The Fests of Times, the Würsts of Times: Oktoberfest Events

From life on Marzen to the depths of Helles, we have the agenda and some of the best local beers to make you want to don your dirndl, tip your Alpine Hat and rock the Haus.

The OG Oktoberfest in Munich is still cancelled due to the pandemic, but here are some local events you can responsibly drink in.

SEP 25-26 
Oktoberfest returns to the German American Cultural Society of RI in 2021! Get a sense of Bavarian Gemütlichkeit (coziness) with live music, dancing, German Festbier, and traditional food offerings in their outdoor Biergarten, Ratskeller bar, and large indoor Bierhalle.  78 Carter Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 02861

SEP 25-26
You must go to the Sam Adams Boston Taproom’s celebration of classic German beers. Traditional and innovative brews from Megan Parisi and the brewers. They’ll have live music, a German Plate featuring a Brat + Pretzel combo, stein hoisting contests, and a special sampling of Barrel Aged Octoberfest available for purchase within the taproom. 60 State St, Boston, MA 02109 $5 tickets are available at the door! RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/253836672994118 

OCT 1-3
The first weekend in October, stille deinen Bierdurst (quench your beer thirst for) with Gansett Oktoberfest brewed by the local team led by Lee Lord. Anticipation is making me wait! Since opening this year Lee and the brewers have reestablished Narragansett’s Providence beer fans faith in local craft beer. The debut of their Marzen style will bring Munich to the Providence masses. Get your tickets before they are ausverkauft.  Narragansett Brewpub  271 Tockwotton Street near India Point Park ticket holders (visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/narragansett-beer-presents-oktoberfest-tickets-166542263393)

SAT OCT 2 @ 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
One must attend the Würst Lagerfest Ever at  Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen.  Master Chef Jon Gillman will be at the helm of their patio charcoal grills, open fire cooking their sausages, featuring a staggering würst menu comprising over a dozen different handmade sausages! 190 North Beacon Street, Brighton, MA, 02135 

FDA Recommends Third Pfizer Vaccine Booster Shot: Only for age 65 and high risk of severe COVID-19

September 17, 2021 — In an all-day meeting that became somewhat disorganized at the end, the Vaccines and Related Biologic Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended, by unanimous 18-0 vote, authorization for third booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, officially now called Comirnaty, but restricted to those either age 65 and older or at “high risk of severe COVID-19.” By informal poll, the committee also recommended including in the latter category health care workers and others at increased likelihood of exposure by virtue of occupation. Exactly who is at “high risk” will be left to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who are expected to meet next week. Basic eligibility for booster doses kicks in six months after primary vaccination has been completed.

This unplanned vote was taken after the planned vote on authorizing third booster doses for the general public without age or other restrictions was resoundingly defeated, 16-2. The consensus expressed by the members seemed to be that the data provided by Pfizer with their application was of low quality and based on a study with small sample size of 330 test subjects. The cost-benefit balance was clearer, the committee clearly thought, with older people whose immune systems are naturally and normally less robust. Because vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognize a virus, the effectiveness of a vaccine is ordinarily reduced with age.

The first vote was a blunt rejection of expressed desire for widespread booster dose authorization sought by Pfizer and the Biden administration. While the FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees of outside experts, it is extremely rare for them to be overruled.

Most of the questions from the committee were directed to guest experts from the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Weizmann Institute. Israel leads the world in vaccinating its population, approximately three months ahead of the US and the UK, and made the decision to authorize third booster doses beginning in July in phases, first to age 60 and older and eventually within a few weeks down to age 16 and older. The Israeli experts said that the virus reproduction rate, known as R0 (“R-nought”), was about 1.3 when booster doses began to be administered, a bad situation corresponding to a doubling of infections every 10 days, and fell to 0.96 by the end of August, a slight day-to-day decrease in total infections. They said that their model predicted that without booster doses the entire hospital capacity of the nation would have been exhausted by the beginning of September.

The Israeli experts emphasized that the vaccines even without a third booster dose remained very protective, but they observed a reduction in effectiveness from 97% after initially completing full vaccination to 85% six months later. While any vaccine more than 50% is medically valuable, they explained that these numbers implied a breakthrough rate of 3% (=100%-97%) rising to 15% (=100%-85%), a five-fold increase. Officially, the committee was supposed to consider only the data submitted by Pfizer with the application, using the Israeli data only for general guidance.

Because almost all useful data on the virus now must be derived from real-world observational studies rather than randomized controlled trials, it is difficult if not impossible to determine whether increasing occurrences of breakthrough infections are attributable to waning vaccine effectiveness per se or to other factors such as the nearly universal prevalence of the newer delta variant of the virus. Such statistical confounding factors left the committee unsure of how to compare risks and benefits. Ultimately, the committee was concerned that booster doses in young people might cause rare but significant adverse effects, such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and seemed to conclude that the data were insufficient to compare such risks to those resulting from COVID-19 infection.

There was a clear expectation that Pfizer would reapply for authorization of booster doses for the general public without age restriction once they had better data.

Firing Back with Live Music: Stefan Couture Rebounds

By Cathren Housley

Stefan Couture creates a party wherever he goes. During the long COVID lockdown when venues went dark, he gathered fans and found a growing crowd of new friends at his Virtual Campfire every Saturday night in North Smithfield, RI. Now that the club and concert stages have reopened, Couture has been spreading the joy to audiences starved for music and fun. 

We caught up with him a few days before a gig at the Bravo Brewing Company in Pascoag. “I’ve been performing at a lot of Rhode Island’s amazing craft breweries and teaming up with our state’s fantastic food trucks,” he said. “It’s been making for a great night of people, beer, food and music.” 

A talented RI native, Couture first learned how to connect with his audience in the subways of Boston, busking for a constantly changing collection of commuters. “A group would move on, and I could play the same song again for an entirely different crowd,” he said. Because he could sense the crowd reactions, and could tell what was reaching them, his songwriting developed a simple direct quality that drew listeners in.

Back in 2001 and 2002 Couture toured the northeast and the west coast as a solo act, selling his CD, Great Big Somewhere, out of his guitar case. In 2003, he formed Stefan Couture and the Campfire Orchestra, and in 2004 their album Ghost in the Rearview was voted Best Local Album in The Providence Phoenix, and that same year, Stefan was named Best Male Vocalist. But when he hit 30, and his friends began getting married, Couture knew he needed to start building a solid base for himself as well. As luck would have it, Richard Gere’s movie, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, was being filmed in Woonsocket. The production company needed a hot dog cart for a prop and Couture happened to have one. Visiting the production on location, Stefan felt at home. He had a natural talent for crew work and began picking up odd jobs. Those jobs turned into a career, and he joined the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union in 2008.

