Subterranean Jungle: March alt-rock shows

Coming Attractions:

The Nervous Eaters

I just saw The Nervous Eaters in Boston and they were great. I’ve read about how they were an old-school Boston punk band that got signed to a major label who tried to turn them into The J. Geils Band. Now, I love The J. Geils Band more than anybody reading this, but punk and Peter Wolf don’t need to meet. The Nervous Eaters have a new album called Monsters + Angels, so check it out. Mark Cutler is opening and has two new albums out – show up early for a special treat! 

The Nervous Eaters and Mark Cutler & the Men of Great Courage will rock the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Mar 10. 

Blood Feeder

My new favorite (along with The Devil’s Twins) local band is going to kick out the jams with a potpourri of punk, metal, and hardcore. Yes, I used potpourri to describe a death punk band. Life is too short to review the album again.

Blood Feeder, High ‘n’ Heavy, and Cassie Lee kick out the jams at The Pour Farm in New Bedford on Mar 11.

Jerry Cantrell 

I was bummed last Columbus Day weekend when I couldn’t make the quasars connect to see Alice in Chains at Great Woods. But for all the darkness there is light, and I’m stoked to be able to see Cantrell come and hear all that magic as well as his solo stuff. I don’t think people realize that he was singing lead as much as Layne Staley. This will be a banger.

Jerry Cantrell and Thunderpussy bring the heat to The Strand in PVD on Mar 14.


Alyssa Tuchon is one of the brightest spirits one could ever hope to meet. She lights up the room, loves music, and is always happiest when she is dancing. In January of 2022 the curtain dropped on a lot of that joy. Alyssa was stricken with an undiagnosed disorder that has left her in constant pain with limited mobility. It really sucks and isn’t fair. Alyssa’s friends have come together to put on this benefit to try and help her stay afloat. This is a great lineup for a great cause for an even greater person. I’d ask even if you can’t attend to buy a ticket.

LYSSAPALOOZA featuring performances by Beauquet, Tall Teenagers, Joy Boys, and Eric & the Nothing touches down at Askew on Mar 24. This is an early show with doors at 5pm so we can just pack that much more fun in! Suggested donation is $25, but whatever you can afford: There is a buffet and we’re really just trying to get Alyssa healthy.

The National Reserve and Happiness

I caught the second night of The National Reserve monthly residency at Askew and came away impressed. The National Reserve engage in fracking Creedence Clearwater Revival, Faces, and Flying Burrito Brothers swamps with surgical focus. And… it is pretty fucking good. Happiness is my favorite local power-pop / trash surf band within state lines. I’m guessing this is the first show since 2019 at The Cafe at the Par… nevermind, it just had too many names. The members have been busy as Happiness is composed of Rafay Rashid of Ravi Shavi and 3/4ths of Deer Tick. I’m putting it out there, if they don’t play “The Devil is Working Retail” we (I) riot. 

The National Reserve and Happiness rock Askew on Mar 25.

Rest In Power Holly – We Love You.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

April Showers Us: Memorials and shows to cheer you

“If there is a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven, You Know They’ve Got One Hell of a Band” 

The local music scene has been battered this year with the passing of local musicians Mike Schiavone, Pete McClanahan, and Nick Iddon. I didn’t know Mike but his passing was a jarring blow to the music community coming just hours after he played a Nirvana tribute night. I had met Pete a few times but never really knew him. What struck me about Pete was the sheer power and passion he had as both a songwriter and performer. Pete was a punk rock superhero on stage with the way he attacked his bass. He blasted through songs like a locomotive steamrolling through a starfield night. I was lucky enough to catch Pete many times with his band The Worried. Some of Pete’s other bands over the years included The Buzzards, 32-20’s, and The Yuhboys. Mike and Pete will live on forever in the music and memories they created and all the hearts they touched. 

Then there is Nick… whose passing I’m still processing. Nick Iddon had a personality that could light up the darkest mine. He was so warm. He made everyone feel like family, even if you just met him. Sure, Nick was one hell of a drummer. He could play anything. Hard rock with Donnybrook and Kanerko, smooth grooves with Viking Jesus, conjuring the ghost of Gram Parsons with The Quahogs, or just rocking the hell out with Ravi Shavi – Nick poured his soul into every performance, looking like the happiest person in the room the whole time. He probably was. When he told me several months ago about his illness, which would ultimately take him, he said it so calmly and confidently – like it was no big deal, “I got this.” Every time our paths crossed after, he was so energetic and vivacious that I forgot he had cancer. That was just Nick. I’m sending love and light to all Nick’s family and friends. When times get tough, just close your eyes and picture Nick banging out the beat, hair blowing like he’s in a hurricane with that big smile beaming like a sunrise. 

