RI Repository: Taking the Wayback Machine to Six Finger Satellite’s improbable history

To kick off a hopefully brighter 2021, here’s another edition of RI Repository, where we revisit notable releases from RI’s past. This year, we examine 1995’s Severe Exposure from noise rock band Six Finger Satellite.

6FS formed in Providence in the late ’80s with a lineup that included singer/keyboardist J. Ryan, John MacLean and Peter Phillips on guitar, and Rick Pelletier on drums. The band was signed to Sub Pop records after, legend has it, they submitted an alt rock-styled demo and the label signed them thinking they would provide something along the same lines. 

The band’s first album, The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird, is a scratchy, post-punk affair, and their second, Machine Cuisine, is mellower and made extensive use of synths. With Severe Exposure, the band arrived at a satisfying middle ground between the two sounds, an adventurous mix of the herky-jerky new wave of Devo and the punishing guitars of The Jesus Lizard.

“We started out as a guitar band, but were really into bands like Chrome and Public Image Ltd.,” said Pelletier. “A big reason we added the synths was because we didn’t have many choruses in our songs. To us, the synth lines were hooks that the listener could grab ahold of.”

 The warbly, distorted synths in “Cock Fight” and the unsettling modulation of “Rabies (Baby’s Got The)” provide a deliberate dissonance that, if anything, heightens the level of chaos. “We were never interested in using the synths as some kind of atmospheric, background noise,” says Pelletier. “We intentionally tried to make them as hard-edged as the guitars.”

Severe Exposure’s unintelligible vocals, jagged guitars and frenetic pace creates a trance throughout. “Dark Companion” has a MC5, frenzied proto punk vibe, and “White Queen to Black Knight” sounds like demonic blues. The whole album has a compelling spirit of confrontation and experimentation.

According to Pelletier, the Severe Exposure era marked the band’s most cohesive and well-known lineup, and saw the band firing on all cylinders. “Around that time, we were always playing, pretty much all our spare time was spent either playing or recording at the studio.”

It helped that the atmosphere was so inspiring. “The Fort Thunder scene was great, and Providence had a lot of clubs with touring bands coming through at the time,” said Pelletier. “People felt that creative buzz and tapped into it.”

Their sonic mélange was concocted at The Parlour, the 6FS’s own studio in Pawtucket, (located in the building where Jamstage is now), which the band put together to gain more control over the process. “We had recorded in studios before and inevitably it always came down to time or money, so we took each advance from Sub Pop and put it into getting our own gear.”

According to Pelletier, the band also received invaluable recording and gear advice from  legendary indie engineers Bob Weston, who recorded their debut, and Steve Albini.

The song “Parlour Games” got the ultimate ’90s treatment when the music video, directed by RI filmmaker Guy Benoit, was featured in an episode of “Beavis & Butthead.” 6FS went on to put out two more critically acclaimed records that failed to set the charts on fire. The follow up, Law of Ruins, was produced by James Murphy (later of LCD Soundsystem fame) who had joined the band as a live sound engineer.  

After Law, John MacLean left the group, partly due to tensions arising from his relationship with Murphy, and Sub Pop dropped them shortly thereafter. They called it quits in 2001, and Pelletier and Ryan reformed the band in 2007.

6FS is now recognized for being ahead of the electro-rock curve. ”We knew we weren’t going to sell a shit ton of records, and did a lot of what we set out to do,” said Pelletier. Ultimately, Severe Exposure is now looked at as something of a cult classic, and their catalog is remembered by many as a bold exploration of new sonic territory. 

6FS has two releases consisting of demo reissues coming out this year. 
Stream Severe Exposure on Spotify.

The Big Lux Interview: An uncommon violinist with a few stories to tell

Big Lux is the stage name of Kevin Lowther. He is a hip-hop artist, violinist, lyricist, composer, educator and most recently, a film director for his own music videos. 

“Lux,” as he is known by friends and colleagues, grew up in Westerly, where he studied violin with a private instructor for 10 years. At the time, though he played with the RI Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in Providence, there was no formal orchestra program in his school. So he adapted his musical talents to learn the saxophone and played in school bands, but the violin remained his primary instrument and first love. 

As a young man, Lux dreamed of a career in music. Yet as he watched other musicians struggle to survive, he was unsure how to make his life work. He decided to join the Army and attend West Point Academy right out of high school. “I wanted to do something productive and felt like I needed some discipline, and also wanted to do something for others.”  

Four years later, Lux graduated from West Point and became a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. He served first in Germany and then in Iraq. In Baghdad he saw brutal combat for 15 months, which involved knocking down doors and searching for bombs. His platoon of 25 people was awarded Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals for their service overseas. 

There was no music program at West Point, but Lux’s violin traveled with him everywhere he went. He didn’t get to do a lot of playing in Iraq, but that all changed when he got to his assignment in Korea. 

“People in Korea love music,” says Lux. “They are interested and curious. I did a lot of street performing there. I was looking for something unique to do, and started to hear music by Nuttin’ but Strings and Black Violin, and started to integrate my violin playing into hip-hop music.” Lux also cites Jay-Z, Outkast and early Kanye West as musical influences. 

