Motif’s 2022 Music Awards Nominees: Who will take home the trophy?
With local music beginning to blossom once more following two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Motif is pleased to present our annual Music Awards! These awards compile nominees put forward by local venues, record labels, music writers and radio stations.
For being the smallest state, RI certainly has a never ending supply of fantastic music spanning all genres. This year, our list of nominees is especially exciting, featuring a blend of scene veterans and brand new talent. Every single band, singer, venue and album listed here represents the absolute best that RI music has to offer.
Along with the awards ceremony, which will be hosted at the legendary venue Fete Music Hall, there will be food, drinks and live music provided by Stefan Couture,returning performers School of Rock, and other acts.
No matter who you select in each category, it is important to recognize and appreciate just how much creativity, vitality and talent is present in RI music. Many of these acts have promising futures ahead, and it is always a joy to see how music from this state evolves and captivates ears and hearts worldwide. To all the musicians, venues, labels and audiophiles in RI, we salute you.
More than 4,800 of you voted, and the winners of the 2021 RI Music Awards are in! Thanks to the over 230 people came to celebrate and enjoy Fête Music Hall’s drinks and Haven Brothers’ hearty eats.
The event kicked off, in music awards tradition, with an inspiring performance by future rock stars from the School of Rock Seekonk. Then MCs John Fuzek and BettySioux Tailor introduced a bevvy of local music makers, club owners and booking agents. There were performances sprinkled among the awards, including a glow-in-the dark surprise immersive show from the Providence Drum Troupe, a solo performance by emerging country singer Lauren King and some serious rock by lcoal-super-group quartet PonyBoy.
Congrats to all the winners above, to everyone who was nominated (it’s a rigorous process) and to everyone who managed to make original music during the very fraught, weird year we’ve had.
Look for more content, including our Rhody After Dark’s team’s video of interviews with a few of the winners and presenters, online soon at motifri.com/musicawards2021
BEST ONLINE STREAMING PERFORMANCE: Joe Potenza at the Parlour
Bassist Joe Potenza began streaming from the Parlour with his band, Evening Sky when COVID hit, and quickly gained a large and loyal following, so it’s no surprise Potenza took home this inaugural award. – EO
BEST COVID PIVOT: Dusk – Outdoor Concerts and Movies
When RIers were urged to “Take it Outside,” Dusk did just that by developing a full suite of music and movie programming that made attendees feel safe and entertained, with the help of the City of Providence, which turned a mostly unused alley into an outdoor entertainment space. – EO
FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO (ALL GENRES): Beth Barron – “I’m Alive”
Beth Barron’s video for her single “I’m Alive” is a beautifully produced piece of art that depicts a classic boy-meets-girl story against the backdrop of Barron’s vocals; she sings straight into the camera, bathed in sepia tones. – EO
FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHER: Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson started photographing live shows for local act Sybil Disobedience, then began getting calls to shoot other bands’ shows. He said of his work that “I make enough money to put pizza in my belly and pay for my big camera.” What more could a photographer ask for? For the second time, Johnson has taken home the laurels by popular write-in vote! – EO
FAVORITE SOUND PERSON: Greg Bass
Greg Bass is a life-long East Providence resident who started mixing bands at the Cage nightclub on Richmond Street in 1984. James McGrath mentored him and gave him the job as house sound person. He stayed with the club in its second location on Union Street and continued when it became Rocket. He has run sound at the second and third Met locations, second and third Living Room incarnations, the second Lupo’s and Lupo’s at The Strand and for the celebrated Thursday night dance concerts at The Towers in Narragansett. Greg was the original sound person for the PVD/RI Folk Festivals and Common Fence Music since 2016. Greg also is a multi-instrumentalist and singer and has performed in many bands over the years, such as The Bastards, Cool Beverages, Electric Joey, Huge, The SuperMags (who opened for the B-52’s a few years back), and many others. Plus, he is is a non-denominational RI wedding officiant: The Rock and Roll Reverend. – JF
FAVORITE PROMOTER: John Difruscio
John “Cyco” Difruscio has been a promoter since the ’80s, cutting his teeth at The Living Room and Confetti. He now co-owns Askew and Alchemy with his wife, Windsong Hadley, and continues to bring the best bands around to play his stage. – EO
BEST AMERICANA ACT: Man and Wife
Man is Kris Hansen, Wife is his actual partner in marriage Tara Hansen (truth in advertising!), and together they conceive a sound born out of a lifetime of companionship. Friends since they were 15 years old, there is a natural interplay between their voices, a harmony that instinctively knows when one must lead and the other follow. We now pronounce you Best Americana Act 2021. – NC
FAVORITE AMERICANA SINGER / SONGWRITER: Allison Rose
A counselor by day, Allison Rose composes melodies precisely engineered to deliver that “good cry.” This talented multi-instrumentalist’s most devastating weapon is not the guitar, piano or even ukulele, but her voice, which modulates from breathy, secretive whispers to soaring high notes that trigger all the appropriate synapses. There’s an undeniable empathy in her music that enables her to stand out in a field saturated with sad journal entries. When she sings through her grief, it’s to let you know that you can survive your hardships, too. – NC
FAVORITE AMERICANA SINGER / SONGWRITER: Dan Lilley
Last year’s Critic’s Choice Award recipient, Dan Lilley’s decades of dedication yield him the 2021 popular vote. A veteran of numerous bands and projects including Sane; Tyger, Tyger; The Flying Ditchdiggers, Lovetrain, Dan Lilley and the Keepers, Dan Lilley and Scatman, and Forever Young, Dan has become something more than just a fixture in the music community, but a true brand unto himself; a reliable name for honest rock n’ roll. – NC
FAVORITE AMERICANA VOCALIST (1 of 2): Becky Bass
Actress/model/voice-over artist/steel pannist, this supreme hyphenate never ceases to amaze; least of all when leading the band, breathing life into old familiar standards with her honey-coated vocals. Don’t be fooled by her baby face; her commanding presence on any stage is evident the moment she steps in front of the microphone. Countless audiences have found themselves bewitched by her voice, which sounds somehow magically transported from a crackling Victrola to the present day. – NC
FAVORITE AMERICANA VOCALIST (2 of 2): AJ Salemi
AJ Salemi’s words and music are the secret sauce that gives Consuelo’s Revenge its signature eclectic folk gypsy punk vibe. Listen to the beautiful “Teri’s Song” or the barnstorming “The Palatine Light” to see what I mean. – JB
FAVORITE BLUEGRASS BAND: Ocean State Ramblers
If this isn’t the most warm and inviting assemblage of kindly neighbors I’ve ever witnessed, I don’t know what is! The sweet souls who make up this quartet carry the torch for a traditional form of distinctly American music that endures solely because of the love and labor of musicians like these. If you aren’t fortunate enough to catch them at your local farmers market or various festivals around New England, their website offers tips for the best settings to experience their Soundcloud. I would like to nominate the Ocean State Ramblers for Most Endearing Musical Act, if possible. Protect them at all costs! – NC
FAVORITE COUNTRY ACT: Back Rhodes
With their unique take on progressive, or shall we say, thinking man’s country, Back Rhodes have won over audiences across New England. On stages great and small, their bright, well-polished style shines just as much as it twangs. The fullness of their sound, accentuated by banjo and violin, create little worlds for us northerners to dream away to. Their most recent single, “Hiding from the Sun,” evokes the feeling of walking into a honky-tonk, not quite getting up the nerve to approach the cowgirl with the biggest hair, stepping outside for a smoke and regaining your courage after a shot of Jack. Maybe I’m overthinking it? – NC
