From Isolation to Consolation: The pandemic recordings of David Summit

Personal Summit (Source: David Summit)

In the singer-songwriter tradition, the Earth’s elevation often stands as a measure of life’s ups and downs. Merle Haggard was always on a mountain (when he fell). While Burl Ives left a legacy down in the valley, Johnny Cash looked for the man on the hill and Dolly Parton found comfort in her Tennessee mountain home. More recently, Iron & Wine went upward over the mountain, Dom Flemons went backward up another one, and Conor Oberst looked inward from a peak he saw as upside-down. In a state known better for its sea level than its great heights, David Summit began to chart his musical ascent from a low point in a Rhode Island attic.

A former guitarist in Trophy Wives, a pop-punk band that played several dates on the 2015 Vans Warped Tour, Summit was in his final year at Rhode Island College studying classical guitar and music education when he suffered a concussion. The impact of his injury left Summit feeling like a different person, he said, and created a sense of distance from family and friends. In solitude beneath the eaves of the roof at his Warwick home, he wrote musical arrangements and lyrical accompaniments over a period of ten months, between November 2017 and July 2018. 

“It was a lonely time in which I spent traveling inward to dark places of my being, and allowing that dark part to speak and do the writing,” said Summit.

After emerging from reclusivity, Summit has released his debut, Our June, Us All, in 2019. The solitary accomplishment swirls with the layers of an ensemble, borrowing across genres to deliver a despairing yet spirited album with a poetry and musicality that shifts between sparing and soaring. In the wake of his seclusion, Summit said he found community at a regular open mic night for writers, musicians, and other artists at Twenty Stories bookstore (107 Ives St., Providence). He asked his new friends to contribute their own touches to his followup album — “a sort of artifact of our meeting,” he said. In all, sixteen collaborators contributed vocals or instruments in sessions recorded mostly as a series of live performances, without cuts or edits.

“I don’t really trust art that isn’t raw,” said Summit. “Art can be sold, but art isn’t selling anything.”

The resulting record, In All My Travelin’, reveals a more vibrant, optimistic side of Summit, anchored by a toe-tapping, harmonica-driven rhythm and a busker’s knack for storytelling. Released on March 28, 2020, less than three weeks after Providence venues shuttered due to Covid-19, Summit shifted his record release party from AS220 to an Instagram livestream.

“I do find it ominously ironic that it was released during such a dark time in which traveling is not only limited, but restricted,” said Summit while abiding by the state’s shelter-in-place order.

On the heels of Travelin’, Summit released four more albums since the beginning of the pandemic. All In or Nothing collects the folksy B-sides left over from the Twenty Stories sessions. Only Joy, recorded with an artist identified as Lillian Rose, serves as an acoustic act of adoration for Summit’s infant daughter that doubles as a soundtrack to a film of family footage. Even Split, which Summit describes as a “pretty sorrowful” album and “the ‘looking in’ to Travelin’s ‘looking out,’” opens a richer window on his internal state, with glimmers of possibility still peeking through. In early October, on Summit’s 28th birthday, he released Red Fox at the Whippoorwill, his first collection of covers, steering from Bob Dylan to Blind Pilot.

While Whipporwill is titled in reference to the motel cabin in Lake George, N.Y., where Summit recorded the tracks, it also borrows from his closing rendition of Hank Williams: “Hear that lonesome whippoorwill / He sounds too blue to fly.” Stepping into his choice of covers with the comfort of a worn coat, Summit unfolds the rises and falls of others with his own touch. Playing John Prine, he reflects, “Hey, how lucky can one man get.” And like Don Williams and Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia before him, Summit excavates ground trodden by Townes Van Zandt to dwell in a state against which “All the mountains and the rivers / And the valleys can’t compare.”

“I am continuing to work on new projects all of the time,” said Summit. “I’m looking forward to seeing what opportunities open up as the world does.”

The recordings of David Summit: Our June, Us All (2019), In All My Travelin’ (2020), All In or Nothing (2020), Only Joy (2021), Even Split (2021), Red Fox at the Whippoorwill (2021).

PVD Drum Troupe Rests: Popular COVID musical event has gone dormant

For much of the pandemic, on Thursday evenings you could encounter a whimsical gathering called the Providence Drum Troupe improvising a rhythm section upon the new pedestrian bridge in Providence. A socially distanced entertainment option during the pandemic, the group grew organically, attracting performers like Jessie Jewel, whose elaborate costumes sometimes include a 12’ wingspan, or AJ Salemi, a musician and fire dancer, and, of course drummers of all experience levels, from newbie Jamie Bagley to the group’s progenitor David Lee Black. On occasion, jugglers, performers, stilt walkers, mermaids and more have joined in.

Summer Time, when the drumming was permitted

This collection of people looking to jam and kick back grew organically, through word of mouth and notes carried through the air, back when a walkabout was an act of social expression, and it livened-up pandemic Providence; providing levity, music and, perhaps most importantly, the charm of the unexpected. (See https://motifri.com/a-different-beat-the-providence-drum-troupe-takes-it-to-the-bridge/)

After being established, and as the world is gradually returning somewhat to normal, the group began to organize, lending itself out to events and celebrations – including a surprise performance at Motif’s RI Music Awards this year – but they continued to assemble at the Michael Van Leesten pedestrian bridge.

Recently, the troupe was asked to stop performing on the bridge due to the lack of any kind of performance permit. “Because it was never really planned, we hadn’t pursued that,” says Black, who says he understands the concern. “We were out there with drums and playing music.”

However, getting a permit hasn’t proved easy. The bridge is controlled by the city — and it has had a bit of a controversial history, starting as the Providence pedestrian and bike bridge, with officers assigned to prevent bikes from crossing it. That was resolved a while ago, but the land on either side of the bridge is managed by the I-195 Redevelopment Commission, requiring permits to coordinate multiple agencies. According to Black, “We are trying to work through what’s needed, and from what authority. We’re optimistic that we can work it out. Everyone’s been friendly and supportive, but we know it will take some time.”

