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Meals on Wheels: The 2022 Motif Food Truck Awards cooked up a wonderful time

The Annual Motif Food Truck and Drink Awards, held on August 15, were a tasteful experience in more ways than one. Out in the gigantic parking lot of R1 Indoor Karting in Lincoln, a cool summer temperature kept everyone comfortable as they gathered for the event. Food was provided by a fleet of food trucks, and there were many brewers present to keep the good times going. Music was provided by The Unlikely Strummers, RI’s all-ukulele band that crafts custom homages to food trucks and travels the state serenading them at random events, ephemeral jam band ElectroPolitics, which closed out the night on just the right notes, and the always reliable, surreally exuberant Providence Drum Troupe.

Each host announcing the winners brought a different vibe and personality to the awards, which kept things entertaining as they worked through nearly 60 awards, between the trucks and the brewers. MCs Morgan Capodilupo, actress, Motif food editor and Newport Vanderbilt Hotel Lead Concierge and Ginnie Dunleavy, Improv artist and executive director responsible for food services (and more) at RISD quipped, chased down award winners and wrangled a team of food and beverage veteran presenters, including the PVD Drum Troupe, Corinne Southern, food-grammer Chef Rivoli, Jonathan Kelly of food blog Rhodeliscious, burlesque queen Bettysioux Tailor and several ukelelans. Taking it home at the end of the night were legendary food-scene supporter Frank Terranova and Michael Sabitoni, international tour guide and chair of Food & Beverage and Travel & Tourism Studies at Johnson & Wales University.

Highlights included impressive online voting showings by rising nano-brewery Six-Pack Brewing and Lops Brewing on the brewery side, and by RaRa’s tacos (oh boy, all that cheese!) and The Hot Potato, outstarching the usually unstoppable Frisky Fries in the potato competition (although Frisky brought home other coveted awards). See the full list of winners below.

After eating the goodies served by RaRa’s, Hot Potato, healthy Hometown Poke, Lulu’s Little Pancakes (which created a special birthday pancake for one of our Leonine MC’s), visitors had a solid foundation to take in a little beer. Brand new truck Boba Wave was helping handle the thirsty who didn’t want alcohol, and Hook N Ladder Pizza was kind enough to bring their fire truck, just in case any of the competition got too hot (fitting that theme, there was also a thrilling moment when the sprinklers briefly showered the band and the video village!).

On the brewer side, samples were generously served by Buttonwoods, Six-Pack, Beer on Earth, Union Station, Narragansett Brewing, Shaidzon – and Whalers and Proclamation through the Memphis Kelle Beer Truck. RI Spirits also distilled a little liquid joy for those looking for something less glutinous. With brewers from most of these establishments pouring, you could ask questions of most any kind about the origins or process producing these delectable concoctions. At the end of the evening, local performer Corinne Southern conducted Narragansett’s “Crush it like Quint” contest, in which many a Gansett Lager can met an untimely end.

Motif is extremely grateful to all who took part, and appreciated a record high turn out both online and in person this year! And of course, thanks to the sponsors who made this possible: R1 Indoor Karting, Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies, the Craft Collective, and Ocean State Food Truck Events. Now, a quick summary of each of the delicious winners:

Burgers:

Haven Brothers

Arguably the oldest mobile restaurant and one of the oldest woman-founded business in the United States, Haven Brothers started, horse-drawn, in 1893 and serves up American classics with burgers, hot dogs, fries and more. It’s also probably the only truck on this list to star in its own feature-length documentary (fb.com/havenbrothersmovie).

Hot Dogs & Sausages:

Sam’s NY System

Founded in 1963, Sam’s NY System specializes in serving its customers hot dogs, sandwiches, gyros and more, in the Coney-Island inspired but now uniquely RI style.

BBQ:

GottaQ BBQ

GottaQ’s award-winning chefs specialize in smoking and cooking its traditional southern-style American barbecue in their Cumberland and Narragansett locations in addition to their food trucks, which have been known to trek cross-country to receive awards at national food truck events.

Cheese & Cheesesteaks:

Championship Melt

This wrestling-themed food truck cooks up a variety of grilled cheese recipes including vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options. And if you ever need it, they can perform the Heimlich like nobody’s business.!

Seafood:

Blount Clam Shack

Run by the Blount family, the Blount Clam shack Food Truck is just one component of the family’s legendary RI business that has, since 1880, been offering up seafood favorites to locals and shipping them around the world.

Tacos; Graphics:

RaRa’s Surf Shack Beach Wagon

This Cranston-based food truck specializes in tacos, taquitos and quesadillas. It’s a new name for Paco’s Tacos, and RaRa’s also boasts a new, non-mobile location on East St in Cranston, with a much broader and sometimes surprising menu (Asada chips? Peanut butter filled taffy?). Their special method of making Quesadillas – with a halo of fried cheese – is spectacular.

Latin & Caribbean Influences:

Spanglish

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Nathalie and Raymond Rodriguez closed their restaurant La Villa Bistro. Shortly after, they applied their culinary experience to starting a mobile kitchen that serves gourmet empanadas and a menu with Spanish, American and Caribbean influences. In no time, they’ve become a truck that’s seen and loved everywhere.

Asian Influence:

Ming’s Asian Street Food

Husband-and-wife duo Josh Burgoyne and Korn Suom serve up Cambodian-inspired street food that’s inspired many a diner.

Italian Influence, Favorite New Truck:

Hook N Ladder Pizza Co.

In early 2021, Shawn Finnigan opened Hook N Ladder Pizza Co, which serves brick oven pizza from a remodeled fire engine, made by former and current fire fighters. Flame on! 

The “New Truck” award is a particularly hard-won accolade – one of our most voted on and closely contested categories this year, with so many new trucks emerging from the pit-stop of COVID.