“I started to connect with other musicians and found more gigs. I played festivals and did some touring – and I did all of that while still in the Army. During the day I was writing plans for military exercises for the South Korea and US joint missions, and at night I would go out into the streets and play.” 

Korea is also where the moniker “Big Lux” was born. He had originally dubbed himself “Lux Luther” — a reference to the evil villain in the Superman story, and the antithesis to the “nice guy” image many traditional violinists portray. “But the problem was, there’s no L in the Korean alphabet, two in a row is tough,” Lux explains. “So my promoter renamed me to ‘Big Lux.’” Being a sizeable guy, the name stuck.

After further assignments in Afghanistan and 13 years of military service, Lux came back to the US to pursue an MBA at the University of Miami. He then worked simultaneously in real estate development and in the Army Reserves, while continuing to pursue music. Lux fit right in to Miami’s music scene, getting busy quickly performing in clubs and for corporate events, and he also became involved with some non-profits and schools. But the responsibility of his three jobs started to take its toll. 

In summer 2018, Lux took a leap of faith and made the decision to return to Rhode Island and focus on his music full time. He has since participated in TEDx Providence and has performed for packed audiences all over the Ocean State. Things were going pretty well for him – right up until this past March. 

Like most all performing artists worldwide, Lux was not unaffected by the pandemic. He saw many performances cancelled and was unable to recover the lost work. However, 2020 did not stop Lux from creating. He released his EP Major, working with Grammy nominated producer Phil Beaudreau, and a music video for his composition “Red March,” which he refers to as his protest anthem. Though every track on this release is a gem, of particular interest is the track “Chasing Bombs,” which features the song’s original composer and vocalist Laura Dowding. 

“Laura is also a Westerly native. She wrote the piano part and the hook for a Marine friend. I heard it years ago and thought it would make a great hip-hop song,” says Lux. “But since then she has evolved her style, took down all versions of the song, and had no recording of it.” Lux thought the song was lost forever, but then he found a copy of it on an old hard drive and was able to recreate it.

Over the summer, Lux co-created a pirate music festival that took place at Sandy Point, Conn, in which musicians performed and people listened entirely on boats in the ocean. Working with (and in many cases against) law enforcement and local officials, he hopes this festival will happen again in 2021. Lux was also one of very few musicians to close out 2020 with New Year’s Eve gig – this year at Mohegan Sun’s Novelle Lounge, a venue that hosted hip-hop luminary Ice Cube before the shutdown. 

Lux currently serves in the Army Reserves and teaches remotely at Community Music Works in Providence. He is working on a new album, and directing a new video aimed at town and local officials to address the systemic racism present in his small town. 

Learn more about Big Lux at biglux.bandzoogle.com and be sure to check out his EP “Major” on all streaming platforms. 

Long Live the Legend: Big Jon Tierney and the best in the worst of 2020

Welp, the ball finally dropped in 2020, minus the usual glitter and confetti, to the thud of a collective sigh of relief. We made it, right? Well here we are, not even a week in and so far the President incited a mob of thugs to storm the Capitol on Twitter. I don’t know what frightens me more, that Pence has taken the reins or that it feels like a relief. There were plenty of reasons over the past year to storm the Capitol and demand accountability from our public servants. Failure to deal with the pandemic, relief for small businesses crippled by COVID, and racial justice reform are just a few issues that come to mind. Instead it took conspiracy theories over an election that certified a clear victor, after all the counting and recounting of votes and more than 60 legal challenges, to mobilize these crackpots. I can only facepalm watching a handful of Republican senators trying to moonwalk over their states rights stance to curry favor with a demented despot. I’m still optimistic that 2021 is going to be a better year. Let’s get this party started paying tribute to a local music legend we lost and look back at some of the best in the worst of 2020. Happy New Year!  

Big Jon Tierney

This one hit hard like one last kidney suckerpunch from 2020.  Jon was an amazing performer who really could perform any style of music and hold his audience by their heartstrings. When I first saw Jon play it was fronting a metal band called Icenine singing these monster rocking numbers like “Truckstop Hooker” that were just awesome! Ten years later he was fronting essentially a Dave Matthews style jam band, which, while not my normal cup of tea, was great for just the sheer power of his big gravelly voice and his soul-stirring lyrics. Jon played a weekly residency for years with Kris Hansen that packed a wallop of frenetic energy, comedy and just a great vibe of positive energy. As great as a performer that Jon was, he was an even better person. I first met Jon sometime in the late ’90s and he had this warm genuine personality that just made everyone feel at ease as his laugh echoed through the room. In the past few weeks I’ve read so many accounts of how great of a friend he was and the lengths he’d go through to help people through their turmoils of life. Jon performed countless shows to raise money for charities, worked tirelessly with people with developmental disabilities in group homes, and had a knack for making everybody feel better and laugh in the face of adversity. I love you Big Jon, and your spirit will always be with us.

Best in The Worst of 2020

2020 was such a weird year. I don’t know how to rank albums or songs because everything was so in flux while going nowhere. Here is my soundtrack for the year. Let me know via email or Twitter (@marcclarkin) what you were rocking to!   