All those involved seem to hope that the Creative Capital will find a way to enable this organic feat of creativity to resume by the time good weather returns. Meanwhile, you may still see the troupe around town. They are making appearances at events, and are banging out completely mobile performances from time to time, weather permitting.

Learn more about the Providence Drum Troupe at www.providencedrumtroupe.com.

Mr. Five-Neck Guitar: An interview with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen

Okee dokee folks…
Do you remember the part in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when the character Mike Damone was trying to sell Cheap Trick tickets to a girl in the bleachers? He says to her,“Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?” He then runs through singing a few lines of “Surrender” and “Dream Police” with a little air guitar accompaniment. We don’t find out if she buys the tickets or not, as he is interrupted by Stacy Hamilton played, by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who tells him she is pregnant. Well, you don’t have to travel back to 1982 and deal with Damone to get tickets for Cheap Trick in concert, you can simply hit up the Providence Performing Arts Center for Cheap Trick’s November 13th show. I was fortunate to chat with guitarist/songwriter of Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen, by phone the other day. For those of you who don’t know, he is the one who sports the flipped brim ball cap and plays the multi neck guitars.

Cheap Trick – Rick Nielsen is third from the left. Photo by Martin Thompson

Rick called me from his home in Illinois. He had just returned from a Cheap Trick show in Cancun and mentioned they have two more Mexican shows this month. We had a fun conversation that bounced all over the place and had both of us laughing a lot. I told him that I used to go see Cheap Trick back in the 70’s and that I was one of those old guys. He replied, “If you’re old imagine how old I am!” I told him about the time I saw Cheap Trick open for Blue Oyster Cult at the Cape Cod Coliseum and how I literally walked into Cheap Trick bassist, Tom Petersson in the lobby. “What did he do?” exclaimed Rick, and he followed with, “Did he punch you or did you punch him?”

I wanted to know about his famous five-neck guitar. I asked how much it weighed. He told me simply, “too much!” I brought up that I have Gretsch with a block though neck that I think is heavy and he responded, “That’s a hollow body, that’s not heavy! I have a Gretsch Malcolm Young Model and that’s heavy! You must be a weakling, not one to carry a five-neck. The five-neck weighs a lot. I tell people I used to be two inches taller. I didn’t need to shrink as an old man but now there’s extra shrinkage.” As a guitarist I was curious as to what the tunings of the five-neck guitar are. Rick said, “Well, I have three five-necks so that’s fifteen necks. The first two have 36 strings and the other has 38, it has a mando-cello on it.” We went on to discuss his guitar picks and his pick flinging prowess. “I used to be better, I tore my rotator cuff a couple of months ago. I can’t even take my clothes off or on so I’ve been wearing the same clothes for months!” I asked how he can play guitar with a torn rotator cuff and he reported that, “It doesn’t affect my playing it affects my pick throwing which is more important than playing!” I told Rick that I still have quite a few Cheap Trick guitar picks that I caught back in the 70’s. He said, “I’ve never sold one of them but other people have. I order 60,000 at a time. I’ve never sold one but have given a million away”.

The original drummer Bun E. Carlos has had a complicated relationship with the band over the years. He had to curtail his drumming because of back problems. This caused issues with the band which led to lawsuits. The resolution of all this was that technically Bun E. Carlos is still a member of the band but no longer plays with them live. Nielsen’s son, Daxx, now plays drums for the band. I asked what Daxx’s age was and Rick answered, “He never told me. You don’t think I talk to him, do you? I think he’s old enough to drink though.”

I recounted a story I vaguely remembered reading in Circus or Creem Magazine about a controversy that involved the band Kansas and the listing of Cheap Trick’s name on a venue marquee. I asked him about that. His response was, “Yeah, they didn’t want anything known as a cheap trick out there. I mean it was Las Vegas, of all the cities in the world.” I wondered if it was the band or the venue that had the problem with the name. He answered. “It was the venue, we did a lot of shows with Kansas, the band were good beer drinking hellions back then, until they found God and they quit the band. One of them became a minister.” I commented, “Oh, Geez” and Rick said, “No, Oh, Jesus!”

A while back I saw Nielsen on the show American Pickers so I asked about that and commented that he must have quite the hoard. His response was, “Oh, Oh, yeah, I have a couple warehouses, a couple garages, a couple houses. I got a lot of stuff! Those are good guys, they didn’t even see my house or the other warehouse stuff, they only saw a fraction.” Again, as a guitarist, I wanted to know how many guitars he owns so I asked, “What is your current guitar count?”. He answered, “Well, I try to keep it right around 500, but I screwed up; I bought four last month. I just enjoy them. Better than blowing it on fast cars.” I came back with, “If I had the money I would probably buy a lot as well.” Rick replied, “I started with one, just like everyone, and I hardly ever buy new ones. Always used, they already have scrapes and scratches all over them so I don’t have to do that.” I pressed him to find which guitar was his favorite but he told me “It’s like picking my favorite kid or asking which guitar I would want on a desert island. What would I be going to a desert island for?” He did tell me about one of the top axes in his collection. “I’ve got a ’63 Merle Travis that they only made three of but now I found out they made four. They were 2000 bucks in 1963 but if you had that kind of money you could have bought a Volkswagon or a Mustang…so it really didn’t sell well. That’s one of the rarest things I have.”   