Before the pandemic, Couture was logging 12 hour days with studios like HBO, Warner Brothers, Hulu, and Fox Searchlight. He’d just started a contract with Netflix when COVID shut the entertainment world down. Trapped in his house, alone and without work, he faced the same demons we all did. 

“It was lonely and tough to get motivated,” he remembered, “but playing music has always helped me navigate through the darkness. I figured if I could help others, while helping myself when performing…then that is the magic of music.” Thus, the Virtual Campfire was born, and people began tuning in every week. He kept that magic going through the long winter and into April – until the world began venturing outside its own closed doors once again.

Since August, Couture has been a busy guy – he’s back to the production sets, recently wrapping up season nine for Showtime’s Dexter. Couture has also been designing and illustrating his own merchandise. “It’s been starting to take on a life of its own. It’s been so fun and fulfilling combining my art and music.” 

“I’ve been recording [ a new CD] with Chuck Ladoucer out of Red Dog Studios in Bellingham.” said Couture. “He’s a good friend and a really great creative collaborator. We’ve been compiling songs that we recorded together over the last 20 years that never saw the light of day. We want to whittle the collection down into an EP called Time Traveler’s Mix Tape and release it in the early winter. We’re also looking to record a new album, tentatively titled Trapdoor Companion.” The songs are all new, written during the pandemic. They hope to release that one in the new year.

Couture will be hitting the concert stage on Saturday, September 18th at the Narrows in Fall River, MA, with recording artist Ryan Montbleau. He’s stoked about the event. “Ryan is  a nationally respected singer/songwriter, it’s an honor to have the opportunity to open for him and get my songs in front of a larger audience,”  Couture told us. Doors open at 7pm, showtime is at 8pm. The Narrows is a fantastic place to party, this should be a night to remember.Want tickets? Go to https://narrowscenter.showare.com 

And for more on Stefan Couture, visit: Stefancouture.com and https://facebook.com/StefanCoutureMusic

Artivism that Illuminates: The Womxn Project Makes History Present

Did you know that CVS has donated more than $70,000 to politicians in Texas who support anti-abortion and anti-justice legislation? The Womxn Project is calling them out with a grass roots activism campaign that encourages making a protest sign, and posting a picture in front of a CVS.

The Womxn Project is a 501(c)4 non-profit that grew out of a response by a small group of women in South County who saw Roe vs. Wade being challenged at the federal level. Knowing that 52% of white women voted for the Trump administration, Jocelyn Foye, artist, activist, and Womxn Executive Director and the other founders felt it was important to start educating and organizing to inform more women about the harmful impacts of legislation on women’s health.  The organization today is a multi-cultural, multi-racial group, which seeks to lift up marginalized voices, and bring attention to pressing issues.

More recently, the group has created The Womxn Project Education Fund, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that creates “non-partisan educational programming to stir social awareness and support the policy objectives of The Womxn Project.”

Their most recent artivism project is Illuminating The Legacy of Slavery in Rhode Island Projection and Performative Reading series. Foye says it was inspired by former House Speaker, Nicholas Mattiello’s ignorance around fundamental issues. When a referendum was put forth to remove “Providence Plantations” from our state’s name, Mattiello declared that he wasn’t sure slavery really existed in Rhode Island. When a bill was put forth by Senator Harold Metts to commemorate Juneteenth, Mattiello said, “Juneteenth…I apologize…I don’t even know what you are talking about..” 

With so little understanding of our past history, acknowledgment of our history of slavery here in our state, and how that ties in with where we are today, the Womxn Project felt they needed to do something immediately. The night of Mattiello’s remarks, the group utilized the activist art form of projecting images and printed texts, onto Mattiello’s office building in Cranston with statements like, “Privilege is Power. Use Yours To End Racism,” and a list of slave traders from Rhode Island, with the DeWolf family of Bristol, at the top of the list.

The current Illumination series expands upon another guerilla-girl style pop-up projection event that took place on July 4th, at the DeWolf Tavern and Linden Place in Bristol, which was a point of entry for slaves arriving in the Bristol/Newport area during the North Atlantic slave trade. 

The projection caused a stir in Bristol with some residents concerned this history wasn’t based on fact, and uncomfortable by the uncovering of this untaught history that has been kept hidden for so many years. 

Inspired to dig deeper and uncover more truths about slavery and colonization, the Womxn Project went looking at the municipal level. Among the scattered and messily kept records, they found information about redlining (the practice of restricting mortgages in non-white neighborhoods) and even an unmarked Native American burial ground in Cranston.

Scholars, artists, writers, creative writers and performers came together for the first “public art intervention” on August 26th, at the site of University Hall on the grounds of Brown University. Built in 1770 using at least four enslaved African and Native American people’s labor, the piece acknowledges how slave labor built Rhode Island’s infrastructure and economy. On this night, audience members gathered in front of University Hall while performer, Catia, read a script on the local slave trade,  informed by scholar, Marco A. McWilliams, and written by poet, educator, Marlon Carey. All the while, text projections by artist, Devon Blow, illuminated behind Catia, making pronouncements, such as, Who Still Profits From This Labor?.

Daria-Lyric Montaquilla, a Board Member of The Womxn Project, an organizer, and actress, said that working on the Illumination series, was “a passion project that will shed light on the erasure of local history, particularly of the enslaved people who helped to build Rhode Island. Their legacy is in the infrastructure at Brown University, in the ground we walk on in Cranston, and the mills we think bring us our New England charm in South County.” 

The second performance took place in front of the Neighbor Works building in Woonsocket on August 30th. That night focused on the overlooked story of Frederick Douglass’s anti-slavery convention in Woonsocket Falls in 1841, where he and local abolitionist, Abbey Kelley, were attacked for delivering their message. The final performance of the series will be held in Cranston on September 20, where attendees will roam to three sites. These locations will be disclosed to registered participants on the day of the event., since the nature of this public art intervention is to reclaim each site in this convergence of art, and a truthful, inclusive history. The Womxn Project hopes the collective witnessing of the Illuminations series, can move us to acknowledge, repair, and re-envision a just way forward.