David Tessier’s All-Star Stars – “Tough Face Girl” single release

The new single, “Tough Face Girl,” from David Tesssier’s All-Star Stars is a burst of ’60s power pop that reminds me of Tommy-era The Who meets The Monkees at the sock hop. Tessier said: “Tough Face Girl was a power pop song which I had written to be part of a short Rock Opera based on the Native American Folk Story ‘The Rough-Face Girl’.” “The song’s chorus was stuck in my head for years, so I decided to rearrange the music and rewrite the lyrics. “It’s about that certain someone you can’t help but love, even if they are, shall we say, a bit curmudgeonly, because you can still see the sweetness deep beneath the exterior.” The single will be available online at BandCamp and through 75OrLess Records on April 1. 

David Tessier’s All-Stars Stars, Haunting Titans, and Death Pesos will rock The Parlour in PVD on April 9. 


Fozzy might be best known as wrestling legend’s Chris Jericho’s heavy metal band. That said, they have been making records and touring the world for over twenty years. I can’t deny the infectiousness of some of their tunes, notably “Judas.” I can’t remember the last time Fozzy was in town so this is a rare chance to catch a legend, in Jericho, doing something he’s not a legend at, while hearing some kick ass hard rock! 

Fozzy, GFM, KrashKarma, and The Nocturnal Affair will rock Fete in PVD on April 10. 


During my teenage punk rock alienation years, bands like 7Seconds gave me hope with their songs of unity. 7Seconds were different from most of ’80s punk and hardcore of the day in that the vocals were actually sung and the songs generally had positive messages. Plus they did a killer cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons!” 

7Seconds, Negative Approach, Catalyst, Bullet Proof Backpack bring the old school punk rock vibes to Alchemy on April 13. 

The Schizophonics

I caught The Schizophonics a few months before the pandemic and they blew my mind! They were a mess of high octane psych-garage with power pop hooks throwing down like space invaders from another dimension. Fitteningly, they were touring behind an album called People In The Sky which sounds like The Sonics jamming with the MC5. This show is going to be a testamentment to the evil powers of rock ‘n’ roll! 

The Schizophonics, Artist Jackie and The Wizard, Salem Wolves will rock Askew in PVD on April 15. 

Digital – Dreams Of Leaving EP Release

When all Civility is lost, there is only one option: Digital. Civility was a local post-punk band that recently underwent a lineup change and decided to write all new songs and be born again as DIgital. It is a cool name because it flies in the face of the current vinyl revival and you’ll probably never find the band if you try to Google them. As for the tunes, “Spectres” reminds me of the Sisters of Mercy meets Head On The Door-era Cure. I guess Echo & The Bunnymen could be added as a reference point for “With You” along with the above. In other words despite the rebranding, Digital still embodies the ’80s post-punk. This show will be bananas! 

Digital will celebrate the release of Dreams Of Leaving with Trigger Discipline, Pilgrims of Yearning, and Video Shoppe at Dusk in PVD on April 16. 

Askew 4th Anniversary Party with The Silks with The Low Cards 

Askew is a melting pot of a venue featuring exciting music of all genres, comedy shows, and great vibes. For their anniversary, the blues will reign supreme! The Silks will bring it with big-time early ’70s style rocking riffs and booty shaking groove. The Low Cards will rip it up and throw it down with some high-voltage shredding. 

The Silks and The Low Cards will celebrate Askew’s 4th Anniversary on April 23. 

Bonus Bangers!

  • The Soul Rebels rock the Narrows Center of the Arts in Fall River on April 7.
  • Julie Rhodes & The Electric Co. with Ali McGuirk and Mary-Elaine Jenkins bring the soulful grooves to Askew on April 16.
  • Melissa Etheridge will be at Bally’s Event Center at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln on April 22. 
  • Clutch, The Sword, Nate Bergman will rock The Strand in Providence on April 30.
  • The Zombies bring their legendary sound to the Narrows Center of the Arts on May 1.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.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

Mercury Dropping, Music Rising: Jump into this pile of shows

Darklands are a Providence/Boston based group just out with Find Peace In The Next Life, their latest LP/EP (do those labels even matter these days?). It’s a charged live set recorded at Distorted Forest Audio recording studio. 

Find Peace opens with a bang with “The Hill I Choose To Die On,” where the two chunky, downtuned guitars create a wall of sound a la My Bloody Valentine. “Spite House” brings in a catchier, emo punk sound and “Bigger People” is a bit noisier and freer-flowing.

This album has a refreshing “warts and all” approach. The vocals are a little pitchy, but I think it seems that way in part because virtually all music we hear these days is digitally done-up with a lot of studio magic.

Purchase Find Peace In The Next Life at Bandcamp.

Here are a handful of late summer/early fall shows for your consideration: 

Note that many venues locally and nationally have announced that they’re requiring the extra step of showing your proof of vaccination and/or wearing a mask. If you ask me, it’s worth the minor inconvenience to ensure everybody feels safe for the return of live music. 