I said to him, “You’re 72 years old now, you don’t have anything to prove, you’ve had hits, success, you’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you don’t have to do this anymore so you must do it for the love of it, right?” He came back, “You mean riding in a plane everyday and getting frisked at the airport? Playing is fun, the traveling kind of blows but I like to do it, and I get to talk to guys like you and tell you about the five-neckers! How many strings were on it again? Who cares about this stuff other than guys like you?” I countered with “GUITAR PLAYERS! I could probably talk to you for an hour about that one guitar but we don’t have that kind of time.” He shot back, “I don’t really know that much about them! I am more of a songwriter than a guitar player anyway. There are always these super-whiz guys that can play rings around me. I’ve played in Nashville and every time I go there everyone in the audience is better than you are, well, better than me, I’m afraid to hit the first note.” To that I said, “I’ve seen technically proficient guitar players and while they may be good it’s all technique and no art.” He acknowledged, “Well, that’s why I stayed a songwriter, I can take that kind of criticism. Jeff Beck is my favorite guitar player, since the 60’s, I know him, he actually bought one of my guitars, we played with him in Germany and I told him he’s my favorite and he said ‘but you’ve got the hits!’” I agreed and said that “Surrender” has been referenced in movies and it’s even part of the theme song for That ‘70s Show, so I asked how that came about. He told me,“Originally they wanted ‘In The Streets’ by Big Star or ‘Surrender’ but they chose the Big Star song the first year but realized that they should have done “Surrender”, so we did it but we had to do it the same tempo as the other one so it fit in there right, we had to do a different arrangement, so we just added ‘We’re all alright to it”, and it made it more to go with the show.”

We were running out of time and had to wrap the conversation. I declared that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to get to his show as I had my own to play and he razzed me, “Gee, what a true fan you are, not even coming to our show! You’d better write something good about us then!” I really wanted to see them so I asked if, off the top of his head, he knew where he would be the next night. He told me that he used to remember every detail when they were out on the road, flights, what airport has the greatest hot dog and so on but wasn’t sure about the schedule. Then he said that when he was a kid he had memorized the Presidents in order and began to recite them to me. “Washington, Adams, Jefferson…” He went on until I stopped him. I HAD to ask him one question that my girlfriend wanted to know: What the KISS connection was. He responded, “You come home and your parents are listening to KISS albums. It’s like the most embarrassing thing you can think of. Every kid thinks their parents are weird, parents are hippies-that’s weird, parents are holy-rollers-that’s weird, they’re trying to be your best friend-that’s weird. Everybody had weird parents, but just the thought of them listening to music that you weren’t supposed to listen to was weird. And it was pretty amazing that KISS asked us out on the road in 1977, that was a big plus for us because that’s when the Japanese press saw us which was big…and Gene [Simmons] loved it, because any reference to KISS was a money maker, love those guys!”

Cheap Trick will be at PPAC on Saturday, November 13th. For more about the show “Reach Out” to: PPACRI.org. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Let’s Get Weird: Keep On Moving

Finally… there’s a month with a full calendar of upcoming dates listed in advance to preview. Anyways just a quick heads up to those sending me your shows and releases, because of recent deadlines changes, I need to know AT LEAST a month and a half in advance when it comes to plugging stuff. Thanks and the email address to send stuff is, as always, at the bottom. So now, let’s get weird!

GrandEvolution — Glow

GrandEvolution has had a remarkable run as a band. In the last fifteen years they’ve put out six full-length albums (I’m not sure there is anyone locally that can match that) and probably played hundreds of shows around New England. Their latest and greatest album, Glow, is more delicate and introspective compared to the 90’s grunge rock superkicks of their first few albums. Singer/guitarist Sarah Kenyon is really great at weaving different elements into her songwriting. A tune like the opening “Finding Beauty” the rails down the heartbreak hill of learning to accept some dreams disintegrate with a crazy “Freebird” like guitar solo.  “Shattered,” “In Ruins,” and “Nightmare” are all dreamcore rockers. My favorite is the title track, for both the message of overcoming gossip shysters and the hook swaying in the reverb. Glow is available on all streaming services as well as CDs and vinyl at www.grandevolution.com.

Charlie Greene — Talk To The Old Man EP

The frontman of Less Than A Felony, Charlie Greene, has released his solo debut, Talk to the Old Man, which is available now on all streaming services. The EP kicks off with the title track and about minute long blues intro before hitting its stride somewhere between the riffing of the Stones and the bounce of The Undertones. I was disappointed that “Open Your Heart” wasn’t a cover of the Madonna song but I’ll live — also it’s a sweet folk ballad. My favorite here, “Never Made It to Graceland,” comes off as an underdog western ballad that somehow still rocks thanks to Greene’s guitar work. More Than A Felony, on Talk To The Old Man, Greene goes off on a full on sonic crimewave. 

Jesse Malin — Sad and Beautiful World (Wicked Cool Records)

Go big or go home in an alternative universe could be the story of Jesse Malin’s new double album, Sad and Beautiful World. In truth, the followup to Malin’s Lucinda Williams-produced breakthrough, Sunset Kids, is a double album because Malin, like the rest of us, had to go home last year. The first record, called the “roots rock” album, showcases his mellower singer-songwriter material. The second album is “radicals” showcasing Malin’s rock ‘n’ roll heart. I guess it isn’t all that different from what Deer Tick did a few years ago when they entered their condiment era.  My favorites on the “roots rock” side are “Before You Go” and “State of the Art.” “State of The Art” could really have been on either side tempo wise and has a great lyric in the chorus with “living in the state of the art, while everything is falling apart.” Some of my favorites on the “radical” side are “A Little Death”, a homage to Blondie’s disco era, and “Dance with the System” which is like Goat’s Head Soup era Stones rearranging Cheap Trick’s “Taxman, Mr. Thief.” My favorite tune from both albums comes from the “radical” side in the waltzing stomp “The Way We Used To Roll,” with lyrics like “I wrote a great story about all I could be, Tony Montana has nothing on me” showcasing the influence films have on Malin’s tunes. 