Craig Finn — All These Perfect Crosses (Partisan Records)

This compilation of tunes that didn’t make Finn’s past few albums and stripped-down alternate versions provided a quiet comforting tale of lost characters trying to find their way. As with his work fronting The Hold Steady, Finn’s songs are short stories accompanied by music. The standout here is “It’s Never Been A Fair Fight,” which is reminiscent of growing up with punk rock in the 1980s. My favorite line is “You said there were no rules, but there were so many goddamn rules. You said they’d be cool but then they had so many goddamn rules.” Anyone who grew up in that era knows how true that was.  

Ravi Shavi — Special Hazards (Almost Ready Records) 

This record had so many great tunes like “Going Going Gone” and “Sixes and Sevens,” but my favorite here is “Casino.” “Casino” successfully manages to combine an eerie sultry vibe with riding a wave that breaks into your heart. It is definitely one of my top 10 songs of 2020! 

Bob Mould — Blue Hearts (Merge Records)

The lead single, “American Crisis,” dropped like a bomb in the midst of the unrest following the murder of George Floyd last spring. I recommend the lyric video to get the full frontal assault as Mould and band unleash their rage in a cyclone of hooks and guitars. The rest of the album is good, but nothing that hits as hard as “American Crisis.” 

Nymphidels — Insurgery 

This duo creates jangling guitar pop that isn’t afraid to rock your socks off like on “Reprieve.” I thought about going with the soothing yearning of “Saved You” as the essential track, but “Change” just has too many goddamn hooks to be denied the honor. It is a shame that the pandemic kind of buried this great EP. 

Low Cut Connie — Private Lives

Private Lives is my album of the year. There are so many bangers like “Wild Ride” and the title track on this double album that it is tough to pick the essential track. I’m going with “Help Me” because after 2020 we could all use some help having our spirits lifted up.

Guided By Voices — Mirrored Aztec (Rockathon Records)

Leave it to Guided By Voices; the entire music industry shuts down and they release three full length albums. Sometime I wish they’d leave some songs on the cutting room floor and put out another Alien Lanes, but that isn’t how Robert Pollard rolls. I chose Mirrored Aztec because that is the best album with mega-jams like “Please Don’t Be Honest” and “Haircut Sphinx.”  As for their other records, on Surrender Your Poppy Field check out “Volcano” and on Styles We Paid For the go-to jam is “Never Abandon Ship.”

Fiona Apple — Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Fetch The Bolt Cutters just seemed to drop out of nowhere last spring and for two weeks it seemed like no other music mattered. The pounding rhythms that Apple crafted her poetry around conjures up a magic that is both unique and now. My favorite is “I Want You To Love Me.”

Blackletter — Animal Farm

Animal Farm slays with the feel of a rock opera that really isn’t an opera.  Blackletter mix poetry, Dio-like howls and Blue Oyster Cult playing Deep Purple riffs to create some really magic rock ‘n’ roll. The essential track here is “Invisible Chains / The Waltz” for more reasons than I have space to describe.

Bob Dylan — Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia Records)

Rough and Rowdy Ways is a return to rockin’ blues for Dylan after a series of cover records. This album is chock full of barroom jams, but the stunning “Murder Most Foul” is the pick here. Not just because it is Dylan’s first number one song, or the first 17-minute song to be a number one song, but because nearly 60 years into his career Dylan is still breaking ground and creating compelling art. 

Throwing Muses — Dark Blue

Throwing Muses are only about 35-plus years in as a band, but they are still creating tunes that are both vivid and haunting. It feels like there is always something going on in between the spaces of reverb from the feedback squalls of Kristin Hersh’s guitar. The pick here is “Dark Blue” because it is like a painting of sound come to life.

Malyasa BellaRosa — Affinity

BellaRosa has a newer album with her band, the Sugar Cones, called Road Soda that I’ll cover in the next rodeo. I spent more time listening to Affinity this year so that makes The List as Chris Jericho would say. The pick here is the Jim Steinman type ballad, “Wanting More,” just because I’m a sucker for that shit.

Sick Pills — (75orLess Records)

Late Night Death Trip (along with Mould’s Blue Hearts) is my pick for punk album of the year. The first five tracks are all killer and is my favorite Sick Pills album to date. My go-to track is “One More Chance For Love.”

Steadystate — Fast Machine

Fast Machine grew on me like malaria as the shutdown happened last spring and I liked it. Electro-rock groovers like “Slider” were the soundtrack to driving around empty downtowns all over the state.

Jesse Malin — Todd Youth / Ameri’Ka singles(Wicked Cool Records)

Malin released a few singles as a planned album got delayed due to the pandemic. These tunes weren’t even on the same single, but who cares — there were no rules in 2020. These were my two favorites of the singles. I’ll go with “Ameri’Ka” as the essential track since it is about everything that went down in 2020. My favorite line is “Adam got the virus like when Reagan was in charge, history repeats itself, the killers are at large.” Right on, Doctor.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

Singles Ready to Mingle: Don’t miss these new releases from PVD singer/songwriters

