The Sopranos are one of my all time favorite shows so I’m stoked this is coming to town. During the pandemic, actors Steve Schirripa (Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri) and Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) started the Talking Sopranos podcast where they re-watch each episode and give inside info. I’m guessing that is what kickstarted the idea for taking the show on the road as they have done a few events such as this. They’ll be joined by Vincent Pastore (Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero), who has the best death scene featuring a song from the Rolling Stones album, Voodoo Lounge.
A Conversation with The Sopranos featuring Steve Schirripa, Vincent Pastore, and Michael Imperioli comes to The Strand Theatre in PVD on April 1.
I included this show because I think it is so cool that Newport finally has a venue to host national acts. Suzanne Vega had massive hits with “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner” back in the day and has continued creating compelling music. She was at the Newport Folk Festival not too long ago and sounded great.
Suzanne Vega enchants the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport on April 16.
Askew 5th Anniversary Weekend
Askew is one of my favorite venues to see a show at. Intimate setting, great staff/owners, late night kitchen; Askew hosts both national acts and an endless stream of local talent. Askew does theme nights, like an open mic night for musicians on Monday, and comedians on Tuesday, a disco night on Wednesday, and an eclectic mix of music throughout the week.
Mark Cutler & the Men of Great Courage and Neutral Nation kick off the weekend on April 21. The Agents keep the party hopping with some Saturday night ska on April 22. Violin River play aimless jams, or whatever Grateful Dead tribute bands do, on April 23.
Other Cool Stuff Coming:
Melvin Seals & JGB are at The Met Cafe in Pawtucket on April 7.
Screamin’ Rebel Angels, Diablogato & Helen & The Trash Pandas rock Askew in PVD on April 8.
The Goddamn Gallows, IV and The Strange Band, Lightnin’ Luke (of Bridge City Sinners), and Sasquatch rock Alchemy in PVD on April 9.
Heidi Nirk Band rocks The Parlour in PrVD on April 15. This is an early show starting at 6pm.
Cupcake is at the Met Cafe on April 20.
Sage Francis. Jesse The Tree, BlackLiq, and Mopes are at The Met Cafe on April 21.
Joan Osborne comes to the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on April 22.
The Walkmen come to The United Theatre in Westerly on April 22.
Profiles by Bobby Forand, John Fuzek, Marc Clarkin, Bradly VanDerStad, Meg Coss, Tess Lyons, Lee Adrain & Mike Ryan.
There is a helmeted man in a reflective aluminum suit juggling bowling balls in the corner. A gang of mustachioed cowboys coagulate off on the side of a winding staircase, a tall, thin-heeled woman whisks by in a dramatically long fur coat, underneath a man unwrapping aux cords from a blue-lit stage. Bass music alternating with ’90s rock pumps at low volume from the speakers. The main bar is too crowded to get a drink, so a young band member retreats to a side room/bar themed with pink lights and bikini-bottom flowers; here is a low-to-the-ground table full of coloring books and buckets of crayons, where kids and adults sit zen-like, scribbling. A camera snaps in the main foyer, illuminating a glowing, shaggy haired jam-bander. Behind his gnarled blonde head the auditorium chairs start to fill and the folk back at the bar rotate toward the stage. A low, anticipatory hush falls over the horizon of hats and wild hair-dos. The background music stops. The feedback of a guitar being plugged into an amp reverberates through the crowd as converse-donning musicians file in from either side to take their places behind an instrument. Beth Barron takes the podium as the man behind the spotlight swings it on her. The whites of the audiences’ eyes stare back from the one bright light in the otherwise inky-blue room. She takes the mic, a smile breaking across her face, “I’d like to welcome you to the 17th annual Motif Music Awards!” As PVD’s music scene grows, so does Motif’s RI Music Awards. Sponsored by R1 Indoor Karting and FêteMusic Hall, the event’s crowd boasted more than 400 people, there to celebrate roughly 53 categories. A table of crafted Motif award trophies lay in wait on a table to be accepted by victorious hands, reminiscent of a conversational fragment I heard at the bar calling this, “the GRAMMYs of Rhode Island.” I don’t know about all that. What I didn’t see at this year’s awards was the egoism of the Grammys; what I did see was a community that is re-strengthening the bonds that frayed after 3 years of a pandemic where the main victim was this very industry. The awards had four live performances between nominations, beginning with the reincarnation of Janis Joplin and Guns ’n’ Roses by young members from the Seekonk School of Rock, and ending with the kick-ass, heart-breaking set by Iz and Ly from their band, FINE. The soft, eerie folk of a performance by Vudu Sister lingered after the purple-hazed jam funk from a slamming performance by Appala’s Eclipse. Encapsulated in the acceptance speeches themselves was the spirit and diversity of Rhode Island’s music scene. From Favorite Punk Act winner Sourpunch’s, “Fucking hippies! We’re playing the after party at Alchemy, which means they can’t throw me out so have a shot with me, Providence!” to winner of Favorite Hip-Hop album Jesse the Tree’s, “RI hip-hop is definitely real. Get in tune. There’s a renaissance going on and it’s worth checking out;” to the prepared, written speech from the winner of Favorite Country Act Jake Hunsinger & the Rock Bottom Band, “Thank you from Texas!” (where they were touring), there was an omnipresent sense that the beauty of PVD’s creative capital stretched beyond the bounds of our state, tapping into the bigger essence of what it means to be artists, and what it means to be human, in this chaotic mess of a world. As the night wound to an end, the crowd thinned, departing either to their beds or the after-party. I found myself leaned against a corner pillar, holding a luke-warm Narragansett; a bartender chugged an energy drink, and the hallway emptied while cigarette smoke eked in from the outside patio. To a nearly emptied audience, and a few drunk celebrating band members, an exhausted but still exuberant Barbi Jo (92 PRO FM) and Mike Delehanty (Union Station Brewery) took the stage to announce the winner of Favorite Electronic Act. The tall, bustling thin heeled woman in the fur coat from earlier took the stage to accept the award as Jackie and the Wizard. She took the stage and leaned into the microphone, looking out across the tired raw-throated murmurings that comfortably settle after a successful evening, “I want to give this award to every band in RI who keeps booking shows, just to show people what they think… stay free Rhode Island, stay free.” – Mara Hagen
Favorite Americana Act
I don’t entirely regard The Silks as an Americana act, personally. Their sound is heavily grounded in the blues, which was invented in America… so I guess that sort of counts? The Silks throw in some early ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll (ala Small Faces) and a tinge of country into their sonic cocktail to create a sound that makes it just fun to go out and dance the night away. – MC
Atwater-Donnelly have been RI stalwarts since they started performing together, shortly after meeting in 1987. Their music is transcendent; simple in nature, but packed with well-thought-out instruments and musicianship. Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly both have beautiful, comforting voices at the center of each song. They make any style they play sound great. On a personal note, I’ve been seeing Atwater-Donnelly live since the early ‘90s. My parents were big fans and would take me to see them perform at outdoor events and local venues. As a tween/early teenager at the time, I’m sure that I complained, but I always loved watching them perform. Looking back, those performances were priceless family moments. Thank you, Aubrey and Elwood, for unknowingly having a major influence on my musical taste (which is all over the place) and for the wonderful associative memories for my family. – BF
Favorite R&B Act
Steve Smith and The Nakeds have been entertaining audiences in RI and far beyond for half a century. They began as Naked Truth and transformed into Steve Smith and The Nakeds and are now the official band of Narragansett Beer. The ten person band consists of a four-piece rhythm section, a five-piece brass section, and its lead vocalist, Steve Smith. Over the past 50 years the band shared the touring stage and recording studio with Bruce Springsteen’s saxophonist, Clarence Clemons for a series of critically acclaimed performances. They have been featured on television, appearing on MTV’s video countdown program “The Basement Tapes”, as well as an episode of “The Family Guy” where their song, “I’m Huge (And The Babes Go Wild)” was featured. thenakeds.com – JF
Favorite Small – Medium Venue
The Parlour has, from day one, provided a place for musicians to work on and showcase their gifts. The Parlour has a kitchen that offers a small but tasty palette of choices. One of the nice touches over the last year was the addition of murals on the outside memorializing three musicians Mike Schiavone, Pete McClanahan, and Nick Iddon, who left us too soon. – MC
Favorite Live Americana Act
The foot-stomping Sasquatch and the Sick-a-Billys are no newcomers to RI stages, and although they haven’t played out as much lately, their long-standing reputation still brings out the superfans when they perform, famously splaying dancers around any venue, with table-top dancing, hair-tossing and hard-dancing hijinks. In addition to performing, Sasquatch has his own venue in Warren called the Galactic Theatre that started as a clothing/thrift store and turned into a full time venue with drinks and food. You can catch Sasquatch opening for the Goddamn Gallows at Alchemy on April 9. – MC