Guided By Voices — It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them! (Rockathon Records) 

Depending on how you count side projects (with the same members just recording under a different name), It’s Not Them. It Could Be Them. It Is Them is either Guided By Voices fifth or sixth full length album since the dawn of the pandemic. Technology and the fact that singer/songwriter Robert Pollard is the most prolific writer in the history of rock ‘n’ roll makes this possible. On the new album, “Flying Without A License”is like stoner rock for aliens. “High In The Rain” doesn’t sound anything like stoner rock as it rocks like a classic GBV pop with a touch of prog with the keyboards. “I Wanna Monkey” is an indie rock dance epidemic complete with horns. “Black And White Eyes In A Prism” and “I Share a Rhythm,” like much of the album, apparently have some magic power which grow on you the more they’re played — the louder, the more severe the condition. 

5 Shows that Don’t Blow

Titus Andronicus 

It feels like things are getting back to normal when Titus Andronicus bring their inventive indie rock stomp back to town.

Titus Andronicus will rock The Met Cafe on November 4th. 

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express

Chuck Prophet is one of my favorite modern day songwriters with gems like “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” and “High as Johnny Thunders.” This is going to be a special night! 

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express will rock the Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River on November 4th. 

Vapors of Morphine 

Vapors of Morphine performs the music of “low rock” pioneers Morphine, utilizing the ethereal, hypnotic and expansive sounds popularized by the group in the nineties. 

Vapors of Morphine will perform at the Columbus Theatre on November 5th. 

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band

Rhode Island Rock Royalty with this show, get out those old Eddie and The Cruisers soundtracks to pre-game!

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band rock The Met Cafe on November 6th. 

Jets Can’t Land, Tall Teenagers, Joy Boys, and Jesse The Tree

This is the perfect local rock show for people that grew up listening to WBRU in the 80’s and early 90’s while taping 120 Minutes every Sunday night.

Jets Can’t Land, Tall Teenagers, Joy Boys, and Jesse The Tree will rock Askew on November 13th.

Even More Great Shows This Month!

The Mallett Brothers Band play The Met Cafe on November 5th. 

The FIXX and Fastball play the Narrows Center For The Arts on November 5th. 

The Wallflowers will be at the Greenwich Odeum on November 7th.

Dustbowl Revival are at the Narrows Center For The Arts on November 11th. 

Cheap Trick will rock the Providence Performing Arts Center on November 13th. 

Greg Hawkes (from The Cars) and Eddie Japan perform the music of The Cars at The Met Cafe on November 13th. 

Vanessa Carleton plays the Columbus Theatre on November 19th. 

The Mummies and Thee Fabulous Itchies will rock Askew in a garage rock show for the ages on November 21st.

The Schemers rock The Met Cafe on November 24th. 

Deer Tick will play the Columbus Theatre on November 24th and 26th.

The Silks and The Z-Boys at Askew on November 26th.

Anthony Green will rock The Met Cafe on November 26th. 

Bob Dylan brings the Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour to the Providence Performing Arts Center on November 26th. 

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

Roots Report

Okee dokee folks…There “Comes A Time” when I feel I HAVE to write about a concert that I am playing. This is not only for my benefit but for the benefit of the nine other folks who are playing as well as the hosting venue. I’m talking about the fifteenth anniversary celebration of my band, Forever Young: A Tribute to the Music of Neil Young happening at The Greenwich Odeum on Saturday, November 13. 

I never thought that a simple show I put together with friends would turn out to be such a successful and long-term collaboration. Back then, it was just a night where we took the pressure off ourselves and decided to perform Neil Young’s songs instead of our own. That show would (over) sell out, and led to offers from other venues to reproduce it. That original line-up included Mark Cutler, Becky Chace, Dan Lilley, Pete Vendettuoli, and me — playing in an “in-the-round” acoustic format. We later added bass and drums when we began to play theatres and concert halls. In our early days the band took home quite a few Motif Music Awards. Over the years the line-up has changed, but we have maintained our sound and stature. These days, besides myself, Lilley and Vendettuoli, (both Motif Award Winners for their other projects,) the band is rounded out by Amy Bedard, Gary St. Germain, and Sean Finnerty (who are both RI Music Hall of Fame members). 

We are a different kind of tribute — no one tries to mimic Neil Young’s voice. There is only one Neil Young and only he can sound like he does, anyone else just comes across like Jimmy Fallon’s foolish impersonation (sorry, it’s just bad). We present the music in our own voices. With five vocalists in the band, we all take turns with lead, while the others lend harmonies that add a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young feel. Our band promo is always tagged with, “Forever Young takes you back, gets you singing and dancing; puts those Neil Young songs in your head to linger long after the show!” 

This will be the first time in five years we will all be on the same stage again, and we hope you can make the show! Also coming up at The Odeum: John Waite, David Bromberg, Marshall Tucker, Maddie Poppe, Jill Sobule, Keb Mo, and more. For more, “Powderfinger” to: GreenwichOdeum.com

The Blackstone River Theatre’s (BRT) annual Homecoming Concert & Silent Auction fundraiser featuring Atwater~Donnelly, Cathy Clasper-Torch & Shelley Katsh, Stefan Couture, Andrew McIntosh & Kyle Forsthoff, Ed Sweeney, Kim Trusty, and the Vox Hunters takes place on Saturday, November 27th.  In addition to being their major fundraiser, it’s also a sampler of some of the acts who will be performing at future BRT events, and many are also BRT Heritage Arts Studio class instructors. There will also be a silent auction featuring CDs, jewelry, original artwork, Christmas items, and gift certificates. Paddle over to RiverFolk.org for more. You might want to mark these shows on your calendar as well: on 11/6 it’s good-time music and the barrel house hijinks of the Superchief Trio, the fiddle, vocal & guitar music of Hanneke Cassel, Keith Murphy, and Jenna Moynihan on 11/13; 11/19 delivers the cello and fiddle duo of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, and on 11/21 Le Vent du Nord brings progressive francophone folk to the theatre. Masks and vaccination cards are required for ALL. 