Superwolves (Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Matt Sweeney), Columbus Theatre, September 3

Superwolves is a supergroup duo made up of celebrated songwriter Bonnie “Prince” Billy and guitarist Matt Sweeney. The originally titled Superwolves is the long-awaited follow-up to their 2005 electric folk masterpiece, Superwolf.

KiSSiNG KONTEST/Salem Wolves/Moodrunners/Gamma Rage, Dusk, September 4

Gamma Rage is fronted by recent Motif Music Award Winner Malyssa BellaRosa, Salem Wolves are a Boston rock band of note, and Kissing Kontest is the music of Preston Neutrino. Moodrunners impressed with their stellar debut EP earlier this year. 

Scurvy Dog Parking Lot Mega Show II, September 5

Standing in a parking lot? Will that be fun? Is it even a nice parking lot? Not particularly. But Scurvy Dog’s long running Mega Show series does pack a bunch of cool bands into the Labor Day Sunday. This year’s event features Triangle Forest, the Fatal Flaw, JUGGWORLD, Song Birds and way more.

Rhythm and Roots, Ninigret Park, Labor Day Weekend

A South County favorite returns after a year off. Heavy hitters here include British folkster Richard Thompson, American folkster John Hiatt and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. For local(ish) artists who always deliver, check out Ward Hayden & The Outliers (formerly Girls Guns & Glory), Charlie Marie and Will Evans. 

Ben Folds, Vets Auditorium, September 24

Ever the consummate performer, Ben Folds is coming to town for a solo show. This is not a situation where the lack of band is a bummer. I’ve seen him solo a few times and found the show thoroughly enjoyable. 

The Last Dropout Night: A Celebration of Jon Tierney, The Parlour (PVD), September 25 

Local songwriter “Big Jon” Tierney passed away in December 2020 and was, by all accounts, both extremely talented and very well-liked by all. This memorial performance will feature Kris Hansen, Christian Calderone, Becca Neveu, Matty O, Nate Cozzolino and more. Check Facebook for more details

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Fete, October 6

I caught these guys on a weekend morning news show recently and found them pretty entertaining. It’s a country rock sound that’s heartworn, gritty and that kind of thing, without feeling manufactured. Their latest LP, A Few Stars Apart, dropped in June. 

Whitney, Columbus, October 30

This band kept coming up on my Spotify playlists (sorry, yes, I have surrendered to the algorithm), and I was impressed when I finally dove into their catalog of compelling, hooky chamber pop.

Ancient Offerings: Vudu Sister’s new release offers a modern twist on ancient myths

Burnt Offerings is the new release from Vudu Sister, a unique record featuring modern retellings of ancient myths in Latin and ancient Greek. With his signature gothic folk stylings, Keith J.G McCurdy eloquently spins a new take on tales as old as time. This project immediately caught my attention. Who is this hyper-educated madman? And why write lyrics in dead languages? 

McCurdy, reached by phone, says he’s always loved mythology and Tolkien. “While taking some mythology courses in the University of Rhode Island (URI) Classics department, I fell in love with Latin and Greek languages,” said McCurdy.

McCurdy’s mentor, Dr. Daniel Carpenter, encouraged students to create projects using Latin and Greek. McCurdy had the idea to write songs after trying his hand at poetry, and was awarded a grant from URI to help with the recording costs. 

The cumbersome songwriting and translation operation required a specific plan of attack for each song. “The process was a lot more mathematical than for writing a regular song,” said McCurdy. “These all began with the melody, and in some cases it made more sense to start with the Greek or Latin words first, and sometimes the English.”

Inspired by Ovid’s Heroides poems, told from the viewpoint of women in myth, the record puts the female perspective at the forefront. The subjects feel of particular significance given our society’s reckoning with the issues of sexual assault and gender inequality.

“Scelera Malorum,” or “the crimes of wicked men,” is told from the perspective of the furies in their role as arbiters of vengeance in retribution for crimes against women: “Blood the price, from lawless fire/Having been extorted, is a harsh payment/Out of sleepless hate, from reckless rage our violence.” Angela Degaitas and Rachel Rosencrantz provide backing harmonies, representing the three furies along with McCurdy.

Four out of the five songs are in Latin, with the exception of “ἡ Κλυταιμνήστρα” in Ancient Greek. In it, Clytemnestra kills her husband out of revenge for the slaying of their daughter. “On the surface, ‘Clytemnestra’ doesn’t sound all that musical, so I did this one as kind of a challenge,” said McCurdy.

“Credite Mihi” (“Believe Me”) recounts the story of Cassandra, cursed with the gift of foresight. This was my favorite of the batch, with its Eastern European lilt and catchy melody.

It should be noted that these are all McCurdy’s original songs, not recreations of ancient music. “I thought it was important to do this in a contemporary vein, and in a way that is consistent with my own style,” said McCurdy. He cites musical influences like Sicilian folk and the Greek genre rebetiko.

