, resonate to ribluegrass.org.

The 15th Annual Singing For Shelter is on Thursday, Dec 8, at Channing Church in Newport. Hosted by local musicians, this acoustic Christmas concert will benefit Lucy’s Hearth and The McKinney Shelter. Doors open at 6:30 and music starts at 7pm. Scheduled performers include Jimmy Winters, Chuck and Toni Ciany, Mel, Leslie Grimes and Matt Bruneau, John Monllos and Joanne Rodino, Tom Perrotti and EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks, Carrigan Nelson and Steve Rodrigues, Julie Bisbano, Diane and Chris Myers, Rand Bradbury, Dragonfly Marie, Ed McGuirl with Joe Lambiase, Jack Moore and Jim Chapin, Ray Davis and Mark T. Small, Jack Casey, Ed Ledwith, Fastnet Irish Session Crew and the Singing For Shelter All-Stars. For those unable to attend, donations can be made at lucyshearth.org and mckinneyshelter.org.

Recently, I did a couple of interviews for my Roots Report podcast with folks promoting new projects. The first one was with Billy Mumy. He portrayed Will Robinson on the 1960s TV show “Lost In Space.” Mumy just published his autobiography, titled Danger Will Robinson: The Full Mumy. Those who only know Mumy from “Lost In Space” only know part of the story of this very accomplished actor, musician, and producer. Mumy was part of the golden age of television and worked with the legends of that era. He is also a very accomplished musician and has had many bands that include Barnes & Barnes, best known for their Dr. Demento hit, “Fish Heads” and his current band The Action Skulls with Vicki Peterson (The Bangles) and John Cowsill of the Cowsills. In addition to that, he has worked with the band America many times over the years. I was provided excerpts of Bill’s autobiography, and with so many tales to tell, his writing kept me very engaged. The book is over 400 pages of stories and 250 photos from this legend’s life. For more, Jupiter 2 to: billmumy.com.

The other interview for the podcast was with RI Music Hall of Fame inductee and founding member of the Cowsills, Bob Cowsill. It has been decades, but the Cowsills have just released a new album titled Rhythm Of The World. The eleven-song recording highlights the writing and trademark genetic harmonies of the band. Whether you are a new or old fan of the band, this is a must-have for your music collection. For more, take “The Path Of Love” to: cowsill.com. [Look at that: We tricked John into making a gift recommendation – ed]

Celebrate(?) the holidays with a John Waters Christmas! The filmmaker, writer, actor, and artist will be at the Columbus Theatre on Dec 10 with his show. I had a chance to have a short conversation with Waters about what to expect at this performance. Listen to it on my Roots Report podcast! For more about the show, flamin-go to: columbustheatre.com. 

Listen to interviews with Billy Mumy, Bob Cowsill, John Waters, and lots of others on the Roots Report podcast, presented by Motif: motifri.com/rootsreportpodcast. I am always uploading new ones, so please listen! MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast. You can find my concert photographs at motifri.com/fuzeksfotos. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. johnfuzek.com

Les Misérables at PPAC: A show you’ll want to see 24601 times

Okee dokee folks… Back in the late 80’s I took my mother to NYC. As we were walking down Broadway, she saw a wall painted with a Les Misérables logo. I had no idea what it was but she certainly did! She loved Broadway musicals and told me that Les Misérables was a new one that she really wanted to see. When it came to Providence for the first time, my parents were there. Since then, they have experienced productions of “Les Mis” over thirty times. They were so moved by the musical that they bought me a ticket because they felt I should also see it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I enjoyed it immensely and found it to be very powerful. Since that first time, I have attended a couple more Les Mis shows. Last night at The Providence Performing Arts Center, I added Les Mis’ opening night as show number four. Mom and dad will be there Sunday adding another notch to their already lengthy Les Mis belt.

I think it’s been about ten years or more since I last saw a Les Mis production. All the previous versions I have seen, I believe, had relatively simple stage sets and an area that rotated. That rotation emphasized movement and worked well within the storyline. This time around my girlfriend was the Les Mis newbie, so I was trying to explain the show to her and the spinning stage. There was no need. The stage didn’t turn. This production was much different than the last one I had been to.

Les Misérables is based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name and takes place in France between 1815 and 1832. Punishment, redemption, poverty, revolution, love, and death are the basic themes of the story. Many folks may be familiar with the 2012 film adaptation, but the movie and the stage production are vastly different experiences.