Vegan/Vegetarian/Cruelty-free:

Basil & Bunny

Using locally-sourced ingredients, Basil & Bunny provides vegan and cruelty-free options with the mission of lowering animal product dependence. But for non-vegans, you often can’t even tell the difference with some of these sly, tasty menu items. No, you’re not eating bunnies, you’re eating rabbit food. They’ve just opened a non-mobile location on Wood St in Bristol (soft opening, August 8 – but the cat … er, bunny … is out of the bag now!)

Potatoes:

The Hot Potato

Food truck serving baked potatoes. A past winner for “unique offerings,” this one-of-a-kind truck offers many of your classic favorite meals, but on top of a baked potato. A particular triumph, one should note, given a current nationwide shortage of this singular vegetable.

Breakfast & Brunch:

Lulu’s Little Pancakes

In hindsight, we might have messed this up, as Lulu’s little pancakes are definitely not just for breakfast. Just a few inches across, yet sweet and filling, these little gems can fill your cravings for a desserty fix any time of the day. Don’t hesitate to order off the menu – if they have the ingredients, they’ll combine ‘em for you. We think Mrs. Butterworth would be scandalized at the variety of things Lulu can do with a pancake.

Coffee:

Presto Strange O Coffee Co.

Owned and operated by Jessica and Jason Case, Presto Strange O serves a variety of coffee-based beverages and accompanying snacks and treats. They’ve been keeping it strange all over the state for more than 10 years, and also have a tire-less cafe in Warwick. 

Dessert:

Black Dog Donuts

Black Dog Donuts serves fresh fried mini donuts straight from the truck. They’re mini in size, not in taste – or you could also try one of their “Squad Cups,” a layered trifle dessert!

Frozen Dessert:

Cosmo’s Fresh & Frozen Treats

Cosmo’s is one of the trucks in the RaRa’s fleet of affiliates, and their dessert offerings go great with Mexican. Or anything else, really. They feature some pretty fancy shakes and frozen drinks, with garnishes like fruit and gummi sharks.

Food Truck with Storefront:

Friskie Fries

Taking the classic french fry to the next level, Friskie Fries provides a boatload of toppings to spice up this classic dish at both their food trucks and non-mobile locations in Johnston and in a sweet location in DownCity PVD that pays homage to their origins as a nightlife truck usually found near the Alley Cat. Their unusual approach to fries as almost a bun to hold other food – and their message of universal acceptance – have caught on with “Friskettes” around the state.

All-Weather Warrior:

Farm to Sandwich

Brother-in-laws Brian and Marc started this food truck after losing their jobs to the pandemic. Using locally-sourced ingredients, Farm to Sandwich strives to make “the best food you can wrap your hands around.” They’re known among their peers for working it through all the weather conditions – shoveling their truck out in snowstorms, enduring hail or sleet, getting that sandwich to you no matter what.

Other Ethnic:

The Ish

To reflect the owner’s cultural background, The Ish serves up favorite Irish and Polish cuisine.

Location/Festival:

Food Truck Friday at Carousel Village

Every Friday during spring and summer, this FoodTrucksIn festival showcases over 15 food trucks at the Roger Williams Park Zoo Carousel Village, with a companion beer garden, some live tunes and an abundance of kids activities, from swan boats to playgrounds, movies to the carousel. It’s the granddaddy of weekly food truck nights.

Pop-Up:

Sarcastic Sweets

With a storefront in Seekonk, MA, sarcastic sweets take their dessert and smoothie treats on the road with their food truck serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as the wider New England area. They also do in-store and in-brewery pop-ups with custom recipes. (We’re still waiting for their return to Smug brewery, where certain brews became part of the mini-donut batter. No kidding.)

Portable Not-Quite-Truck:

Tricycle Ice Cream

Dave Cass and Giovanni Salvador started their ice cream cart on wheels back in 2014. Their mission? “To perfect the ice cream sandwich.” In 2019, they also opened a storefront in PVD, definitively leaving the training wheels behind – but not their vintage, iconic three-wheeled cart.

Outdoor Treat:

Three Sisters (Hope St, PVD)

Three Sisters began in 2005 from the mind of owner Michael Stern. Starting out serving just ice cream and coffee, it has evolved into an ice cream parlor-cafe-restaurant hybrid of sorts now serving a variety of breakfast and lunch entrees to the hungry folks on the East Side of PVD.

Locally Manufactured Food:

Del’s Lemonade

With roots in 1840s Italy, Del’s lemonade was created by Angelo DeLucia in 1948 in Cranston. It soon included a mobile component and became a staple of Rhode Island with several franchises worldwide, and a pioneer in the field of frozen lemonade. It almost feels unfair to include them in this category, where they completely dominated the voting.

New RI Food Product:

PVD Pies:

In the early, uncertain days of the pandemic, Gina Herlihy started PVD Pies in the space that used to house the Duck & Bunny bakery in Hope Artiste Village, Pawtucket. Two years later, this shop serves a wide variety of sweet and savory options with takeaway and delivery options.

Farmer’s Market:

Farm Fresh RI (PVD)

Farm Fresh RI is an organization dedicated to education, production and access to locally-sourced food in Rhode Island. They run several farmer’s markets including a year-round one in Providence hosting a wide variety of vendors at their spacious new digs on Sims Ave.




Painting for Hope: Cathren Housley’s Wall of Hope fosters optimism among the youth of PVD

Cathren Housley began her work with community art projects and installations in 2007 when she worked with the RISD Museum and community members to create a wall mosaic depicting the Great Serpent Mound found in Adams County, Ohio. It was at this moment that Housley saw how community art could inspire children.

“When I saw the effect that being real artists had on kids and how it inspired them, I just kept wanting to do more of these,” said Housley.

For the last 15 years, Housley has worked on a number of community art projects, one of the biggest being the Great American Flag project which was done in conjunction with Ginny Fox and the Peace Flag Project in 2015. A series of three large tapestries of the American Flag were made out of small square pieces called “peace flags,” including squares contributed by then-RI Governor Gina Raimondo and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Now, Housley has moved on to her next big project, the Wall of Hope at the Smith Hill Library in PVD. The Wall of Hope started in early July and is a planned art installation with the central concept that the content will be contributed by community members.