Okee dokee folks… There is a quote floating about that says, “We are NOT all in the same boat; we are in the same storm. Some have better boats than others.” This perfectly sums up the inequities people are experiencing in the pandemic even though we are all in the middle of a worldwide health crisis and people are dying! I am annoyed by the folks who cannot find it within themselves to wear a damn mask or abide by restrictions for everyone’s sake. I have stayed home and spent the past few months building things: from a cigar store Indian as a stage prop for my band to a litter box house for my cats. I would rather be playing gigs, but I feel less than motivated to do so with no real outlet to perform live. I played a livestream once and it was fine, but only because it was with my band and that made it fun. I have less than zero desire to do it solo, but I am sure I will cave to livestreaming at some point just out of necessity — that is if we survive the coming year! A week in and it is already insane! Read on…

Back in the old days when we could actually play live, in-person gigs, we were planning the 2019 Providence (now Rhode Island) Folk Festival and decided that Festival board member Lisa Couto should be part of the show. She resisted a bit at first, but relented and her performance at the ’19 fest was memorable. Lisa has a long musical resume that includes multiple CD releases, fronting a band, and a tour in Southeast Asia. Her voice is capable of more gymnastics than Mary Lou Retton in her floor routine. Inspired by their PVD Folk Festival performance, Couto, who besides having great pipes also plays guitar, and Erik Peterson, a Berklee graduate who plays piano, sings and does production work, have been writing and working on recording a full length album. They just released their first single called “After the Trouble.” To hear this marvelous piece of music, Tsukahara on over to: reverbnation.com/soundedground.

Another member of the PVD Festival committee, who was to host a new stage in 2020, is singer-songwriter Beth Barron. She has hosted shows and open mics at The Galactic Theatre, Askew, and other venues, and has been a cheerleader for the local music scene. Over the past pandemic year, Beth played a lot of livestreaming shows and a few rare live gigs outdoors. Barron has been developing as both a performer and a songwriter and it really shines through on her recording of her very first single, “I’m Alive.” Joined by Bob Giusti on drums and Stephen Demers playing electric guitar, Barron’s vocals stretch out and soar. She writes, “’I’m Alive’, is a journey of a song. I dove into my truths, depths, lows and highs.” For more, check your vitals at: soundcloud.com/beth-barron-851791880

RI Music Hall of Fame member Ken Lyon recently passed away at the age of 79. During his long and storied career, he worked at the Brill Building as a songwriter, recorded for Epic, Columbia and Decca Records; criss-crossed through the folk and blues scene; was a member of the Celtic band Pendragon; and shared the stage with Elton John and Queen. But he is best known for his work with The Tombstone Blues Band. Besides all that, Ken was a nice and funny guy and I had the pleasure of working with him a few times. His rendition of “Handsome Molly” during the Pendragon days will always be a favorite of mine. Rhode Island has lost a legend.

Attention songwriters! Entries are now being accepted for the 2021 Kerrville/Grassy Hill New Folk Competition for Emerging Songwriters. The first 800 entries postmarked or submitted online by March 7 will be judged, and 24 finalists will be announced in April. I had the honor and pleasure of playing at Kerrville back in 2000 and if you love the Texas heat, then this fest is for you! For more, mow on over to: kerrvillefolkfestival.org/newfolk

I am looking forward to January 20 when the mango moron leaves the White House for good. I hope to never have to see his vile countenance again! We have had enough and it’s time to heal and repair. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Music as Medicine: Musical therapy provides new avenues of communication

Music predates human language – it is woven into the history of every culture and into the rites and rituals of every religion. What is less known is that one of its most ancient uses was not as a form of expression – music was also one of the earliest forms of medicine. 

For centuries, music has been an integral aspect of the healing arts. The Aboriginal people of Australia were the first known culture to heal with sound. Sound vibration is part of healing in yogic traditions. Chinese Qi Gong uses specific mantras, chants and sounds to stimulate specific organ systems in the body. Tibetan singing bowls, Himalayan suzu gongs … the instruments and methods are endless throughout recorded history. Alternative healing has embraced music therapy for many years, but today, research into the neuroscience of music is discovering just how extensive the  powers of music can be. 

I spoke with Annette Mozzoni, director of education with RI Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School, and learned that music therapy and wellness has been a part of their school’s program since 2005; they currently employ two certified music therapists in addition to the skilled musicians on staff. In 2011, they launched a partnership with the Autism Project, an organization committed to serving the needs of the teachers, parents and caregivers who work with children on the autism spectrum. Mozzoni said that the majority of people who seek help with their music therapy program have an autism spectrum disorder. Music therapy is especially effective for these clients because of its ability to address their styles of speech and nonverbal communication skills. Each client who comes to the school is carefully assessed to determine the appropriate therapy, which might include creating, singing or moving to and/or listening to music. Results from this type of therapy can transfer to other areas of their lives, providing avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.

Not all therapy at the school focuses on psychological and neurological disorders – Jane Murray conducts individual one-hour sessions of body mapping, a therapy that applies the principles of anatomy to movement. This program is popular with musicians who are suffering the repetitive motion injuries that can come as the result of practicing and performing the same highly controlled movements over and over again in their work. During sessions, students learn the mechanics of their own bones, muscles and connective tissue, and develop the ability to correct inaccurate movements. The result is an improvement in both the structural health and the performance and efficiency of instrumental players and vocalists. 