Photo: Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

The view of the pre-show stage at last night’s performance was a banner/curtain of a Victor Hugo painting. A dark, wispy, silhouetted cityscape was framed on either side by black, slender building sets. The opening notes of the Prologue were played and the banner lifted, revealing a group of prisoners rowing. “Look down, look down, Don’t look ’em in the eye, Look down, look down, You’re here until you die,” they sang. The ship was a projected image on a screen behind the stage. To me, this was a new addition to the show. This screen is an integral part of the 2022 production. Many of the images used throughout the show were either Victor Hugo’s paintings or images created in his artistic style. The first thirteen minutes of the show are sacred. If you aren’t in your seat at the start of the show, there is a hold until those thirteen minutes are up. This beginning sets up the story of Jean Valjean at the end of his nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is not simply released from his punishment, but as officer Javert reminds prisoner 24601, Valjean, it’s a “yellow ticket-of-leave, you are a thief.” Valjean finds it hard to reenter society with the curse of Javert and the yellow ticket-of-leave. He steals items from a church that gave him refuge, and when he is caught by officers, the priest supports Valjean by claiming that it was a gift and gives him more. He tells Valjean, “You must use this precious silver to become an honest man.” Valjean tears up his yellow ticket-of-leave and assumes a new identity. After this, the stage went dark and “Les Misérables” was projected across the back wall.

This new production of Les Mis is visually DARK and the dramatic lighting conjures the image of a Caravaggio or Rembrandt painting. Any colors are muted and nothing is at all brightly lit. Early 19th century France was dismal and this makes you feel it. Smoke/fog is occasionally added and real flame torches are used. The set pieces that slide in and out are all black buildings, bridges, stairways, and barricades. The back wall projection of images is used in an old-school Hollywood fashion where the background images are slightly animated, giving the impression of movement in the foreground.

Les Misérables progresses in more of an operatic fashion than a musical. In most of today’s musicals, dialogue is spoken and then they burst into song to augment the spoken sentiment. However, in Les Mis, almost every word of dialogue is sung. Every note of every piece of music and every lyric in the show evokes some kind of emotion from the audience. The performers must have strong voices to carry the weight of their songs and this cast has that power. “I Dreamed A Dream” by Fantine, “Stars” by Javert, “On My Own” by Eponine, and “Bring Him Home” by Valjean let the performers stretch out on these solos and bring out their best, and that they did. These performances all triggered tremendous applause. Most of the songs tug at your heart but there are some lighter moments in the show. “Lovely Ladies,” “Master of the House,” and “Beggars at the Feast” add catchy tunes and a little levity to the show. So much so that back when Les Mis was gaining popularity, an early episode of Seinfeld had George Costanza repeatedly singing “Master of the House,” infecting folks with that earworm!

Photo: Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

This show is carried by the huge talents of the performers in the lead roles: Nick Cartell as Valjean, Hayden Tee as Javert, Haley Dortch as Fantine, and Christine Hesson Hwang as Eponine – though the supporting roles were filled by wonderful performers as well.

The death of Javert was handled differently than I had previously seen. Again, this had a bit of a Hollywood effect that coupled movement on the screen, with moving scenery and a Javert on a fly-away harness that truly made his leap more dramatic and realistic than any previous version. This is always a breathtaking ending to his “Soliloquy”.

My only issue was with that of the little boy. His role has been bolstered from previous productions and I found it annoying. The screechy, fingernails on a chalkboard singing and hammy acting detracted from the scenes he was part of. In the past, that role was more subtle and fit better into the mix. This seemed like an attempt to feature some cheeky kid more prominently. Don’t do it! Was I wrong that I quietly cheered when the French soldiers solved that problem? Also, I counted three phallic references in Act I. I think one would have been sufficient, but they kept it going – from a stroked telescope to a loaf of French bread to a dangling bottle. Pick one and stick with it. It’s really only funny once.

Overall this was a wonderful show with great performances. It was visually bleak but apropos for the period and transported you back to early 1800s France. The songs and music are powerful from start to finish. Les Misérables is a production that needs to be experienced LIVE. If you like the film you will LOVE the live version. If you didn’t like the film, give the live version a chance. The emotion of seeing something like Les Mis in person is what makes live theatre worth seeing – especially this! And as my parents have proven, and I am sure they are not alone, Les Mis is something that can be seen time and time again. All walks of life, young and old, were in attendance at last night’s sold-out opening night. If you have seen it, see it again, and if you haven’t, you have until this Sunday to correct that. Les Mis never fails to overwhelm you with emotion and astonishment. The enormous amount of applause and hoots at the conclusion of this show was probably the loudest I have witnessed for any Les Mis I have attended. That says a lot right there. See this show.