As photographer, Anna Gallo, said, this series “beautifully ties together spoken word, visual art, and community in a brief but powerful moment. So often we forget or excuse wrongs in history over the passing of time, but these events remind and teach us to, ‘know your past to fight for your future.’”

To learn more about The Womxn Projects, visit their site at www.thewomxnproject.org. The third Womxn Project Public Art Intervention will be held, Monday, September 20th at 8 pm in Cranston. Register here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddDzTBuTo0yDh2CiPqcpVxoo14TS5YjZIr38WfrlO8Xjj73g/alreadyresponded It will also be streamed Facebook Live, making the performance accessible for all.

To take action against CVS for its support of “anti-justice” lawmakers in Texas, visit https://thewomxnproject.org/cvs-anti-abortion-anti-justice-agendas/

Wendy Grossman is a writer, poet, and blogger on cross-racial connection, racism, and whiteness at www.wendyjanegrossman.com
Photo credits: Anna Gallo, www.annahopegallo.com

Toward Enshrining Roe v. Wade: Texas Law Backfires

Last week hell froze over as RI Congressional Rep Jim Langevin came forward in an editorial supporting a woman’s right to choose (Providence Journal, September 9, 2021). In case you missed it, the Texas legislature has enacted legislation essentially putting bounties on women who opt to terminate a pregnancy after the first six weeks.

As a result, Langevin, who has long opposed a woman’s right to choose, has become a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, meant to protect women’s rights to safe and accessible abortions throughout the United States.

“Faced with the reality that Roe might no longer be the law of the land in a few months,” Langevin wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support a reality where extremist state legislators can dictate women’s medical decisions. At the end of the day, we have to put our trust in women.”

Bravo, Rep. Langevin!

Thank You, George Wein: What his legacy means to the life of a local jazz musician

My first few years at the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals were spent standing behind a cart, selling ice cold drinks to festival attendees. I’d chase the shade with my umbrella, while listening to legends and newcomers play, and daydream about what it must look like from up there on the historic stage. As I’d count change and try to get through the long lines of people waiting to buy water or soda between sets, occasionally I’d look up and see a golf cart moving slowly down the path with a little sign on the windshield that read “The Lean Green Wein Machine.”.

George Wein, art by Charlie Hall
George Wein, art by Charlie Hall

All day I would see George Wein in the passenger seat, riding back and forth trying to catch as much of each performance as he could, going to meet with someone or doing the work that needed to be done to keep the festivals operating. Every so often he’d stop near where I stood so he could sit with the folks and take in the music. I’d watch him smile and bob his head in time, enjoying the fruits of his long, often arduous journey to secure these festivals’ rightful distinctions as the first and most important in American music history.

So much has been said about his life already. In his early days, he was a determined self-starter, a visionary who changed what musical festivals could be. Later, he became a courageous ally, who sought to use his platform to advance racial justice and equity in an industry with a poor record of inequality and outright abuse. The tributes all talk of his casual but electric personality, how admired he was by those who knew him, and how much love he had for the music he helped foster in the world.

I never got to meet Mr. Wein, which may have been good for both our sakes. I’m sure I would have stumbled over my words as I delayed his golf cart, trying to tell him how important his festivals are to me. Both the Jazz and Folk Festivals provided me with enough inspiration to keep the wheels on my dream greased for another year. I am so glad that he decided to take a chance on starting these festivals in a little seaside town down the road from where I grew up. Without his legacy I probably wouldn’t be trying to chase mine. 

I like to think that one day as he drove by my cart, he looked and saw me — a teenager standing in awe at the majesty of the moment unfolding, a young musician his mouth agape in wonder at the music and revelry surrounding him. George might’ve smiled to himself knowing that he was reshaping yet another person’s life as he sputtered off in “The Lean Green Wein Machine”.

Ben Shaw is a local composer, performer, and writer. Find him at benjaminshawmusic.com and on instagram at @benjaminshawmusic.

Advice with Spyce: Weight Training

Hi Spyce,

So here’s what I’m wondering. I am a very friendly young woman who likes to make connections and not make things awkward. Recently, I saw my personal trainer on a dating site. Now I don’t really feel like we would be a good fit, but I always like to talk about dating stories, and also maybe I could hook him up with a friend or something. We are in a group program and so I was thinking about mentioning it to him casually next time we are together at the gym.

Do you think this is a good idea?
Outgoing or Offensive

Dear OoO…

Well…do I think this is a good idea? Hm…I gotta say, for me it’s a resounding hell no!

Surprised? Yeah, I’m sure you are. I mean, if you know one thing about Spyce it’s that Spyce did not go through life as Spyce by being shy and passive. Abso-freakin-lutely not! I am ALWAYS the one to say “Go for it, GF!” and to mean it! You never know until you try, the universe rewards actions, you miss all of the shots you don’t take, and all of that good stuff. 

But here’s the thing that makes this situation different. It’s the old keep your professional and personal life separate thing. May feel like archaic advice but it still rings true! 

I mean, come on now, the guy is at work! And you’re his client, so essentially you are kinda like his boss cause you shakin your booty under his watchful eye pays his bills. So that means even if he was utterly mortified by you talking to him about his dating life, he couldn’t really express that without possibly being rude at work and losing a client. There’s a power dynamic at play here that leads us into some sticky territory…

Now let’s say on the other hand that he’s absolutely thrilled to talk with you about his charmed life, it still could get weird before too long. The world is sooooo on edge these days and it’s incredibly easy to say something “inappropriate” and throw someone into a tizzy. 

So even though I admire your enthusiasm, I have to say that this conversation just has the potential to truly throw a wrench in your fun and easy fitness scenario, and I’d hate to hear of that happening. 

Here’s the thing… People meet significant others at work all the time. (My cousin’s wife was just talking about how she met him when she worked at Starbucks and he would come in to get his Macchiato.) So it’s not entirely off base. But you have to know how to approach it casually, and maybe out of earshot of other people. You say that you excel at making things less awkward, so maybe use some of that charm to figure out how to get the stories you want, without causing some missteps in the process.

You can do it!

Dear Spyce,

I am a bigger woman and while I have been with men who appreciate me for who I am, I am in a bad place now due to a recent breakup. In the relationship my ex would constantly berate me for my size, and even though he told me that he loved me “despite my weight”, just him saying that made me feel awful. Now that we are apart, I never want to go through that again. Any advice on how I can be sure to avoid men like that, as well as heal from my past experiences?  

Heavy and Hot!