Favorite Country Act
Jake Hunsinger and company refer to their sound as “Powerhouse Americana.” Based in PVD, the band showcases high-energy performances with rollicking arrangements, dynamic production, and serene hillbilly harmonies over Hunsinger’s inspired songwriting. The band embraces a sound that is simultaneously classic and new, traditional and refreshing, and they perform all around New England – and, as we learned from their long-distance texted acceptance remarks, in Texas too! They released their debut EP, Jake Hunsinger, in 2019, and Hunsinger has spent years since writing a new catalog of songs. – BV
Favorite Open Mic
The Parlour has a great open mic every Wednesday, hosted by Steve Donovan, when he isn’t snowbirding around Florida doing gigs. The atmosphere is very welcoming to all types of music. The signups are usually around 7pm and it’s usually full enough for the music to go all night with a community vibe that’s attracted a lot of top-notch local talent to come out and play. – MC
Allison Rose says, “I sing the truth and make you cry.” She is a musician, mental health counselor, mom and dog worshipper. Allison is now a multiple Motif Award-winner and anyone who hears her sing knows why. This singer-songwiter-guitarist-pianist plays songs about life, family and love. A classically-trained pianist and vocalist, Allison grew up on piano lessons and choir rehearsals, eventually choosing music as her college minor. She is a board member of the RI-based nonprofit RISING, which serves young adult and beginning songwriters and musicians by providing music education, mentorship, and performance opportunities. Aside from music, she is a photographer, and enjoys the ocean, a comfy bed, and dropping a good F-bomb. allisonrosemusic.com – JF
Favorite Americana Vocalist
Steve Smith started out as a kid at the beach playing music with his cousin John Cafferty. While he was enrolled at St Philips School, his band, The Nightcrawlers, played. The nun who booked them “caught holy hell for bringing the Devil’s music into the classroom.” When his voice changed he quit music to play hockey, but he would pick up music again during college. He worked at a factory to pay his college bills, but this was taking its toll on him. His friends asked him to join their band Bloody Mary and music replaced the grind of factory work. After a few double bills with another band called Naked Truth, Steve was asked to join them as their lead singer. The rest, as they say, “is history.” As a Smithfield native myself, I saw Naked Truth play many a prom at our high school and I have known Steve for almost all of the time he has been in the band. I will never forget the charismatic Steve coming off stage and jumping on my table at Prom and singing up a storm! – JF
Favorite Bluegrass Band
The Ocean State Ramblers are a four-piece bluegrass band based in southern New England. They have been up for this award before and if you catch their act, you’ll see why. They began as folks jamming together at local bluegrass events when they eventually decided to perform as a group at an open mic night, and the rest, you might say, is history. They can be found playing in RI and surrounding states at various events at farmers markets, bars, and libraries, to name a few. Their sound is upbeat and fun as they play their renditions of some bluegrass standards, or put their own spin on some folk and country tunes along with their own original songs. Listening to them is a pleasure and their varied talents and musical skills are always evident. Their sound is sweet and pure homespun bluegrass. – LA
Favorite Jazz Act
Evening Sky is a Jazz/Roots quartet featuring Chris Brooks on pedal steel guitar, Joe Potenza on bass, composer Gino Rosati on guitars, and producer Eric Hastings on drums. They’ve been performing around RI for as long as most of us can remember and are always supportive of other acts and bands – and the members also take part in a number of other musical undertakings. Joe Potenza even headlines any number of configurations. The band combines elements of jazz, folk, R&B and country to form a unique, spirited sound. They perform their own original instrumentals, and released a few original albums in 2022. Recently, they have been releasing a series of “Plus One”s, where they play with a local guest musician. They also reinterpret classic songs and collaborate with guest singers and instrumentalists. Currently, they have a monthly residency at The Parlour in PVD, which means you can catch them there live on the second Saturday of any month. – MR
Favorite Concert Photographer
Local shows were always judged a success if Favorite Photographer Lisa Gourley was in attendance. Even if no one else was there, having Lisa at the front of the stage using multiple cameras to photograph and take video (often at the same time) made for a great night with plenty of footage to share. Lisa has documented the highs and lows of the RI music scene. There are few people that she doesn’t know, and she is well-respected by the community. Lisa has dedicated her life to her art. She is passionate and bands in almost every genre have had to pleasure of feeding off her kindness, whether it’s through a swig of the Jim Beam she keeps in her trunk or the dessert she’ll bake for to celebrate a birthday. The world has a lot of great photographers, but only RI has a Lisa Gourley. This community is incredibly blessed to have her. – BF
Favorite Blues Act, Overall Favorite Americana Act
Neal & the Vipers have become one of those deeply loved local legends that never disappoint. They’ve won enough of these awards to count as “legendary” status, which means they won’t be nominated last year, just to give someone else a chance. The Vipers are Steve Bigelow on bass, Dave Howard on vocals & harmonica, and Mike LaBelle on drums. They have released nine albums over the years and been recognized with many other honors. Neal Vitullo is still making great music and wowing audiences with his guitar chops. For over 30 years, the Vipers have been playing blues, roots, rockabilly and surf music around RI and beyond. They’ve torn up stages with music legends like B.B. King, Roy Buchanan, John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Albert Collins, Greg Allman, Jimmy Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Dixon, Johnny Copeland, Robert Plant, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. And that’s just a few. If you patronize outdoor festivals during the warm weather, Neal & the Vipers are in a dead heat with Steve Smith & the Nakeds for the band you’re most likely to randomly find performing, getting the crowd on its feet and dancing. nealandthevipers.com – MR
Favorite choral act
Providence Gay Men’s Chorus is always a pleasure to hear and watch perform. They are not strangers to winning this award, and with good reason. They are a diverse group of talent, delivering messages of equality and uplifting messages of empowerment through song. Their joy of performing always shines through and they take their audience with them on their musical journey from beginning to end. They have been delivering their touching, sometimes playful and lighthearted, joyful, exuberant, and always top-notch performances for over 25 years now, and they only get better. Their musical interpretations are fun and unique. Their focus on positive messages through musical excellence continues to make them a PVD treasure. – LA
favorite folk act
Allysen Callery writes music that has found a home in the ghost folk style – in fact, one recent album is titled Ghost Folk. She has a mesmerizing sound to her songs that draws the listener in and captivates them. For the longest time her tag was “quiet music for a loud world.” Her style is that of folk from the British Isles and is compared and influenced by Sandy Denny and Kick Drake. She often tours Europe and has a dedicated following overseas. Allysen is a multiple Motif Award winner and has taken home trophies of different sorts many times over the years. She is a board member of the Rhode Island Folk Festival, where she curates the Songbird Stage. allysencallerymusic.com – JF
Street Band/Brass Band/Marching Band (Mobile)
Providence Drum Troupe marched off with this honor this year. They took the trophy by only a few votes, but that’s still quite a trajectory for a group that was birthed during COVID, and largely by accident. Their organic growth from a collection of stir-crazy quarantiners who found a musical outlet together, but six feet apart, by drumming on the new PVD Pedestrian bridge, to one of the most spatially activating acts in the city, has been nothing short of epic. Known for their boisterous presence and ability to turn anything into a funky, memorable party, they have become regulars at many major events around RI and beyond. Under the leadership of photographer/drummer David Lee Black, their exact members will vary from gig to gig, depending on who is available and up for having a good time, but their vibe will always include surprises, audience interaction, funky hats and costumes, angel wings. And, of course, drumming. – MR
Large Instrumental Ensemble (Stationary)
The Ocean State Pops Orchestra is a nonprofit 60-piece touring group of talented musicians performing over six annual concerts throughout Southern New England. It was established to enhance the cultural vitality of the region through performances of great music and through educational programming. Founded in 1993, the Orchestra’s repertoire includes a broad variety of light classical pieces, movie and show compositions, patriotic music and big band pieces. Music director Dr. Brian Cardany is in his second season as the OSPO’s director, in addition to being the director of the American Band of PVD and the director of bands at URI. – BV