FAVORITE BLUES ACT: Neal & the Vipers
I have a vivid memory of a local television commercial that ran circa the early ’90s, when I was still an impressionable youth. Some venue, probably defunct, advertising its summer concert series. The rock radio DJ voice-over announces “Young Neal & The Vipers” and for no more than three seconds an image of a man in black sunglasses playing a black guitar with a bad attitude splashes across my low-definition floor unit. These guys have been at it forever and they still gig more than anyone you could possibly name. They are the realest out there and it is once again our honor to recognize them. – NC
FAVORITE CHORAL ACT: Rhode Island Gay Men’s Chorus
Last year’s winners in this category return as champions under a new name! Formerly the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, this celebrated ensemble rang in the new year with a declaration to represent the Ocean State in its entirety. With a mission statement “to build a world where musical beauty, creativity and expression are experienced, valued and nurtured,” we couldn’t ask for better. – NC
FAVORITE FOLK ACT: Dan Lilley & the Keepers
Racking up the accolades, Dan Lilley takes home another award for his work with accompanying band The Keepers. Our readers voted them Best Folk Act, but you’d be hard pressed to pigeonhole them. Classic rock, blues, covers and originals, Dan Lilley & The Keepers personify timeless, quality music. – NC
FAVORITE JAZZ ACT: Joe Potenza
In a very tight voting race, acclaimed bassist Joe Potenza edged out the competition. Consummate professional and staple of the Rhode Island jazz scene, Joe has provided the groove for every combination of trio, quartet and impromptu collective of note. As humble as he is talented (if that’s even possible!) he’s self-described as “just a bass player trying to get by.” Our readers seem to think you’re doing just fine, Joe! – NC
FAVORITE R&B ACT: Steve Smith & the Nakeds
With nearly 50 years experience in the biz under their championship belt, it’s no surprise that Steve Smith and the Nakeds are repeat winners in this category. This road-tested and RI Music Hall of Fame inducted 10-piece (!) puts on a live show that is second to none. Steve’s booming voice and magnetic presence keep crowds of all ages engaged, while the armada of highly skilled musicians assembled on stage make the whole thing sound larger than life. – NC
FAVORITE WORLD MUSIC: Atwater Donnelly
The term “world music” is a bit inelegant, a terse phrase that’s meant to be broad, but not-quite-all-encompassing. I find it similarly difficult to describe Atwater Donnelly as merely a musical act. Sure, they play music: on an array of instruments and across numerous genres, spanning multiple cultures and continents. But they also dance, and recite poetry, and write books, and curate a radio program. The common thread apparent in all of their endeavors is that they educate and work to bring the world wherever they go. – NC
FAVORITE STREET BAND / BRASS BAND / MARCHING BAND: Brass Attack
Last year’s winners of the coveted “Favorite Wedding Band” award, Brass Attack are the go-to guns for hire for any event in need of live music. Emphasis on live. They perform without a net (“no pre-recorded sequenced music tracks, vocal tracks, are used … ever!” reads their bio) to the delight of audiences at wedding receptions, corporate events, and even two former presidents! With a wide-ranging repertoire that guarantees a little something for everybody, it’s easy to see why Brass Attack remains a favorite. – NC
FAVORITE OPEN MIC: Askew Thursdays with Mike Newell & The Parlour Open Mic with Steve Donovan
Voters couldn’t settle on just one best open mic night, so this year we recognize the outstanding weekly happenings at The Parlour and Askew! Every Wednesday, Steve Donovan gives you the stage at The Parlour to perform your music, comedy, poetry, one-man show, you name it. Thursdays at Askew are an open jam session led by the decorated Adam Newell. (Checks calendar…) Looks like you don’t have to choose either, why not experience both? – NC
FAVORITE AMERICANA ALBUM: Lauren King – “The Wolf is Back”
On chilly dirt road ballads like “Wild Woman,” you can picture the vapor leaving Lauren King’s mouth as she repeatedly pleads “What if I can’t change?” to a desolate, wintry landscape. Composed in nature, primarily during the early days of the pandemic, the lyrics on The Wolf is Back frequently circle around feelings of loneliness and longing, all while a violin sighs in the background. Just when the heartbreak gets to be almost too much to bear, “Romeo” switches up the mood with its peppy horn section and subtle pop production flourishes. Followed by the inspirational “Angel Song,” which urges “Don’t stop that fire within you / They can’t take it away,” King presents an album that is cohesive but complex in the facets of emotions displayed. – NC
FAVORITE AMERICANA FESTIVAL: Rhythm and Roots Festival
Spanning three days, three stages, dozens of food and craft vendors, and an entire campground full of activities, this big time music festival has been a Labor Day Weekend tradition in Charlestown for over 20 years. Music lovers congregate at Ninigret Park to experience an eclectic assortment of artists playing blues, swing, zydeco, polka and everything in between. Previous years’ lineups have included performers such as Bruce Hornsby, Los Lobos, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and The Squirrel Nut Zippers among other well-known national acts. – NC
ALT / ROCK
FAVORITE ALT ACT: The Quahogs
The Quahogs taking the top honor in the top category was really a long-time-coming coronation. The Quahogs squeeze the juices from the roots of Americana and burn them up in a boiling rock ‘n’ roll stew. The Quahogs don’t have any shows listed, but they play out pretty frequently as a band, and guitarists Stev DelMonico and Steve Donovan regularly play out solo. – MC
FAVORITE LIVE ACT: David Tessier and the All-Star Stars
David Tessier and the All-Star Stars are always a great time live, whether they are performing their own stuff or doing a few themed tribute sets to bands such as The Monkees. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them live, but back in 2018 I described them as somewhere between an intergalactic hybrid of Radiohead meets E.L.O. with a nod to ‘70s Pink Floyd. Seems about right to my foggy memory. – MC
FAVORITE REGGAE ACT: Becky Bass
Becky Bass is renowned for her angelic voice that soars over the beat of her Caribbean Soul music (winning her two nods in these awards). Over the years, Bass has opened for and played with many international artists, including Oumou Sangare, Yellowman, Warrior King and Wyclef Jean. I couldn’t find out any listings online but in pre-pandemic times, Bass regularly performed at The Parlour on Foundation Mondays. – MC
FAVORITE SKA BAND: The Copacetics
The streak continues as, once again, The Copacetics take home the honors for “Favorite Ska Act” for Lord only knows how many years in a row. I’m guessing at least 8 years (I’m going to assume they would have won in 2020 had there been a Music Awards) but even that could be selling them short. They dominate this category as if they were the Beatles of local ska. – MC
FAVORITE JAM BAND: The Free Radicals
This was a tight category where, with roughly 4,800 votes cast, The Free Radicals pulled out a victory by just five votes. Their margin of victory is probably the only thing narrow about The Free Radicals, as their sound crisscrosses genres and erupts dance floors. – MC
FAVORITE GARAGE BAND: Dirty Birds
The perennial bitter pill in any artistic pursuit is that an artist’s work is lauded only after they are gone. If Facebook is to be believed, this year’s garage band award is posthumous, as the Dirty Birds have officially disbanded. Alas, they gave us only 2019’s Fowl Language EP, four songs of blues-tinged garage rock that clearly made its way into the hearts of the online voting public. – JB
FAVORITE NOISE ACT: Psychic Graveyard
Psychic Graveyard specializes in an anguished collage of industrial noise and is interestingly listed as being from both Providence and San Diego, likely made possible by the magic of digital file sharing. The band’s members previously played in the bands Arab on Radar, Some Girls, All Leather, and Chinese Stars, among others. Their upcoming album, veins feel strange, is due out on September 10. – JB