Dearest HH,

First off, I am so sorry to hear that you had that experience! We can all be sexy at any size, and it’s unfortunate that you were with someone so shallow, that they only focused on outside appearances, instead of the beauty that I can tell you have within. I strongly agree that never dating someone like that again is the best decision, and here’s how I think you can go about that. 

First, make sure you are not unconsciously delivering this negative body shaming rhetoric to yourself through any media. Our society is full of it, so be aware of that, and how it affects you. Make sure to rid your social media of any groups or pages that are not body positive, and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about how you look. 

Meanwhile, join more sex positive communities where all kinds of body types are celebrated, embraced, and seen as sexy. Meeting more people who are comfortable in their skin and confident at any size will help model for you how that behaviour is possible, and it’s not just one shape of body that deserves love, intimacy, and pleasure. 

Finally, work on ways to increase your own feelings of self worth, so you can be more selective in who you choose to spend time with. If someone seems too focused on how you look, try to redirect their attention to another positive quality you have. Oftentimes we can tell from the beginning what someone is like, but we tend to overlook certain things in order to see what we want to see. Don’t do that! Make sure to be very aware of someone’s feelings around the things that are important to you. Be willing to hold strong boundaries, speak your mind, and even voice your insecurities. There’s no reason why you can’t be transparent with a new person and let them know about this experience and how awful you think it is. If they don’t agree, you get a good idea of the kind of person that they are. If they do, then you may have found a good match! 

Whatever it is, remember to treat yourself kindly and with love. Every inch of you! Your body has taken you through all of your life, and it deserves to be honored and respected, no matter what state it’s in. 


Out this September: Looking for some new entertainment? Look no further!

Motif contributor Katarina Dulude rounded up her top picks for entertainment this September, including a few local selections. 

September 2: If spooky season can’t come soon enough for you, check out What We Do in the Shadows, which will be returning for its third season on September 2. This horror comedy mockumentary was created by Jemaine Clement and produced by Taika Waititi, who is perhaps best known for directing Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. The show is based on the creators’ earlier film of the same name and tells the story of four vampire roommates and their familiar living in modern times in Staten Island. Its third season will be available on September 2 on FX and Hulu. It’s worth taking a bite out of this incredibly hilarious and absurdly fun show.

September 3: The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Loki and follows Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist, who is drawn back into The Ten Rings, a shady organization, to confront the past he left behind. Director Daniel Cretton described the film as both funny and “a cross between a classic kung fu film and a family drama.” The film will receive a 45-day theatrical release.

September 9-17: Looking for a live performance? The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins by Haus of Glitter will be presented outdoors through the Wilbury Theatre Group at the former home of Esek Hopkins. The activist dance opera is described by co-directors Anthony Andrade, Assitan Coulibaly, ​Steven Choummalaithong, Matt Garza and Trent Lee as “a story of mermaids, revolution and resilience [that] exposes how our BIPOC lineages intersect with Hopkins’ legacy of white supremacy.” Tickets are available here.

September 14: For those who enjoy a good romance, Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You will be released midway through September. The contemporary romance book centers around teens Kiran and Deen. Kiran doesn’t know what to make of her sister’s new quickly moving relationship. Deen is thrilled his brother has found a girlfriend so that the attention can shift off of him for a while. However, when Deen and Kiran come face to face, they agree to keep their past a secret. Four years prior they dated until Deen ghosted Kiran without an explanation. Now, Kiran is determined to find out why and Deen is equally determined to make sure she never finds out. 

September 17: Netflix’s hit British dramedy series Sex Education makes its return this September. For those who haven’t seen the series, it begins with Otis, the teenage son of a sex therapist, who discovers that despite his own inexperience, he is adept at giving sex advice to others. With his best friend and crush, he turns this into a business. The series explores the emotional (and sexual) likes of teens in a way that is funny, awkward and incredibly heartfelt. Much of the third series has been kept under wraps, but it’s clear that a new headmistress will be changing things up at the teens’ school, for better or worse.

September 21: Inspired by the story of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, the book Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao will be released this month. Described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale, the sci-fi reimaging follows Wu Zetian, who seeks vengeance for her sister’s death at the hands of an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots used to battle mecha aliens. While boys are revered, girls must serve as their concubines and often die from the mental strain. When Zetian gets her vengeance on the boy responsible for her sister’s death and emerges unscathed, it is discovered that she is an Iron Widow, a special type of female pilot, much-feared and much-silenced. She is paired with the strongest and most controversial male pilot in an attempt to tame her, but after getting a taste for power, Zetian will not give it up.

September 30-October 24: Opening their 37th season, A Lie Agreed Upon will be premiering at The Gamm Theatre on the last day of September. This play, written and directed by Tony Estrella, modernizes Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. “Inconvenient truths fight alternative facts, minority rights battle majority rule, and individual conscience clashes with economic interest in this powerful reinvention of Ibsen’s masterpiece.” More information is available here.

Sonically Driven: Dvalor on hip-hop, the industry and the lifestyle

David Manny Valerio (aka Dvalor, Valor) is a Providence native with more than a decade of experience in music tech, production and studio relations. Seeing the world through hip-hop culture has shaped the life this single father has created for himself and his son, Ethan. From playing beat sets at local venues to finding his way through the corporate world of music, Valor’s story is equal parts humble and humbling. With a fiery passion for success and expression through artistry, Valor’s goals, aspirations and means by which he works to achieve them are relatable and empowering. Valor’s music and infectious laughter are easily recognizable and worth getting to know. 

“I began a career in recording arts as an adolescent at The Met. I learned the fundamentals of the music business from The Jeffrey Osbourne family. I learned about event curation, music production and studio relations. It was there I first discovered entrepreneurship and received my first business license at age 16. While attending Rhode Island College, I chaired the Student Entertainment Committee and booked Gym Class Heroes while also interning at a local recording studio. The foundation I got through a progressive education brought me to working with some of the biggest music tech brands.”

Even before he started the groundwork for his career, music was a big part of his life. “Like most Caribbean-based cultures, Latinos are sonically driven. I was always around music. My parents would have loud Salsa music playing at all hours of the night like while I was trying to watch Toonami and play video games with my cousins.”

Valor was 14 when he started producing music. “Before I even started making beats I went to the library a lot and saw in audio magazines that people could go to college for music. I eventually started producing on my computer with Cool Edit Pro and Sony Acid Pro. I would find the simplest chords and create Reggaeton drum progressions under them.  To me it would sound halfway decent! I got into it as a hobby and that got me into sample digging and bettering my skills over time.” 