“This was my next opportunity to really do a project where I was bringing the entire community together and the idea behind it is that everyone who’s putting something on this piece of art is putting their thoughts for hope,” said Housley

Housley’s main inspiration and drive to create this collaborative piece was that she wanted to give the youth of lower-class neighborhoods in PVD the chance to express themselves and to discover the powerful outlet that art can be. She, along with Alan Gunther, the director of the Smith Hill Library, held workshops to help youth create their pieces for the wall. She was very successful with the participants and was even shocked by how well some of them were doing.

“They all had this idea that art was just a picture you hung on your wall… to say that they had no materials at home is putting it mildly… they didn’t have anything,” said Housley. “When we started giving them all this stuff to work with… it was just astonishing! You could see that the future was opening up for them in a new way and that’s why I’m inspired to keep doing it.”

The Wall of Hope will be a permanent installation located in the main entrance room of the Smith Hill Library with the idea that the messages behind each piece will inspire and bring a sense of optimism to those who view it.

“The idea is to have a magnetic centerpiece when it’s done so that everyone who comes and stands in front of it feels a sense of hope, is affected by the hope and the positive energy that everybody who worked on it contributed,” explained Housley. “Every kid who’s painting has got something special that they are bringing, and we’re going to feature all of it and give them credit in the final art.”

After the Wall of Hope, Housley hopes to expand the project and have one added to more community libraries in PVD. She also hopes (haha) to get back into collaborating with the Peace Flag Project and working on projects that represent women and people of color in the US.

“I feel like our connectivity to each other, our sense of community, is one of our biggest prospects for power, for people in ordinary life to have power,” said Housley. “When you get hundreds of people together, and you can combine their energy together in a cohesive form for power, for positive energy, wow! You can do a lot with that.”




On the Cover: August 2022

This month, Motif is happy to welcome back Bob Eggleton as the cover artist for our Necronomicon-themed issue. Eggleton is well known for his work on several Godzilla comic books as well as for doing concept art for the films “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” and “The Ant Bully.” As a lifelong fan of science fiction, Eggleton has been inspired by the works of Isaac Asimov, “Star Trek” and 2001: A Space Odyssey (which just happens to be his favorite film).

Early in his career, Eggelton contributed artwork to The Providence Phoenix. In the ‘90s, Eggleton began working on Godzilla with Dark Horse Comics and later into doing cover art for those comics when IDW Comics began publishing them. He was also an ill-fated extra in the film “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.” He has won 9 coveted international Hugo awards for his science fiction, fantasy and horror art and the Chesley award for artistic achievement.

Motif turned to Eggleton to capture the unique, weird vibe that goes with the NecronomiCon experience, and he jumped right into the deep end to create something deeply Providence.

Recently, Eggleton has taken an interest in fine arts with landscape and seascape artwork, and has worked on an illustrated version of the 1933 King Kong novelization.

This issue’s cover artwork shows an Eldritchmonster rising from the water and looming over the RI State House, which Eggleton uses to represent the COVID-19 virus threatening the state. Appropriately named Covidius Necronomicus, the creature’s design has protrusions coming out of its head to allude to the virus. The decision to illustrate such a monster comes from Eggleton’s love of dark fantasy, monster and kaiju stories, and he considers this cover to be one of his favorites that he has done for Motif.




20 Years of Art and Expression: Riverzedge Arts has been an outlet for Woonsocket youth for two decades

“Riverzedge Arts is celebrating our 20th Anniversary with this cool new logo designed by the teen artists in our Graphic Design Studio.” Source: Riverzedge, Facebook

Nestled between 2nd and 3rd Avenue in Woonsocket stands a nonprofit art school housing students from around Rhode Island scrambling to finish their projects for an upcoming block party. Throughout the building, students are working on projects including graphic design, screen printing, woodworking and murals as a means of expressing their ideas and interests and giving themselves a stronger voice in the community.

Founded in 2002, Riverzedge Arts has, for the past 20 years, been dedicated to providing a creative outlet for youth from Woonsocket, Lincoln and other local communities while helping them build a skill set they can use in their future careers.

Though Riverzedge Arts is, at its core, an organization focused on bringing out the creative abilities of its students, they also offer academic support for the attending you such as connecting them with tutors. The organization also used to host an Expanded Learning Opportunities program where they worked directly with schools to design and administer alternative academic credits to students however, the program was recently let go.

I went on a tour of Riverzedge with Communications and Development Assistant Geo Darrow, who showed me around the school, provided a glimpse into the daily life at the organization and gave more insight into what Riverzedge does for the students who go there.

“So, what we do is we provide career training for local youth, particularly from underserved communities” explained Darrow. “We pay them to participate in the program, so they do get an hourly wage and then they’re in one of our four studios where they design and create different kinds of pieces and different kinds of projects.”

Executive Director Kristen Williams Williams explained that, while Riverzedge does not push for a specific agenda to be promoted in students’ art, they do support the messages that students choose to express.

“We want youth to feel welcome here,” said Williams. “We want to be able to say whatever our youth is saying.”

I also spoke with Kim Keiter who runs the print studio at Riverzedge about the kind of work they do there whether it be commissioned pieces or original designs.

“So, the way it works down here is somebody prints, either the whole shift or half a shift…and we check them for quality. Pretty much, from beginning to end, somebody is in charge of making the invoices correct…making sure everything looks good” explained Keiter. “For our own merch, it’s all hivemind stuff, really, what do we want to work on? What do we want to represent? What do we want to do? Then, we’ll come up with designs and polish them up”

In 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Riverzedge switched to virtual sessions and also set up a program where the students could come in and take any food or hygiene products to help them get by. Originally envisioned as a short-term program, it soon became a permanent fixture of the school.

“In response to the pandemic and all of the supply chain disruptions…we offered at the time what we thought was an emergency program to provide relief for the kids,” explained Darrow. “But we quickly realized that this is not a short-term problem…so now it’s a permanent part of our program and the kids can take anything they need for themselves or their families.”