Much like the subject matter, the music has a classical sounding pedigree, with a string-heavy instrumentation of guitar, double bass, violin and viola. Sonically and thematically, Burnt Offerings picks up where Vudu’s 2016 Mortis Nervosa album leaves off, as that record drew from ghost stories and folk tales. 

“Flores Lecti” gives a sweet and sour effect, moving from somber 6/8 to an upbeat, almost poppy chorus. But in true downer mythological fashion, this chorus turns out to mean “I became a bride of death/Who is forever a maiden,” describing how Persephone is taken by Hades at the apex of youth and beauty.

“Amor Carmen Novercae” is a macabre waltz that is anchored by an enchanting violin. The album features excellent “hands off” production with minimal effects.

McCurdy realizes the barriers to entry with Burnt Offerings, and isn’t expecting listeners to learn Ancient Greek. “I’m well aware that it’s potentially alienating, and that a lot of people won’t go that deep into the subject matter,” he said. “There’s a hope that the songs will stand on their own melodically, and are still able to capture or evoke some of that emotion.”

Though I admit that it is more difficult to connect with music you don’t understand, I found the arranging, melodies, and all-around musicianship impressive. Even more impressive is McCurdy’s will to take on this gargantuan project and breathe new life into these age-old stories. 

Burnt Offerings, along with translations, is available for download at Bandcamp.

Happy Days Are Here Again: The return of the Newport Folk Festival

After a year off for something obscure called COVID, the Newport Folk Festival returned to Fort Adams to rage again. The festival started inauspiciously Friday, as I could see lightning flashing in the horizon driving in. There was a shelter-in-place warning in effect when I arrived, which is odd when there is no place to shelter. The first act I caught was The Marcus King Band, which thundered out of the speakers like a burst of ’60s soul with some old school blues chops thrown into the storm. King is a white guy in a cowboy hat who pulls off covering Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” On his own original, “Wildflowers & Wine,” King channels Otis Redding. On “Goodbye Carolina,” King and the band add some roots Americana blues into the mix.  

Other highlights from Friday were Margo Price with the Resistance Revival Chorus, which had a powerful Carly Simon by campfire stripped-down vibe on the main stage. I then caught Maggie Rose at the Busking Tent singing a soulful number, “Saint,”  from her upcoming album. Rose and her band got down with a funky ditty called “Do It.”  After Rose finished, it was announced that the festival was called for the day because of ominous approaching clouds with 40 mph winds and hail. The storm never actually hit the Fort, but better safe than sorry. I still couldn’t help wondering if this year’s festival, like last, was doomed.

Saturday started with Grace Potter being the hero for agreeing to kick off the festival at the un-rock ‘n’ roll hour of 11am after her set got cancelled by the phantom storm of the day before. She has her own freaking festival in Burlington, Vermont, but she wanted to rock in Newport, so that is what she and her band did. Margo Price would be all over the place at this year’s festival. On Saturday, she performed a set with Jeremy Ivey as a duo doing each other’s tunes. I was struck by how much Ivey is influenced by Tom Petty. Certainly not a bad thing, one would have to be a pencil-necked geek not to like Tom Petty. Petty’s influence reverberates in Ivey’s tunes, especially “Diamonds Back to Coal” and “All Kinds of Blue.” Price closed out the set solo with a topical ballad, “American Made,” which was just beautiful.  

The highlight of Saturday, in a day of highlights, was without question Randy Newman. Newman performed solo on piano, occasionally accompanied by a crying child at the side of the stage and a foghorn from the bay that seemed to annoy him more and more as the set went on. Newman did most of his hits from the opening “It’s a Jungle Out There,” through “You Got a Friend in Me” and “Short People” — pretty much everything but “I Love LA.” My favorite was the audience participation number “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)” which just amped up Newman’s ongoing hysterical stage banter.

Jason Isabell and Amanda Shires closed out the day as a stripped-down three-piece. It was good, but I missed the power of Isabell’s backing band, The 400 Unit. I do love Isabell’s lyrics. “Heaven is wasted on the dead” was one that stood out. They closed out the day with a lovely rendition of “If We Were Vampires.”

I heard plenty of people around the festival talking about the Caamp, so I checked them out Sunday. My first impression was they came off as a midwest version of Mumford & Sons — remarkable for how unremarkable they were. I warmed up a little by the third song, but in general, it wasn’t my thing. Billy Strings, on the other hand, was a badass mix of eccentric bluegrass and folk. I don’t even like bluegrass all that much, but Strings was electric and seemed to be a consensus fav for the day in the crosstalk throughout the festival. Even Governor McKee was rocking out to Strings’ set on the Quad stage.  

It was a good thing Nathaniel Rateliff booked two sets after that elusive storm cancelled his set Friday. His set Sunday was a stripped-down version instead of the usual high energy R&B of his work with the Night Sweats that I personally love. Rateliff did eventually do a surprise set with The Night Sweats on Monday, but of course, that was my day off from the festival. Rateliff brought up Tommy Prine and the ever-present (and wonderful) Margo Price for a John Prine tribute to close his set.