Another program offered at the school focuses on the Alexander Technique, named after creator Frederick Matthias Alexander, a dramatic performer in the 1890s who specialized in reciting classical Shakespeare. When voice loss during public performances threatened to end his career, Alexander began developing his technique, using mirrors to observe himself. He discovered that poor habits in posture and movement were to blame for both his damaged spatial self-awareness and his health. The highly effective technique he developed is now taught at performing arts schools in Europe, the US and around the world, including such prestigious institutes as the Juilliard School and UCLA. It is not only studied by numerous actors and musicians, but also by athletes to enhance performance. The results were so impressive that the technique has been investigated by medical researchers in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease; as yet there is insufficient evidence to warrant insurance coverage.

Why does music therapy have such a powerful effect on our brains and our bodies? The human brain and nervous system are hard-wired to distinguish music from noise and to respond to rhythm and repetition. And while this provides humans with entertainment and the motivation for movement, it also produces activity changes in brain structures – the amygdala, hypothalamus, insular and orbitofrontal cortex – known to modulate heart function. We are just beginning to learn the potentials of music therapy in the treatment of conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to PTSD and dementia.

Mozzoni sums it up: “Music therapy unlocks barriers and creates a pathway out of isolation. Through this work you also find the connective tissue that builds a bridge for expression and communication.”

To learn more, visit ri-philharmonic.org/MusicSchool/Programs/MusicTherapyWellness/tabid/227/Default.aspx

Jazz Insights: Frank D’Rone

During 1932, the gifted international musician Frank D’Rone was born.
He grew up in Providence, where at five years old he began singing and learning to play guitar. By age eleven he had his own radio show.

While playing regularly in Rhode Island at all kinds of professional venues, he decided to try his luck in New York City. He was offered some gigs in Chicago, where he met singer and pianist, Nat “King” Cole who helped him record at Mercury Records.

Soon, he began preforming with the likes of spectacular pianists Oscar Peterson and Stan Kenton. He recorded with many of these greats, and others, on records and CDs. Frank became internationally known, by this time.

During the ’60s and ’70s, he performed regularly on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Later, he worked with the renowned composer and performer, Bill May. Frank leaves as a legacy, his appearance and performance at The Chicago Jazz Festivals. He passed away in October of 2013.

Above the Noise: Hello, Atlantic talk about what drives their band forward

Hello, Atlantic is probably the top techno-based emo-pop band in the local scene right now. With alternative styles ranging from stadium-wide emotional ballads like “Lapse” to dance-party anthems like “Night Life,” the band tackles complicated emotions with thoughtful sonic imagery and analogies that make anyone feel included and heard. In a world increasingly populated by loud voices of all kinds, it’s reassuring to know this band is actively working to carve out their own community and niche above the noise. 

The first song I ever heard from them was their lead EP single “Night Life,” and I loved the high-octane energy of the fast melody and campy circus-gone-wrong music video. It instantly reminded me of the pop punk Panic! at the Disco classic “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” This band builds on that similar energy, but has brought those much-loved sonic tropes into the new decade.

Vocalist Ian Dillon, bassist Eric Sparfven, guitarist Austin Nadeau and drummer David Mills have formed something truly special and electrifying with this project. I recently got to ask Ian and Eric some questions about their band, music, and new song “Tiny Dancing Ghost.”

Angelina Singer (Motif): How did Hello Atlantic become a band? Also, what does the band name mean to you?

Hello, Atlantic (Eric): Ian and I were in a band together before this, and when that band came to an end, we decided to stick together. As for the name, we had a list of potential band names, and Hello, Atlantic was the one we liked the most. Plus, it made sense living on the East coast near the Atlantic Ocean.

AS: What is the central message behind the Night Life EP?

Hello, Atlantic: I suppose the central message would just be fear. Whether that be fear of being hated, or relationships falling apart, or just straight up being murdered by vampires.

AS: How did you develop your sound, and what is your songwriting process like?

Hello, Atlantic: For the Night Life EP, we basically would just have a basic idea and bring it to the studio where we’d flesh it out, and then vocals would be written separately. With new members now, we’re working on really focusing on our sound before we head to the studio. We’re really excited about it.

AS: Who would you say are your biggest artistic influences?

Hello, Atlantic: Dance Gavin Dance and The 1975 are both up there. I’d say Bilmuri as well, actually.

AS: What surprised you the most about being in a band?

Hello, Atlantic: What surprised us the most about being in a band is that you get out of it exactly what you put into it. We put so much into the campaign for our Night Life EP, and it started to show when we did. 

AS: Talk a bit about your newest song, “Tiny Dancing Ghost” – how did that concept come to be?

Hello, Atlantic: I basically wrote a few random lines, and they kind of reminded me of something spooky like a witch, so I decided that that’s what the song would be about – similar to Night Life being about vampires. I had fun writing both.

AS: Share the craziest, funniest, most embarrassing PG-rated moment from a gig.

Hello, Atlantic (Ian): It’s not anything super crazy or anything, but Eric somehow managed to rip the inseam of his pants at multiple shows. I guess that means he won’t ever be joining Attack Attack!

AS: Where do you see the band in 10 years?

Hello, Atlantic: In 10 years, hopefully the band is touring the world and we’ve made it a full time career. That’s always the dream!