Just outside is a public community garden that, as Darrow explained “…used to be run by a studio we used to operate called the Green Design Lab…they were the ones that grew everything in this garden, and then we gave it away so the community would have access to fresh local produce.”

Though Riverzedge eventually closed the Green Design Lab, the garden stayed open for use by the local community.

“We opened the community garden to the public so people can reserve a plot here a no cost,” said Darrow. “Since this is open to the public, they grow [the food] and do whatever they want with it.”

With this year marking 20 years of Riverzedge being open, the school celebrated with a block party. This block party was a youth-led event meant to showcase their work and let the community know what Riverzedge has meant to them.

Looking to the future, Williams hopes that Riverzedge can expand and continue to serve the local community. She explained their strategic planning which includes getting input from various stakeholders about how Riverzedge can continue to support the community.

“Woonsocket is a really impressive community,” said Williams. “The youth here are really involved. They want to change the community.”




2022 Motif Music Award Winners

This year’s Motif Music Awards were a tremendously exciting experience and we would like to thank the over 250 musicians and fans who attended, the acts who performed and everyone who helped and contributed. We’ll have more on all of that soon … Below is a list of this year’s winners by category. Congrats!

AMERICANA

Favorite Americana Act: Man and Wife

Man and Wife are a folk duo from PVD. The group is a man and a woman, true to its name; they are Kris and Tara Hansen. The name was a quick choice when they booked one of their first gigs. They describe themselves as “two Singers, an acoustic guitar and love.” Tara & Kris have been friends since they were 15 years old and married for more than 15 years.

Kris is a staple in the RI music scene. He is the founder and songwriter of the award winning band, Viking Jesus. Like his (other) band’s name, Kris is big and tall with long blonde locks like a Viking and Tara appears as a flower-wearing, Mother Nature goddess that he has snatched from some forest temple. They obviously make beautiful music together! Kris Hansen can also be found twiddling the soundboard knobs for many other local bands.

Favorite R&B Act, Favorite Americana Live Act: Steve Smith & the Nakeds

Steve Smith & the Nakeds began as Naked Truth back in 1973. They are coming up on FIFTY years of playing R&B and Rock music all over the world and have been featured on MTV as well as “Family Guy.” If you haven’t seen Steve Smith & the Nakeds, can you really call yourself a Rhode Islander? Smith danced and sang on my table at my junior prom in 1978! And even today, with his striking white hair and frequently bared chest, he is characterized by his insanely high energy and his ability to get an audience up and moving, sometimes to avoid being stepped on, but usually to get up and dance.

The ten-man unit consists of a four-piece rhythm section, a five-piece brass section, and its lead vocalist, Steve Smith. Throughout their history, the band has shared the touring stage and recording studio with Bruce Springsteen’s saxophonist, Clarence Clemons in a series of critically acclaimed performances.
The Nakeds are Steve Smith – Vocals/Harmonica, Steven “The Kid” Decurtis – Trumpet/Tambourine, Josh Kane – Trombone, Mark Legault – Alto Saxophone, Bobby “Guido” Decurtis – Tenor Saxophone, Jaime Rodrigues – Baritone Saxophone, Mike Marra – Bass/Vocals, Joe Groves – Drums, John Lavallee – Key/Vocals, and Jon Pelzman – Guitar/Vocals. Steve Smith & the Nakeds were inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in 2013. “Hi neighbor, have a ‘Gansett!”

Favorite Country Act, Favorite Singer/Songwriter: Lauren King

A singer/songwriter from the apple town of Smithfield, Lauren began her musical journey with the guitar at age nine and continued at Stonehill College where she studied music and philosophy, both of which are evident in her nuanced songwriting.

King has a presence and performance skills far beyond her 25 years. Her music has been featured in films such as “Where Were You?” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Her CD, The Wolf is Back features 9 songs written by Lauren and features guest appearances by Chris Trapper (solo, The Push Stars), Gurf Morlix (solo, Lucinda Williams, Blaze Foley), Dan Hochhalter (Dierks Bentley) and Sasha Ostrovsky (Darius Rucker). In addition to performing and recording Lauren is a music instructor at Let’s Rock School of Music.

Favorite Open Mic, Favorite Karaoke Night: The Parlour

Once upon a time, The Parlour was The Penalty Box, a real-deal sports bar that was appropriately named due to its proximity to the old RI Arena that hosted the RI Reds Hockey team. The RI Arena is now a parking lot and The Penalty Box is now the Parlour, which is known statewide for presenting music with care, appreciation and gusto.

Located near the edge of PVD and Pawtucket, The Parlour hosts concerts of all genres multiple nights a week (almost every night, really). Its open mic night on Wednesdays has become a regular destination for a surprising number of serious musicians from RI and MA who just want to kick it, experiment or have some less-rehearsed fun. It’s a black musician and sound engineer -owned and -operated venue featuring local, national & international talent in a small room with a big heart. Good vibes, delicious drinks, great food and even better company characterize the spot. The interior features a stage, a bar, and various high top tables. The night is hosted by Steve Donovan of the Quahogs, who creates a gracious, friendly atmosphere. If you are a member of the RI music community, you have played there. If you haven’t, then the open mic is a perfect way to start.

Karaoke night at The Parlour is every Friday night. That’s a big night for a performance-oriented music club to dedicate to the vocal cords of its patrons, and shows how seriously The Parlour takes it, without taking it, you know, too seriously. DJ Ron keeps keeps the mood on and the flow going, knowing when to turn up the mic and when to let the backup music do more of the lifting. You’ll find some of the best voices around at this night, but no judgment for the rest of us.

Favorite Americana Vocalist: Tara Hansen

Tara Hansen is a Cranston native and half of the duo, Man & Wife. She performs with her Viking Jesus husband of 17 years, Kris Hansen. Tara sings and is accompanied by Kris on guitar and vocals. You can not only hear the love in their music, but you can even see it in their performance. Tara is often clad in flowing gowns and floral headpieces, giving her a Mother Nature or a goddess-like presence. A quote from her Facebook page reads, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow: the more knowledge, the more grief…Jack of all trades, student of the world, pincher of pennies, she-hulk, insomniac.” These words are the seeds of a true artist.