FAVORITE LATIN ACT: Mambo Pa Ti
Mambo Pa Ti brings the party with them wherever they perform. The organization specializes in dance nights at their home base on Mineral Spring in Pawtucket, where they will teach you salsa and other Latin specialties. But their enthusiastic performance and friendly-teachers vibe can make many other events – including festivals, celebrations and Pawtucket block parties – lively, welcoming and dancerific. – MR
FAVORITE POP PUNK ACT: Math the Band
Someone asked if Math The Band were still even a band. I don’t know as they have been pretty silent other than a livestream earlier this year from AS220. From pre-pandemic times, I remember Math The Band as infectious high energy pop-punk, so I’m glad they won this category instead of Best Choir because that would have really messed with my head. Here’s hoping they’ll play out again. – MC
FAVORITE PUNK ACT: The McGunks
The McGunks have been banging out infectious punk nuggets with big sing-along choruses for probably somewhere close to 15 years. They haven’t lost any luster; on their recent Going Out Early, the whoas of the backing vocals on “Ghost” and “Tire Fire” still soar like a Misfits tribute band. “Think About It” sounds like a tribute to vintage Social Distortion, which is never a bad thing. There are so many great songs here, but my favorite tune is “Radio” with its Ramones references. It pulls off being earnest while still a total banger to do bad dance moves to in one’s bedroom. Check out Going Out Early on the streaming service of your choice, or pick up the biscuit in person the next time The McGunks come to rock your town! – MC
FAVORITE HARDCORE ACT: Reason to Fight
Reason To Fight has been playing shows constantly, and if you’ve never seen them you’ve been missing out. These guys have been playing music together since 2001, sticking to a classic hardcore sound that never gets old. Last year they put out Demo 2016 on Bandcamp, which I’m assuming is a collection of demos from 2016, but I could just be making that up. – MC
FAVORITE METAL ACT: Angry Skull
This was my personal favorite winner in this year’s awards, as Angry Skull edged out a victory in the Best Metal Act by a mere five votes! Angry Skull is part of the Outsider Art movement and promotes community, human rights, autism awareness and Down syndrome awareness. Angry Skull hasn’t been able to play, or even see each other, for the last year and a half. Hopefully one day we will see them back rocking onstage when COVID goes away. Angry Skull also has my favorite band name among this year’s winners! – MC
FAVORITE PROG AND EMO ACT: People Eating Plastic
People Eating Plastic are self-described “progressive math rock,” which I think is one of the toughest genres to play. All the stops and starts, tempo changes – it would drive me mad. They are like a hardcore band playing prog-rock – it’s insane! I have the highest respect for musicians like People Eating Plastic who can pull that off. – MC
FAVORITE ALT VOCALIST (1 of 2): Malyssa BellaRosa
A tied result, long the refuge of European sissies, is in this case well-deserved by both parties. Malyssa BellaRosa, a past winner in this category, is a super versatile singer who fronts (with gusto) the groups Gamma Rage and The Sugar Cones. – JB
FAVORITE ALT VOCALIST (2 of 2): Jenn Lombari
At the helm of myriad punk rock bands like Stubborn Hearts, Lucky United, and For What It’s Worth, Jenn Lombari is constantly busy writing and rocking. If that weren’t enough, she also has a series of solo releases, including 2017’s Heartcore, and a bunch of football trophies, we hear. – JB
BREAKTHROUGH ALT ACT: Bullet Proof Backpack
When it comes to crushing hardcore riffs, I always say it’s best to start ‘em young. Newport’s Bullet Proof Backpack is helmed by 14-year-old Alex Simmons, and their recent Live at Simmons Farm is five or so minutes of maximum tempo, fast-as-you-can-play pandemonium. Here’s to many more Music Awards for this young whippersnapper. – JB
FAVORITE ALTERNATIVE ALBUM:NOVA ONE – “loveable”
Released in late April 2020, the height of the early pandemic, Roz Raskin’s second post-Rice Cakes release was a breath of fresh air that in hindsight seems like a great tonic to a tough stretch. Motif described Loveable at the time as a “nice mix of experimental and conventional, challenging the listener with ambitious themes on a bedrock of melodic maturity.” – JB
FAVORITE TRIBUTE BAND: Dirty Deeds
Speaking of dynasties, how about Dirty Deeds, who are another band that has to be close to at least five consecutive wins. Next year I’m going to suggest adding a new category called Favorite Non-AC/DC Tribute act just to give another band a chance. Dirty Deeds are an interesting story where they have been cranking out those classic AC/DC riffs so long that the band has two generations of family members. Dirty Deeds – The AC/DC Experience will be performing at the Portuguese Holy Ghost Festival on 11 Ventura St in West Warwick on September 4. – MC
FAVORITE COVER BAND: Heavy Rescue
The Heavy Rescue Band’s recognition here is well deserved as they’ve been bringing happiness to the people for roughly 25 years give or take. The six-piece band is a tight machine that gets asses shaking on the dance floor. The Heavy Rescue Band will be at The Rathskeller in Charlestown on September 4. – MC
FAVORITE KARAOKE NIGHT: The Parlour
As COVID slowly recedes, we’re glad to see the return of karaoke Fridays at The Parlour. Grab the mic and let it rip. – MB
FAVORITE ALT FESTIVAL: RI PRIDE
It was great having the RI Pride Festival return this past year after a year away like everything else in 2020. It is always fun to watch the parade go through downtown and see people come out and celebrate equality. – MC
FAVORITE ELECTRONIC ARTIST: DJ Venom
With a following of nearly 20,000 people, DJ Venom has proven that he knows how to speak to his listeners without even saying a word. While the online following is impressive, DJ Venom is also actively hosting events on a regular basis, in cluding the FReQ show at Alchemy in PVD. He will always be one to look out for if you are a fan of hard dance electronic music. – HK
FAVORITE HIP-HOP ACT: jesse the Tree
jesse the Tree left a major impression on all hip-hop artists and listeners with the debut of his highly anticipated album space tomatoes. He is one of the most talented organic hip-hop artists to come from RI. – HK
FAVORITE HIP-HOP ALBUM: jesse the Tree – “space tomatoes”
With his trendy flows and hard-thought lyrics, jesse’s music is definitely a favorite for all hip-hop fans. space tomatoes starts with the track “Purple,” which is a great way to set the pace. In this track you hear some solid lyricism as well as a clean mix and master that can be heard throughout the entire project. Aside from his own music, jesse made the solid decision to include feature tracks from the likes of NICE and Joe Bruce as well as many other talented artists on this project. – HK
BREAKTHROUGH HIP HOP ACT: Atomic
Atomic is a wonderful addition to the hip-hop scene in RI. With the release of fast-paced tracks such as “Serenity” and “Where I’m At,” a collaboration with Joe Bruce, Atomic has definitely solidified himself as one of the leading acts to look out for in the future. Some of his flows and sound are reminiscent of legendary rapper Eminem, and it is apparent from his work this year that the talent of Atomic can go beyond what we have seen from him. – HK
FAVORITE CLUB DJ: DJ Nes
If you were ever struggling to find a good playlist, turn to DJ Nes. DJ Nes can piece together music of several genres to create just the right atmosphere. The most popular regular tracklists of DJ Nes would be his Valentine’s Day annual project. DJ Nes has an understanding of music that goes deeper than just composing it, he has an understanding of how it is intended to be heard. – HK
FAVORITE DANCE NIGHT: Soul Power
Often referred to as “the best old school dance party” in RI, Soul Power has made a name for itself through years of dedication to the art of inspiring others to dance. Soul Power is generally hosted at Dusk, a highly anticipated event for all party-goers. While it is an old school dance night, that does not make it any less enjoyable for the younger crowds who tune in to the fun. – HK
Fete Music Hall was rigorous in checking vaccination / testing status, and had a gracious bar staff and a great production team. Over the course of the evening, over 230 people came to celebrate and enjoy the music hall and Haven Brothers’ hearty eats.