His newest full album, As Long As I’m Alive, is coming out soon with the flagship single “Let It Go feat. Ink The Urban Myth” being released September 3 on streaming services.  His new work features local collaborations and Valor’s unique take on his influences of New York hip-hop, backpack rap and alternative music.  

“This album is spiritual hip-hop with depth. I made a decision that since the pandemic affected everyone and with me personally experiencing loss and heartache, I would not let my dreams slip away. As long as I’m alive I’m not going to let fear be the thing that stops me. I’m crazy happy to be dropping music again. I’m inspired by my friends and knowing we can’t let music fall through the cracks since this means so much. I’m excited for people to experience this entire piece of work and to see who I’ve been working with. I’m so tedious on music I come out with because my art through creation is so personal to me. It’s intimate. I’ve had times being happy and making music while smiling the whole time. I’ve had times where I felt so down it came out in what I was making. But through the therapy I get from creating I was able to turn the same piece around and make it uplifting and hopeful.”  

Valor’s world view and motivation are shaped largely by his experiences in hip-hop. A pioneer for the importance of this culture his biggest influences are the group Little Brother, KanYe West and Lupe Fiasco. His favorite book at 16 was Russell Simmons’ biography, which taught him about one of the first rises of Black ownership in music.

“Hip-hop has given me more chances than I think I’ve deserved. It’s taken me away from so many different things in a positive way. I’ve lived in inner city areas and was around a lot of crazy stuff. I would be in situations hanging outside my house and know if things were going to go in a dangerous direction. We’d be having fun and all of a sudden someone would kick a fence post and the cops would be called. Instead of being sucked into the moment I would go inside to make beats. By the time I had come back outside the cops would have already came and beat up my friends for doing something reckless. How would it have changed me if I stayed outside and been a part of that?  For me these situations are inescapable unless you’re able to change reality. Hip-hop allowed me to change my reality. It saved my life. It’s the core values of hip-hop that I’m able to bring into every environment and what’s allowed me to apply these values to professional infrastructure through the latest decades rise in tech companies, entrepreneurship, and promotional networking.”

These experiences have brought an important sense of community to Valor’s life as well. He gives a lot of his time to local causes and continues to impart knowledge he has gained over the years to young people in a variety of settings. This includes being a community curator at AS220 teaching beat-making during the pandemic. He was even able to leverage his music tech connections and had the company Izotope donate thousands of dollars worth of their software for the non profit’s music production facility. He also taught an innovative social media class at The Met in 2018 teaching kids about social media analytics, brand building and marketing strategies.  

“These are things I want to continue doing. Imparting knowledge is very important. My challenge to bigger companies is to do more to equip kids in communities like ours with tools and resources. I would also love to see RI government pay local studios for time to send kids to learn how recording, music business and the creative process work. Instead of pushing kids away from being creative, empower them to learn more about these potential avenues in life. Choosing to expose them to these types of experiences will help them with life experience meanwhile helping local professionals and / or aspiring professionals in the local music community. We can set kids up with mentors and some basic equipment and start stimulating a whole new type of local economy.”

This type of insight comes from having been in the professional music technology field over six years. His backbone of hip-hop ideals and motives has led him up the corporate ladder of the music world, having worked in various positions for such prominent music tech companies as InMusic Brands (the parent company of Akai Pro and M-Audio), E-Mastered, Izotope, and currently Timbaland’s company BeatClub. This work has never made him deviate from his passion of solo artistry and expression, though.

“I’m a person who created my own opportunities by being part of companies who gave opportunities to learn in many capacities. I’m on my personal journey in combination with my professional journey. Through living life this way, I’ve been able to build a more solid foundation for my own unique self rather than constantly getting caught up in fads or trends. People who get to a legendary status understand themselves first. They’re always ready because it’s literally part of their everyday life.” 

When asked about his personal experiences as a local creative growing up in Providence and seeing where it is now compared to where it was when he first started Valor explained:

“Through time we’ve began to create our own infrastructure within our creative communities. We’ve had to build everything little by little from the ground up. Because we’re so small and tight-knit, it forces an individual to have to stand out. Meanwhile the music industry is always changing. Especially now, it’s a whole new hybrid industry. They figured out that things can be accomplished even if the world is shut off since we’re all connected through our phones. These people have learned the true value of the internet, readapted it, and put the pieces they learned into the best strategies to make it work and generate income and notoriety. Now the biggest power is being first. If you’re first and you’re ready, then you’re going to get where you want to go. This gives people from anywhere new opportunities, and our home is no different.”

Given the everyday work Valor does, he has a constant finger on the pulse of new musical trends and current hip-hop and producer culture. When asked about Rhode Island in relation to the music industry and what may be needed in order to grow our notoriety within the bigger industry he explained:

“With music and entertainment a lot times people have to leave RI to gain some national notoriety and then come back to be more successful here. The good thing, though, is that when we venture out we bring pieces of Rhode Island to other places. I love my city and I want the world to see my city. From a music industry perspective I’d love to see us have a prominent music festival. We have PVD Fest, but that’s a call to our specific culture. For me I’d love to see a ‘Rolling Loud’ type of event. When tourists get here they see Rhode Island as having a unique vibe. We have beaches less than an hour away, we have a great night life scene and we’re the creative capital.  I think we need to promote Providence as a major city in America in new ways and that will draw newer types of attention here.   More positive as opposed to negative competition within will help us as well.  We have an entire music hall of fame a lot of people have no idea about.  We’ve had producers from here on major records, even bands who tour the world.  A lot of special things and people come from here, we just need to continue putting ourselves on the map collectively.”

When asked where he sees Rhode Island hip-hop heading into the future he said, “I think Rhode Island hip-hop will come together like the different nations within the Avatar universe. We will learn the ability to use each other in positive aspects to network like other states and crowd boost our own social content, which will inevitably popularize the diversity and talent we have in the smallest state in America. Once we get to the point where we listen to ourselves enough other people will want to listen to us too.  I think there should be more inclusion in local major and minor businesses in Rhode Island musical arts as well.  Even simple things like using more local beats and songs for commercials will be a big help.”