Allison Russell closed out Sunday with set chock full of guests galore, R&B, jazz, poetry and really a little of everything. One moment Russell is playing trumpet, the next she is doing a gospel style duet of “Help” by the Beatles with (of course) Margo Price. Russell also brought up Yola, Brandi Carlile and oh, Chaka (freaking) Khan to close out the day with renditions of “Ain’t Nobody” and “I’m Every Woman.”     

Tuesday was another stacked day with killer sets early from Vagabon, Melissa Chapman and Langhorne SlimBleachers did a stripped-down set of their quirky brand of pop. Fred Armison had a hilarious set of music-centered comedy using guitars and drums. Sharon Van Etten performed solo on the main stage. I dug her new song, “Darkness Fades.” My favorite Scientologist, Beck, was hysterical with his banter and performed both solo and accompanied by guitarist Smokey Hormel, Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) and Armison on drums. Beck dipped deep into his songbook to do renditions of “Asshole,” “One Foot in the Grave” and “Debra” as well as covers of “I Am the Cosmos”(Chris Bell) and “Raspberry Beret” (Prince).      

Black Pumas absolutely tore it up as the surprise guest on the main stage with a crazy set of psychedelic soul Wednesday. They just oozed joy and energy. Lake Street Dive continued the vibes, performing standouts like “Hypotheticals,” “Hush Money” and “Know That I Know” from their latest album, Obviously.  

Then it was time for Rhode Island’s own Deer Tick to close out the festival, and what a glorious ending it was to six day of transcendental music. I’ve seen Deer Tick over 50 times, and this set easily ranks in the top 5. They covered ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses” in honor of the recently passed Dusty Hill. They did standards like “Baltimore Blues,” “Ashamed” and “Hope is Big.” They brought Vanessa Carlton up to duet with husband, John McCauley, on “In Our Time.” They dug deep into their archives to pull out “Cake and Eggs,” an unreleased song from the Divine Providence album. They also did a new song called “If She Could Only See Me Now” from their new live album, Live From Fort Adams, recorded last year in an empty Fort Adams. The contrast between this year and last couldn’t be greater for Deer Tick. The joy of 2021 made the bleakness and fear of 2020 seem like a nightmare that one half remembers as the final refrain of “Goodnight Irene” drifted over the bay.  

R.I.P. Dusty Hill

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

Keep on Moving: Blunt Narratives: Rock photographer makes it look like child’s play

Richard’s Rock & Roll Alphabet 

Like most good and bad ideas, the genesis of the new book Richard’s Rock & Roll Alphabet happened in a bar — Patrick’s Pub to be exact. It was there that Robert Blunt asked renowned photographer Richard McCaffrey if he had photographs of musicians that spanned the entire alphabet  Blunt’s idea was to use the photographs as a teaching tool for his young niece, Isabelle, to learn the alphabet and associate letters with amazing artists. One drink led to another photograph and the next thing you know, Blunt and McCaffrey had the ingredients to compile a pretty sweet book. Blunt designed and wrote the descriptions while McCaffrey unearthed the goods taken from his years freelancing for Rolling Stone, Billboard, Creem and others outlets in the 1970s and ’80s. The photos appear alphabetically in the book with a few different artists for each letter. Some of my favorite photos in the book are Stevie Nicks in 1976, B.B. King at San Quentin Prison with a guard patrolling the prison wall in the background, The Kinks in 1976, Thin Lizzy in 1977, Sly Stone at the then Palace Theater (now Providence Performing Arts Center) in 1973 and the Ramones in 1978. There are some serious gems here, and the music historian in me appreciates Blunt’s narratives.   

The book is out now as a limited edition release. Blunt and McCaffrey are having a couple of book signings where you can get your signed copy and ask McCaffrey what it was like seeing Aerosmith in Newport in 1973 or about the last “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated” Sex Pistols show at Winterland in 1978.  Here are those deets!    

July 8: Muldowney’s Pub, 121 Empire St, PVD. 7 – 9pm

July 9: Patrick’s Pub, 381 Smith St, PVD. 7 – 9pm 

July 10: Round Again Records, 278 Wickenden St, PVD. 2 – 4pm

July 10: POP Emporium of Popular Culture, 219 W Park St, PVD. 5 – 7pm

Healing Arts in the Park: Making Music with Mark Cutler

Rhode Island Music Hall of Famer Mark Cutler is hosting a free collaborative songwriting project throughout July and August at 7pm. Much like Cutler’s The Same Thing Project, this is open to all. People are encouraged to bring instruments, but it is by no means required. The July sessions will take place on Thursdays at Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 N. Main St, in downtown Providence. Register by emailing sparkle_bryant@nps.cov or visit www.thesamethingproject.com for more information. In August the sessions will remain on Thursdays at 7pm, but will move to Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Ave, in Pawtucket. I’m excited to give this a try!