We kicked things off, in music awards tradition, with an inspiring performance by future rock stars from the School of Rock Seekonk. After MCs John Fuzek and BettySioux Tailor set the tone for the evening with some banter that probably took unfair advantage of the concussion John was performing with, we got into the heart of presenting awards, only to be interrupted by a surprise disruption.
“What is happening? I am completely surprised. I did not see this coming,” deadpanned Fuzek as members of the Providence Drum Troupe emerged unannounced from all corners of the room and balcony, with belly dancers and some sort of huge neon angel taking to the stage as well.
After a glow-in-the dark performance that had the crowd on its feet, the crowd resumed drinking, eating and awarding.
Lauren King then brought the house down again with a solo performance from her new album The Wolf is Back. King later picked up an award for favorite Americana Album. Motif usually plans out the acts before we know who the winners will be, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The last interlude was by super-group quartet PonyBoy, which includes members of multiple other local bands — Vic Foley, Dave Laros, Eric Hanson and Bob Giusti — who brought their manic energy to the stage.
Throughout, we had paparazzi photos and interviews with band members by Motif’s Rhody After Dark video team as well as many delightful acceptance speeches and a microphone take-over featuring the comic stylings of Amber Lynn.
The evening ended with the awards for favorite act in Alt-Rock – The Quahogs; Favorite in Electronica – DJ Venom; and favorite act in Americana – Man and Wife. Congrats to them, to all the other winners above, to everyone who was nominated (it’s a rigorous process) and to everyone who just managed to make original music during the very fraught, weird year we’ve had.
Motif would like to thank so many folks and places for making this year’s awards possible… it’s hard to describe how strange and wonderful it was to again be in a room full of (vaccinated) people who share a love of making music.
Thank you to Fete Music Hall and their excellent staff for choosing our event to be their grand post-COVID reopening event. Dan and Daniel, house producer extraordinaire Steve Domenici, Justin, Christina and all their support team.
Thank you to our sponsors, R1 Entertainment Center, Empire Guitars, RI Blues Fest, Jerry’s Artarama and FoodTrucksIn
Thanks to a collection of amazing performers: School of Rock Seekonk, The Providence Drum Troupe, Lauren King and PonyBoy
Thank you to the many presenters who helped out: MCs John Fuzek and BettySioux Tailor, Amadeus Finlay and Jade Axel, Lizzy Aruaja, James Toomey, Joe DeMarco, Tammy Laforest, Rick Sunderland, Jeremy Dubois, Gregory Rourke, Dave Sorgman, Marc Clarkin, Mike Delehanty, Bobby Forand and Mark Cutler.
Thanks to Haven Brothers and FoodTrucksIn for all the food!
Thanks to our volunteers: Emily Olson, Gary Janczinski, Rico Lanni, Shawn Tetreault on video, Michael Bilow on stills, Amadeus Finlay and Jade Axel on interviews, Jessamy LeBeau, Rob Smith, Mike Ryan and Francie Eannarino on design.
And finally, thanks to all the musicians who came out, supported the cause and agreed to become a part of our new, 200-member cross-all-genres supergroup.
Motif Music Awards Process
People often ask us about the nomination process for the Music Awards. Here’s how we do it, spelled out in as much detail as we can muster:
First, we contact every booking entity we know of in the area. This includes everyone who has sent us music related press releases, been in our listings, been covered as a venue, podcast, producer or label over the years, or that any of our editorial team and music writers are aware of. Our contact list is not always as up-to-date as we would like, but most of them are people we correspond with periodically, so it’s pretty fresh. We also ask our salespeople to contribute contact information (they know everybody), and our writers contribute contacts, then our admin staff (with the help of intrepid interns) try to chase everyone down to get their suggestions. In 2021, coming out of lockdown, a lot of venues were still shuttered and we had no interns, so everything has had an added level of randomness. Everyone participating is sent a list of suggested categories, but also open-ended questions.
Our outreach protocol is 1. Send email. 2. Send to alternate email addresses if we have them in sales, accounting or among the writers. 3. Remind/nudge/reach out on social media. 4. Call. 5. Repeat the emails. Go to the venues we still haven’t reached, if possible. To all of these contacts, we send a list of probable categories and ask the open-ended questions: What were your favorite acts?
Once we have everyone’s nominations in, we put them all in a giant spreadsheet. There are several people working on the data entry, because it’s a lot.
Many of the nominations we receive don’t specify what category. We’re okay with that – we want the input and feedback, and we’d rather sort through the details ourselves than have people not respond because it’s too much work. But it does leave a lot of parsing, as we try to figure out how to categorize act. We know some of the results are a bit forced, and of course every performer has their own unique sound. But without categories, it’s hard to do the voting part.
From that spreadsheet, we do straight math – if something or someone received five or six nods from nominators, it gets on the nominee list over something that got one or two. We pick the top 4 – 8 entries in each category, and remove categories that had fewer than 4 nominees.
Unfortunately, straight math alone can’t do the whole trick – we frequently end up with ties. And, of course, we need to filter out the bands that are inactive, aren’t really local or are in the wrong category.
For that part of the process, we have meetings. Usually two, inviting all our music writers and any other people we think have in-depth knowledge of particular parts of the community and can help answer those questions. The goal is to break the ties and settle on a final set of nominees.
Winners are chosen by the public, with over 6,600 voters participating in 2019. We require each voter to enter a unique email address, and we have technology to block vote fraud, detecting AI patterns, duplicate IP addresses, etc. We know some people can vote a couple of times (at work, at home for example) but with that many voters, it’s incredibly rare that any selection comes down to just a few votes, and we’ve taken all possible precautions, including review by humans, to prevent bots and the like.
It’s certainly true that you have an advantage if you get out there on social media, and you have advantages if lots of people saw a show. We WANT the widespread participation – one of our fundamental goals is to get people to realize how robust the music scene is, and how many shows and bands are out there and how much more activity there is than the average voter may have realized. If bands scare up votes, it still helps us all.
Suggestions for improvement are always welcomed, and we tweak our process a little bit every year, so if you want to reach out, send us a FB message, tweet or IG message or email Mike at email@example.com.
Motif 2021 Music Awards
It’s time again – finally! – for Motif’s RI Music Awards. Please help show your support for local music by choosing some of these fine artists. We know a lot of people haven’t been out much over the last year and a half, but either cast your minds back to the before times, or check out the links in our online survey, which will let you assess the music of most of the artists mentioned here.
SAVE THE DATE!