Favorite Americana Festival
The Rhode Island Folk Festival is a free annual festival that celebrates local folk, acoustic, and Americana acts. The event takes place at the waterfront Rose Larisa Park in Riverside. It began in 2014 as the Providence Folk Festival, and its following and growth necessitated both the move across the Seekonk and the change in moniker. This year’s festival includes three stages of acoustic-themed music for bands, soloists, and for an unjuried open-mic, and the event is supplemented by local food and art vendors to entice all the senses. The event is produced by Hear In Rhode Island, a nonprofit organization founded by RI native, musical community leader and Motif contributor John Fuzek. In addition to writing a music column and several of the profiles in this very article, he is our publication’s podcaster-in-chief. Take a listen to his regular Roots Report Podcast! – BV
Favorite Americana Album
Mark Cutler’s Side Effects is a stripped down album of folk and blues which really allows Cutler’s stories to breath. I dig “Jimi Hendrix Changed His Own Strings” for the way Cutler relates the oddity of a rock star changing his own strings to meeting a new neighbor. “Queen of the Dive” is blues romper. “I Didn’t Know” is another favorite with some excellent slide guitar work. You can check out Side Effects on Bandcamp. You can also check out Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage at Askew on April 21. – MC
Favorite Music video
NOVA ONE is the musical project of Roz Raskin and their friends. Their winning music video, “Feeling Ugly” captures Raskin with their signature peachy colored bob, dressing a mannequin to look like them while performing their dreamy song “Feeling Ugly.” NOVA ONE just finished their April tour so be on the lookout for future local dates! – TL
favorite alt-rock act
The Quahogs suffered a debilitating blow in the last year with the passing of their drummer and brother, Nick Iddon. Nick was just the sweetest human I’ve ever encountered and you’d always see the band hanging out together when they weren’t performing. Fronted by the raspy voiced Stev DelMonico, The Quahogs remind me of ’70s rock in the spirit of Gram Parsons. The Quahogs haven’t released new music in a bit but they are working on a new album that is due later this year. You can catch The Quahogs opening for Lydia Loveless at Askew on May 7. – MC
favorite jam band
Over the past several years, Jabbawaukee has become one of the top jam/funk bands in PVD and New England. The group consists of bassist and vocalist Brendon “Low B” Bjorness-Murano, guitarist and vocalist Dave Hobson, keyboardist and vocalist Jack Skiffington and drummer and vocalist Stu Taylor. Jabbawaukee released their debut full-length LP Family Tree in late 2021, followed by the release of the video for their first single, “Ting Pop (Time Flys By).” They are quite familiar with the local music festival circuit, performing regularly all over New England, including at RI festivals Rhythm and Roots and Block Island Music Festival. – BV
Ravi Shavi also lost a brother and drummer in the passing of Nick Iddon. Ravi Shavi are one of the most exciting bands around to see live. Their sound tends to evolve – in their early years, it was more trashy garage rock. When I saw them last fall they played a lot of new stuff that had a definite Prince feel. It has been a couple of years since their last album, Special Hazards, so I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. You can catch singer/guitarist Rafay Rashid opening up for Matthew Logan Vasquez (of The Delta Spirit) at Askew on May 19. – MC Favorite Alt/Rock Live Act A Z-Boys performance has the rush of a supersonic rollercoaster. The Z-Boys play frantically as if on an endless quest to keep the wheel in the sky turning with a sound that merges surf rock, funk, and rockabilly. They have a new single, “The Spice,” coming out soon. Also keep your eyes peeled for upcoming shows as The Z-Boys play out fairly regularly. – MC
favorite reggae act
Dudemanbro has grown from three to six people in the last couple of years, and in this past year there have been months when the Motif team assembling our event listings thought they were a typo because they seemed to be playing everywhere, all at once. They’re no typo, it turns out – the band has really gotten out and about with their jazzy approach to reggae, and they have a subspecialty in taking tunes traditionally in other genres and reggaeifying them to produce a whole new feel, both recognized and new. And very danceable. Dudemanbro jams out of the South County area and venues like the OMist, but like we just said, they seem to get out a lot, so keep an eye out for shows near you. – MR
favorite ska band
The Agents have broken the nearly-ten-year reign of The Copacetics in taking the best ska band. It feels like the fall of the Roman Empire of ska bands. The Agents aren’t exactly upstarts – in fact, I believe they date back to the 1900s. That hasn’t slowed down the party as they still play out regularly and are always a blast. Get out your dancing shoes and catch The Agents live at Askew on April 22. Get ready to experience the band “from the small town with a big sound.” – MC
favorite garage band, breakthrough alt act, overall alt act
Ziggy Gnardust is fronted by Ziggy Coffey, long a renowned drummer in a number of local acts, including Favorite Alt Live Act 2023, The Z-Boys. Many of these bands are known, in particular for their energetic drumming. While a drummer-frontman combination is a bit unusual in the universe of bands, Ziggy has transcended any Spinal-Tap-style expectations and broken out of the drummer-box, performing vocals and guitar with the same long-hair thrashing gusto that has characterized him as a drummer. It’s certainly working for the band, as they’ve been booking a lot of smaller venues and acquired enough fans for Gnardust’s gritty rockers to get more votes, overall, than any other alt act this year. – MR
favorite noise band
Department of Teleportation brings the noise with slashing riffs and punk rock energy. When I reviewed their self-titled EP, it reminded me a little of the band Helmet. Department of Teleportation have a new EP, Lifestyles of the Spatially Unreasonable, out on all the streaming services as well as cassettes available through their Bandcamp page. – MC
favorite pop-punk act
The Dust Ruffles identify as pop-rock or power-pop, but nonetheless this category was the next best thing and they’re grateful either way. Fronted by vocalist Tammy Laforest, with drummer Alvaro Diaz and SexCoffee’s Sharlene DeNardo on bass and backup vocals, The Dust Ruffles have played everywhere in Rhody from the Pride Fest Main Stage in Downtown PVD to the Galactic Theatre in Warren. Catch them performing live around the East Coast and listen to their EP Innocent Filth. – TL
favorite punk act
Sourpunch made a loud comeback after many years dormant. They added lead guitarist Bob Kadlec, released their five-song EP, Meet Me at the Bar and won Favorite Punk Band. Their rambunctious brand of garage-punk rock & roll easily gets people moving, whether they realize it or not. They already have a dedicated fanbase and have been winning over fans at will. “I just want to say “thanks” to everyone who took the time to vote and show their support,” says drummer Doug Metivier of winning the award. “And an even bigger “Thank You” to everyone who comes out to shows ready to dance and have a good time!” Congratulate Sourpunch at Nick-a-Nees on Saturday, April 1 with The Birkitt Transmissions. Show is free and starts at 9 pm. – BF
favorite hardcore act
The Hammer Party mixes noise rock and post-punk – there are no perfect boxes for their art. They put out an EP last year called Earth Abides from which I really like the track, “Walk The Walk.” Its dissonance creates a trippy vibe. Lead singer Dan St. Jacques is a force of nature as a frontman. If you like your music loud and jarring, keep an eye out for upcoming The Hammer Party shows! – MC
favorite metal act
Princess is metal with quite a few hyphens: doom-metal, rock-metal, stoner-metal. Their hard sound comes from Zigmond Coffey (drums, vocals), Dillon Stankowitz (guitar, vocals), Jonny Sage (bass, vocals), Greg Aaron (guitar, lead vocals), who got together just pre-pandemic – which means it hasn’t been too hard to find inspiration for lyrics of doom and gloom. And yes, here again you will find the steady drum work of Ziggy Coffey. We’re trying futilely to find a local rock band that doesn’t include Ziggy. Princess’ first, eponymous album was released less than a year ago, with old-school vibes, by PVD-based Yuggoth Records. – MR
favorite prog/emo act
People Eating Plastic have been voted first in this award before, and have been bringing their math skills to the stage for quite a few years – remarkably, their diet doesn’t seem to have harmed them yet, and they continue to thrive in this challenging style of rock. It’s an experience to see this trio play live, and they will experiment on your ears and other senses. Meanwhile, you can always talk to the folks at EcoRI about the hard to digest statistic that the average person will eat over 40lbs of plastic in their lifetime. That’s scary math. – MR
Joy Boys shade more to the post-punk side of the coin than goth. They crank out sludgy anthems about the likes of the “Cleveland Browns,” “Tuxedo Boy,” and “The Fucker.” It’s been awhile since we got new tunes from Joys Boys so hopefully that is in the works as well as more shows! – MC
favorite cover band