The performance, with a brief intermission, clocks in at three hours, with the first half being about 90 minutes. Les Misérables is at The Providence Performing Arts Center until Sunday, November 20. Please remember the show starts promptly at 8 PM; there is a 13-minute hold at the start of the show. Please plan to arrive at the theatre earlier so that you will be in your seats prior to the start of the show. For more about Les Misérables and other shows in the Broadway series, don’t wait “One Day More,” get to PPACRI.org.

That’s it for now. Please check my other Motif offerings at: motifri.com/rootsreportpodcast. I also have a new web link where you can find my concert photographs: motifri.com/fuzeksfotos. Thanks for reading. johnfuzek.com

November Roots Report: Giving Thanks for Shows

Okee dokee folks… ‘Tis the season… to save DEMOCRACY! Hopefully you vote(d) and things work(ed) in democracy’s favor! I also hope that RI stays a smart, mostly Democratic, somewhat progressive place to live.

November is turning out to be a bit of a busy month for shows. Things are nearly 100% back to normal but I would take precautions if you are one to be out and about in crowds. People are still getting COVID. It has not gone away. Folks just got tired of it and it fell from front page news but it is “Far From Over” (cue Frank Stallone’s song). Winter is coming. I heard that only 6% of people have gotten the new Covid vaccine. REALLY??? I got my 5th Covid shot a couple of weeks ago — the new, improved, super-duper, bivalent booster. On top of that I got a flu shot for the first time, at the same time. The only effect for me was a sore arm from the double jab. I had Covid and have known people who died from it It is not fun and scientists are still finding out things about the long-term affects. I still have residual brain fog months later. Do yourself a favor and get the bivalent booster! Read on…

Most people think of Stevie Nicks as the star of Fleetwood Mac but that is not entirely true. There would have been no Stevie without Lindsay Buckingham. When Fleetwood Mac invited Lindsay to join the band, they only wanted a guitar player, but he wouldn’t join without his then girlfriend, Stevie Nicks. Buckingham was the genius behind the sound that shaped the new FM line-up. Unfortunately his talent was overshadowed by Nicks’ witchy ways and she got most of the glory. But just remember, when Lindsay left Fleetwood Mac it took TWO talented guitar players to fill his shoes. If you recognize the brilliance of Buckingham you will want to see him in concert and he will be bringing his show to the Garde Theatre in New London, CT on Thursday, Nov 10. If you have never been to the Garde it is less than an hour from Providence, very easy to get to and even easier to park! Don’t be such a Rhode Islander and miss this show! Others coming up: Indigo Girls, Cherish The Ladies, The Buddy Holly Story and more. “Holiday Road” to GardeArts.org

Another of my obsessively watched Netflix comedians is Tom Segura. Again, his Completely Normal, Mostly Stories, Disgraceful, and Ball Hog comedy specials are highly amusing. He is coming to PVD on Nov 17. Limber up those stomach muscles because they are going to be sore from laughing! Just for laughs get over to: TheVetsRI.com

11/11/22 apears to be a popular date for concerts this year. So many shows, so little time. And space. Ready? Go! Bright Eyes with Hurray For The Riff Raff will be at the Strand Theatre on Nov 11 (TheStrandRI.com) Stanley Jordan Plays Jimi (Hendrix) eat The Greenwich Odeum on Nov 11.(GreenwichOdeum.com) Jim Messina is at The Narrows Center for The Arts on Nov 11. (Narrowscenter.org) I need to triplicate myself to get to all of them!

Also happening at The Narrows is The Music of Michael Troy Concert. Troy was a beloved local singer-songwriter who passed away a few years back. These concerts have served as the fundraiser for the Michael Troy Memorial Music Foundation. (FolkMichaelTroy.com). The 7th annual concert will be held on Sunday, Nov 13 beginning at 1pm. There will be performances by Danielle Miraglia, Matt Borello, Joan Akin, Tom Smith, Redfish with Gary Fish and Steve Redfern, Johnny Botello, Mike Corriea, Louis Leeman, Jeri Karam Kozak, The Laureanno Brothers, and the Durfee Quintet. The Music of Michael Troy concerts are organized to carry on Troy’s legacy of storytelling through music Funds from the event are allocated by the foundation to help further support the music and the performance programs at Durfee High School, Troy’s alma mater.