Upcoming Rockers:

The Autocrats bring the funk-fueled dance party every Wednesday till the apocalypse and/or the next plague at Askew in Providence.  

The McGunks Album Release Show at Alchemy featuring sets by The McGunks, Stubborn Hearts, COB and The Paraplegics on July 9. Doors are at 8pm, post-plague new location is 171 Chestnut St, PVD.

Electric Six, Volk, & The Smoke Breaks will rock Alchemy on July 15 — holy shit it’s like a second Bastille Day!  Doors are at 7pm.

Deer Tick and Ravi Shavi will rock the Ocean Mist on July 16 & 17. Doors are at 8pm.

Scurvy Dog Mega Parking Lot Mega Show will take place (shockingly) in the parking lot of the Scurvy Dog in PVD on July 18. The fun kicks off at 1pm and runs until all 11 bands play or the cops shut it down. Some of the acts I’m stoked to see on this bill include Pony Boy, Midnight Creeps, Gamma Rage and The David Tessier All-Star Stars (A.S.S.).

Record Review Mailbag:

Kris Hansen’s Viking Jesus — Before The Mutation

It may have taken 15 years or so of reviewing Kris Hansen’s releases, but I finally found one that I love! That’s not to say the previous ones sucked, there were cool songs sprinkled here and there. I just never felt like the rawness of Hansen’s best live performances was ever captured. Before The Mutation showcases the rock, funk, folk and electro atoms that Viking Jesus fuse together to construct their wall of sound. “Hideaway Boxes” reminds me of The Police with the harmonies of the early Pixies as Hansen duets with his wife Tara Hansen. Tara takes the lead vocal on “For A Dying Scene,” which just floats into a sphere of haunted wistfulness. “Same Killer,” on the other hand, kicks somewhere between post-punk and mid-’90s rock ‘n’ roll. I’m guessing “Boston Marathon ” is about the bombing in 2013, but I don’t have the lyric sheets. What I do know is the way the song goes from the jazzy funk of the verse to the roll in the chorus is just damn hypnotizing. Before The Mutation is available now! It’s on the internet, kid! 

Bill Bartholomew — Bats

What I like about this three song EP is the imagery of bats on the highway in the title track because it reminds me of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I also dig the spacey parts on “(A Lot To Be) Free For,” but the rest of it is annoying as the title. The musicianship is certainly competent and I like the lo-fi clarity in the production, but I have no desire to ever listen to this again. Maybe that’s just me, though, so check it out on the streaming service of your choice.  

Email music news, records, and night swimming spots to mclarkin33@gmail.com

Optimism Rising: Modern folk to usher in a post-pandemic summer

I write this as I’m about to head off to a concert, hopefully the first of many this summer, and it finally feels like the pandemic cloud is lifting. This month, I take a look at two compelling takes on modern folk.

Will Orchard — I Reached My Hand Out

It’s been over three years since my profile of Will Orchard, then performing under the moniker LittleBoyBigHeadonBike. We spoke about his releasing music on Bandcamp at a furious pace, at times putting out songs every few days. 

Now based in Boston, he hasn’t slowed down much, making music under his own name. His sophomore release, I Reached My Hand Out, combines hi-fi production, experimental song structures, and Orchard’s frank, observational honesty. 

Orchard’s website reads: “I Reached My Hand Out documents the process of walking away from shame, learning to criticize yourself and the world with empathy, and then walking right back again.” 

Elements of dream pop and psychedelia pair well with themes of loneliness and evocative, slice-of-life lyrics. The chorus of voices behind “Alone” bolster a kind of a half spoken word song that reads like poetry:

Driving through perfect little towns/on the edge of New Hampshire, I start to speed/The moon just sat there unmoving above me/And the headlights in the jeep trailing behind, uneasily.”

I Reached My Hand Out was released by Better Company Records and produced by San Fermin’s Allen Tate, which makes sense given that band’s penchant for lush production. The album provides many sonic textures to unpack, including clarinet, piano, banjo, and choruses of layered background vocals, which at times remind me of a mix between the Killers and Bon Iver.

While the album does feature some of the expected stripped-down fingerpicking (“Hair Salon”), it goes in plenty of bold new directions. “October Hallways” and “Smoke Alarm” feature a cool take on the neo folk electronica sound perfected by Sufjan Stevens. 

After a hazy intro, “Come Into My Fog” evolves into something so upbeat and poppy to the point of being Deadlike. The song narrates profound moments of minutiae from his life: 

“I walked out of my foggy head/And got a cup of coffee downstairs/There was a cornucopia/On the kitchen table ringed with flowers.” 

“Rita,” with its evocative lyrics (“Throwing darts at the wall/With a blindfold around my heart”) and a  memorable melody, is a highlight. The album’s opus is “Over Blue Highways,” which sounds like alt-country-era Ryan Adams interspersed with the earnest acoustics of Phosphorescent.