In true Valor fashion he had a few words to leave anyone reading this who may be starting out, looking for inspiration, or feeling lost on their journey:

“My advice to a lot of people is to not be scared to release music yourself, especially if you’re hitting walls releasing music with other people.  Stay positive, work hard, if you have a setback, realize why it happened, hold yourself accountable and continue.  This is exactly what I thought I’d be doing when I first got into music.  My goals have never really changed because I knew exactly what I wanted to do for so long.  Being able to make sounds that make people feel good, that help them when they’re sad, or even just make them shake their butts is a privilege.  I’m a single father balancing a very demanding career, making music, and still creating my legacy for something my son can leverage for himself one day.  That motivates me more than anything.  Like many people I started out just making dope stuff with my friends.  Now I’m making dope stuff happen with my friends.”

Dvalor’s single “Let It Go feat. Ink The Urban Myth” drops September 3: smarturl.it/jiwstx. The full album, As Long As I’m Alive, will be available soon.  Keep up to date with this and more on Valor’s social media: Instagram: @cantstopdvalor; Twitter: @youaintdvalor; Facebook: @dvalor

The Roaring ’20s: Time traveling with Birt & Harley

Photo credit: Alexandra Ionescu

Picture yourself walking into a place and being transported to 1920s Paris as you hear two acoustic guitars playing, sweet harmonies traveling through your consciousness, and laughter echoing softly. That is the essence of the new jazz duo, Birt & Harley. This twosome, made up of John Birt (of the French 75 Dixieland Band and Craic was Mighty) and Dylan Block-Harley (of MisSter Dylan and the Horse-Eyed Men), is on a mission to play for anyone, anywhere, bringing timeless music with them and maybe even a puppet or two. I recently chatted with them about how the universe and beloved Providence bar Nick-a-Nees conspired to bring them together, how jazz and folk music have merged, and how grateful they are for songs that just keep on giving.

Mayte Antelo-Ovando (Motif): Don’t you have two songs about this bar, Dylan?

Dylan Block-Harley: Yeah, at least one song…

John Birt:  One was written at the bar.

DB-H: Yeah! John was here actually when “Shit-faced in Space” happened.

MA-O: Really???

JB: It was myself and Ryan Clark. We were hanging out, and we started riffing about getting shit-faced in space…

DB-H: And I was like, give me a napkin!

MA-O: Ha! I was going to ask you how you met, tell me more. 

DB-H: We we’re making out at a party one time and I was like, “What’s your name?” 

JB: We were both playing in bands around Providence, and [I] was looking for someone to open [our] set. I was in an Irish band called Craic was Mighty. And we wanted someone else to play with us. We were playing [Nick-a-Nees] pretty often, and we were the only … hip Irish band in Providence. Don’t quote me on that. 

DB-H: You can quote ME on that. They were the only… 

MA-O: I just wanna pause at “hip Irish band”, haha.

JB: I know right?

DB-H: Busted!

JB: So, we were having some fun and playing Irish music and Dylan was playing in a group with his brother (Noah Block-Harley of the Horse-Eyed Men), they were playing in Tik Tok Laboratories. 

DB-H: That’s right.

JB: Tik Tok days… it was beautiful. The first time that I saw him playing he was playing drums, he had a washboard… and all kinds of percussion. And there were puppets involved!

DB-H: Puppets on my shoulders. 

JB: We played all over the place together (Nick-a-Nee’s, the Penalty Box), which was a lot of fun. We played the best St. Patrick’s Day ever at the MET! Tik Tok Laboratories and the Seven Star General played. It was wild… It was one of the last shows that the Craic was Mighty did all together because then everybody was kind of moving off. Half the band became farmers, and the other half of the band are still musicians. 

DB-H: Haha. As is the way with most hip Irish bands. 

JB: I wish I was making this up, but that’s exactly what happened.

MA-O: I wonder if becoming farmers is something in ya’ll’s future at some point.

JB: It might be, maybe we’re just delayed in [starting]. 

DB-H: Fuck no! Quote me on that, fuck no. 

JB: [So], Dylan was doing a lot of his solo music.  And [it] just blew me away. I loved it… His first solo album, I needed it in my life when it came out. And then after that we were always in touch with each other,  jamming on tunes every time I was [back] in town.

DB-H: John’s been gone for a while. [He’s] super local — born and raised in Pawtucket. But has been gone for the past eight years. So, when he came back, it was like, he’s not from here, sort of. He’s been gone so long that I became the de facto booking agent, which is crazy, because I’m shit at booking.  

JB: I did grad school in Connecticut, stayed [there] for a while and then meandered down to Virginia. I was in Richmond for about two years. 

DB-H: He would come back. We’d hang out. We’d drink some beers, make some food. [He’d bring] his Nintendo Switch over. I felt like I was at my friend’s house, but I was at my house and my friend brought Zelda. And I’d be like, John, come back, move home.

MA-O: I saw you with the 75 Dixieland Band once, and then I blinked and you got married, were on the road and got a dog. 

JB: I had a wild year. I was in Richmond as all the pandemic stuff happened. My partner and I decided, let’s convert a van and travel across the country. We did that and then we were on the road for seven months, got a dog in Utah. 

DB-H: #vanlife 

JB: And then once the vaccinations were out, we [decided] let’s go home because now we can actually see our family and friends. And we’re kind of settling here. We’re in the process of becoming actual Rhode Islanders.

DB-H: That’s Rhode Island. Just when you think you’re out, it pulls you back in.  

MA-O: Yes!

JB: The second I got back into town, the first person I called was Dylan. I was like, “Do you want to hear some jazz tunes I’ve been playing?”

MA-O: Wait, so is that how this new duo came to be? That phone call? 

BOTH: Basically, yeah. 

DB-H: We’ve played music together on and off over the years. And then John said, “Let’s do this Gypsy jazz stuff I’ve been playing a lot.” And I love Django Reinhardt. And drums are my heart. So John taught me how to play drums on a guitar, which meant learning a bunch of chords I didn’t know. John’s an incredible teacher. The joke at first (which is really true), is that all proceeds go directly to my music lessons. 

JB: I gave him the crash course on how to play rhythm guitar. And we’ve been having so much fun with it. A lot of Dylan’s music transfers over to jazz so easily. You know, it’s either hardcore folk idioms, which you can still do in a jazzy way, or his tunes are just like, hey- if you add this note to it, it’s jazz!

MA-O: Oh wait, wait. For the people that don’t know, like myself, what do you add to something that makes it jazz? 

DB-H: Oh watch out! Here we fucking go! 

JB: Alright, sit down. 

MA-O: Just cause I’m curious! 