Newport Live is continuing to bring great music to Newport and Jamestown. Coming up is former RI resident, Erin McKeown, on Nov 19, and SXSW artist, Alisa Amador on Dec 3. Both shows will begin at 7pm and be held at the Jamestown Arts Center, 18 Valley Street in Jamestown. On Dec 10, Sean Rowe with Mary-Elaine Jenkins will close out the Newport Live fall season at LaFarge Arts Center, 73 Pelham Street in Newport. For more, a-quid-neck to NewportLive.org

Yay! I have surpassed the 50 podcast mark! I hope you are listening and enjoying them. I sure enjoy making them! Listen here: MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast. Also, you can find my concert photographs at MotifRI.com/FuzeksFotos. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

The Meming of Music: And other scary October ideas

Okee dokee folks… There is a meme that I see from time to time that reads, “A musician is someone who puts $10,000 worth of gear into a $500 car to make $50 at a gig,” or something to that effect. First of all, I don’t know any local musician who has $10,000 worth of gear. Second of all, where do you find a $500 car these days? If there was $10,000 worth of gear that needed to be moved you would need a truck or a van, not a car. The $50 part is somewhat accurate, but that depends on where you play and what type of performance you are giving. Basically the meme is just telling you that musicians spend their money on gear, drive shitty cars and don’t have cushy incomes. This is resonating with me right now because I am a musician who needs to buy a new vehicle. Well, not new: used. When the hell did used cars with 100,000+ miles on them get to be so damn expensive? $10,000+!!! I know this will make me sound old and cranky – well, I am – but when I was young, a car over ten years old with that mileage would be $100. And the cars were simple: none of this computer stuff that would put the Apollo space capsule to shame. I like simple! 

When I started writing the Roots Report, almost 20 years ago. I had a truck that didn’t have heat and had holes in the floor. I used to write about freezing on my drive to gigs. I have had a couple of trucks since then and my current conveyance is one that a good friend of mine fortunately sold to me for a great price. Eight years have passed since that transaction and the truck is now twenty years old, going on 200,000 miles, and is, unfortunately, rotting from beneath. Like Neil Young (and Rust-Oleum paint) says, “Rust Never Sleeps.” 

So now I am shopping for a truck and my head is spinning from the obscene pricing on used vehicles. I NEED a truck, not necessarily for $10,000 worth of gear, but because I need to tow the two trailers for the RI Folk Festival. I guess I will have to start playing the lottery and crossing my fingers. As for the meme at the top of this story, it should really read “A musician is someone who takes a beat up old guitar and puts it into a $10,000 car they can’t afford but that is all that was available for sale and the musician is now in debt and will only make $50 towards that car payment at their next gig.” Read on… 

Back in the ‘70s (I know I start a lot of sentences like that lately), one of my favorite albums was Fool For The City by Foghat. They were a great arena rock band and I saw them in concert a few times. It’s been a while since they have been out rockin’ but they will be taking a “Slow Ride” to the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on Oct 15. I spoke with Foghat founding member Roger Earl. Listen to that interview here. For more about the show and others, “Ride, Ride, Ride” to StadiumTheatre.com

October may be the month most people like to do spooky things but this October seems like it is geared more towards the funny stuff. Some of my favorite comedians are hitting area stages this month! Ryan Hamilton who starts off his special, Happy Face by talking about his face, “I look really happy all the time… crazy happy… I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, ‘Wow, that is inaccurate.’” He has one of the best comedy specials on Netflix and will be at The Comedy Connection in East Providence Oct 20 – 22 (RIComedyConnection.com). 

I have had many conversations with comedian Paula Poundstone over the years and I have her scheduled for a podcast in advance of her show at The Narrows in Fall River on Oct 22. Paula’s stand up shows are always hysterical and she is always a very entertaining interview guest. Watch for that! (NarrowsCenter.org

Taylor Tomlinson also has two really funny Netflix specials – Quarter Life Crisis and Look At You. If you haven’t watched them, do so and then check her out live at Veterans Auditorium on Oct 8. Finally, Fortune Feimster, of “Last Comic Standing” and “The Mindy Project,” will also be at The Vets on Oct 23. (TheVetsRI.com

If you didn’t follow Randy Rainbow over the past few years and watch his Drumpf skewering, musical parody videos, then you missed perhaps the only levity during that time. Randy is bringing his Pink Glasses Tour to the Providence Performing Arts Center on Oct 21. (PPACRI.org) We don’t need more scary, we need more laughter in our lives! 