I commend Will on this well-thought-out record. All those Bandcamp releases were leading him to some pretty ambitious, interesting material.

Find streaming info, lyrics, and more at willorchard.net.

Andrew Victor — Here, honey

On Here, honey, Westerly-based songwriter Andrew Victor mines the rich harmony in subtlety, with a sense of spacious noise and pathos. Adding to an impressive back catalogue of DIY releases, Victor wrote, performed and recorded everything on the album, and you can sense the homespun quality. 

The acoustic “Westerly” incorporates elements that are both sad and pastoral, with haunting harmonies underneath. “Meant to Be” features sparse, moody synths.

The album features more traditional songs mixed in with more sporadic instrumental interludes. “Quilcene” has an eerily familiar piano pattern, and “South Prairie” reminds me of Vangelis’s Chariots of Fire score. 

“Give Me The Open Field Now” is a futuristic groove set over a hazy whir. Though it’s not super electric, he’s got a David Gilmouresque “master of effects” thing going on throughout.

Call me a normie, but I definitely could’ve used a few more verse-chorus-verse tunes among the drony instrumentals. But all in all, worth checking out. 

Purchase Andrew Victor’s Here, honey at Bandcamp.

Back To Life, Back To Reality: Clubs are booking? Shut up and take my money!

As social distancing restrictions ease up, concert announcements for national acts have started to trickle in, just really not here. Outside of Tiffany in June and Electric Six in July, I can’t find anything in terms of summer concerts with national acts in Rhode Island or southern New England that I’d want to attend. Some might contend that with those two acts, you don’t need anything else, to which I say, “Touche.” In Massachusetts shows have been going on sale pretty steadily, and I did get a bit loco in the initial wave of announcements. The first week I secured tickets to Tommy Stinson, Bob Mould, Guided By Voices and Wilco. I don’t even like Wilco. 

Till that purchase, I didn’t think the pandemic had much of an effect on me. Local music has been going strong for a couple of weeks in venues like Askew and Dusk in Providence. The Parlour is now joining them in allowing a limited capacity seated crowd. Right now all shows are pretty much on weekends but I’d look for that to expand as things evolve. I also noticed the Greenwich Odeum and the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River also are starting to have events with a limited capacity.  

The Return of the Newport Festivals

The cancellation of the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals last year just made summer feel incomplete.  Certainly that could be said about a lot of things in 2020, but thankfully both festivals will be returning this summer!  Normally in our Summer Guide I’d rip through a few acts performing at each festival to check out, but as of this writing, not a single act has been announced. This hasn’t stopped the Newport Folk Festival from being completely sold out per usual. Right now both festivals are operating under the assumption that they will be at 50% capacity.  The Newport Folk Festival, for the first time in its storied history, will be a six-day event with two separate three-day passes (July 23 thru the 25th and July 26 thru the 28th) for maximum inclusiveness. The Newport Jazz Festival will kick off July 30 and run through August 1. Even though the Folk Festival is sold out, they have partnered with Lyte to do a fan-to-fan ticket exchange to counteract scalping. There will no doubt be plenty of ticket movement with two different sets of three-days passes and no info available yet on who is playing what day, so check out newportfolk.org for more info.  

Newport Folk Fest will run from July 23 – 28 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. Newport Jazz Festival will run from July 30 – August 1 at Fort Adams State Park.  

Summer Jams

These are 11 of my all-time favorite jams to crank in the summer. I stayed away from the Beach Boys and The Lovin’ Spoonful (even though that stuff is great) because everybody already knows it.  

The Undertones, “Here Comes The Summer”

Palmdale, “Here Comes The Summer” (completely different song than The Undertones)

Helen Love, “Long Hot Summer” (both parts one and two!)

The Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer”

The Go-Go’s, “Vacation”

Jesse Malin, “Black Hair Girl”

Cracker, “Big Dipper”

Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat By The Ocean”

Elvis Costello, “The Other Side of Summer”

Neutral Nation, “bad music beach”

Superchunk, “Learned to Surf”

Upcoming Shows:

Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage.

The Men of Great Courage is Mark Cutler’s more roots-based Americana-style vehicle for music. Cutler has livestreamed solo performances throughout the pandemic on Facebook, but it’s great to hear that he’ll be back on stage in front of an audience where he belongs.

Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage will busk out the jams for a limited capacity at The Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River on June 4. The event will also be livestreamed; check out The Narrows pages for more information.

Pony Boy and Hope Anchor

Pony Boy has a wide palette that draws from everything from The Stooges to The Beatles. Hope Anchor packs a post-punk punch with goth highlights around the edge. This show will rock like a Nor’easter!  

Pony Boy and Hope Anchor rock at Askew on June 11.  