Hello, Atlantic on Spotify: open.spotify.com/artist/5pRFwoIJjbBS2CIGfVktmK?si=cHoaK72PTqmh-FTFojZrew; Hello, Atlantic on Youtube: youtube.com/channel/UCjHEcIhANPJiZjma1Of1bmA; Instagram/Twitter: @helloatlanticri

Shocking Development: Culture Shock goes virtual

Culture Shock 2020 was one of many music festivals affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but it didn’t stop local creator and founder of Culture Shock, Chachi Carvalho.

The past two years, the Pawtucket-based Culture Shock music fest filled the streets with diverse creativity and artistry, music and celebration. This year, Carvalho expects to give fans the same feeling, but the fest will be virtual. Performances will be live recorded sessions with acts such as Flawless Real Talk, Nova One, Joe Bruce, Temperamento, Brooxana, Jabubu, Kelce, Shokanti and Storm Ford. Culture Shock also will include interviews with the artists. Culture Shock has a wide selection of artists and genres every year, and this year it is expected to include an eclectic mix of sounds from Latin hip-hop to rap to ’60s vintage rock to singer-songwriter to silky soul and R&B. 

“I couldn’t allow this global pandemic to stop me from providing an invaluable resource to folks at this time, and that is an opportunity to feel some level of connectedness,” said Carvalho. “I feel like Culture Shock is an opportunity for artists to have a platform to perform when they haven’t had an opportunity to hit a stage throughout this whole time.”

Roz Raskin of Nova One said this Culture Shock performance was the first time they had loaded their equipment into a performance space to play for anyone in such a long time. They mentioned everyone was super kind, helpful and communicative, and followed COVID guidelines, which made them feel very taken care of.

“In this intense moment we are all living in, it’s still so important to feel the connection to the communities you were present in before COVID,” said Raskin.

Carvalho alludes to his ambition, and said he wanted to challenge himself and the team to pull together a high level production with the hopes that it will generate some attention and funds to level up for next year (whether it’s virtual again or in person). For this year, Carvalho teamed up with HAUS, a Rhode Island-based content creating studio, and Massachusetts-based recording company, Railroad Park, to create a mashup of various and divergent artists as a film experience. Other sponsors and local supporters include Citizens Bank, Beatbox Studio and the Pawtucket Arts Fest.

“I can’t help but think that this festival and this message is exactly what we need right now,” said Kyle Therrien, President of Railroad Park Recording Co.

HAUS Content Creator Austin Delin said Carvalho approached them with the idea of a virtual Culture Shock 2020, aware of the challenges of live-streaming multicam performances over an internet connection as well as the precautions needed given the pandemic. Delin said they were able to film each artist’s performance individually, air out the space and sanitize the equipment between each session. The sessions were then edited and compiled into a film that will be released on December 21.

“Not only was this an opportunity for us to strive for a level of quality that is seldom seen in virtual events or livestreams, but it was a way for us to give back to our local community here in Rhode Island,” said Delin. “There’s too much talent here for us to be overlooked, and that’s what we’re hoping to change.” 

Culture Shock is going onto its third year, and now that the festival has turned virtual for the pandemic, it provides a different opportunity to gain more followers for upcoming years. Carvalho said past events were lively and exciting, but had a smaller turnout than gatherings like PVDFest. He said Culture Shock going virtual opens up infinite possibilities given the number of people that can see it. 

“I believe this event being virtual is just a perfect way to end 2020. So many talented artists from different backgrounds coming together is the type of message the world needs right now,” said Latin hip-hop artist Temperamento. 

“I felt free and able to just get lost in my music. I don’t normally feel that because of nerves, but for this performance, it felt freeing,” said R&B soul singer Brooxana. “The name ‘Culture Shock’ says it all. It’s going to continue to wake the inspirations and passions of all kinds of artists as it did for me through this experience.”

Culture Shock will be streaming at 7pm on Monday, December 21. For details, go to cultureshock401.com/ or follow @cultureshock401 on Instagram and YouTube channel, Culture Shock 401, where you can see the film trailer. To make a donation, visit their gofundme page.

Christmas in Quarantine: Crock of Gold – a few rounds with Shane MacGowan

This Julien Temple directed, Johnny Depp produced documentary shines a spotlight on Pogues singer, Shane MacGowan. Crock of Gold starts with MacGowan talking about growing up in Ireland living in a crowded house, without electricity or indoor plumbing, where he worked in the field with his uncle, and how his aunt would bribe him at the age of 5 with whiskey to read the Bible. The one part of Crock of Gold that irritated me was the overuse of stock film by Temple (one of his trademarks from his other films about Joe Strummer and the Sex Pistols) to re-enact MacGowan’s childhood. This is interspersed with MacGowan, his wife Victoria Mary Clarke, and Johnny Depp having drinks in a pub while MacGowan shares things like his belief that “God chose me to save Irish music.” When Clarke asked him why, MacGowan replied with a cackling “because God is Irish.”