I received a notice from Thomas Piche about a benefit concert at The Met in Pawtucket on November 7 & 8. The two night show will be a celebration of and a benefit for Tony Gomes. According to Piche, “Tony has been well loved throughout the musical community, as a musician, sound engineer, and good friend, he’s having health problems and could use the help…he’s been around since day one in the RI musical world.” This will be an all ages event and donations are encouraged. Scheduled to perform on Sunday, November 7, from 1-11pm are: Quarter Pound, Counterfeit Cash, Nolan Leite, Eastern Medicine Singers, Kenny Sharp, Dopey Lopes, The Schemers, Steve Smith and The Nakeds, Big Boom Daddies, Wild Combo, Rick Santos & Tommy Maher and friends. On day 2, Monday the 8th from 6-11pm, Greg Piccolo and Heavy Juice, D’Vottes, Ponyboy, and Calamity Brain are on the bill. For more, band aid over to TheMetRI.com.

Stone Soup is once again presenting shows, and their performance space is now The Music Mansion at 88 Meeting Street in Providence. They have a monthly schedule of shows through May 2022. They finish this year with shows by Illinois singer-songwriter Joe Jencks on November 27 and “Good Time Harmony, String and Groove band” Rani Arbo and Daisy Mahem on December 11. Most shows start at 7pm, doors open 6:30. All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more ladle a little: StoneSoupCoffeehouse.org or MusicMansion.org

For all of you who celebrate the holidays and engage in gift giving, you will want to make any music gear purchases NOW. I have been getting many emails from suppliers that some items are having supply chain issues. Though the holidays should not be based on material things, that is what it has become. You can always shop locally and purchase music and craft items from local artists and musicians, or at pop-up markets such as the Blackstone River Theatre’s Holiday Craft Fair and Festival on Saturday, December 4th from 9am-3pm. 

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. Hope to see you at The Odeum on Nov 13 when we “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World!” www.JohnFuzek.com

Pavid Vermin: Punk Rock from the Basement

The pandemic era nightmare has had a few upsides, including a flurry of activity from those who make music at home. With his basement recording project, Pavid Vermin, Glenn Robinson makes homegrown punk rock for the masses. The fast-paced, three-chord tunes max out around two minutes and have a hard-edged yet throwback feel — think Descendents mixed with the Misfits.

Robinson doesn’t seek to stray too far from punk rock’s well-worn grooves, but he does find ways to put his own spin on things. September saw the release of Total Bummer, a split release with Phenotypes which featured the song “Rocky Point.” An ode to the carnival rides of yesteryear? No, but much better. 

It’s a song Robinson had in his back pocket since 2006 about an experience he had while working as a production assistant on The Education of Charlie Banks, the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. “One day I was driving Fred around in a minivan right by Rocky Point,” he said. “He was wearing a wig and preparing for a confrontation scene, and sort of pushing his arms out wildly, and saying like “get some,” to himself. “It took everything I had not to burst out laughing, and I wished there was someone there with me to witness this surreal moment.”

On each release, Robinson does all the recording and plays every instrument, making him the Prince of three chord punk. And sure, the arrangements are simple, but Robinson has an ear for the small stuff — a nice ascending bassline or some deftly-placed backing vocals can make all the difference.

He recently unlocked his vault to unveil a collection of odds and ends called Dumpster Diving. “Where Has Your Head Gone” is my pick of the litter, which features a doo-woop Ramones feel, and appears to be about how the Beach Boys made it work among all the dysfunction (”Mike Love was a total douche, and Brian Wilson was insane”).

After releasing two albums under his name in the mid-2010s, Robinson started Pavid Vermin as a way to strip things down and have more fun. “I found that it would be way too difficult to go back to the studio and do it the ‘right way,’” he said. “I went back to my natural state of going into the basement and not thinking too much, saying ‘let’s just write a tune, take it from point A to point B, and let the song be the song.”

Robinson has been making music since the late 90’s under different names, in groups like Unibrows, The Prozacs, and The Paranoids, mostly as a drummer — though ironically all the drums on the Pavid Vermin are programmed. 

A graphic designer by day, he also handles all of his album art, and has an Instagram account of fake vintage album cover parodies called Obscurest Vinyl

The pandemic seemed like the perfect time to realize an idea he’d had for a while: a collection of Lookout! Records artist cover songs. The album featured songs from Green Day, Operation Ivy, and Pansy Division, and proceeds went to The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project and the FANG Community Bail Fund. What’s even cooler, he got Chris Appelgren, former Lookout! president and graphic artist to draw the cover.

If all that’s not enough, Robinson released two albums in February in 2020. One, Cutting Corners, featured all originals with familiar titles like “Come Together,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Oh! Darling.” He uses these titles as a canvas and reinterprets classics like “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” (“she left her keys at home, and she’s really got to go”) and “Mean Mr. Mustard (“we all know how he is”).

Check out Pavid Vermin’s music on Bandcamp.

Women Trailblazers in Music: Film to Premiere at RIC

Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky — when thinking of great composers, there is no shortage of household names. It is unlikely, however, that many, if any that come to mind are female. Dr. Judith Lynn Stillman is remedying that imbalance. 

Stillman is a professor of music and RIC’s artist-in-residence and has been producing prolifically through the pandemic. The film of her quarantine opera, “Essential Business” which she composed towards the beginning of COVID-19, won first prize in the international OperaVision #OperaHarmony competition, and featured Metropolitan Opera star baritone Will Liverman. The film was also presented earlier this year at RIC. 

Most recently, Stillman was inspired to create a film about talented and inventive yet often forgotten female composers of the past.