Favorite Bluegrass Band: Ocean State Ramblers

The Ocean State Ramblers wander throughout New England playing bluegrass, with their sets often featuring a mixture of bluegrass and country standards, as well as original music. The four members met at various bluegrass jams and events before deciding to form a band. The members are Stephen Dyer (guitar, vocals), Anne-Marie Forer (fiddle, violin, guitar, vocals), Dave O’Connell (upright bass, mandolin, vocals), and Diane Petit (guitar, vocals).

Favorite Jazz Act: Leland Baker Trio

A jazz saxophonist as well as a music educator, Baker teaches privately and leads his own project/lecture series, Bridging Gaps. He lived and spent time honing his craft in New Orleans and New York City before moving to RI. While living in New York, he has had the opportunity to perform and study with artists such as Lawrence Clark, Kahlil Bell, Tim Green, and Roy Hargrove. He attended Loyola University in New Orleans, LA, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies. While an undergraduate, he studied with world acclaimed saxophonists Tony Dagradi, John Ellis and George Garzone. He later attended URI, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Music Performance. Baker continues to perform, record, and teach throughout New England and NYC, and you can find him at many a local jazz night, including the one he hosts at Courtland Club on Sundays from 6 to 8:30pm, SoulPocket at Union Station Brewery on Wednesdays and at Macelino’s in PVD on Thursdays. Marcus Grant on drums and Kweku Aggrey on bass round out the trio.

Favorite Concert Photographer: Eric Johnson (write in)

Well, he wasn’t on the ballot, but he won. His photo fans wrote him in. East Providence’s own Eric Johnson has added another accolade to his already lengthy list. You can find him at the clubs around Rhode Island photographing his favorite local bands. He calls his service AOK Photography, and lots of folks must think it’s so because he is now a MULTIPLEMultiple Motif Award Winner. Maybe you will be next to “say cheese” for Eric.

Favorite Blues Act: Neal and the Vipers

He used to be “Young Neal,” but time has passed. However, it has been kind to Neal as he 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 Rhode Island and beyond. Neal Vitullo and the Vipers have shared the stage with several music legends such as 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. 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 in addition to their Motif Music awards.You can always find them gigging somewhere; if you haven’t seen them, the time is now!

Favorite Folk Act: Allysen Callery

Allysen began her performing career as a poet before picking up a guitar and becoming a self taught singer-songwriter. Callery has a unique style of music and her tagline is “quiet music for a loud world.” Her music has also been called “Ghost Folk,” which is a fitting description: her guitar serves as a gentle background to her ethereal singing.

She has been compared to and influenced by Nick Drake and Sandy Denny. Over the years, Allysen has won multiple awards and recorded many albums. On top of this, she has a big following in Europe and tours there as often as she can. However, at the end of the day, she is a Rockin’ Rhode Island Folk Star and the RI music community is fortunate to have her as one of their own. In addition to performing, she curates and hosts the Songbird Stage at the annual RI Folk Festival.

Favorite Street Band: Providence Drum Troupe

The Drum Troupe formed organically during the pandemic, when various musicians began congregating, at safe distances, at the Pedestrian Bridge in PVD and just started jamming together. These Thursday gatherings soon brought together a mixture of musicians and street performers to put on a vibrant, one of a kind show.

They are an assortment of musicians, acrobats, fire-spinners, life-size puppets, stilt-walkers, hoopers, and dancers who create funky beats with positive interactive energy, demonstrating that living together in harmony is not an antiquated notion. Members include: Larisa “Vegas”, GEM, Rock Paint, Mark, Doc, The Wind, GMC Suede, Jessica Rabbit, DLB, Cocktail Cote, and Patman, though the membership is fluid. They are sometimes joined by The Yuranians from the Big Nazo Lab. You can often find them wherever people gather, and as they mentioned when accepting the award, “Sometimes we are invited, sometimes we just show up!”

The PVD Pedestrian Bridge is a favorite performance spot of theirs. Take a walk, maybe you will be amazed.

Favorite Americana Festival: Rhythm and Roots

The festival has been happening now for over 20 years, delivering great music and a fully immersive camping-lifestyle experience. But we almost lost it this year. Festival founder and producer Chuck Wentworth decided, reluctantly, that it was time to retire and canceled this year’s festival, much to the disappointment of its loyal fans.

However, after a bit of thought, he decided to sell the festival to someone who could “keep the vibe alive” properly. After screening potential buyers, he finally selected a fitting organization to continue the festival’s legacy. Now the festival will be produced by a Connecticut company, but Wentworth will consult during the transition. So many great acts have graced the stage at RR Fest it is hard to list them all, but some highlights have included Susan Tedeschi, Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Steve Riley and so many more. This year’s music will only add to the legacy. Little Feat returns, and joining them will be Grace Potter, Samantha Fish, Cowboy Mouth, North Mississippi All Stars, Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene, Steve Riley, Donna The Buffalo, Los Texmaniacs, the list goes on. Experience it for yourself this Labor Day Weekend!

Favorite Americana Album: High Planes – Ghost Town

Ghost Town was only released this past April, but it has already garnered enough steam to claim positive attention and buzz. High Planes is “a messy blend of Country, Bluegrass, and Blues,’’ with members Christian Caldarone (vocals, acoustic guitar); Annie Jaehnig (vocals), Greg Johnson (viola), Jason Layne (piano), Frankie “Ranks” Moniz (electric guitar), Jeremy Spencer (bass), and James Toomey (drums).
Additional musicians on the recording include Paul Dube (accordion), Joe Lusi (harmonica), and Paul Yates (piano). All of the songs were written by Christian Caldarone, except “Minnesota,” which was written by Jeremy Sencer.