Take It to the Bridge is a cover band with a devout following and a versatile selection of covers from many different styles. Pre-pandemic, they were mistakenly nominated under Favorite Jazz Act, and were extremely polite in pointing out that, while they do some jazz covers, the category didn’t really seem like a fit. They were gracious about it, and several odd years later, our process finally put them into the right category and karma took them to the win. Take it to the Bridge can be found on a regular basis in South County at locales like the Charlestown Rathskeller, getting audiences on their feet to whatever classics fit the mood of the night. They were born as a wedding band nearly 10 years ago, and come in seven, five and three-person configurations that may include Greg Marcotte, Christyn Marcotte, Carl Bugbee, John Richards Jr, Josh DeFedele, Colby Geaber and Scott Roddick. – MR
favorite tribute band
The Winehouse Project does a great job of re-creating the magic of Amy Winehouse’s music. I’ve seen them a few times over at the Met Café and definitely will keep coming back. The Winehouse Project will be at Chan’s in Woonsocket on March 31. – MC
favorite alt/rock vocalist
Julie Rhodes is a powerhouse when it comes to singing blues and soul. She is reminiscent of Janis Joplin, but different. She can pull off doing something like Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” and hold the room hostage with her voice. Definitely a must-see performer – which one can do, when she opens for Sarah Potenza at the Met Café on May 13. – MC
Three years in the making, The Benji’s Kitty Pills barely made the cut, coming out right before the nominations. My favorite cuts are “Skate” and “Good Living” which are both up-tempo rockers. The Benji’s don’t really fit in a box, description-wise. They are somewhere between new wave and punk-pop, while being none of the above at the same time. The Benji’s are one of my favorite local bands to catch live, so I’m looking forward to the Kitty Pills release show, whenever that may be. – MC
favorite karaoke night
The Parlour’s karaoke night is Friday and has been running for years. I’m not sure what makes a night the best karaoke night – is it just that the people that frequent are more passionate? Anyways, it is on Fridays. Karaoke. The Parlour. Got it? – MC
favorite alt festicval
PVD Fest was the clear winner this year, and it’s hard to know what to say about about this megafest, except that it might have outgrown this category like Newport Folk Fest. The Creative Capital’s show piece has survived a few reinventions over the years, most notably during COVID, but the City has always kept the lights on and the music and art flowing, and recent years have sought a fine balance of local acts and national ones to keeps its multiple stages rockin’ over several days. – MR
favorite sound person
You’d be hard-pressed to find a venue or owner/promoter that Soundperson of the Year Kris Hansen hasn’t done sound for. He has been doing sound for an incredibly long time and built a strong reputation along the way. While he knows his way around a mixing board, it’s his personable approach that puts him over the top. He is easy to work with and quick to lend a helping hand that will make the band sound as strong as possible. He always has a kind word to say and treats everyone with the respect of a peer. He has a keen ability to listen to the band’s requests and accommodate as much as possible, and clearly loves his job. “I see Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Lennon, The Beatles, The Who, Willy Nelson, Johnny Cash, Harry Nilsson, Joni Mitchell, DiFranco, Floyd every single night,” Hansen says excitedly. “The absolute equivalent, and beyond! They are performing at our local bars and venues. They are giving the best there is and all you must do is leave your house. Instead of being spoon-fed another greatest hits album or the next overpriced tour, please go see the new Elton before he was signed… or the New Regina Spektor before she was discovered. I know these people on the local level. Undiscovered heroes, go and check out your local scene. Take another chance on all of us.” – BF
Rob Duguay has become an RI fixture since moving here from CT to attend Rhode Island College in the late 2000s. He has become a prolific music writer, penning articles about local and national bands for various publications. He also started booking shows under the Top 5 Fiend moniker, which has successfully earned him back-to-back Motif Awards as Favorite Promotor. “Rob is the kind of guy that is really cool to work with and accommodating towards newer or lesser-known bands,” says Jarrod Pimentel of Today is Tomorrow. “He gives them a chance to hang out and show what they’ve worked on to a new audience.” Duguay books shows all over RI, with The Parlour, News Café and Dusk among his favorites. His April birthday coincides with Autism Awareness Month, which leads to a birthday weekend of benefit shows. Go congratulate him on his award in person at the next Top 5 Fiend show, a “Thuriety” show at The Parlour on Thursday, April 6 with The Sleds, The Bluechips, and (Writer’s Pick winners) Balloon Thief. – BF
Favorite Hip-Hop Act, Favorite Hip-Hop Album, Overall Favorite Electronica
“I was born at Women & Infants in 1991, the same day Magic Johnson retired [due to] AIDS, but we don’t have to include that in the thing, that doesn’t matter,” said Jesse Ramos, aka Jesse the Tree. Except it kind of does matter. Because with a lyricist like Ramos, the more you know, the richer the experience. His lyrics unfold like a litany of observations masterfully interentwined to provoke gut-punch moments of reflection, like when you’re recalling something past and able to feel it in the present. He stitches basketball references alongside the likes of Hey Arnold, David Berman, Shawshank, and Mary Oliver to tell you who he is and what he thinks and how he’s feeling. He’s driven by a writer’s hunger to comprehend and rectify matters of the heart and troubles of the mind. He falls down rabbit holes of curiosity, piling reference upon reference to create his own symbols that open doors to larger worlds and deeper understandings. He’s a poet. And poetry’s all about the details. “Writing is my most healing avenue in life and always has been… In some ways it’s a strange introverted path of, ‘I’m not going to tell you anything, you gotta go listen to the album.’ Emotional catharsis is the best way to describe the writing process.” Born to a music-loving family, Ramos’ traces influences from Nas, Gang Starr, MF Doom, Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, to Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Bill Callahan, The Grateful Dead, and Zappa. “Music was always present and somehow intertwined in life at all times…. A combination of all that stuff is what’s going on in my brain. It’s like psychedelic, sad, jaded ’90s sitcom, boom bap rap.” In 2020, Ramos signed to Strange Famous Records and in 2022 he released his label debut. The album name, Pigeon Man, is a nod to a Hey Arnold character who lived on a rooftop with a family of pigeons, a character exhausted by life yet somehow still hopeful. “Pigeon Man had some gems when he was talking to Arnold, he’d be like, ‘I’m tired of people, it’s people.’ As a kid I was like, ‘Oh my god this is me and I’m way too young to be feeling like this.’ That scene of him flying off into the sun, being carried away by pigeons, that stayed with me. I was thinking of using it as a stage name but I named the album that and essentially it’s me saying, this album is about me.” Ramos is an artist who acknowledges the blue side of life and the destructive toll of emotions when felt in high doses. On “Blue Dream,” a track off Pigeon Man, he walks you through a family history that begins in Florida and leads to Rhode Island. He tells of his dad laboring on a farm then lyrically sends you to his parents meeting in the Southwest (his mom was singing Joni Mitchell, perhaps peyote was involved) to the birth of his sisters and his adoration for them, to finally his own birth and eventual pursuit of finding catharsis through writing. I heal through conveying a poem you can feel, he says. On the subsequent track “Miss Tonin” Ramos raps against the toxicity of a cruel and tiring society with untenable expectations, and tells listeners they don’t have to be alright, then extends a compassionate line worth putting into practice, We can all try to walk each other home. On “Fuzzy Orange Headband,” a track fromoff I’m Fakin’ My Own Death Just to Get Some Rest, an album done in collaboration with his friend Andrew, a Philadelphia-based artist who makes up one half of the sleepingdogs duo, Ramos pays homage to the Silver Jews, citing what he calls that “’90s drawly ehhh sound” as a huge influence. “David Berman was the master of saying something very simple and then something really fucking intense that you’re almost uncomfortable with. There’s a lot of Elliot Smith influence, too. We both like that droney sad stuff, and we both super love hip- hop, so we wanted to bring those together. That album is us being like, ‘Let’s be ourselves and see where it goes.’ It’s super near and dear to me, and I think people are getting it. People are like, ‘This is the happiest saddest album I’ve ever heard.’” Ramos is currently pursuing a masters in social work at Rhode Island College, a field of study he shares with his mom. “She and I are both social workers, we’re very interested in learning how to care for others and for ourselves.” Recently, he won Motif’s award for Overall Favorite Hip Hop/Electronica artist and described the ceremony as akin to a high school reunion. “There’s a lot of people around here who’ve been so supportive and helpful and engaged, and that can be hard to find. It definitely takes a village. Somebody’s gotta record you and somebody’s gotta help you get it out into the world, you need collaborators. I’ve met a lot of people here who’ve been instrumental in keeping this dream alive.” – Meg Coss
Listen to Jesse the Tree and support his music at jessethetree.bandcamp.com. Follow him on IG @jessethetree for current info. And visit threedollarpistol.com to purchase the happiest-saddest album you’ll ever hear.