“My talented mother and grandmother’s musical careers never took off in the male-dominated societies,” she said. “This propelled me to champion women composers who were repressed, undervalued, discouraged, and forgotten due to the politics of their existence.”

Women Trailblazers in Music: Noteworthy Composers, which premiers November 4 at Rhode Island College, depicts the extraordinary lives of these female composers across a span of twelve centuries and features their revolutionary compositions. Stillman cites her inspiration to create the film as part of her ongoing dedication to giving voices to the voiceless. The incredible ways these women changed music should have earned them recognition and acclaim, but instead, their music has been routinely forgotten when it should be lauded. Previously, she has also created projects addressing the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, refugees, artists of color, and the climate crisis. 

The film begins in Constantinople with the 9th century Byzantine composer Kassia. “She became an abbess, and that ensured the longevity of her music for twelve centuries,” Stillman said. “Hers was a calculated career choice. Many of her hymns are used in the Orthodox Church liturgy to this day.” 

She added, “Women composers had to be quite clever. For example, several of the featured composers [in the film] married music publishers to secure the survival of their music. Some adopted male pseudonyms. It took a lot of ingenuity.” 

She also emphasized the importance of recognizing Florence Price, another composer featured,and the first Black woman to have her compositions performed by a major symphony orchestra.

 “In Western music history, women were permitted to be the interpreters, but not the creators,” Stillman said. “They were not encouraged to pursue music professionally. Gender inequality has been rampant throughout the industry.” 

The world is still not close to redressing this historic imbalance, but progress is slowly being made. “The climate for female composers is still problematic as the dominance of male composers remains strong, but the tide is shifting. Slowly,” Stillman explained. “Statistics confirm that only a handful of male composers comprise the majority of all programming. We need to encourage and empower women and women composers and make a concerted — pun intended — effort to redress the historic imbalance and harness momentum for change. Many [women] should have earned a crucial place in Western history and should be household names, but are merely in the process of being fully recognized and celebrated.”

While COVID-19 caused difficulties in made producing the film challenging, it also gave her opportunities to build connections resulted in opportunities for building connections for Stillman. “The pandemic created the necessity for a remote platform,” Stillman said, which afforded me the opportunity to work with artists from all over North America. Los Angeles, Montreal, New York City, Chicago, Vancouver, Hartford, in addition to Boston and Providence. ,” says Stillman. She adds, “I am filled with so much gratitude to all my amazing colleagues who joined forces with me to be a part of this groundbreaking film and help bring the project to fruition.”

The film will premiere for the public on November 4th at 7:30 PM in Sapinsley Hall. Presented by FirstWorks and Artists & Activists Productions, it will be followed by a live concert featuring the works of both historical composers featured in the film and contemporary women composers as well. Admission is free, but registering for tickets in advance is mandatory because of social distancing and contact tracing protocols. Unregistered guests will not be admitted. Tickets can be obtained through the box office at Rhode Island College, by emailing boxoffice@ric.edu or calling (401) 456-8144.

The Return of The King…: Roots Report

Okee dokee folks…

The King, Elvis Presley, died in 1977. Soon thereafter a new Elvis emerged, Elvis Costello. The previous Elvis’ live reign lasted less than 25 years but has endured even in death. Elvis Costello has outlasted the King’s earthly tenure by decades. Even though there is little common ground between the two there is often confusion and comparison when speaking of any Elvis.

Just like “The King”, Elvis Costello has explored many different styles during his long career- new wave, pop, rock, soul, country, orchestral and jazz. He has contributed to over thirty five albums, collaborated with countless other musicians, appeared in films and on tv, written articles and books and so much more. His immense body of work has garnered him fans around the globe.

If you are an Elvis fan you are in luck! Costello will be swinging into Rhode Island on October 28th for a show at The Providence Performing Arts Center. Elvis will be once again teaming up with his backing band The Imposters to bring his Hello Again show on a twenty city tour that includes Providence. The Imposters are pianist and organist Steve Nieve, drummer Peter Thomas, and bassist and vocalist Davey Faragher. “Costello & The Imposters will perform songs from the pages of his formidable songbook. ‘Hello Again’ will also see the first performances of songs from the future, as the band time-travel in all directions.” 

It’s been a long Covid break and music is back. Don’t miss this opportunity to see an Elvis live, in concert. Though I doubt Declan McManus (Elvis’ real name) will be donning a jump suit and doing karate kicks during the show, he surely will provide an entertaining evening of timeless tunes. 

PPAC has no capacity restrictions; all PPAC event employees are fully vaccinated. PPAC is a GBAC STAR® accredited performing arts venue, indicating that the theatre has adopted the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention. PPAC is following current COVID-19 health and safety guidelines as recommended by the CDC and state government.

For more about the show, “Pump It Up” to: PPACRI.org. Also coming up at PPAC: Ali Wong, Joe Bonamossa, Cheap Trick, Bob Dylan, Black Violin, Billy Gilman, Brian Regan and much, much more!

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Crushing Metal: Burr Buzzes Alongside Don’t Grow Old

Nefarious Industries serves up a new pairing with Burr and Don’t Grow Old 

Casey Belisle, Mike Dantowitz, and Justin Enis (L to R) of the band Burr and Providence coffee roaster Bolt (photo credit: Burr)

Long used for pulverizing minerals, the burr mill transformed food production by improving the consistency of ground grains, corn, and coffee. At Bolt Coffee’s Providence flagship (61 Washington St.), barista Casey Belisle, assistant roaster Mike Dantowitz, and coffee director Justin Enis wield a Mythos grinder manufactured by Nuova Simonelli for espresso and an EK43 from Mahlkonig for filtered coffee. The motorized models replicate the mechanics of a handheld salt or pepper mill, crushing beans into the grinds that — with the ratio of water, its temperature, and brew time — define the flavor profile of a cup of coffee. Too fine of a grind increases the likelihood of a sludgier or bitter taste, whereas too coarse of a grind can contribute to a weak or watery brew. On the sound system at Bolt’s roastery (96 Calverey St.), Belisle, Dantowitz, and Enis share an appreciation for heavier, slower grinds, like the sounds of Electric Wizard, Thou, and Yob. With a nod to their trade, they apply a similar precision to metal with their band, Burr.