Down in the far-off corner of the state, the East Bay town of Tiverton, the Tiverton Four Corners Art Center will be presenting the Autumn Concert Series. Coming up — Oct 15: Mark T. Small; Oct 16: Spindle Rock River Rats; Oct 22: Atwater-Donnelly Band; Oct 29: Day of the Dead Halloween Bash. For more, square root to: FourCornersArts.org

When you click on the Greenwich Odeum‘s website it reads, “We’ve got some good shows coming up!” And that’s no lie! There is always something great going on at the Greenwich Odeum. Glen Tilbrook, Almost Queen, Christopher Cross, Livingston Taylor, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Rocky Horror, The Tubes, Judy Gold, Tab Benoit, Stanley Jordan, The English Beat, Judy Collins, Jamie Kennedy, The Smithereens… and the list goes on. If you haven’t been to the Odeum yet, I just gave you many, many reasons to get there! For more, “Ride Like The Wind” to: GreenwichOdeum.com

I am back to adding podcasts, so please listen! You can find my concert photographs here. There are recently posted pix from the Ringo Starr show at PPAC.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Tina through the times: Motif reviews Tina, the musical at PPAC

Photo courtesy of PPAC

Okee dokee folks; I am from the generation that watched Ike & Tina Turner on TV and heard them on the radio back in the 60’s and 70’s. I also remember the comeback of Tina Turner in the early 80’s. I saw the What’s Love Got to Do With It biopic film in the early ’90s and recently watched the 2021 Tina documentary. Unfortunately I never saw her in concert. When I learned about the Tina musical I figured that this would be the next best thing, and it was!

Last night, Wednesday, September 14, I was in the audience for the fourth night of the Tina musical which made its tour debut in Providence at the Providence Performing Arts Center this past Sunday. So far the crowds have been large, energetic, welcoming and overwhelmingly appreciative.

The easy thing for me to say about the show is that it’s “Simply The Best,” but that would be an oversimplification. The show is very good and will have you run the gamut of emotions. For some it may be tough witnessing the domestic violence of Anna Mae’s (Tina) father, Floyd Richard Bullock, and her partner/husband Ike Turner or hearing a racial epithet such as when Tina is initially rejected by a record company with the utterance by the president, “no way in hell Capital is going to give this old nigger broad a deal!” Even though you may endure a couple of triggering moments, the ultimate reward is the performance and what a performance it was.

The show opens when a curtain adorned with the eyes of Tina Turner rises and Turner is standing in silhouette about to take the stairs to the stage. She then drops to the floor and begins a Buddhist chant. This scene transitions to her beginnings as the child Anna Mae Bullock, played by Ayvah Johnson, in Tennessee. This child will reappear many times throughout the show. We watch as she meets and first sings with Ike Turner, played by Garret Turner, and when she ultimately marries him. We see the evolution of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and the downfall of their marriage and the group. Finally, we witness her resurrection as the solo artist, Tina Turner, that most are familiar with today. When posed with the issue of trying to make a record for her comeback she exclaims, “I may be jumping at the sun but I have long legs!”

This is a jukebox musical chock full of Turner hits cleverly inserted into appropriate situational portrayals of her life. Some of the songs may be placed in times before they were actually released, but that is ok, it works! Numbers from her early days right up to her mega-hits are all included— “Nutbush City Limits” all the way to “The Best” and even “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

This show rests squarely on the hit songs and the talent of the lead role. For this performance, Tina was played by Naomi Rodgers. Evidently she will be alternating performances with Zurin Villanueva who will also portray Tina. They are not understudies for each other, they have others who are. 

As I said, the success of the show rests on the music as well as the talent of the lead role, and Naomi Rodgers handled it with ease and comfort. She tackled teenage Tina all the way through Turner’s renaissance. Her voice was impeccable and she effortlessly emulated Turner’s growl-like vocal style.

The best parts of the show are the ensemble songs when it mimicked more of a concert feel than a musical. “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Proud Mary” and “Disco Inferno” are all good examples of this. Tina’s trademark dance style was channeled through all the dance routines. The one duet that worked particularly well was “Let’s Stay Together” between Tina and saxophonist Raymond Hill, a bandmate with whom she’d had an affair and become pregnant with her first child, Craig.

The scenery is mostly electronic. The rear wall screen was illuminated by flashing lights, miscellaneous background scenes, and good old 60’s psychedelic flashes. Physical scenery is sparse. Stage props came and went with the help of cast members and stage hands. The one piece that showed up many times was a simple door. This show focused on the music and talent.

The show ends as it began with Tina about to take the stage at a concert with the rousing closing number.

Tina clocks in with a performance time of about two hours and 30 minutes not counting the 15 minute intermission. A couple of times I felt a slight drag but it was immediately perked up by another rocking tune. Just when you think it is over they have just a little more for you, and this is the cherry on top of an already sweet cake! 