breakthrough hip-hop act
ToadStool is the solo project by Mike Jencks, frontman of Toad and the Stooligans. Jencks has been creating ToadStool projects for a bit, but seems to have gathered steam in the last couple of years, with about 20 releases of various lengths since 2020. With clever, quick-thinking and quick-moving lyrics, this condensed Toad is hopping along at a pace that fans clearly want to keep up with, and he shows no signs of slowing down. – MR
For a someone with a name that sounds really tough, Pauly Danger is a super sweet guy. Pauly plays a mix of reggae and dancehall that gets the room moving. He has been DJing for years on Monday nights at The Parlour’s popular Reggae Mondays as well as other spots like The Hot Club, Troop, The Ocean Mist, and more. – MC
favorite dance night
I think all it took was for the POW Indie Dance Party to return for the first time in years to get a nomination and win the damn category. Pretty impressive feat, pulled off by DJ Handsome Pete Lima. POW is a night of indie and electro dance bangers from the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. At that edition in February, Handsome Pete shared the decks with DJ Desirenegade so she’s really a co-winner. I’m not sure if that is the plan going forward, or even if there is a plan to go forward, but I’m hoping for something POWerful. – MC
favorite electronic act
“I love Rhode Island Music.” Artist Jackie and the Wizard prove that dedication and hard work pay off. They have made a name for themselves with energetic and entertaining shows to go along with their dancy, hypnotic songs. Not ones to sit still, the two are either performing or in the audience supporting their peer musicians. “I’m very thankful to be part of the music scene and be appreciated by so many,” Artist Jackie says of their second Motif Award for Favorite Electronic Act. “Not very long ago I would just daydream about being part of something like the Providence music scene and now we won 2 years in a row. I really think it comes down to if you invest in others, they will invest in you. Winning isn’t just because of the music we make, though we do kill it every time. It’s also because we have The Artist Jackie Show showcasing talent from Rhode Island and I’ve made over 500 videos of bands, rappers and singer-songwriters. We’ve given a lot to Providence music over the past five years so it’s really nice that our efforts have been recognized and appreciated.” – BF
Iggy Pop — Every Loser (album)
So when a 75 year old releases an album where the first lyrics are “I’ve got a dick and two balls” – it’s a big red flag. But… This is Iggy Pop! So Every Loser has two Stooges-esque romps in “Frenzy” and “Modern Day Ripoff” and some fluff – okay, a lot of fluff. Part of the problem is that because he is Iggy Pop, he gets all-star musicians like Duff McKagan (Guns ‘N’ Roses), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam), and more; but I don’t have access to the credits because I haven’t received the record I paid for two months ago. That many guests coming and going makes it harder to make a cohesive album. Iggy has been doing the all-star band thing since the late ‘70s with Bowie and his band. I just think it’s different when they are flying in to do a tune. Take “Neo Punk” — I get the sentiment, but I can name two dozen Dwarves songs that are better and they are like the 3rd or 4th wave punk depending upon how you count. Every Loser dips into the late ‘70s Bowie era with “Strung Out Johnny,” and it’s great! This is not a train wreck by any means but it’s not Fun House either. Which isn’t fair, because nothing is. I love the global warming-themed beat poetry of “New Atlantis.” And I love Iggy Pop, still, at 75 years young, one of the best performers in rock ‘n’ roll!
The Benji’s — Kitty Pills (album)
We already covered the lead single in January, but that’s not even my favorite song. I do like the title track, as a cat person. I exchanged around 50 emails with lead vocalist/synth player Maryssa Morse about what kitty pills could be, and I’m still not really sure. It is probably better that way. Other tidbits discussed were that Morse formed the band in LA with guitarist Phillip Geronimo years before coming home to Rhode Island. Somehow Charlie Sheen entered the fray at one point but let’s stick to the dicey matter at hand, Kitty Pills. I love “Skate!” it sounds like a summer lament. “Bad Sign” is a timeless rock ‘n’ roll slow jam from whatever era you please. Kitty Pills sounds amazing… props to producer Jeff Robbins (123 Astronaut/ Orbit) and drummer Adam Cargin. Three years in the making, Kitty Pills is more than worth the wait! I’d recommend Kitty Pills over Every Loser, but they are both out on the streaming service of your pleasure. Look out for The Benji’s, one of my favorite local live bands!
Public Image Ltd. – “Hawaii” (single)
The cool thing about having this job is sometimes you can do whatever you want. But when I heard this for the first time, it felt like a bridge too far. Yes, I know the backstory of John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon’s wife having Alzheimer’s. I’ve had pictures of him on my wall since 1987 – some would say ten years after his prime, but not me, Jack. I interviewed him in these pages and he couldn’t have been more gracious. The subtle beauty of this track grows with each listen. There are surf guitars, meditation, prayers — it’s just fucking beautiful. Give it a chance, God save Nora Lydon.
Subterranean Jungle: March alt-rock shows
The Nervous Eaters
I just saw The Nervous Eaters in Boston and they were great. I’ve read about how they were an old-school Boston punk band that got signed to a major label who tried to turn them into The J. Geils Band. Now, I love The J. Geils Band more than anybody reading this, but punk and Peter Wolf don’t need to meet. The Nervous Eaters have a new album called Monsters + Angels, so check it out. Mark Cutler is opening and has two new albums out – show up early for a special treat!
The Nervous Eaters and Mark Cutler & the Men of Great Courage will rock the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Mar 10.
My new favorite (along with The Devil’s Twins) local band is going to kick out the jams with a potpourri of punk, metal, and hardcore. Yes, I used potpourri to describe a death punk band. Life is too short to review the album again.
Blood Feeder, High ‘n’ Heavy, and Cassie Lee kick out the jams at The Pour Farm in New Bedford on Mar 11.
I was bummed last Columbus Day weekend when I couldn’t make the quasars connect to see Alice in Chains at Great Woods. But for all the darkness there is light, and I’m stoked to be able to see Cantrell come and hear all that magic as well as his solo stuff. I don’t think people realize that he was singing lead as much as Layne Staley. This will be a banger.
Jerry Cantrell and Thunderpussy bring the heat to The Strand in PVD on Mar 14.
Alyssa Tuchon is one of the brightest spirits one could ever hope to meet. She lights up the room, loves music, and is always happiest when she is dancing. In January of 2022 the curtain dropped on a lot of that joy. Alyssa was stricken with an undiagnosed disorder that has left her in constant pain with limited mobility. It really sucks and isn’t fair. Alyssa’s friends have come together to put on this benefit to try and help her stay afloat. This is a great lineup for a great cause for an even greater person. I’d ask even if you can’t attend to buy a ticket.
LYSSAPALOOZA featuring performances by Beauquet, Tall Teenagers, Joy Boys, and Eric & the Nothing touches down at Askew on Mar 24. This is an early show with doors at 5pm so we can just pack that much more fun in! Suggested donation is $25, but whatever you can afford: There is a buffet and we’re really just trying to get Alyssa healthy.
The National Reserve and Happiness
I caught the second night of The National Reserve monthly residency at Askew and came away impressed. The National Reserve engage in fracking Creedence Clearwater Revival, Faces, and Flying Burrito Brothers swamps with surgical focus. And… it is pretty fucking good. Happiness is my favorite local power-pop / trash surf band within state lines. I’m guessing this is the first show since 2019 at The Cafe at the Par… nevermind, it just had too many names. The members have been busy as Happiness is composed of Rafay Rashid of Ravi Shavi and 3/4ths of Deer Tick. I’m putting it out there, if they don’t play “The Devil is Working Retail” we (I) riot.
The National Reserve and Happiness rock Askew on Mar 25.
Rest In Power Holly – We Love You.
Email music news to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subterranean Jungle: Best of 2022
It’s that time again… when windbag music critics release their “Best Of” lists for the year. Of course, I couldn’t resist chiming in.
Best Albums of 2022:
10. The Smashing Pumpkins – ATUM – Not sure how much I like this album but I’ve become addicted to the podcast (Thirty-Three with William Patrick Corgan) that narrates the story of an artist getting canceled from Earth – but it’s also a love story with dancing robots.
9. Guided By Voices – Tremblers and Goggles By Rank – The best Guided By Voices of the three released this year.
8. Archers of Loaf – Reason in Decline – The comeback that a million indie rock boys and girls did not find disappointing.
7. Detroit Rebellion – Fake News – Fake News rolls through the night like a hayride through the Americana apocalypse.
6. The Smile – A Light For Attraction – This Radiohead side project features Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood leaving their stable of comfort for the sky.
5. Helen Love – This is My World – After a career of writing songs referencing chewing bubble gum, Ramones, and teenage love, Helen Love suddenly hits middle age. It reminds me a little of ’70s Kinks as far as finding one in a life that they never envisioned.
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down – Cool It Down has enough hypnotic grooves to put Frank Santos out of business.
3.Craig Finn – A Legacy of Rentals – Finn narrates his usual tales of down and out dreamers, hustlers, and pimps in a subdued sphere from his usual place fronting The Hold Steady.
2. Pixies – Doggerel– Doggerel proves that Blank Francis is still one of the best songwriters in the galaxy.
1. Gogol Bordello – Solidaritine– Much of the album is set against Russia’s invasion of singer/guitarist Eugene Hutz’s native Ukraine, unfortunately atrocities do inspire great art. Don’t forget that war is still going on and Ukraine needs help.