Monday, August 23, 6 – 9pm at FMH (Fete Music Hall), 103 Dike St, PVD
Check Yourself – 7th Annual Holiday Benefit Show on YouTube Joe Potenza at The Parlour MisSter DylaN on Patreon MorganEve Swain at The Knickerbocker Sgt Baker and the Clones at The Parlour Steve Donovan on Facebook Vague Perception on Facebook
BEST COVID PIVOT
Askew – allowed filming, block parties Dusk – outdoor concerts and movies Galactic Theatre – ice cream and drinks to go Greenwich Odeum – private screenings, rented out marquee The Parlour – rebuilt into recording studio; pizza
MUSIC VIDEO (All Genres)
Beth Barron “I’m Alive” Fine. “Yellow and Pink” Glenn Thomas “Black Muddy River” Joe Bruce & Clockwork “The Story of Jacob PT 2” Stefan Couture “Rules All Changed” Toad & The Stooligans “Stevie Sees” Twin Brook “Welcome To Flavortown” The War In Kids “Goodbye, My Valentine”
James Lastowski Ken Abrams Lisa Gourley Richard McCaffrey Rick Ferell Small Frye
FAVORITE SOUND PERSON
Brian Cabral Dan Baldwin Graham Mellor Mike Arruda Raza Sufi Vinnie Bellows Greg Bass
Chrissy Stewart / PVDLive Haki Events / Providence World Music Hana Ko John Difrusco Mike Delehanty Mike Panico Rob Duguay / Top 5 Fiend SELF LUV
Cowboy and Lady Dan Blakeslee Consuelo’s Revenge Horse-Eyed Men Man and Wife Nate Cozzolino and the Lost Arts Sharks Come Cruisin’
SINGER / SONGWRITER
Allysen Callery Lisa Couto Ben Shaw Dan Lilley Bethany Killian Chrissy Stewart Allison Rose Dan Blakeslee Ed McGuirl John Faraone Kat Kiley Lauren King Nate Cozzolino
AJ Salemi Joanne Lurgio Becky Bass Beth Barron Elwood Donnelly Jesse Desorcy Mike Laureanno Brian Twohey Sean Connell Nate Cozzolino Nicole Gauthier Penn Sultan Tammy Laforest
Four Bridges Greystone Rail Highway’s End Ocean State Ramblers Rock Hearts
Back Rhodes Charlie Marie Lauren King Matt Gillooly Ayla Brown
Adapter Adapter The Founders Neal & the Vipers James Montgomery Blues Band Sugar Ray and the Bluetones
Chorus of Westerly Newman Church Choir Providence Singers Rhode Island Civic Chorale Rhode Island Gay Men’s Chorus
Atwater-Donnelly How’s About Charlie Lucas Neil Museum Legs Dan Lilley & The Keepers Cardboard Ox
John Allmark Jazz Octet Leland Baker Greg Abate Mike Rollins & Co. The Honk Bobby Keyes Trio Chris Flory Joe Potenza
Autocrats Slurp Beetle Funk Mary Gipson Steve Smith & the Nakeds Z-Boys
Atwater Donnelly Eastern Medicine Singers Evans Molina The Pourmen Sidy Maiga Yacouba Diabate
STREET BAND / BRASS BAND / MARCHING BAND
Brass Attack ERB Kick‘n Brass band Providence Drum Troupe
BEST OPEN MIC
Askew Thursdays with Adam Newell RISA Virtual Open Mic Java Madness with Al Keith The Parlour Open Mic with Steve Donovan Two Hundo Open Mic
Allysen Callery – “Ghost Folk” Charlie Marie – “Ramble On” Dan Blakeslee – “Christmasland Jubilee” Evening Sky – “One Mic, Two Weekends” Johnny Juxo – “Get Off My Lawn” Lauren King – “The Wolf is Back” Will Orchard – “I Reached My Hand Out”
Rhythm and Root RI Blues Fest RI Country Music Fest RI (formerly Providence) Folk Fest Washington County Fair Warren Folks Festival
123 Astronaut The Benji’s Bochek Gnarnia Jets Can’t Land The Quahogs Strip Mall Viking Jesus
BEST LIVE ACT
Blackletter David Tessier and the All-Star Stars Hope Anchor Princess Ravi Shavi Smith&Weeden Spocka Summa Vague Perception
Becky Bass Natural Element Professor Roots Soul Shot Upsetta International Sound System
The Brunt of It Copacetics The Essays Sweet Babylon
Animal Face The Free Radicals House Combo at Nick-a-Nees Nate Cozzolino Stupid Robots
Dirty Birds Foul Weather Friend Harvey Garbage Jets Can’t Land Song Birds The Underwires We Own Land
Baylies Band freakbag Muggs Fogarty Psychic Graveyard Black Pus
Christian Cano Taborda EhShawnee Alebreke Jesus Andujar Mambo Pa Ti Mickey Y Su All Stars Latin Band
POP PUNK ACT
Adjuncts The Callouts Electric Joey Electric Paisan Follow Thru Math the Band Stubborn Hearts U.G.L.Y.
Dreamwell “Modern Grotesque“ The Hammer Party “SMASHED HITS” Math the Band “Flange Factory Five“ The McGunks “Going Out Early“ NOVA ONE “lovable” Stubborn Hearts “Tales from a Red Flag Galaxy“ Twin Foxes “Broken Bell“ U.G.L.Y. “Goons Live Young”
Dirty Deeds (AC/DC) Forever Young (Neil Young) Hey Nineteen (Steely Dan) Playing Dead (Grateful Dead) RI Beatlejazz (The Beatles) Zilch (The Monkees)
The All-Star Stars Heavy Rescue The O’Tooles The Pogs Smokin Mirrors Take It to the Bridge
The Ave JW’s Thirsty Thursdays Laura at Boomerangs Roadhouse Mickey Doyle’s The Parlour WRIK at Chan’s
RI PRIDE Revival Fest 4th of July Scurvy Dog Mega Parking Lot Mega Show Terptown Throwdown
Big Lux Chachi and the International Players Freddie Black jesse the Tree Jon Hope John Phelps Pharaoh Jaxson Spocka Summa
BREAKTHROUGH HIP-HOP ACT
Atomic Chach Done Right Every Now and Then Lord Willin’ Redd Rebel Stephen Greene
BEST HIP-HOP ALBUM
Chach – “Perspective” jesse the Tree – “space tomatoes” joe bruce & ClarkWork – “The Ruff Mixes” Jon Hope – “Hope All is Well” Slitty Wrists – “Slitty Wrists LP” ToadStool & Dan Pomfret – “Ronald Raygun”
Artist Jackie Baby, Baby: Explores the Reasons Why that Gum is Still on the Sidewalk D.U.M.E. DJ Venom Droplets Joe-Lou Providence Deep Underground Where’s Nasty
BEST CLUB DJ
Brian Carter Desi Renegade DJ Franchise DJ Nes DJ Roxy Epoxy Indigo Monday Rick Lataille WRIK Ty Jesso & John O’Leary
BEST DANCE NIGHT
Charlie Tunes (usually at Revival) DarkMode (usually at The Parlour Providence) Focal (usually in Pawtucket) Let’s Dance at the Knickerbocker Nokturnal (usually at Dusk) Reggae Mondays at the Parlour Soul Power (usually at Dusk)
Motif would like to thank the over 30 venues and booking agents across the state that participated, despite these unusual times, in helping to select nominees and celebrate local music. Also thank you to our team of advisors and contributors, and especially to all the local talent who never let the music die!