Though Tina may get slapped during this show there’s no touching this performance and Turner’s legacy of music. It’s a story of hope, escape, redemption, and success. 

Tina, the musical was at Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, September 18. See it next time it’s in town. At the end of this show my girlfriend’s first words were, “I loved it, I want to see it again!“

For more about this show, go to PPACRI.org

That’s it for now. Please check my other Motif offerings at: MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast I also have a new web link where you can find my concert photographs- MotifRI.com/FuzeksFotos. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report

Okee dokee folks… People that really know me know that I am not a big fan of kids. Never had any, never wanted any. I prefer cats and dogs! 

In spite of this, kids seem to be drawn to me when I play music. They get mesmerized by the guitar and the sound. I see the looks on their faces and often it’s the first time they have seen/heard music performed live. I smile and sometimes talk with them while I am playing. The other night two toddlers stood about a foot away from me while I played. Then their even littler sister joined and they stood there in a trance just listening to me play. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they clap but they generally have about as much rhythm as Navin Johnson in Steve Martin’s The Jerk! It is pretty funny and dare I say cute? If this kind of behavior isn’t one of the best reasons to introduce an instrument to a young kid I don’t know what is.

I know it’s the live music that draws them in which is funny considering I would prefer to be the scary man that they stay away from! I guess that it just comes with the territory. You can’t pick your fans. I do hope that their parents seriously consider bringing music lessons into their children’s lives while they still think it’s magic. If too much time passes then the kids will think learning an instrument is a chore and they’ll want to play video games instead. My nephew begged me to teach him guitar when he was six. I tried, but either I wasn’t a good teacher (which is probably the case) or he was a bad student. I am not sure what encouraged him to want to play then but he is now 20 and he will occasionally pick up one of the guitars I gave him to noodle around with. I know what my inspiration was to play guitar — I was in second grade and we had a substitute teacher who brought her guitar to class and played for us. Like the kids who are mesmerized by me when I play, I was enthralled. I wanted to learn to play guitar but because I was very young no one really took me seriously. Then Don McLean’s ”American Pie” came out and I wanted to learn how to play even more. It took a few more years for me to get a “real” guitar (I had a plastic kid’s model) and start lessons, but by then I was a teenager and other things were distracting me. I only wound up taking lessons for a few months before I quit. Over the years I learned the rest on my own and by jamming with other guitar players. I play guitar but I really don’t read music. I am far from a virtuoso but I manage to do what I want to do. If I had started younger and stuck to it I would have been better off. The point of this story? Learning to play a musical instrument is a wonderful thing and if you start them young and encourage them they will thank you for it later. Read on…     

Multiple Motif-Award winners and husband/wife duo, Atwater-Donnelly have just released their FOURTEENTH album of American and Celtic folk tunes, The Boat You Row. On top of that, Aubrey Atwater has just published another book, Song By Song: Volume II: 71 Songs, Tunes, and Discussions for Mountain Dulcimer, Backup, and Voice. The duo, and other ensembles that they lead, have quite a few area performances coming up. Can you call yourself a real Rhode Islander if you haven’t seen Atwater-Donnelly? Catch them live at one of these upcoming shows: Sep 9, “Evening at the Farm: Campfire Sing Along!” at Coggeshall Farm Museum; Bristol PorchFest, 106 High Street, Bristol, Sep 18, 3pm. For more clog over to: Atwater-Donnelly.com

Blackstone River Theatre has presented a few great shows over the summer including their highly successful annual Solstice Festival back in June and now they will get back into their regularly scheduled programming at the Cumberland theater. If you are a fan of music from Ireland, Scotland, the British Isles; folk music, and the traditions of music, dance, and visual arts by the people that settled in the Blackstone River Valley, then it’s time to pay the theater a visit. Coming up: Jamie Laval, Amber Rose, and Liv Castor on Sep 10; Kerri Powers/Lauren King on Sep 17, North Sea Gas on Sep 24, and Symbio on Oct 7. There is so much more to BRT, so float on over to RiverFolk.org!