JB: So, the first thing that I was showing him was basically [that] anytime you see a G major chord, where you would normally play you’re adding the six and the nine. If you’re playing a G chord, you’re playing the sixth degree above it, which is the note E. And you’re also adding the nine to it, which is the note A. So, it ends up being really nice on the guitar, because you’ve got six strings, besides playing just the G chord: G, B, and D, you can add an A and an E. And those are unoffensive notes. Those are notes that will spice up your harmony, and make you sound like you know what you’re doing. And also, you can do lots of other things over that. Notice there’s no sevens in that chord. If you add a seventh to it, it doesn’t matter. It could be a minor seventh, it could be a major seventh. I gave him a lot of tricks that [are] failsafe. You really can’t go wrong.

DB-H: The only word that I really absorbed from that was the word “spice.”

JB: Ha. It’s all just different colors that you put on chords. So basically, I made rules. Whenever you play this, you always add that. And he got really good at that. And it’s been a deep dive for me, because the past year, I got obsessed with Django Reinhardt stuff, and I’ve always been obsessed with Louis Armstrong — old school jazz tunes, just the standards, the tunes that you can keep playing every other way and they’re so good.

DB-H: I think that’s one thing. We’ve been doing these weekly gigs for [a] couple months … at least three months. I don’t know, time is weird. But the more we play them, the deeper [we] get into them. And I just had an immense gratitude today, like wow, thank you to the people who wrote these songs that have been around forever. These songs are amazing. And they’re still relevant.

JB: All of them still speak to you. 

DB-H: They’re still relevant. Whether it’s the music or the music and the words. So yeah, the power of…

JB: … a really good song just keeps going, you know? 

MA-O: Yeah! And now y’all have started playing at Nick-a-Nees and also at the Royal Bobcat.

JB: We kind of looked at Nick-a-Nees as the place to try things out. This is homefield. You come here and you walk in and all the bartenders wink at you and say, “Hey!” I feel like here’s where we try out the most random stuff. We’re just like, we haven’t tried this before-

BOTH: Does this work?

DB-H: [And] I think… our goal is to be able to play anywhere for anyone. So, we’re happy being flies on the wall, or part of the wallpaper; and we’re happy being the center of attention, you know? We’ve played a number of different situations, we played a wedding recently. Would love to do more of those, [we’re] open to birthday parties, backyard barbecues…

JB: We’ve played at some rock venues. We are hilarious. 

DB-H: And you can quote John on that! 

JB: That was too much fun. When we show up and it’s a bunch of guys wearing really tight pants, doing their thing, we show up and we’re like, this is Louis Armstrong. 

DB-H: There’s something nice about just being unabashedly like, Imma croon a song for you right now. 

JB: It’s basically the same thing that they’re doing. We’re just doing it from different angles.

MA-O: Yeah, that’s true. You’re all basically playing music to engage an audience, but the style is very different.

DB-H: Yeah, totally. I would say, at Nick-a-Nees we’ll banter in-between [songs] and kind of bullshit with the audience. And the Bobcat is much more, we’re playing music as part of the evening that’s happening.

JB: Yeah, we’re kind of setting the scene. The Bobcat [is] a place [where] they’ve thought really carefully about the type of things they want on the menu, the ambience, the lighting, the type of furniture they have in there. They’re kind of recreating a time, and we’re playing music from that time. You really can walk through the door, close your eyes for a second and be like, oh it’s 1920.

DB-H: Like Jetsons 1920.

JB: Yeah, kind of.

MA-O: When I first heard y’all play I thought, this is totally something that I would hear walking on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

JB: Yeah, and we’re in the busking business, too. If you want to set us up outside of your shop, [we’ll do it].

MA-O: That’s good information for people!

JB: We make a scene wherever we’re allowed to make a scene. 

DB-H: We challenge you to invite us to play somewhere that we won’t play. We’ll play anywhere. That’s what I meant to say: WE WILL PLAY ANYWHERE. 

After a bit of back and forth between Dylan and I, where we attempted to teach John some Spanish slang, I asked them how their new band’s name, Birt & Harley happened.  

DB-H: Noah suggested the name. We were just trying to figure out names and… 

JB: We had a lot of fun trying to come up with names. One of them came up recently. I was camping in Maine, and [there’s] a place where you [can] dig for clams and I was like, oh we were almost the Clam Diggers! Which is a good name, but not for what we’re doing.

DB-H: It’s a fun name when you’re thinking about names.

MA-O: It’s a fun exercise. 

JB: The Johnny Cakes.

DB-H: The Potholes.. yeah, I can see you don’t like any of these names, Mayté. 

JB: We were looking for something that was reminiscent of the time period that we’re playing music from. And a lot of those bands [were] usually “so and so and some other stuff”, and we have strong names, so it’s not a bad thing to put them out there.

DB-H: Birt & Harley also feels applicable across multiple settings for sure.

MA-O: I think that when you say your name, it feels, I don’t know, like a legit band.

DB-H: Haha. It gives us room for puppetry too. Scrooge and Marley, Birt and Harley. 

MA-O: That’s great!

J&D: Just wait for our Christmas show.

DB-H: Everyone is invited…

MA-O: Good to know! What else do you want to share about your band?

JB: It’s acoustic music. It really is just two guitars and two guys singing. You can do it unplugged, depending on the venue that we’re in. So, it really is kind of an unabashed, this is what we sound like.

DB-H: I would also say that, I think I speak for both of us, I feel very much in it for the long haul with this, and what we’re doing right now is phase one of whatever is going to happen. Come hang out while we figure out what the fuck we’re doing. It’s gonna be fun.

JB: You’re gonna hear songs that maybe you [recognize, and] you’re gonna hear some old school songs that you’ve never heard before. I guarantee it.

DB-H: And also, come request songs because John is a whiz at making charts for songs. So, if there’s [something] you wanna hear, request it and we’ll figure it out. 

JB: We also both enjoy the challenge of playing different styles of music. Recently, we were playing at a gig and they [said], “Oh, we really would like some Latin jazz. We want some bossa nova kind of stuff.” And we [said]- we can make that happen. So, we learned a whole set and now it’s part of our [repertoire]. We can’t put that bolero away. We love that bolero.

DB-H: Also, John and I have the same funny bone. Basically you’re looking at two Ned Flanders, who grew up on Mystery Men.

JB: We constantly quote the same movie. And I’m like, what does that say about us?

MA-O: Besides the fact that y’all have found each other? I think that’s great.

JB: I mean, that explains a lot of things. 