Founded in 2017, Burr, the band, started out as an afterwork jam session at Belisle’s studio space in Central Falls. 

“We got the name Burr by trying to find a coffee term that sounded like a doom name,” said Enis. “We love our burr grinders and their ability to create a more narrow ‘particle distribution’ allowing the brewer to achieve a higher extraction with more sweetness when dialed in.”

Dantowitz played guitar in Tape Eater and other New Bedford punk and hardcore bands, Belisle set the drumbeat for the quirky mathrock of 14foot1 and lighter projects like Roz and the Rice Cakes, and Enis entered the University of Rhode Island as a jazz bass major and went on to make up half of the duo SONGS. After two years playing together as Burr, on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2019, they released their debut, Radial Alignment, on Bandcamp. With tracks like “Touch of Cream” and “Spent Grounds” teasing their careers in coffee, the band’s heaving instrumentals conjured raw notes of Pelican and Russian Circles. The Covid-19 landscape introduced a more serious edge to their songwriting. Six months into the throes of the pandemic, Burr returned to Big Nice Studio (25 Carrington St., Lincoln) where audio engineer Bradford Krieger refined a punishing single. Their latest release, a six-minute dirge on a split 7” with Don’t Grow Old, is now available from Philadelphia-based label, Nefarious Industries.

“We all were feeling tired, angry, anxious, frustrated, scared—” said Enis. “We hope that listeners can feel the trough of the pandemic and social issues in ‘Particle Distribution.’”

While Burr whirs through a penetrating doom, New Bedford’s Don’t Grow Old sound like they grew up on the blistering constraint of Botch and Jane Doe-era Converge. 
The idea for the joint project emerged after the bands shared a bill in New Bedford. A follow-up date at AS220 (115 Empire St., Providence) with Losst and Cyttorak fell victim to Covid-19 cancellations, but on October 16th the bands reunited for their record release party at ​​the Paradise McFee Gallery (104 William St, New Bedford). The following Monday morning, the members of Burr were back to the grind at Bolt.

Limited Edition Double Band Pairing

Burr and Don’t Grow Old’s split 7” is available as a limited release from Nefarious Industries 

Rick Wakeman: Interview

Okee dokee folks…The man with a cape and keyboards is headed to Fall River on October 19. Legendary Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman hits the Narrows Center for the Arts with his Even Grumpier Old Rock Star show. I spoke with Rick last week via a Zoom call.   