Best Tunes of 2022:
10. Blood Feeder – “Death of Me”
9. Richie Ramone – “Not Afraid”
8. Bill Bartholomew – “A Serious Light”
7. Jesse Malin – “Keep On Burning”
6. Guided By Voices -”Crystal Nuns Cathedral”
5. Craig Finn – Jessamine”
4. PUP – “Totally Fine”
3. Gogol Bordello – “Take Only What You Can Carry”
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Burning”
1. Jay Allen – and the Archcriminals – “Frying Pan Justice”
Best Shows (Non-Festivals) of 2022 in Distribution Range:
10. 7 Seconds and Negative Approach at Alchemy
9. Nick Lowe at the Narrows Center for the Arts
8. Bob Mould at Greenwich Odeum
7. Richie Ramone at Askew
6. Verbal Assault at the Met
5. Iceage at Columbus Theatre
4. The Smile at Vets
3. The Mummies at Alchemy
2. Low Cut Connie at the Narrows Center for the Arts
1. Psychedelic Furs and X at the Strand
The Benji’s – “Shimmering” Single Release
When The Benji’s started recording their forthcoming EP, Kitty Pills, on Jan 13, 2020, nobody foresaw the type of shit that was about to go down. As the pandemic raged, Kitty Pills and everything else got postponed. The finish line is near as The Benji’s are releasing the lead single, “Shimmering,” exactly three years to the date after they began recording. “Shimmering” is an uptempo mesh of new wave meets pop-punk, sure to induce a 90-second dance party. Check out “Shimmering” on Jan 13 and look for the full EP, Kitty Pills, on Feb 14.
Hope Anchor and Midnight Creeps
This banger matches the goth new wave of Hope Anchor with the ’70s punk of Midnight Creeps. I used to see Midnight Creeps at all-ages VFW Halls and now they’re playing craft breweries that cater to the 30-andabove. Circle of life, I guess? Union Station Brewery, PVD, Jan 14.
I caught Cass McCombs once at the Met Cafe, opening for the Meat Puppets, but the unfortunate takeaway was the show getting interrupted by a fire alarm from a bakery a couple of doors down. The good thing about this show: The nearest bakery to the Columbus Theatre is two full blocks away. So expect the singer-songwriter, backed by a full band, to shine! Columbus Theatre, PVD, Jan 14.
Hey Nineteen – Steely Dan Tribute
The funny thing is, I used to hate the yacht rock genre in my punk rock adolescence. The catalyst for my disdain was a TV commercial for this compilation called Freedom Rock, that would endlessly feature Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.” I now acknowledge the errors of my youth, and even used a DJ name from Steely Dan for several years. I go see Hey Nineteen whenever I can and recommend you do the same. Met Cafe, Pawtucket, Jan 21.
The Gravel Project
The Gravel Project kick it to the astral plane with a mix of funky jams sprinkled with soul and old school R&B grooves. The Gravel Project will be releasing a new, live, in-studio album, Live at Wellspring Studios, recorded in front of family and friends on Feb 11. My favorite jam is “Fall Into Grace,” which shines a burst of ’60s soul. No need to wait for the album release, catch them at Askew. Askew, PVD, Jan 21.
Eric and The Nothing
It’s been so long since I’ve seen Eric and The Nothing that was starting to wonder if it was all a rockabilly dream. I went from searching show listings to searching milk cartons, wondering what happened. The good news is Eric and The Nothing is back, baby. I haven’t seen Exploding Zones but have written about other projects that have involved members and look forward to catching them in the flesh. Askew, PVD, Jan 27.
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Subterranean Jungle: Interview with Johnny Trama from A Band of Killers
A Band of Killers has come up on my radar as a band to watch in the new year. This past year they have been busy, releasing four singles, three of which were collaborations with Toussaint the Liberator, and one featuring Tim Gearan. Guitarist Johnny Trama, who assembled these musical assassins, informed me that they have full length albums with both Gearan and Toussaint set to come out in the new year under A Band of Killers. In addition to his duties with A Band of Killers, Trama is a guitar slinger for a number of Boston bands as well as our hometown heroes, The Silks. If this makes the interwebs in time, you can catch Trama rocking with The Silks on New Year’s Eve at Union Station Brewery. A Band of Killers also are coming to Providence, at Askew on January 6th. Poised for a big year on the horizon, I spoke with Trama to find out more about A Band of Killers.
Marc Clarkin: You’ve been rocking with many bands including The Silks for years. Has putting your own group together been something you always wanted to do?
Johnny Trama: Let’s just say the concept of A Band of Killers has been around for a long time. I’m always writing music and trying to collaborate with other singer-songwriters. I’ve been fortunate to play in so many different diverse bands, but because of that, it’s left me with the urge to write things that are truly the music I dig. The seed to A Band of Killers probably started a long time ago. I first collaborated with Toussaint the Liberator, a New England World Artist of the Year winner, before the pandemic. We put together a really amazing song called “Dreamin’ and Schemin’,” for which we did release as a single under our own names. With the soon to be A Band of Killers (Darby Wolf on keys, Tom Arey on drums and Marc Hickox on bass) playing on it, we recorded in western mass with Alan Evans who put out on his label, Vintage League.
At the same time, I also was collaborating with a singer-songwriter named Tim Gearan and we put out a single called “Bring it Down.” Then the bomb dropped… the pandemic! The fortunate thing about it, as dark as those days were, I was super productive in writing and inspired by collaborating with these two brilliant artists. Before we knew it, we had written two full albums. I’ve been playing with the musicians in the band for a decade – we just never called it anything. So let’s just say the chemistry was already flowing and before we knew it, A Band of Killers were born!
MC: You touched on many genres in your playing. Who are the three most inspirational artists to you and why?
JT: So yeah, I’m kind of all over the map as far as being influenced as a guitarist, artist, and as a songwriter. I’m heavily influenced by classic soul music. There’s such a vast catalog of songs/bands/singers/vibes but if I had to choose one, I’d have to say William Bell. Another huge influence is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It’s everything from the songs Tom writes, to the chemistry of the band, them translating that and then turning it into something completely unique, and of course, Mike Campbell’s an incredible guitarist! I’m sure everyone mentions these guys all the time, but the Rolling Stones, especially the Mick Taylor period. It’s just something about how they combine amazing songwriting, personality, and a completely unique vibe when they come together as a band – lightning in a bottle rock ‘n’ roll at its best.
MC: You put four singles out online (which everyone can check out on your favorite streaming platform) this year, know you have been working on more tunes with Graham Mellor, what ya got cookin’ for 2023?
JT: So first off, working with Graham has been a blessing. He’s the first guy I’ve worked with that truly gets sonically everything we’re going for without even talking about it – a very talented cat! 2023 is gonna be exciting for A Band of Killers! We will be releasing two full length albums.
One featuring Toussaint the Liberator and one with Tim Gearan. Also a little special treat on the Tim Gearan record was recording a track with Susan Tedeschi. They should be out sometime in March/April. We’re doing a small run of shows right off the bat in the new year with a lot more to come. We’re also back into the studio to start recording yet another album, so let’s just say 2023 is gonna be a busy year!
MC: I believe this is the first Band of Killers show in RI. What should everyone expect on January 6th down at Askew?
JT: Actually, this is a reschedule. We were supposed to have a show right after the pandemic, but it just didn’t pan out. I believe everything happens for a reason. We’re much more in tune right now as a band and got a lotta new tunes we’re gonna be trying out on ya. Get ready for a rock & roll circus experience! Also, we’re excited to have our good friend Cody Nilsen warm up the night for us!
A Band of Killers featuring Tim Gearon, and Johnny Trauma joining forces with Cody Nilsen to rock Askew in Providence on January 6th. Email music news to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subterranean Jungle: Blood Feeder, Deer Tick, and more holi-daze mayhem!
The holi-daze mayhem is kicking into swing! With that in mind, I figured I’d review a couple of fall releases that have been kicking around inside my speakers for the music lover on your shopping list as well as some upcoming shows that don’t blow.
Blood Feeder – Self-titled (75OrLessRecords)
Dr. Chris Evil of Chris Evil & The Taints, Blood Moons, and Sick Pills has a new band called Blood Feeder. They dropped their debut album, which is a collection of punk, hardcore, and heavy metal nuggets. My favorite tune on the record is “Death of Me,” which has a marching rhythm reminiscent of Green Day’s “Holiday.” It is also Omicron level catchy. “Early Grave” is metal in the vein of Danzig’s early solo stuff. “Jucket Metal Superstar” reminds me more of bands like Suicidal Tendencies and later-day Body Count. “Living in Darkness” is a full throttle punk air raid with hooks and a great lead guitar. This is a strong debut and I look forward to catching them loud and live!