Okay, okay, I have been REALLY slacking with the podcasts this summer. I got out of my groove with them when the podcast unit had to be replaced. Please check in for upcoming new ones again at:  MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast. I also have a new web link where you can find my concert photographs — MotifRI.com/FuzeksFotos. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

August Roots Report: Summer is hot, but these festivals are hotter

Okee dokee folks… Have I mentioned yet that I hate summer? Sorry, I have to say that at least once during this abysmal time of year. Fortunately, we are about halfway through this hell. Come on, autumn! The only thing that makes summer SOMEWHAT bearable is music. There are still great outdoor music events coming up that should definitely be on your music radar. Read on…

The eighth annual RI Folk Festival will happen on Sunday, Aug 28. This festival is FREE! There are three stages of music, craft vendors, food and new this year is interactive songwriting programming for adults and kids. The Songwriter Workshop is hosted by Mark Cutler and The Young Folk area by Morgan Johnston. As part of the workshop, Cutler will guide folks through the songwriting process, and the goal is to have a completed song performed on stage by the end of the festival! Morgan Johnston will keep the kiddos amused with shaker-making, coloring and much more. This festival is a true RI treasure and showcases many local musicians as well as national and regional talent. The rather lengthy line-up includes: award-winning multi-instrumentalist Jake Blount; The Fools (unplugged), known for their hits, “Life Sucks, Then You Die,” “World Dance Party” and more; Robin Lane (formerly with The Chartbusters), known for ”I Don’t Know How To Do,” “When Things Go Wrong” and more; Sidy Maiga; Lisa Couto & Erik Peterson; Dan Lilley & The Keepers with Amy Bedard; Pamela Means; The CarLeans; Julie Rhodes & the Electric Co; Allysen & Ava Callery (mother and daughter Motif award winners!); Rachel Sumner; Jose Docen; Bank of Ireland; Hungrytown; Sleeping Turtle; Frozen Corn, Beauquet; Tyler James & Jess Powers; Swimming Bell; and Emerging Songwriter Hosts Beth Barron & Joanne Lurgio, presenting over 25 emerging artists! The festival takes place at Larisa Park directly across from the Carousel in East Providence. Volunteers are still needed and donations to help fund the festival are always accepted. For more, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com

The sixth annual Warren Folks Festival takes place at 30 Cutler Street from 1 to 7pm on Saturday, Aug 20. This is another free festival, including food, music, craft vendors and BEER! They will have two stages of music featuring Bochek, Ernest Edwards, Honeysuckle Hill, Vudu Sister, Mary Elaine Jenkins, Beauquet, American Echoes, Rafay Rashid, Anthony Loffredio and others. This is all presented by and benefits The Collaborative. The goal of The Collaborative in Warren is to create a space where artists and musicians can exhibit and share their talents and network with other like-minded individuals. For more, cahoot on over to: TheCollaborative02885.org

And the Motif Music Award winner for best RI Festival is…the Rhythm and Roots Festival! This fest almost went away earlier in the year as festival producer Chuck Wentworth reluctantly decided that it was time to retire. Just a couple of months ago, an agency in CT swooped in and saved RR Fest and plans to carry on this Labor Day Weekend tradition! While it will no longer be locally produced, the owners claim to keep things status quo for the time being. Most of the staff and volunteers will be returning as well. If you haven’t had a chance to check out this legendary music gathering, now is the time. This year’s line-up boasts Little Feat, Grace Potter, Samantha Fish, Cowboy Mouth, North Mississippi All Stars, Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene, Steve Riley, Donna The Buffalo, Los Texmaniacs and so, so many more! The festival takes place at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, Sep 2 – 4. For more, zyde-e-go-go to: RhythmAndRoots.com   

Last week I went to Indian Ranch in Webster for the first time. I attended the Ann Wilson (of Heart) concert. It’s a cool venue tucked away in the woods just over the RI border into MA. The venue reminded me – ok, it was actually my girlfriend who said this – of the setting of the series, “Ozark.” There is a riverboat on the lake near the amphitheater and lots of brown, log-cabin type, rustic buildings. They still have lots of shows on their calendar if you want to check it out. Coming up: Weird Al, Collective Soul/Switchfoot (check out my podcast with Collective Soul), ABBA Tribute Badfish, Get The Led Out, Extreme, Aaron Lewis, The Pike Rockfest and many others. If you go, bring sunscreen, a hat and maybe a cushion if you have a tush that doesn’t like bleachers! For more, Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg to IndianRanch.com

I had to pause my podcasts for a bit while my podcast recorder was out being exchanged under warranty. Unfortunately I missed out on some great guests. I have to get back into the podcast groove again and have already begun the process. Check out MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast for the latest episode! Don’t forget there is so much more online that I produce for Motif: event reviews at MotifRI.com and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page, fb.com/MotifRI. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report July 2022: Traveling out of state for shows? In this economy?