Ahoy to the Humble Sea Shanty: Sharks Come Cruisin’ elevate the genre with a punk background
As the new year rolls along, still chock full of anxiety and loneliness, a seafaring music genre that peaked in the 19th century has become an unlikely star on TikTok. The trend started when 26-year-old Scottish mailman Nathan Evans posted his version of the sea shanty “Wellerman,” a whaling song with origins in New Zealand. That triggered a full-blown frenzy, with hundreds uploading their own riffs.
Sea shanties are maritime songs sung to accompany various ship deck tasks like sail hoisting. They combine the rhythms of African work songs with lyrics that are Anglo-Irish, often in 4/4 time with simple melodies that make them a good fit for mass consumption.
Some say the popularity of the sea shanty, meant to be sung together in support of a common goal, speaks to the desire for connection during these dark times. On the other hand, Vox contributor Rebecca Jennings sees it as the next in a series of random crazes driven by the social media hivemind: “The quarantine-era internet just makes us cycle through obscure niches of culture faster and faster,” said Jennings.
So what is it about these sea shanties? I spoke to local expert Mark Lambert of Providence’s Sharks Come Cruisin’, who specialize in sea shanties, about his experience with theunique genre.
Lambert grew up playing in punk and hardcore bands in Providence. His band, Return Around, fizzled out at the end of a long tour at which point he took an extended break from music. He wanted to start playing again in the early 2000s, but wasn’t sure what shape it would take. “A lot of my peers from the rock scene were gravitating to country or blues, which didn’t really seem all that authentic to me.”
One day, Lambert was watching the movie Jaws, which features a few shanties, and was immediately taken. “I heard Quint’s version of ‘Spanish Ladies’ — I knew there was something very New England about the sound, and it felt very close to home for me,” he said. After borrowing some sea shanty LPs from the library he dug in further, working out the songs and playing local open mics. SCC started to take shape once he got a bassist and drummer involved.
On a musical level, the appeal for Lambert makes sense. Three chords, an everyman spirit and a supremely singable nature make shanties not unlike punk rock. “The melodies are all very familiar — even if you don’t know them, you kinda do,” said Lambert.
The call and response element, which helped shiphands stay in sync when performing heavy-duty chores, was another big draw for Lambert. “It reminded me of exactly where I grew up at hardcore shows — the singer was singing and the audience screaming back at them.”
SCC, to date, has two full-length albums, along with various EPs and live recordings mostly consisting of traditional shanties and the odd original mixed in. Lambert’s punk background really shines through in songs like “South Australia” and “Donkey Riding” off their album When I Got Home From Across the Sea, which are uptempo, semi-rocked out shanties. Instruments like banjo, fiddle and accordion round out the sound.
The band has also become known for the monthly Shanty Sing at the Parlour, the rare family-friendly evening gig. Lambert came up with the idea and pitched it to then part owner Aaron Jaehnig, and it ended up being a major success. SCC had been doing virtual shanty sings at home remotely until this month. “It is a little unfortunate that this popularity comes in the middle of a pandemic, when no one can actually come together and do the real thing,” said Lambert.
Lambert, who says he’s had many articles around the “Wellerman” craze sent to him by friends, isn’t so sure that the craze is related to the pandemic. “I think it’s more a matter of this guy in Scotland putting his own spin on the song (which I had actually never heard), with a great hook that happened to resonate with a wide audience. And now, it’s great to see others who are continuing to make it their own.”
1. Members of the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus pose for a picture.
2. The Eastern Medicine Singers are all smiles
3. Award Winners Senior Discount
4. Our MCs John and Bettysioux
5. Cowboy and Lady perform beautifully
6. Briana White, winner of Americana Singer//Songwriter, poses for a picture
7. Hope Anchor rocking the stage
8. The Funk Underground
9. Members of School of Rock command the stage
10. Tara Hansen, ‘Wife’ of Man and Wife
11. The Members of How’s About Charlie? and friends
12. Mark Clarkin poses with friends
2018 Music Awards Trivia: Band Name Shuffle
Unscramble the names of these 2018 Motif Music Award Winners. See pages 12-21 of our Music Awards Issue for a cheat sheet.
1. rata shnane
2. show tabou lieharc
3. epho chanro
4. lamsyas robsallae
5. het sticpacoce
6. tucacs takact
7. rainab thew
8. shayirrap enequ
9. and rettimo
1. Tara Hansen, 2. How’s About Charlie, 3. Hope Anchor, 4. Malyssa BellaRosa, 5. The Copacetics, 6. Cactus Attack, 7. Briana White, 8. Hairspray Queen, 9. Dan Moretti
Music and Talent on Display at the Motif Music Awards
The weather was nearly perfect. And it was a Tuesday night. Two things that should each result in people not piling into a crowded music venue for the evening. Yet that’s what they did on May 8 to witness and take part in the annual Motif Music Awards.
It is a rare and wonderful thing, producing a sort of musical talent higher consciousness feeling in music writers, to have as much talent and love of music in one room as we had that night. All manner of music professional was represented – venue owners and booking agents, photographers and sound engineers, lead singers and drummers and everyone in between.
Seeing hardcore and hip-hop and folk and alt artists interact for perhaps the only night of the year was especially exciting to the Motif hosts. “We usually only get to interact with the other people on a bill,” said one folk artist (who didn’t realize she was being interviewed). “When you’re gigging as much as possible, you can actually lose touch with other musicians.”
The point of the Motif Music Awards is not to proclaim winners. We do that because it’s fun and because every project needs a climax, but the point of the evening is to get those remarkable individuals together in a room. And the point of the process is to get people on and voting and appreciating how much amazing music is being produced locally, and maybe exploring some bands they’d never heard of before, or remembering some great ones they already knew. The RI Music Hall of Fame chronicles the musicians who’ve gone on to national greatness in RI’s musical history. We aim to chronicle – and help – the ones who might be heading there. Or at least, who maintain RI’s heritage with their musical mastery performed locally or beyond.
So we were thrilled to see a record number of voters – 6,363 took part this year, up from 5,003 last year. This did produce a little drama – the best Americana act was decided by a single vote! Funk Underground upset all expectations by taking the hip-hop category by storm, and we had our first-ever write-in winner, Eric Johnson, in the brand new category of Club Photography. That’s a category we’ll be repeating by the way – if you voted, we hope you took a minute to look at some of their amazing collections of photos – there’s a lot more talent out there to be recognized in future years.
Overall, there was a spirit of boisterous excitement and mutual respect among the attendees, “I’m pretty pumped man. Every band in that category is so good. I never expect to win anything,” said Eric of Eric + the Nothing.
“I was the only one who came because nobody thought we’d win in a million years. I’m shocked, the competitions pretty crazy. I was shaky,” said Matt Di Chiara of The Copacetics
Attendance at the evening was also bracing, with more than 200 musicians at our peak, and roughly 300 to 350 over the course of the evening (it’s hard to get our fast-moving music community to hold still for counting).
The Seekonk School of Rock kicked off the evening in style with a set that showcased the amazing talents of these teens, who we’re sure will be bringing fresh blood to many local bands in the years to come. They produced a standing ovation and got the night rolling with a bang.