Divine Providence was recorded locally at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket. At times during recording, members of Deer Tick would stop by and I had the opportunity to hear some of the songs as they were progressing. One such song was “Divine Providence,” which is the rare title track to not make the album, and is (probably) the only black metal song Deer Tick wrote. The fourth Deer Tick album jumped out of the speakers with an opening trio of stompers in “The Bump,” “Funny Word,” and “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” The rest of Divine Providence was more mellow, even including a ballad that the Twilight movie franchise wanted. I’m going to focus on the new bonus material released for the first time in the 11th Anniversary Edition.
The Tim EP (which came out around the time of Divine Providence) had some great jams like “Born at Zero” and “She’s Not Spanish,” which are also included with this release. The original Tim cover had the band members faces photoshopped over The Replacements from their Let It Be album. Speaking of The Replacements, there are two versions of the Paul Westerberg penned “Mr. Cigarette,” which appeared on the original CD version of Divine Providence as a hidden bonus track, about 20 minutes after the previous song ended. Thankfully it is much easier to cue on this edition. Other unearthed treasures from the sessions include the tropical pop of “Cake and Eggs,” an early version of “Hope is Big,” and “Bury Deep.” The latter has been performed many times over the years, but I think this is the first time it has ever been released.
Besides that, there are a bunch of demos and different versions of songs that did make the album with my favorite being the demo for “Main Street.”
Orbit had an alternative radio hit in the late 90’s with “Medicine (Baby Come Back)” featuring the rare tasteful use of a zamboni in its music video. Orbit split up in the early 2000s aside from playing some reunions here and there. Pre-pandemic singer/guitarist Jeff Robbins had been playing and recording with his new band 123 Astronaut, who are well worth checking out. Robbins has come up with a way to bring Orbit sort-of back by beaming up other members via a projector from across the galaxy powered by an app he developed. Only Robbins will be performing in person, but the other musicians will be there via projector. I haven’t seen Robbins do this type of show yet but I am intrigued for a night of sci-fi rock ‘n’ roll. Think of the News Café as the Starship Enterprise, but with a lot less gear to move at the end of the night.
Orbit (solo) Colebert, and I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying rock the News Cafe in Pawtucket on December 15th.
The annual Grinchfest is always a hoot as local musicians play a bunch of Christmas songs and mix in some of their own chestnuts. I’d go see the show just for bands like David Tessier’s All-Star Christmas Stars and Jets Can’t Land but when you throw in the other bands, it is truly a no brainer.
Grinchfest 5.0 featuring performances by Annalise Ford, Jets Can’t Land, Alex Laverde, Karma Rocket, and David Tessier’s All-Star Christmas Stars will go down at Askew in Providence on December 17th.
We all know that Santa Claus has a Black Flag tattoo and a pierced nipple, so it’s only appropriate we celebrate his arrival with a banger punk rock show. I like the idea of putting The Pourmen and The Paraplegics together because they have decidedly different spins on punk. The Pourmen have a Irish pub-punk slant while The Paraplegics sort of go down the hardcore rabbit hole. The Paraplegics have a new album out, Ramp It Up, that you should pick up at the show!
Punk XMAS featuring performances by Gnarnia, The Pourmen, The Paraplegics, D.O.P. and more goes down at Alchemy on December 22nd.
Subterranean Jungle: Welp, got tired of waiting for the rapture so…I’m back!!!
Blood on the Tracks
Detroit Rebellion – Fake News
Detroit Rebellion returns with their third album, Fake News, that rolls through the night like a hayride through the Americana apocalypse. Detroit Rebellion has always been about fuzzed-out blues, somewhere between Robert Johnson and The Gun Club. That carries on with Fake News, but they also added ’60s psychedelic, garage, and stoner rock to a beatnik poetry slam and poured it into the party blender. Take the tune “Doom and Gloom,” for example. It sounds like John Lee Hooker meets no wave with machete-esque lyrics like: “I love your perfume, it smells like doom and gloom.” To me, Fake News is more of a commentary on the past couple of years than a “political” record. It’s a world of mass shootings, corruption, and batshit conspiracies that birthed Fake News and those themes echo through the melody and angst. The title track turned out to be one of my favorites, managing to be ridiculously infectious while the lyrics are all about conspiracies. “Yellow Teeth” bursts with ’60s psychedelia while “They Ate All Your Pie” is so damn menacing. Another one of my favorites is “How Long Before You Turn on Me,” which reminds me of the MC5 jamming with The Birthday Party. Check out Detroit Rebellion for yourself on Bandcamp and the other streaming services. The video for “Laws of Attraction” is also up online at: detroitrebellion.com
9th Annual Holiday Benefit Cover Shows
An annual tradition returns to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. These benefit shows are holiday staples. Where else can one go to hear a set of Fugazi followed by a set of Abba? Likely only Askew on Dec 10, baby! In the past, I feel like they’ve announced which bands were performing the cover sets. They haven’t this year, but I have heard an informed rumor that the Brother Kite are doing the Tom Petty set, which is perfect – because they sound nothing like Tom Petty. Maybe it’s mostly “supergroups” of musicians coming together for a one-off set or maybe they just ran out of room on the poster – guess we’ll all have to go to find out!
Night One goes down at Askew in PVD on Dec 10 with local musicians performing Abba, Fugazi, Green Day, and Goo Goo Dolls cover sets.
Night Two is at Alchemy in PVD on Dec 16 and features local musicians doing covers of No Doubt, Tom Petty, Alanis Morisette, and The Killers. There will be raffles with prizes donated by local businesses to add to the festivities and it is all for a great cause!
The Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw
The Smithereens have reigned as sultans of power pop for over 40 years. I can still remember hearing “Only a Memory” on the radio coming home from middle school. While the entire world has changed, when you listen to a Smithereens record, it doesn’t seem all so different. Of course, there are some changes: Sadly, singer Pat DiNizio passed several years ago, but Marshall Crenshaw has stepped up to fill the void. Expect a mix of Crenshaw’s material with The Smithereens bangers in what promises to be a great night of rock ‘n’ roll hoochie koo.
The Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw rock the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on Dec 10.
Local noise gods Lightning Bolt return what promises to be a romp through clandestine rhythm-powered feedback. Seeing Lightning Bolt live is an intense trip. It’s like watching a band rip through the wilds of urban wastelands in one giant sonic boom. It always seems like they are hunting down something that is just out of reach. I never know how much or how little to say about Lightning Bolt. If you’ve seen them or know the whole Fort Thunder legend, you don’t need my words. I’m just here to tell you it is happening.
Lightning Bolt and babybaby_explores will rock the Met Cafe in Pawtucket on Dec 14.
They Might Be Giants
The Johns in They Might Be Giants return to the Strand with their quirky indie rock to get you ready to kiss this miserable year adieu. They Might Be Giants have a fascinating discography. They have released over twenty albums throughout their 40 years as a band. I’ve always been partial to their earlier stuff like “Alienation’s for the Rich,” “Rhythm Section Want Ad, We’re The Replacements, ” and of course their smash hit, “Birdhouse in your Soul.” They’ll probably only play the latter but there isn’t such a thing as a bad They Might Be Giants record. They put on a great show and will have your New Year’s Eve’s Eve poppin’!
They Might Be Giants return to The Strand Theatre in Providence on Dec 30 to get you ready to ring in the New Year.
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April Showers Us: Memorials and shows to cheer you
“If there is a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven, You Know They’ve Got One Hell of a Band”
The local music scene has been battered this year with the passing of local musicians Mike Schiavone, Pete McClanahan, and Nick Iddon. I didn’t know Mike but his passing was a jarring blow to the music community coming just hours after he played a Nirvana tribute night. I had met Pete a few times but never really knew him. What struck me about Pete was the sheer power and passion he had as both a songwriter and performer. Pete was a punk rock superhero on stage with the way he attacked his bass. He blasted through songs like a locomotive steamrolling through a starfield night. I was lucky enough to catch Pete many times with his band The Worried. Some of Pete’s other bands over the years included The Buzzards, 32-20’s, and The Yuhboys. Mike and Pete will live on forever in the music and memories they created and all the hearts they touched.
Then there is Nick… whose passing I’m still processing. Nick Iddon had a personality that could light up the darkest mine. He was so warm. He made everyone feel like family, even if you just met him. Sure, Nick was one hell of a drummer. He could play anything. Hard rock with Donnybrook and Kanerko, smooth grooves with Viking Jesus, conjuring the ghost of Gram Parsons with The Quahogs, or just rocking the hell out with Ravi Shavi – Nick poured his soul into every performance, looking like the happiest person in the room the whole time. He probably was. When he told me several months ago about his illness, which would ultimately take him, he said it so calmly and confidently – like it was no big deal, “I got this.” Every time our paths crossed after, he was so energetic and vivacious that I forgot he had cancer. That was just Nick. I’m sending love and light to all Nick’s family and friends. When times get tough, just close your eyes and picture Nick banging out the beat, hair blowing like he’s in a hurricane with that big smile beaming like a sunrise.