I’m kind of amazed that someone who started out as a teenager covering “I Think We’re Alone Now” in malls 34 years ago still has a career for nothing else. Power to Tiffany, gotta respect the hustle. It is also great that the Greenwich Odeum is back hosting live music.

Tiffany will be at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on June 25.  

Electric Six

This show is so big that Alchemy had to pack up and move around the corner to the former Art Bar on Chestnut St. just to accommodate it. That’s right, Alchemy has moved — no more long stairs to avoid falling down. Alchemy has not re-opened yet, but they will be hosting the hottest show of the summer! As I’ve said in these pages before, Electric Six combines the groove of the Talking Heads with the hard rock of KISS to forge ahead into the next frontier of rock ‘n’ roll. Electric Six at Alchemy at the Art Bar just sounds like more fun than could possibly be legal.  See you there!

Electric Six rocks the new Alchemy in Providence on July 15.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

Keep on Movin: Ten Years of Magic: Pile celebrates with a livestreamed performance

Pile — Magic Isn’t Real

Pile, the celebrated indie rock band with Boston origins recently marked the pandemic-delayed 10th anniversary of their fantastic album Magic Isn’t Real, holding a livestream performance with their original lineup of Matt Becker, Matt Connery, Kris Kuss and frontman Rick Maguire. In the last decade, Pile has gained a legion of devoted fans and have become known as a “rock band’s rock band.” 

Born out of the basement show scene in Allston, the band’s heavy but deeply harmonic sound defies categorization. Magic’s songs are as biting and angular as The Jesus Lizard, but way more dynamic, and jittery like Gang of Four, but with way better hooks. 

“Number One Single” is a craggly jam with a stop-start feel and warp speed drumming. “Pets” is a catchy, sludge-pop number with downtuned warmth that makes it a modern classic. 

Not unlike fellow Bostonians The Pixies, their sound feels experimental and edgy, but I found myself hitting the repeat button and don’t quite know why. The “But I was honest” refrain in the song  “Octopus” is downright anthemic, and the soaring “Two Snakes” keeps you guessing the whole time. 

Just when these songs approach conventional pop structures, they careen off into new and interesting directions. “Don’t Touch Anything” is my favorite, and remains a fan favorite as well (if Spotify data is to be believed). 

I revisited the album with Mcguire by phone a few days before the livestream.

Jake Bissaro (Motif): Magic was the first Pile record with the full band lineup, right?

Rick Maguire: Yeah, it’s Matt Becker, Chris and I on the album. We went on our first tour in the fall of 2009, and a few months later Matt found out he was going to be a father, so we knew we had to get everything fully recorded and tracked by the following July.

JB: Did having a band affect the sound, as opposed to the earlier solo releases?

RM: I think so. With the full band, there was definitely a lot more room to experiment with dynamics, and it was good just generally having other people to bounce ideas off of.

JB: It seems like the album represented a bit of a breakthrough for you guys, at least in terms of a New England presence. What do you remember about the reception? 

RM: I do remember it being pretty well-received. Around that time, we were playing way more basements than clubs, so the album started to open up a new world to us — new people, new music and new venues I didn’t even realize existed. 

JB: It feels like now, there’s a sort of mythology built up around the Boston rock scene around that time. Do you have fond memories of it?

RM: Very much so. I think I have my own mythology about that time in some ways, but it was pretty exciting. I lived in a house with a bunch of people in bands, and within a two minute walk you could get to three different houses that had shows regularly. On some nights, there would be three or four happening, and you’d try to catch as much as you could. 

JB: Which tracks are most memorable to you?

RM: It’s strange; the ones that are more memorable now are the ones we haven’t played all that much because of this anniversary show. I’ve formed new memories around the ones we’ve continued to play over the past 10 years. But having to relearn a song like “Levee,” I have absolutely no idea what I was playing, and I had to think about what I might have done back then to help figure it out.

JB: What was the recording process like?

RM: Pretty smooth, from what I remember. It was recorded by Richard Marr at Galaxy Park Studios in Allston, now in Salem. I think we set aside just a week, and we recorded the album plus what ended up being the Big Web 7”. We basically did everything live, but with additional takes punched in.

JB: Lyrically, it seems like many of the subjects are cloaked in metaphor. Was this an intentional move?

RM: I was going through some personal stuff at the time and I didn’t want to be too overt. It just felt like a safer way to express myself, and maybe I thought it was a more powerful way to have different characters, or animals, tell the story.

JB: Do you now consider yourself a “Nashville Band” now that you’ve relocated? Does it even matter?

RM: I’m in Boston right now. I still very much like spending time here, and essentially split my time between the two places. But ultimately, wherever people want to say we’re from is totally fine. It’s semantics at this point. 

JB: Any final thoughts on the album?

RM: I have my own personal and complicated feelings about it, but at this point it just feels like a picture of that period of my life. 

Pile plans to write and record a new album later this year, slated for a 2022 release. 

Buy Magic Isn’t Real at Pile’s bandcamp page.