This was posted to their Facebook page after the win: “High Planes won an award for our album ‘Ghost Town’ which is pretty cool. It was a very unique experience making this record and such a collaborative effort from some mighty fine folks. Thanks again to everyone that has listened, bought the CD, it was a lot of work putting this out… so double thumbs up to you all…It does honestly mean a lot…”

ALT ROCK

Favorite Music Video: Big Nazo – Space Transformation Station

The video from the Space Transformation Station features two members of Big Nazo, IVOR-E and MarzTwin, intermingling with the Earthlings at Kennedy Plaza Bus Station. The video includes funkadelic back beats and some stunning zooming drone footage of DownCity. There are various clips of the two aliens interacting with amused pedestrians, taking “selfies” with an extraterrestrial device and even hugging trees. With this video, the cosmic members of Big Nazo prove that they know how to spice up an afternoon in Kennedy Plaza, and that they truly do come in peace.

Favorite Rock Band: SEXCoffee
Favorite Alt Album: SEXCoffee – Devilish Kiss

This kinky caffeination band was formed in 2007 by vocalist Ruth Charbonneau and bassist Sharlene DeNardo, both of whom were originally in the band 5FOX4. The current lineup is completed by Robert Dumont on guitar and Al Diaz on drums.

Asked where the band name came from, Ruth and Sharlene cited the Maroon 5 line “the sex you slipped into my coffee,” as well as the idea that inviting someone out for coffee often implies that you want to have intercourse with them. Over the past fifteen years, the band has released multiple EPs and a full-length album, The Drink You Paid For. Their most recent release, the EP Devilish Kiss, came out on April 4th. During this time, the band has received multiple accolades, including being chosen to open for Candlebox back in 2011 and signing a multimedia deal with Audiosocket.

Favorite Alt Act: Viking Jesus

Viking Jesus is the creative baby of the previously mentioned Kris Hansen. The band’s racked up over 11,000 plays on ReverbNation alone, where they’re described as playing “epic, short attention span songs. We make albums, play gigs and live on kindness!” Their influences are eclectic, ranging from The Cure and Elliott Smith to The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

Themes in Viking Jesus’s songs vary, with lyrics tackling political issues and Hansen’s thoughts on having defied death after an aneurysm in 2001. Other members of the band include his wife, Tara Hansen, on vocals, and the late Nick Iddon on drums.

Favorite Jam Band: Guess Method

A dance band out of Southern RI, the band’s original four members, Miles Duhamel (guitar), Christian Cerrone (guitar), Matt Fuller (bass), and Chris Grady (drums), met in 2018 on campus at URI. Later on, Luca Simeone joined the band on trumpet. The band is known for their enthusiastic and engaging performances, and they have brought up many guest musicians to enhance their shows, once having as many as 10 people on stage at once. Because you can do that with a jam band.

As of right now, the band has four singles out, including “Indifferent,” which dropped this year. They also have multiple EPs in the works. Rather than release all their new songs on a single album, the band intends to release them as multiple EPs in order to get the songs out faster. Vulfpeck is the group that Guess Method considers their biggest influence. Later this summer, the band will continue to play shows in the area as well as travel all the way up to Maine for The Homie Collective Campout.

Indie Rock: NOVA ONE

NOVA ONE is the latest project by Roz Raskin, featuring a rotating plethora of other musicians. Their latest album, lovable, came out in April 2020 and was released by Community Records. Before then, Raskin had released NOVA’s debut EP, secret princess, in 2018.

Since then, Raskin has received attention from publications such as The FADER, Stereogum, BrooklynVegan and Gold Flake Paint. Their style has been described as ’60s girl group structures with a wall of sound production and modern slacker indie vibes. Their songs often explore topics of gender and queerness. NOVA ONE is locally active, most recently playing Space Ballroom in Hamden, CT. They have also played the Columbus many times.

Favorite Live Alt Act, Favorite Garage Band: David Tessier’s All-Star Stars

The All-Star Stars are award-winning RI-based composer/actor/guitarist David Tessier’s performance ensemble. This year alone, the band has appeared in a host of shows in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Each set is composed of original songs and covers of all genres; their repertoire consists of numbers from “the prog-rock sounds of early Genesis and King Crimson, to the joyful sounds of The Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, David Bowie or The Cars, to the favorite tunes you remember from Glen Campbell and The James Gang.”

They also note with pride that they don’t just play the hits from each of these artists – they dig deep into their catalogs for lost classics and hidden gems, each one presented in a new and fresh way to reflect the new millennium. In the past, they have covered David Bowie’s sweeping sci-fi epic Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, as well as epic performances of Jesus Christ Superstar in Concert, and Pink Floyd’s Animals, among other classics.

Favorite Reggae Act: SoulShot

Formed in 2003, SoulShot got their start playing in New England and New York. Two years later, they recorded their debut album, The Echobass Sessions, on ¼ inch tape. Five years after that, the group issued their next album, The Shot Heard Round the World. Since then, they’ve released two albums: SoulShot and Friends, released in 2016, and Liars and Thieves, released in 2021.

The band has performed on the main stage of the Jazz and Blues Festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica, along with Lionel Ritchie, The O’Jays, and Chicago. They have also performed as the backing band for Jamaican musician Ernie Smith, Alton Ellis at the Rhode Island Reggae Festival, and many more renowned musicians. SoulShot is made up of David “Daveydread” Turano on bass, Rob Liguori alto, Mark Berney on trumpet, Thom O’Brien rhythm guitar and vocals, Rider McCoy on Keys, Krys Jackson on drums ,and Zeke Carlson on percussion.

Favorite Ska Band: The Copacetics

The Copacetics have been a band for around ten years. While they often play songs that date back throughout the multiple waves of ska music, they are also known for their original music. The band released their self-titled debut album back in 2015 to rapturous praise from sites such as Boston Ska (dot) net and Ska-Boom.com. Riding this wave, the band followed up with the 2016 album Ska Royale. Since then, they’ve released A Very Copacetic Christmas (2018) and Jump For Joy (2020).