DB-H: God led us to each other, Mayté. 

MA-O: Yes, haha. The universe put you together, I believe that for sure.  

DB-H: It was written. 

JB: Besides talking about music, we constantly talk about-in-between songs. What are we gonna [say]? How are we gonna either get the audience on our side, or at least mildly entertain them? We’re always thinking about those things because that’s part of the show. 

MA-O: It sounds like it’s sort of off the cuff, but it’s not.

DB-H: Yeah, phase one. 

JB: But honestly, it’s somewhat planned improv, but it never goes the way we thought it was gonna go. 

DB-H: I think phase two is gonna be puppets. 

MA-O: I can’t wait to see that. So, I know you’re playing jazz music, but what would you say about traditional music?

DB-H: I’d say a  number of the songs we play are “Trad Jazz.” 

MA-O: Okay, but what’s that?

JB: We play jazz standards. Songs that if you walked into a club and mentioned [them] to anybody, they would know the songs.

DB-H: “On The Sunny Side of the Street”, “Ain’t Misbehavin”- songs that are in the American jazz standard repertoire. There’s a couple books- like the Real Book. Right? 

JB: Right. Which were collections of the popular tunes that you needed to know, in order to just… play out. We play a lot of those songs. We don’t necessarily play the book version of it. If I’m learning a song, I usually just go straight to the recording and basically imitate exactly what they did and then [discern] what fits our voice better? How do we want to intro this? 

MA-O: Right, maybe change a key or something? 

JB: Yeah, yeah.

DB-H: John is very highly studied in music. I fluked into music because my dad is a musician. And I have a good ear,  I grew up around it. I studied drums for a while, but I didn’t take a deep dive into it. And John has taken the deepest dive of anybody in my personal circle. So, when I say he can transcribe anything, I mean he can. John also arranged a horn section on a song that I wrote, and we recorded that down in Charlottesville. He was basically in the room conducting. That’s a hard skill. I mean, for me that’s a superpower. John’s a superhero in my life. 

MA-O: I know you play the guitar, bass, all the 5,000 instruments that you and your brother play. But in terms of performance, I see you as a drummer. I like that you said John taught you how to translate drumming into a guitar. 

JB: That’s what’s really cool about the style of music that we play. In Gypsy jazz and early jazz in general, there’s no drums. And the reason for that is that they couldn’t actually record drums. When you were in a recording studio, there was a needle going on the wax, and if you hit a drum the needle would go flying off. So, when you listen to early Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five, there’s no drums involved, it’s all horns. You had one instrument plucking away at the rhythm, and that was either a banjo or a guitar. What I ended up playing when I moved down to Virginia was music without a drummer. A lot of the venues we were playing didn’t want drums.

MA-O: That makes you in some ways a little bit more versatile, you can play in more places.

JB: When we play in a place [the music] doesn’t absorb everything around it, you know? When a rock band plays it’s loud, engulfing and some drummers only have one volume. I like [the] style of music that fits whatever room it’s in. I think we both get that from our experience in folk music. This is acoustic, it fits in this particular space, and when you need to make it louder, you just put a microphone on it. 

MA-O: You mentioned Gypsy jazz. What’s the difference between Gypsy jazz and other kinds of jazz?

DB-H: Well, I’ll start off by saying [that] “gypsy” is a hot term for some people, [understandably]. So, when we say Gypsy jazz, some people say, can we find a more neutral way to describe what you’re doing? 

MA-O: Oh, interesting.

DB-H: Another way to say it is “Jazz Menouche.”

Gypsy jazz is often referred to as “jazz manouche” (the French name), and “hot jazz” is another common descriptor. 

DB-H: Per my understanding, [it’s] a form of jazz that made its way from America, [and] was filtered through nomadic people, through Paris.

JB: Jazz happens throughout the world, and while it’s happening in the U.S., the Delta Blues are happening, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington [are performing]. People are absorbing it in other parts of the world through recorded music. So once recorded music starts going overseas, what happens in Paris is that nomadic people who have folk traditions mostly through dance music start hearing this new style of music … hearing things that are similar to their own stuff but in a different language. It’s a jazz language that uses [what] they’re doing, but differently. So, when you’re talking about- if you’re calling it Gypsy jazz, or jazz manouche, it’s basically folk music meeting jazz. So the stuff that Django really absorbed [was] the “musette” style while he was in France, he was playing in dance bands. He was a kid, and he was a banjo virtuoso too. 

Django Reinhardt was of Roma descent, often described as a “Romani” guitarist. He was born in Liberchies, Belgium. At the age of 8 he and his mother’s Manouche community settled near the Choisy gate of “Old Paris,” and as an adult he became known for creating the first ever Gypsy jazz band, the Quintette du Hot Club de France (alongside violinist Stéphane Grappelli). 

JB: [Django] was proud of [the Romani] tradition. Whenever he made enough money, he just went back on the road. He wasn’t trying to get out of the nomadic lifestyle. 

DB-H: There is definitely a negative connotation with the word “gypsy” [though]. It’s used by some people as a slur. But, when we say Gypsy jazz, I would like people to find a hint of pride in that. It’s proud music and it’s vital. I mean, it’s still here. You play it and people immediately react to it. So when we play, it’s a flag [acknowledging the music’s history]. It’s a proud tradition that we are grateful to be able to borrow from and … play.  

JB: We’re playing real Gypsy jazz. I found the oldest recordings of some of the songs and transcribed them … They’re songs you cannot hear anywhere else. No one is jamming on Gypsy jazz waltzes. I can’t get enough of it. It’s really fun music. Some of it sounds very classical in style. Some of it [is] folk music, but with different rules. 

DB-H: There’s a real transportive quality. For me playing it, I can be feeling one way, and then as soon as I start playing it, I immediately feel the way that the music makes me feel. I bow to that feeling. And I think it does that to a space too. Which is really special thing to get to do and be a part of.  

MA-O: Absolutely. Well, and I would imagine, given everything that’s happened in the last year and a half, to be able to come together and create those kinds of experiences for people, that’s very meaningful.

JB: We’re playing a type of music that really just existed in social settings. It’s music that’s meant to be played in places with people. After a year of not being able to do that, it was really beautiful to just get together with someone and be like, this is music for people. 

Find @birtandharley on Instagram, and go see their shows on Wednesdays at the Royal Bobcat (7pm to 9:30pm) and on Saturdays at Nick-a-Nees (4pm to 7pm).