MacGowan’s family moved to London where MacGowan got kicked out of schools, began experimenting with drugs, and joined a gang after enduring an initiation where he got beaten with a stick while having a trashcan over his head. During his teens in the late ’70s, punk rock explodes in London and bands like the Sex Pistols inspired MacGowan to start a band of his own, which eventually comes to be called The Nips. After punk rock fizzled out of fashion, MacGowan started a band with Spider Stacy called Pogue Mahone to breathe new life into traditional Irish music fueled by the energy of punk rock. The band name only gets shortened to The Pogues once a TV show the band was to be on discovers that the Gaelic translation of Pogue Mahone is Kiss My Arse. There is great early footage of The Pogues, covers the creation of the iconic Christmas classic “Fairytale of New York,” and ends with MacGowan getting a medal from the President of Ireland for contributions to Irish culture in a star studded 60th birthday concert. Crock of Gold features interviews with MacGowan’s sister, parents, politician/Northern Ireland peace broker Gerry Adams, Nick Cave and Bono, among others. The movie is out in theaters (if that is ever a thing here again) and streaming platforms – check crockofgoldfilm.com for screening options.

Low Cut Connie — Private Lives

If Private Lives is not the best rock album of 2020, it is definitely in the top 5. The double album is a hot pie stuffed with American music. The ballad of “Look What They Did” covers the fall of Atlantic City after being raided by billionaire developers. Swagger-filled romps run wild from indie guitar squalor of “Tea Time” to the New Orleans boogie “Nobody Else Will Believe You.”  “Help Me” has singer/keyboardist Adam Weiner singing about “hanging like a scarecrow” before the gospel chorus kicks in like a choir. “If I Die” belts out the blues. “Stay as Long as You Like “ is even like an ’80s pop ballad. Private Lives stylistically plays like a jukebox, shuffling between genres with Weiner’s lyrics pushing a comforting message of hope through the joys and sadness. In addition to this absolute beast of an album, Low Cut Connie does weekly streams every Thursday and Saturday for their close-lnit community of fans that Weiner has dubbed “Tough Cookies” – check out their social media pages for info.  Private Lives is the soundtrack for the turbulence of 2020.

The Replacements – Pleased To Meet Me (Sire/Rhino Records)

This deluxe reissue of this 1987 classic includes three discs and one album of previously unreleased songs, demos and alternate mixes. Among the highlights are the Mats last recordings with original guitarist Bob Stinson on the Blackberry Way demos before they went to Memphis to make Pleased To Meet Me with legendary producer Jim Dickinson as a three piece.  In a break with tradition, the vinyl offering is a completely different version of the album with some non-album songs sprinkled in, and a mix that has a raw demo quality. Pleased to Meet Me showcases singer’s Paul Westerberg’s lyric creation process as he’ll sing different lyrics before settling on the final version. Pleased To Meet Me also provides a snapshot of the infancy of bassist Tommy Stinson’s development as a songwriter. In a very Replacements-esque fashion, the boxset appears to have no involvement of the band members and was largely compiled by Mats biographer Bob Mehr. Pleased To Meet Me is a treasure trove for any Mats lover on your Holiday shopping list.

Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All The Rest (Warner Records)

Long rumoured to be the works, the deluxe version contains unreleased tracks that were originally intended to be part of Wildflowers as a double album. There is some filler (I’m not sure it was really necessary to buy the 9 vinyl version) but rarities like “Leave Virginia Alone,” the scorching psychedelic romp of “Driving Down to Georgia,” and “Girl on LSD” are pure gold. There is a double album of home demos and a double album of early versions of Wildflowers. The highlight for me is the double live album of tracks, both on and written for Wildflowers. Available in digital and in various CD and vinyl packages, Wildflowers & All The Rest will no doubt light up the world of any Tom Petty fan on your shopping list.

Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup (Polydor Records)

After a string of four albums considered to be their best, Goats Head Soup is largely overlooked in the Stone’s vast catalogue. I’ve always loved it from the spooky opening riff of “Dancing With Mr. D.” to the longing optimism of “Winter.”  The deluxe reissue contains three unreleased tracks with my favorite being the driving “Criss Cross,” which seems to be the most untouched from the original sessions.  Another of the unreleased tracks “Scarlet” I don’t like as much because you can tell Mick Jagger re-did the vocals. There are a few different mixes and instrumentals, the standout being an instrumental version of “Heartbreaker.” The deluxe version contains a long circulating bootleg called Brussels Affair, which is a solid snapshot of the Stones live from this era. Goats Head Soup and the recent reissue of Keith Richards and The X-Pensive Winos Live at the Hollywood Palladium are to go to gifts for any Stones fan on your shopping list.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

The Weary World Trudges Through: Support local with these holiday albums that don’t suck

Many of us are cancelling Thanksgiving plans and looking ahead to an equally weird Christmas, and with the holiday season comes the inevitable buying spree. It was recently reported that Jeff Bezos saw his wealth rise by an estimated $48 billion from March to June alone. In the spirit of rejecting this gross inequity, I urge you to support local businesses.

Any of the albums featured in this column would make excellent gifts for the music lovers in your life. Even more enticing, December 4 is the last “Bandcamp Friday,” in which the revenue share is waived so that every cent goes to the artist. Whether it’s music related or not, consider kicking in a few shekels to your local creators or give a donation if you can swing it. 