During the course of their career, the band has shared the stage with such legends as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fishbone, Badfish, The English Beat, and members of The Specials, among many others. The Copacetics have become a staple of the RI wedding scene, in case ballroom dancing with your mother was just a little too boring, and they are a popular squad to make any occasion a danceable treat, which has led to a legacy of Motif award wins over the last several years.

The members of The Copacetics include Chris Mitchell (Keys, Vocals); Stephen Grueb (Tenor Sax, Vocals); Nick Zambrotta (Alto Sax), Matt Di Chiara (Pictured: Lead Vocals, Trombone); Mike Cerenova (Guitar, Vocals); Aaron Abrahamson Cote (Drums/SteelPan/Percussion) and Brad Thibodeaux (Bass).

Favorite Alt Vocalist: Dan St Jacques

This RI native was surprised to be nominated for his vocals. “I think of myself as an extreme performance style punk-rock front person,” says the lead vocalist from Hammer Party. “We don’t color inside the lines or look or sound pretty. We’re drawing, in broad strokes, coloring in existing outlines.”

St. Jacques is also a bassist in the recently intermittent Olneyville Sound System and has performed or toured with about a dozen other bands over his career, perhaps most notably with the bicoastal band Landed, which still performs after decades of music making. “We don’t really tour any more. If you want to break a band up, make them drive around in a sweaty van for 12 hours a day,” he says, “Now we do strategic strikes – we’ll fly out for a specific show.”

He started as a bassist for that band in 1990, but switched to vocals in 1997. “I had busted up my hand the night before, and was using a digital sound system instead, that stopped working. So I had nothing else to do while I was up on stage. So I started making vocal noises, and we kept doing that. It landed us a record deal.” St. Jacques is also known for accidentally setting himself on fire during one show that year. Vocally, he’s still on fire, and you can catch him around RI, including as a sometimes sound engineer at Dusk.

Breakthrough Act: Beauquet

“Wordie mcbirdie music” is how Beauquet describes themselves, which is far more interesting and eye-catching than “fuzzy indie rock.” The band is a trio fronted by Ava Callery on guitar and vocals, a young musician who has been earning her solo chops at various local shows for some time, with Tessa Young on bass and Joe Krapf on drums.

They released their debut self-titled album in 2021, and since then they have caught the attention of many an ear in and around Rhode Island, opening for nationally touring bands such as Grocer. The band’s overall vibe is one of positivity and joy, and hopefully we see more of this from the band moving forward.

Favorite Tribute Band: Dirty Deeds

Dirty Deeds is an AC/DC tribute band that has been playing shows all over the country for over 20 years, sharing their love of the Australian hard rockers with thousands of people. The band has been lauded for their attention to detail, not only echoing the band members’ mannerisms and appearance but also making sure that their instruments sound just like those in the band.

Their shows are known to involve theatrical props and interactive video, fully enveloping the crowd in the concert experience. Each set consists of the band’s signature hits, as well as deep cuts from before and after they became famous. All in all, a current way to channel the original’s electrifying presence.

Favorite Alt Festival: PVDfest

PVDfest is the free, three day long festival that takes place throughout downtown PVD, typically held during the middle of June. It has been hosted by Mayor Jorge Elorza, the City of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture+ Tourism and founding partner FirstWorks the past few years.

Although the festival had to be canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and had an odd, stretched-out existence over several weekends in 2021, it is building itself back up, and this past June, it was back in full force. The acts on display during this festival come from all over the world as well as right here in PVD, with national and local stages popping up all over the city as it becomes a big pedestrian zone. The fest brings with it multiple genres of music, art, dance, food, and more.

Favorite Sound Person: Vinnie Bellows

A lot of great professionals were nominated for this award, and since the role is generally invisible to the public, we were counting on the local musicians and bands to make informed votes. The quality of the sound engineer can make or break a show, no matter how great the band may be, so musician rely heavily on the skills and knowledge of these outside-the-limelight heroes, and we’re very glad to shine a little light on some of them.

Many a local band has performed at Dusk, one of Bellows’ primary stomping grounds. He approaches each show with speed, energy and good humor. One hallmark of great sound people is calmness under pressure – they do everyday what bands generally do much less often, and there can be a lot of nerves to sooth. Bellows is reassuring and always has a backup plan, but also pays close attention during a show and can jump in anywhere he’s needed.

He also covers sound needs at other venues and on the road, and has quickly established a reputation for reliability and flexibility.

Favorite Cover Band: Wicked Rhode

A cover band that came to be during the bleak months of the pandemic in 2020, Wicked Rhode focuses on the rock/dance genre, especially the ’80s and ’90s. The band members are Mike Dussault (lead vocals), Scott Eisner (lead guitar), Alex Takian (bass, vocals); Dave McLoud (drums, with the perfect last name for it), Matt Connell (sound tech extraordinaire and guitar).

Just before the pandemic hit, McLoud put an ad out on Facebook and Craigslist looking for bandmates, and soon the band was born. Each of the members has other jobs outside of the band, but their love of music and performing brings them all together each time. Their stage setup is elaborate, requiring hours of additional time; the band has jokingly stated that they are open to hiring roadie interns.

Favorite Noise Band: Loud Neighbors

Loud Neighbors formed in the cold winter month of December 2020 – a great time to start something loud. Their sound is a mix of old-school punk and alternative inspired by The Stooges, Elvis Costello, The Misfits, The Modern Lovers, and David Bowie. Band members include Colin James on guitar and vocals, Matt Mozzone on bass and vocals and Joey Dubious on drums.

They have a few upcoming shows in PVD including ones at The Parlour in PVD on Aug 4 and Al Dios in Olneyville on Aug 27.

Favorite Pop Punk Act: Never Coming Home

Never Coming Home is a pop punk band that formed at the School of Rock in 2019 through, as the band’s website states, “friendships made from a heartfelt act of kindness, and a hard hitting kick to the face.”