The evening was hosted by ever-riffing seasoned co-hosts John Fuzek (musician and Motif’s Roots Report writer) and Bettysioux Tailor (burlesquercise instructor and all around arts MC and performer). And our presenters each brought their own flavor to their presentations. We want to thank them for their time, energy and enthusiasm in supporting local music: Neighbor BJ Mansuetti of Narragansett Beer; Erin Young of Common Fence Music; Christopher Johnson, spoken word poet; Russell Gusetti of Blackstone River Theater and the venerable Pendragon; John “Cyco” Difruscio and Windsong Hadley, venue managers, promoters and owners of the new music spot Askew in PVD; Mark Lahoud of Java Madness in Wakefield; Crissy Stewart of the Dean Hotel and the Grange; Katie Lewis, Motif Contributor; Rudy Cheeks, Motif Contributor and MC of just about everything at one time or another; Motif Contributor Crimson Al-Khemia and Scar, both of Providence Roller Derby; Mark Clarkin, Motif’s music editor; Motif contributor Mike Delehanty, of The Met and What Cheer Tavern; and Mark Diprete of National Sound Studio.
Digestibles were provided by “the place next to The Met,” aka BOOM, which stands for Brick Oven on Main, where both the wraps and pizza received rave reviews.
National Sound Studio, a new sponsor this year, also added to the mix with another Music Awards first – prizes (beyond the trophies, we mean). Each winner received four hours of studio time, and the three final winners each won 50 hours, arguably enough to cut an album each. Thank you also to sponsors The Met and Narragansett Beer, who supplied – well, you can probably guess. We couldn’t do it without them.
The whole evening was further enlivened by two more musical performances. Cowboy and Lady not only stunned the crowd, but may have produced the purest moment of crowd silence during an epic guitar riff by Tyler Kelly that caused an entire room full of professional musicians to just stop and watch, more than a few with slack jaws, as he manipulated the strings into unprecedented musical contortions.
Hope Anchor not only got the crowd up and dancing at the end of the night, but inspired everyone with a performance dedicated to lead singer Pip (Paul Everett)’s son, who passed away last year,
and who last saw his father perform in that same venue. Hope Anchor also took home two recognitions for favorite post-punk act and favorite alt album, Beautiful Corpses.
Thanks to all who came out and all who voted – and now, let’s meet some of the bands and performers you selected this year…
Overall Americana: Ian Fitzgerald and Something Else – JF
Ian Fitzgerald is our own Bob Dylan. He has a similar musical and vocal style, but has a look all his own. That look has evolved over the years, but it is
unmistakably Ian. Fitzgerald has been working the music rooms across the country for well over a decade and has made a name for himself in the process. He often performs as a solo artist, but he also has his backing band The Something Else. Catch them when you can. They are always touring! Ian has a dry sense of humor that works well with his banter and lyrics. It also transfers into his gig notices. ianfitzgerald.com
Americana Singer/Songwriter: Briana White – JF
To be honest, Briana White was not on my musical radar. Until her name appeared in the Motif Music Awards I had not even heard of her. It
happens. Musicians can have an underground following and boom, they pop like the cherry blossoms at the Washington Monument. I met her briefly at the Motif Awards but booked her the following day for a spot on the opening night of the Downtown Sundown Series. She has a perky acoustic pop sound. You should check her out live and put HER on YOUR radar! reverbnation.com/brianawhite
Female Vocalist: Tara Hansen – MR
The Wife in the band Man and Wife, Tara seems to stand, quite literally, in the shadow of her Viking Giant Husband – Kris Hansen of Viking Jesus. But
musically, they each shine in their own projects and together. A former cobbler and leather crafter, she credits her husband with “getting me away from the piano in the basement and out into the real world,” where she has charmed so many eardrums.
See info about upcoming gigs as they come up at fb.com/ManAndWifeRI
Male Vocalist: Mark Cutler – MR
We’re not sure what there is to be said about Mark Cutler that hasn’t been said before (but that can still be said in a few meager paragraphs). We’re fairly sure not a music award event has passed where he didn’t pick up an award for something, and every year he gets nominated for so many things, in so many different categories, that we had to implement what we call the Mark Cutler rule – that no artist can be nominated for more than four awards in the same year. Mark doesn’t need more awards – yet he comes to the show whenever he can, because he loves to support other musicians.
His support of good causes, working with the disabled and benefiting worthwhile causes is legendary, and his support of art projects of all kinds, including film and other media, is also well known. Former front man of the Schemers and the Raindogs – two bands that reached national prominence and with which he has become one of the few active musicians to be inducted into the RI Music Hall of Fame – he is also known to play in any configuration where good tunes are welcomed, be it solo, with his Men of Great Courage, or with some other organic combination of musical ingredients.
He’s been playing stages of all sizes since the ‘70s, although to look at him you wouldn’t think he could go that far back – and he has no intention of slowing down, which is part of what makes him an inspiration to local musicians of all ages.
You can catch Mark in the near future at the Ocean Mist at 3:30pm on Sat, May 19, and at the Parlour Sat, Jun 30, at 9pm. And most likely other places soon to be announced on Facebook.
Breakthrough Act: How’s About Charlie? – MR
This trio of harmonious women has recently gone from complete obscurity to appearing everywhere among the venues of greater Providence. Mostly acoustic, they weave their voices together to reinvent familiar classics and to create hypnotic new material. Called The Fates when they started jamming together in 2015, it appears the universe had other plans for them. Last November they took band name advice provided in comic form by AS220 artists at last summer’s Foo Fest. Their new name and logo became unstoppable, as they retrenched and renamed themselves How’s About Charlie? Their debut album, Waves, came out in January, and can be found through fb.com/howsaboutcharlie
How’s About Charlie? may not be a question we can answer, but can say that the millennial songstresses are Bethany Killian, Amanda Marie and Nicole Gauthier.
Bluegrass Band: Cactus Attack – JF
Hardcore bluegrass fans probably wouldn’t call them a true bluegrass band, but these days the lines between categories are very blurred. Their lineup boasts members with interesting nicknames: Ryan “Ol’e Pappy” Jackson – guitar and vocals, Taylor “Bloodhound” Brennan – guitar, banjo and vocals, Derek “Pretty Boy” Pearson – guitar, banjo and vocals, Doug “Fantastabrass” Day – upright bass and vocals, and Chris “The Milkman” Hickman – percussion and vocals. They cite gin, smokes, bonfires, whiskey, beer, the open road, fireworks, freestylin’, weed, women, Peruvian marching powder and murder as influences and claim 100 proof Hell on Wheels. cactus-attack.com
Blues Act: Popa Chubby – JF
Born Ted Horowitz, Popa Chubby became a hardcore blues rocker in the early ‘90s and continues to keep the flame lit as he travels around the world playing. He is an imposing figure with a shaved head, tattooed arms, a goatee and a performance style he describes as “the Stooges meets Buddy Guy, Motörhead meets Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Johnson” and with his band he plays “Hard Swinging Blues Rock.” popachubby.com
Choral Act: Providence Gay Men’s Chorus – MR
This is an incredible eighth Motif Music Award win for the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus. This stellar choral group strives to show the world through its beautiful harmonies that we, too, can live in harmony with people from all walks of life. And audience members walk away thinking all they experienced was a delightful and fun concert.
Folk Act: Wilbur Hill – JF
I wondered where the name of this band came from until I saw the street sign near the house of one of the band members. Wilbur Hill rose from the ashes of past Motif Award winners, The Rank Strangers. Members are Chris Monti – guitar and harmonica, Dan Parker – upright bass, Harvey Marcotte – mandolin and fiddle, and Pete Vendettuoli – banjo and mandolin. You can often hear their “Bonafide String Band Music” at Nick-A-Nee’s Bluegrass tHrOEDOWN. They play traditional, originals and offbeat covers. fb.com/WilburHillBand
Favorite Jazz Act: Dan Moretti – MR
This guy from Narragansett has entertained the world with his saxophone stylings, touring all over and performing with some of the greats of jazz and R&B. He also is a composer and producer, and has released 18 original recordings. Before his 2018 Motif Music Award win, Moretti was inducted into the RI Music Hall of Fame in 2017.