A few campaigns to consider:

Dan Blakeslee and the Calabash Club — Christmasland Jubilee

Local songwriter and crooner Dan Blakeslee has built an impressive resume by pounding the pavement throughout New England and putting out a string of acclaimed albums. He’s well known for his ghoulish alter ego Doctor Gasp, but this time takes a turn round the ol’ Christmas tree with his first holiday record, Christmasland Jubilee. 

It’s astounding to think that so many Christmas albums are released year after year given that the canon and themes don’t really don’t change much. Instead of a straight rehashing, Blakeslee manages to bring his own folksy flair to the catalog.

Blakeslee brings a brooding, rolling tumbleweeds vibe to “We Three Kings” and puts his own spin on the melody. He tries out boogie woogie on “The Reindeer Boogie,” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is set atop a gorgeous NOLA-style ragtime, replete with clarinet and muted trumpet.  

Blakeslee describes the album as “a 10-year dream album come to life.” I have the pleasure of knowing Dan in real life, and there is no denying that the guy really loves Christmas music. 

The musical ornamentation (no pun intended) creates a captivating soundscape throughout the record, with deft backing vocals, accordion, piano and percussion. There’s a lot going on at times, but it’s managed with minimal turbulence. A high point is “Silver Bells,” featuring a beautiful combo of Hammond organ, mandolin and vibraphone.

The Calabash Club is pianist/accordionist Mike Effenberger, bassist Nick Phaneuf and drummer Jim Rudolf, but there’s a pretty extensive cast of characters who do a great job.

In addition to the classics, Christmasland Jubilee has a solid crop of originals. “Glowin’, Blowin’, Jumpin’, Swayin’, Wishin’, Swingin’, Dancin’, Rockin’, Fishin’, Laughin’ Christmas Tree” brings a jazz flavor and proves that the holidays are no time for brevity. 

“The Somerville Lights” is a straight-ahead folk tune about the light displays in Blakeslee’s former city, and a bonus song, “Let’s Start Again,” has a more off-the-cuff feel and really shows off his songwriting chops. 

Maybe the fact that Dan and others can keep coming out with engaging takes on the same material is a comment on the supreme adaptability of music itself. Sure, it’s all been done, but now it’s been done by Dan Blakeslee.

Purchase Christmasland Jubilee on at Bandcamp.

Holiday Albums That Don’t Suck

My relationship with holiday music mainly involves grumbling when the dentist’s office starts playing it in early November, but after Dan’s album I decided to see what else is out there. Here are a few of my most cherished holiday records, most of which I pulled from other online “best of” collections yesterday. 

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings — It’s a Holiday Soul Party

The late Sharon Jones put out this soulful selection fearing the glorious horn section of the The Dap Kings in 2009. The slow burn of “Silent Night” and “Please Come Home For Christmas” really let Jones’s vocals shine, and upbeat fare like “8 Days (Of Hannukah)” and “Funky Little Drummer” boy will bring down the house at your Zoom holiday party. 

Jethro Tull — The Jethro Tull Christmas Album

What says Christmas more than some woodland woodwinds or super show-offy arrangements of the classics? In what was to be their last studio album, Tull puts their own proggy spin on the holidays with tunes like “Birthday Card at Christmas” and “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow,” as well as rerecordings of fan favorites like “Weathercock” and the instrumental “Bourée”

Aimee Mann — One More Drifter in the Snow

Christmas doesn’t have to be all good times and cheer; Aimee Mann depresses along with the best of them with “Whatever Happened to Christmas” and “Christmastime,” about things falling apart around the holiday. “Calling on Mary” is a brilliant song no matter the time of year. 

David Sedaris — Holidays on Ice

While not technically music, I always enjoy hearing the audiobook being played on NPR and getting a look at Sedaris’ time as a department store elf.

Willie Nelson — Pretty Paper

By ‘79, Nelson had released 24 albums and was just beginning his well-publicized troubles with the IRS. The title track is a rerecording of Nelson’s song, which was a hit for Roy Orbison. The bright spot for me, though, is the nifty organ and keyboards on tunes like “Rudolph” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Booker T. Jones, who also produced the record. 

The Vandals — Oi to the World!

The Vandals specialize in juvenile themes mixed with lightning fast skate punk, evidenced here with tunes like “A Gun For Christmas” and “Christmastime for My Penis.” Interestingly, the 1996 album received renewed interest after No Doubt covered the title track a few years later.

Jelly Side Down — Had to Be There

The golden era of pop-punk may have come and gone, but Johnston newcomers Jelly Side Down do a good job capturing the spirit. And with stellar recent releases from bands like The Callouts and U.G.L.Y, maybe there’s something in the water. 

There’s definitely some examples of Jelly Side Down nailing the format, with general themes of unease and the angst of the young along with some effective hooks and crunchy guitars. “$18,000 and a Chance at the Title” has the shredding and lead harmonies of Sum 41, and “Midnight” packs a killer hook.

“I Hope You See This” has some heavy breakdowns and dark edges that remind me of Evanescence. “Specter” features an impenetrable fortress of beefy guitars, and they also cover “Valerie,” made famous by Amy Winehouse, which they manage to rev up a bit. 

Buy Had to be There on Bandcamp.