Okee dokee folks… The cost of gas is hurting us all. It is eating into the important things that I do – travel to gigs and cover concerts. I have tried to cut back on my driving in an attempt to use less petrol. I am angry at the greed that is fueling the increase. Record profits for the oil companies, Wall Street speculators, production cutbacks and not the Ukraine conflict are the real underlying causes. 

Despite the gas price gouging, I have ventured to a few out-of-town shows. I had my own sort of religious experience at Fenway last week when I FINALLY saw Paul McCartney in concert. It was well worth the price of the kidney I sold for the ticket to see a Beatle. He played a nearly three-hour show of songs I wanted to hear. My only complaints about the show had nothing to do with Sir Paul: Parking was a ridiculous $55, a bottle of water was $5 and a drink was $15. Crazy!!! The crowd did a good job of interfering with my McCartney worship — people, as I mentioned a couple of columns ago, STILL do not know how to behave courteously when they go to concerts!

Next up was the Chevalier in Medford, MA. It’s a nice 1900-seat theater just outside of Boston where we attended the Rubber Soul & Revolver Beatles Tribute Show with Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Joey Molland, Denny Laine and Jason Scheff (photos on Facebook). This was a fun show and Todd once again proved why he is a god to so many folks. If you want to catch Rundgren playing his music close by, he will be at the Odeum in East Greenwich on July 15. You can hear my Roots Report Podcast interview with Rundgren here: MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast 

Also coming up at the Greenwich Odeum are: Jim Boggia’s Bruce Off-Broadway, Steve Earle and The Dukes, Molly Hatchet, and ASIA Featuring John Payne (David Tessier’s All Star Stars opens). I have podcasts coming up with a couple of these acts. Check the Motif site to find out who! For more about the Odeum shows, “Go” to GreenwichOdeum.com. Read on…

The East Providence 40th annual Heritage Days are coming up July 29 – 31 with a host of tribute shows that make it seem like a local Bonnaroo! Acts such as The McCartney Years, Tusk (Fleetwood Mac), The Machine (Pink Floyd), The Blushing Brides (Rolling Stones), Mr. Dynamite (James Brown) and Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin) will take the stage at Pierce Field over the 3 days. There is much more than music happening so be sure to “Ramble On” to: EPHeritageFest.TicketLeap.com

The 25th annual New Bedford Folk Festival will take place on Saturday, July 9, and Sunday, July 10 after a two year COVID-19 hiatus. Known for the best in contemporary, Americana, traditional, blues and Celtic folk music, the NB festival will feature performers most requested over the past 25 years, including Tom Rush, Susan Werner, Cheryl Wheeler, Garnet Rogers, John Gorka, Abbie Gardner, Tony Trischka, Grace Morrison, RUNA, Roy Book Binder, The Vox Hunters, Vance Gilbert and many more performers on the festival’s seven stages. Food and craft areas are free and open to the public; the music stages require passes. For more “Walk Around Downtown” to NewBedfordFolkFestival.com

Indian Ranch on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Webster, MA has been presenting events since 1946. It’s less than an hour from PVD and has a schedule of concerts running into October. Just some of the shows coming up are: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Little River Band, Ann Wilson of Heart, Three Dog Night, Rhiannon Giddens with Silkroad Ensemble, Tesla, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Collective Soul and Switchfoot, ABBA The Concert, Extreme and many others. For more about the venue and schedule, get “Out in the Country” to: IndianRanch.com

The RI Folk Festival is just two months away! Though the schedule is booked and everything is in the works there just never seems to be enough of certain things for this quickly growing grassroots fest. Volunteers are always needed for the day of show set up and load out, but the festival can always use committed folks who want to be part of the pre-fest planning. Quality craft vendors can, for a small fee, rent a spot to sell their work. And lastly, sponsors are always needed to provide the funding to keep this festival free. If you are interested in any of these don’t hesitate to contact the festival. There will be a fundraiser at Askew on July 8 featuring some of the board members who are performers as well as other guests. For more, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com

Here is a quick list of some other shows that you may want to hit: Bill Maher at The Boch 7/9, Roger Waters at the TD Garden 7/12, Psychedelic Furs with X at the Strand 7/13, The Rocket Man Elton John Tribute at PPAC 7/16, David Bromberg at the Narrows 7/29, The Metal Bee Gees at The Met on 7/30, The Summer of Love Concert at The Stadium 7/30. They are all worth the trip.
I am always adding new Roots Report Podcasts — I just can’t help myself! Don’t forget there is so much more online that I produce for Motif — event reviews at MotifRI.com and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page, Fb.com/MotifRI. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com