Rick Wakeman: Hi, John! Hi, my friend!
John Fuzek: Hi, Rick, where are you? in England?
RW: Yes, I am on the East Coast in an area known as East Anglia where I am sitting somewhat soaking wet ’cause I’ve just taken the dogs for walk in the rain
JF: I have been to East Anglia!
RW: Whereabouts did you go?
JF: Norwich
RW: I’m not far from Norwich
JF: I have friends out there!
RW: It’s a lovely county
JF: I wanted to move there, I thought it was beautiful!
RW: You know, there are number of people who come to visit and actually stay, a lot of people in the entertainment business or the acting fraternity, it’s amazing the number of people who’ve got houses around here 
JF: Wow, yes, it is a beautiful area and when i came back and landed in Boston it was depressing, the culture difference was maddening, it was like night and day, anyway, so you are doing the Grumpy Old Man tour…
RW: Yeah, even grumpier
JF: Well, you’re 72, you’re not that old
RW: Ah, thank you! That’s the nicest thing anyone has said in a long time!
JF: I have a friend who is a little older than that and he still does stage work!
RW: Excellent, well I am still trying, trying hard, it’s um, funny enough the playing and being around recording and doing concerts is good but the traveling gets to you a little bit sometimes, I used to enjoy the traveling but sometimes you’ve got a ten hour drive and walk straight onto stage after, when you get to my age it gets a little tough, it’s like “oh, really, I have ten minutes to have a cup of tea?”, it’s fine, I do try to take a but more care of myself  than I have done for ages, when the pandemic started my hands were getting stiff, this isn’t very good, so I started, when the lock down was lifted, this might sound funny, I started a fitness regime, which my wife calls a “fatness regime”, but I actually feel better for it, we’ve increased it for the tour because one of the things that I have understood in recent years, certainly since the pandemic, is that if you want to do your best on stage you’ve really got to be as healthy as you possibly can, so that’s been my aim for the last year and since the restrictions were lifted over here and I do feel better for it
JF: That is encouraging, i am a musician as well and I basically do the same thing where i drive to gig and literally get out and play, I’m 60 and my hands are getting stiff having guitar related hand issues
RW: What has helped is walking the dogs a couple miles a day, you end up walking 14-15 miles a week that you normally wouldn’t walk
JF: I did that when I had dogs but now I have cats, I guess we could walk around the house together
RW: We’ve got three rescue dogs and three rescue cats and the cats are the boss, the cats boss the dogs around and it’s quite funny
JF: I believe it! So, I generally read up on people before I interview them, this will sound stupid, but I read your Wikipedia page and after i read it all the last line says “Rick Wakeman does not like Wikipedia”
RW: Well, it’s so inaccurate in many places, I went on once to correct a bunch of stuff and as I was correcting it someone was putting it back to the way it was before-totally incorrect, I mean Wikipedia does a decent job, I mean I use it like everyone does when you’re looking up things and you kind of accept that there might be things that aren’t 100% correct, but at least it hasn’t got me down as dead!
JF: That’s a good thing, but after reading that Wikipedia page and all the health issues that you’ve had it is definitely a good thing!
RW: Yes, I have pushed the boundaries, as they say, over my life, I am very grateful to still be around and still be able to play, and because I enjoy it so much it’s probably one of the reasons that I am trying to get myself really fit, I’d like to be around for a long time, my wife and I have been together for 20 years and married for 10, she’s 25 years younger than me, hopefully wen she gets to 75 I’ll still be around at 100, I say still be around, she’ll be pushing me around, I’ve got so much, a lovely family, six kids, thirteen grandchildren, a fantastic wife, my work with animal welfare charity, dogs and cats, living in a lovely part of the world, plus being able to play, I just find that so, so good that i want it to last forever!
JF:  I didn’t know about the animal welfare things, I am a huge animal lover
RW: I am an ambassador for Animals Asia, we save as many moon bears as we can from the bear bile farms, which basically kills the bears, we’ve got about 600 in a sanctuary in Cheng Du, I’ve got a moon bear myself called Moon, he’s in the sanctuary, and also I am involved with a charity saving suffering strays where we save street dogs from Eastern Europe, mostly Romania an Bosnia, we’ve actually got two street dog rescues from Sarajevo from the war zone who were so badly treated it was unbelievable, we got them home and they are the most adorable, lovable dogs, and this one might sound strange but recently, just two weeks ago now, our third dog arrived, a little Labrador, she was bought from the meat trade, from the butchers in China
JF: I cannot even fathom how people can do that
RW: luckily, as part of the charity that we are involved with they bought her, it literally was like, “how would you like her?” and I said, “on a lead, please”, it took seven months to get her here, and she’s gorgeous, they all get along great, and we’ve got three rescue cats, one in particular, we call him GT, he eats a lot, he’s the big boss, the dogs are terrified of him, TERRIFIED of GT, and the ten year old Lab/Bernese Mountain Dog mix, Garrow, he’s huge, but a real softy, he’s terrified of little GT, it’s really funny, GT hides around the corner of the door and when the dog’s face appears, and Garrow goes, “oh, no it’s him”, it’s lovely, we are heavily involved in that.
JF: That’s great! I respect you even more now. I already did before but I really respect people who help animals, they are a huge part of my life, I’ve been a vegetarian for 35 years because of that
RW: Right, they are the voiceless ones, a friend of mine, a wonderful actor, Peter Regan, says, “someone has to speak for the voiceless ones”
JF: Ricky Gervais does a lot of that as well
RW: I know Ricky very well, he’s heavily involved as well as Brian May, Brian, Ricky, myself and Peter Regan, Susan Nichols and a few others, there’s quite a few of us and we’re not frightened to say what we think, we were also involved with helping Pen Farthing get his animals back from Afghanistan…when I look at our three dogs they are just so gorgeous and so loving,  and Pete Regan says they’ve all got lots of love to give they just need the opportunity to give it
JF: I put my dogs on the cover of my CD and named it A Dog’s Age and wrote the title track, “A Dog’s Age”
RW: Brilliant! I always put pages in the program for the different animal welfare charities and I did record a trilogy a few years ago which started off being written about the cats, it’s called “Cathedral Cats”, I’ve never done anything with it but i was thinking of adapting it and making it all of the animals that I am involved with, there were two bears, moon bears, I had one called Rocky and one called Cyril, both sadly died because the bear bile trade causes them to have kidney failure, I wrote a piece called “Rocky” and another one for Cyril, they’re both around on YouTube somewhere, I felt such a sense of relief after having written them, that I’d actually done something, just talking to you I might just resurrect the “Cathedral Cats” thing and look at all the animals that I have been involved with over the years and then do pieces specifically for all of them
JF: I would love to hear that…so, I watched a video of you, it’s a few years back now, when you were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it was a view from over your keyboards and it showed your hands just flying across the keys with such a light touch, it was amazing
RW: I don’t see that very often because I play 95% of the time with my eyes closed, and that stems from one early piano teacher from the age of 5 right through when I went to the Royal College, and from day one she said to me, “you’re going to learn to read music and you’re going to learn pieces, once you know the pieces I want you to put the music to one side, close your eyes and see pictures of the music, cause music is painting pictures, I want you to paint pictures and it can be anything you want as long as it depicts the music in your mind”, and I’ve always done that and i still do it to this day, so quite literally 95% of the time I am playing with my eyes closed and I see pictures all the time
JF: Well, we are almost out of time so I just want to wrap this with one more question. What can we expect at your Grumpier Old Man Show at The Narrows on October 19th?
RW: A bit of a mixture, I am taking a couple of keyboards as well as a piano so it enables me to do some pieces that work better on keyboards than piano, things like some of the organ pieces, the church organ type pieces that I’ve done, there’ll be that and there’ll bit the odd, slightly serious moment, which doesn’t happen very much…I want to do something that is a sort of a Q&A, when people arrive they have the chance to write some questions or anything they want and they can be put in my dressing room at half time…I’ll look at the questions and there’s bound to be a few that are the same and there’s bound to be a few weird ones and just at a couple of places in the set i will get those questions out and either give incredibly good answers or incredibly stupid ones, I think the odds are they are more likely to be stupid.
JF: It’s just going to be you on stage, solo, correct?
RW: Just me with a grand piano and some keyboards
JF: Thank you for taking the time to talk! I will see you on the 19th!
RW: You certainly will. Cheers!

Rick Wakeman brings his Grumpier Old Man Tour to the Narrows Center for the Art on October 19. For more about the show “Roundabout” to: NarrowsCenter.org Also coming up at the Narrows: Rodney Crowell, Leo Kottke, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Suzanne Vega, Samantha Fish and much more!

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com