David Tessier’s All-Star Stars – “Tough Face Girl” single release
The new single, “Tough Face Girl,” from David Tesssier’s All-Star Stars is a burst of ’60s power pop that reminds me of Tommy-era The Who meets The Monkees at the sock hop. Tessier said: “Tough Face Girl was a power pop song which I had written to be part of a short Rock Opera based on the Native American Folk Story ‘The Rough-Face Girl’.” “The song’s chorus was stuck in my head for years, so I decided to rearrange the music and rewrite the lyrics. “It’s about that certain someone you can’t help but love, even if they are, shall we say, a bit curmudgeonly, because you can still see the sweetness deep beneath the exterior.” The single will be available online at BandCamp and through 75OrLess Records on April 1.
David Tessier’s All-Stars Stars, Haunting Titans, and Death Pesos will rock The Parlour in PVD on April 9.
Fozzy might be best known as wrestling legend’s Chris Jericho’s heavy metal band. That said, they have been making records and touring the world for over twenty years. I can’t deny the infectiousness of some of their tunes, notably “Judas.” I can’t remember the last time Fozzy was in town so this is a rare chance to catch a legend, in Jericho, doing something he’s not a legend at, while hearing some kick ass hard rock!
Fozzy, GFM, KrashKarma, and The Nocturnal Affair will rock Fete in PVD on April 10.
During my teenage punk rock alienation years, bands like 7Seconds gave me hope with their songs of unity. 7Seconds were different from most of ’80s punk and hardcore of the day in that the vocals were actually sung and the songs generally had positive messages. Plus they did a killer cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons!”
7Seconds, Negative Approach, Catalyst, Bullet Proof Backpack bring the old school punk rock vibes to Alchemy on April 13.
I caught The Schizophonics a few months before the pandemic and they blew my mind! They were a mess of high octane psych-garage with power pop hooks throwing down like space invaders from another dimension. Fitteningly, they were touring behind an album called People In The Sky which sounds likeThe Sonics jamming with theMC5. This show is going to be a testamentment to the evil powers of rock ‘n’ roll!
The Schizophonics, Artist Jackie and The Wizard, Salem Wolves will rock Askew in PVD on April 15.
Digital – Dreams Of Leaving EP Release
When all Civility is lost, there is only one option: Digital. Civility was a local post-punk band that recently underwent a lineup change and decided to write all new songs and be born again as DIgital. It is a cool name because it flies in the face of the current vinyl revival and you’ll probably never find the band if you try to Google them. As for the tunes, “Spectres” reminds me of the Sisters of Mercy meets Head On The Door-era Cure. I guess Echo & The Bunnymen could be added as a reference point for “With You” along with the above. In other words despite the rebranding, Digital still embodies the ’80s post-punk. This show will be bananas!
Digital will celebrate the release of Dreams Of Leaving with Trigger Discipline, Pilgrims of Yearning, and Video Shoppe at Dusk in PVD on April 16.
Askew is a melting pot of a venue featuring exciting music of all genres, comedy shows, and great vibes. For their anniversary, the blues will reign supreme! The Silks will bring it with big-time early ’70s style rocking riffs and booty shaking groove. The Low Cards will rip it up and throw it down with some high-voltage shredding.
The Silks and The Low Cards will celebrate Askew’s 4th Anniversary on April 23.
The Soul Rebels rock the Narrows Center of the Arts in Fall River on April 7.
Julie Rhodes & The Electric Co. with Ali McGuirk and Mary-Elaine Jenkins bring the soulful grooves to Askew on April 16.
Melissa Etheridge will be at Bally’s Event Center at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln on April 22.
Clutch, The Sword, Nate Bergman will rock The Strand in Providence on April 30.
The Zombies bring their legendary sound to the Narrows Center of the Arts on May 1.
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Let’s Get Weird: Rad times with Richie Ramone
Sadly the original lineup of the Ramones is deceased. Despite that, there are a couple of Ramones still rocking and building up the legend. Two are coming to town this spring, so for this issue, we’re going to focus on Richie Ramone, who will be bringing his band to Askew on Mar 25. Richie really got the Ramones to their roots, wielding the heaviest stick of the three drummers. After a couple of albums where they tried for the elusive hit, Richie’s first album with the band Too Tough To Die immediately righted the ship. He continued writing, recording and touring through the albums Animal Boy and Halfway To Sanity. Richie has since released two solo records, written his autobiography I Know Better Now: My Life Before, During, and After the Ramones and even written a children’s book about the band. I talked to Richie about his time in the Ramones, coming out of the pandemic with new music, and going back on tour.
Marc Clarkin (Motif): So it has been a couple of years since we’ve gotten any new music from you, any plans to release anything?
Richie Ramone: Yeah, this will be the first announcement right now! March 4th we’re releasing a 7-inch with an A side of “Not Afraid” and the B side is “Cry Little Sister” from The Lost Boys movie, which I covered for a movie called Protege Moi and play a vampire in. The movie comes out in the fall but the single comes out March 4th on translucent orange vinyl limited to 300 pressing. There will be more available as black pressing, you know, like we’ve had for 100 years. The vinyl just came; it took eight months to make it. That is how backlogged they are. The single is coming out on Outro Records (outrorecords.com) and they’ll have some signed versions available on their site as well. Anyway, that’s the new release and it is exciting to have some new music out. It’s been a really rough two years, it hasn’t been fun, but hopefully the best is yet to come.
MC: You wrote the Ramones classic, “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” Isn’t that song based on a true story?
RR: Yeah, they didn’t put it in my drink. We used to go to the clubs and when people got up to dance or went to the bathroom we took their drinks. It was someone’s drink on the table by accident. It wasn’t like somebody slipped it in my personal drink: We had no money back then, so me and friends would go and when people left the table we’d grab their beer or whatever.
One night I started to feel funny. I didn’t know what it was. At first I was really scared, you know it felt like dying because it is different if you know you took something. You have to go through this 15 – 20 minutes of weirdness before you figure out what happened. That’s a scary moment. Then after that it was fun. So I told Dee Dee (Ramone) that story when I was in the Ramones, it happened before I joined, it happened when I moved to New York City in 1980. Dee Dee said, “You should write that song,” and I did. The song stayed in their set till their very last show which is a pretty cool thing.
MC: Do you have a favorite memory from being in the band?
RR: No, every day was a favorite memory. Please, it’s the Ramones right? Night after night, five hundred something shows looking at Joey’s back, it was pretty intense! To have found your way into that band after playing in horn bands and studying all kinds of music, reading music and winning awards as a kid in orchestras. To come down to that simple beat and I played it better than anybody. It was really aggressive and I stayed there on it and let those guys rumble around me. As long as I stayed there they never got lost. People play the Ramones so tight these days that it sounds like a machine gun. Ramones weren’t like that. We were loose around a good solid foundation of the drums. You only got three instruments and they have to be just a little off a bit and that is what makes it sound really full.
MC: After you left the Ramones, didn’t you give up music for years?
RR: I came to LA right after leaving and played in some bands like Mail Order Brides; played for maybe a year or two. Then I was done and didn’t pick up a drumstick for like eight to ten years. I was just burnt out.
MC: What brought you back?
RR: Around 2004 or 2005, Mickey (Leigh) called me to come and play one of the Joey Ramone Birthday Bashes. I did that and then the next year things started to change in my mind. I started thinking about making a solo record, which I’ve never done. So I made a record, I had no plans to do any of that. Sometimes it takes something unexpected like that to lead you down a whole new path. It’s been working out good and I’m having fun with all of this. I then fell into acting a little bit over COVID thing, which is a whole new experience, and also a lot of fun!
Richie Ramone, Public Nature, Shore City, and Joy Boys will rock Askew in Providence on Mar 25.
This Month’s Bangers:
Lucy Dacus, touring behind her latest album, Home Video, comes to The Strand with Indigo Desouza providing support on Mar 3.
Midnight Creeps, Diablogato, Sugar Cones, and Ruin The Nite will rock Dusk in PVD like a punk rock tsunami on Mar 4.
Viking Jesus Providence Vinyl Release Show featuring sets by Animal Face, Ravi Shavi, The Chops, and Viking Jesus goes down Mar 4 at The Parlour in PVD. The show starts at 9 pm sharp and also be sure to wish Tara and Nick from Viking Jesus a happy Birthday.
The Schemers rock the Met Cafe in Pawtucket on Mar 4.
Iceage with Sloppy Joe rock the Columbus Theatre in PVD on Mar 8.
Crash Test Dummies are at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on Mar 10.
The Tossers, Crazy and the Brains, and The Pourmen rock Askew Mar 10.