The story is not quite as violent as it might sound, actually: Anthony Hefler, the singer of the band, decided to check in on guitarist Aidan Sullivan, who’d been missing SOR practice. He found that Sullivan’s dad had passed, so in order to cheer him up, he brought him to go see a concert, and the two began to talk about forming a band. Later that week, Hefler was crowd surfing when he accidentally kicked Merritt Cathers in the face. The two began talking and Cathers joined on drums. After this, “resident beard-haver” Derek Lane-Bell was brought on as bass player. Since then, the band has built a loyal following, recently going on tour with fellow Rhode Islanders, Sporting. The band has released a handful of singles over the last couple of years, and more music is on the way.

Post Punk/Gothic Act: Hope Anchor

Hope Anchor has won for the third time in a row for best punk/gothic act. They are a post-punk/goth/shoe gaze band started in 2006 by Terry Linehan and Paul Pip Everett. Their current lineup is Paulie Myers on drums, who has been with the band since day one, and newer members Robbie Shaggs on Bass and Steve Demers on guitar.

Hope Anchor encapsulates the spirit of timeless songs like “The Killing Moon” in a modern way. One of their upcoming shows will be headlining the Scurvy Dog Parking Lot Mega Show on Sunday, Oct 9, and they’ll have a new album out this fall as well.

Favorite Punk Act: The McGunks

Some of the nicest-in-real-life, loudest-on-stage rockers you might ever meet, The McGunks know how to liven up an event or a music hall. Repeat award winners in Motif’s pages, their fans have beenencouraging their head banging success for well over a decade. The four-piece band has 10 releases.

Their most recent, Going Out Early, has gone out to positive reviews for hitting all the right punk notes. They are currently soliciting radios, which we suspect will get treatment similar to the printer in Office Space, as well as pics of old radios.

Favorite Hardcore Act: Bullet Proof Backpack

Bullet Proof Backpack formed in the year 2020, created by siblings Alex (vocals) and Aidan Simmons (bass). The two recorded a couple of EPs with Trevor Vaughn on drums, garnering much attention in the local hardcore scene in the process. As the pandemic began to subside, guitarist Marie CS and drummer Travis Garrahan were brought on to complete the lineup.

Since then, the band has released more tapes, including their 2022 debut album Corrosive and Flammable. They have also opened for hardcore legends such as Verbal Assault, 7 Seconds, and Negative Approach. This summer, they are venturing out and playing shows in New Jersey and New York, and more music is in the works.

Favorite Metal Act: RHODE KILL

James Adams (guitar, vocals) and James Fague (bass) have been in bands together for practically their whole lives and are the founding members of RHODE KILL, joined by drummer Marco Leva. They aim for “shotgun to head,” sound and have been banging skulls for decades before creating Rhode Kill in 2005. They are previous winners from 2018, and their aggressive combination of everything from thrash to blues to “dino-punk” has left a deep mark on the genre locally and through tours around the country. At the time of this writing, Adams is unable to tour for health reasons and we all send the strongest healing vibes possible.

Favorite PROG / Emo Act: Sleep Mode

Sleep Mode was formed 3 years ago in the summer of 2019 by guitarist Dan Medeiros. The band includes Alex Durand on drums and Derek Smith on bass. The band takes influence from alt. rock, shoegaze and punk and warps into its own unique sound. They have a few shows scattered throughout the summer and fall. The “Punks for Pets” fundraiser show at the News Café in Pawtucket is their most anticipated show.

Favorite Promoter: Rob Duguay

Duguay has been promoting shows around PVD for as long as we can remember. He goes everywhere, and writes prolifically for any number of periodicals. His Top-5 Fiend promotions puts together shows regularly at many local venues and is perhaps best known for his annual three-part birthday party non-profit fundraisers that manage to book nearly half the great bands in town. He is also a regular contributor toward the shenanigans in the Facebook group “Providence, but on Facebook.”

ELECTRONICA

Favorite Hip Hop Act: Jesse The Tree

One of Rhode Island’s favorite hip hop acts, Jesse The Tree rose to fame with his debut album Space Tomatoes (the winner of Motifs 2021 best hip hop album) capturing people’s attention with his killer flows, vintage samples and edgy lyrics. He’s not an act for delicate sensibilities, but he keeps feet dancing throughout the region with regular shows and headlines and a following that’s growing like a well-watered tree.

Favorite DJ: DJ Pauly Danger

Pauly Danger has been spinning music since 2002 when he had his first radio show as an undergrad at UVM. He started playing in clubs in Burlington around 2006. His biggest inspirations include local DJs and radio personalities DJ A-Dog, Melo Grant, Nastee, Big Dog & Demus, DJ Cr-8, Fattie B and Selector Dubee. Mr. Danger, as he’s known to some fans, is easy going and seems to know just what to spin for any occasion. He hosts and has hosted many regular nights around PVD, including, currently, the Upsetta International reggae night every Monday at The Parlour PVD. He also produces records and mixes, primarily reggae, under the Upsetta label.

Favorite Dance Night: Soul Power

Ty Jesso has bright blue eyes that seem like they can bore into your soul, but you’ll rarely see them because he works his magic from behind a DJ set up that’s become legendary in local circles. Soul Power is strongly painted with ‘70s and ‘80s nostalgia, but it’s really all about getting bodies moving, and its danceability has made the night a must-dance at Dusk, where it was weekly for a long time and is currently, post-COVID, happening monthly, often with a vital assist from John O’Leary. Each musician also plays in a number of local bands and has been known to fill in on a few different instruments.

Favorite Electronica Act: Artist Jackie and the Wizard

The Artist Jackie and her frequent cohort, The Wizard, have been ripping it up across multiple venues and media for the last few years. She brings the pop in electropop, he brings a truely epic beard that would make Gandalf jealous, and they both bring exciting DJ skills to the creation of original electronic music.
First inspired by her older brother’s guitar skills as a child, The Artist Jackie wanted to bring down the house, Van Halen style, but with an early love for Prince and Iggy Pop. That’s led to “about 75 free downloads on Bandcamp, and a select awesome amount on Spotify,” with a Jackie and the Wizard Live Album coming up shortly, there’s no sign of this musical flow slowing any time soon.