Best R&B Act: Steve Smith & the Nakeds – JB
Until the end of time, R&B will be associated with its hip-hop sibling, and rightfully so. This year’s winner for best R&B act goes to Steve Smith & the Nakeds. This 10-piece rock and R&B band have been putting in work for decades and will only add to their acclaimed career with this award as they are also members of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. Head over to TheNakeds.com for all of their music and information and to check out their musical (and charicatured) appearance on TV’s “The Family Guy.”
Catch them on May 25 at the Ocean Mist in South Kingstown.
World Music: The Gnomes – MR
It’s hard to imagine a group more suitably described as “World Music.” The Gnomes play folk and folk-rock from the Celtic, Scandinavian, Eastern European, Asian, African, Caribbean, Native American and Klezmer traditions – and we’re pretty sure that’s just a solid warm-up for them. They came together organically over a dozen years ago, and have grown (gnomes do grow) renowned in the local folk community, and each of their members is equally prolific with other groups, bands and musical combinations. They’re also taller than you’d expect from their gname.
From the sly leprechaun glint in Phil Edmond’s eye to the reassuring, comforting Earth-mother vibe of Cathy Clasper Torch, all of The Gnomes seem to be in perpetually good humor – even though they’ve probably logged about 100 performance years between them, they clearly still love bringing the music.
Phil Edmonds is from South Providence by way of Ireland, plays the tin whistle and button accordion, and is also the author of a number of books about his travels around the world. Cathy Clasper Torch expresses herself with the violin, fiddle, erhu, piano and cello, and also spent part of her youth growing up in other parts of the world – Burma and Hong Kong. Peter Breen brings the bass and vocals and performs with a number of reggae and zydeco bands. Mike Fischman works the guitar, mandolin and banjo; he grew up in the foreign nation of New York City. Percussionist Matt Demick rounds out the group with his extensive jazz experience.
We caught up with Gnome Cathy Clasper Torch to ask a few questions:
Motif: How did you get the name Gnomes? Were garden ornaments involved?
CCT: We’d been playing as a rotating group of five musicians at India in Warren. We decided we needed a name … especially when we made our first CD. We did a lot of fusion kind of ideas with the names of different styles of music. We wanted something international, combining different cultures, and at some point we mentioned gnomes. They’re not really devious, but kind of unpredictable. With an element of lightheartedness – we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Motif: Do you ever pull out a map, throw a dart at it and start playing music from there?
CCT: That’s a great idea – unless they miss and hit one of us.
The Gnomes mix tunes from all over the world in their standard set. Recently, one audience member, overwhelmed by the diversity, told Cathy, “I don’t know what just happened, but I really enjoyed it.” She told him, “I think you just got Gnomed, sir.”
Find out more about this world-embracing supergroup at thegnomesband.com, or catch one of these upcoming shows: Sat, June 16, noon at the Blackstone River Theatre’s Summer Solstice Festival or Sun, July 29, 3pm at King’s Park in Newport.
Brass Band: Brass Attack – JF
Now in their 35th year, Brass Attack is one of the area’s best dance bands. They have performed for two US presidents as well as for many Fortune 500 corporations, weddings, parties, concerts and clubs. Brass Attack is a nine-piece band featuring four horns, a rhythm section and five lead vocalists. The band’s unique instrumentation, custom musical arrangements and high degree of musicianship lend to the band’s versatility and professionalism.
Over the years, members of the band have performed with prominent national acts such as The Tonight Show Band, Tavares, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, The Four Tops, The Temptations, NRBQ, Dizzy Gillespie, Gary Burton, Wayne Newton, and Aretha Franklin to name just a few. The band has shared the stage with Earth, Wind + Fire, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Katharine McPhee, Kristin Chenoweth and NRBQ. brassattack.com
Best Open Mic:Open Mic Night at the Parlour – JF
This is another repeat winner that clearly has the hearts of the fans fully engaged. Although it looks like a neighborhood dive, the Parlour has been full of surprises since it picked up where the Penalty Box left off five and a half years ago. The food is far, far above normal bar comfort food, and worth a visit in its own right. And the place is co-owned by musicians and music lovers – two of them, Gregory Rourke and Aaron Jaehnig, are in active bands. “We try to keep the place very unintimidating, so everybody feels welcome,” says Rourke. “It’s very diverse, very loose. We want to keep that open vibe going.”
The night was started shortly after they opened by Nick Smyth (Consuelo’s Revenge), and it’s now moderated by Ryan Jackson every Tuesday. The performances are mostly acoustic, but there are guitars and keyboards, and it’s open to spoken word, poetry and other types of performance. Signups start at 7 each night, on a first-come, first-served basis. theparlourri.com
Americana Album: John Juxo, “Long Distance Driver” – JF
John Juxo has been part of the RI music scene for DECADES! He is the consummate sideman on keys or accordion and has been part of many, many bands over the years. Some may remember him from the Flying Ditchdiggers or the Mumbling Skulls. He gave me a copy of his CD a couple of months ago and I really enjoyed listening to it! He takes a twist on Route 66 with his own Route 44 song. Lots of great stuff here. Everyone loves Juxo and his win testifies to this! fb.com/johnjuxo
Best Americana Fest: Newport Folk Fest – MC
Look, I don’t agree with every assignment I’m given. Newport Folk Fest – sure it is great! Love it that they slip in locals, too. But on a local music poll? Yeah, they win on name recognition, but is that what we are here for? I don’t know. Let’s talk about what is great about the Newport Folk Fest: They bring amazing musicians to Newport who come here for mostly the history when they could be making a lot more elsewhere. Sorry Fusion Fest or whatever came in second, I love going to the Newport Folk Fest.
Best Act: The Copacetics – MC
When we were going through the nominations, of course The Copacetics were nominated, but where to place them? They have a dynasty of the ska/ reggae category, which are two different things. Maybe a 33 versus a 45, so I wanted something different and threw them in best band to see what happened. The Copacetics won. They won, not because they are “The Best Ska Band” in the state, but because they are the best band; if you are throwing a party and need a band, keep it copacetic and hire The Copacetics. They rocked sold-out shows with The English Beat and frankly, this “Best Act” shit is just overdue validation for what The Copacetics have been skankin’ to the party for years.
Best Live Act: Eric & the Nothing – MC
My favorite garage band without a doubt, err sorry I read the cue card wrong. I love Eric & the Nothing; I know we put them in for garage band and it’s cool, but I don’t have a garage. One day…
I’ve always been thrown off by “The Nothing” when they have Bob Guisti playing drums and he was on Frank Black (from the Pixies) solo albums. They remind me of a cross of Ricky Nelson meets The Sonics at a Dairy Queen. Eric & the Nothing have their debut album in the works coming around the bend, and that is something that I’ll keep talking about. It is an Eric & the Nothing summer.
Album: Hope Anchor Beautiful Corpses – MC
This is the first and only album I reviewed twice … because I just didn’t think I fully covered it the first time. Hope Anchor have been nominated for stuff before, and they should be, but everyone thought a younger band would win. They were booked for the Motif Awards because they delivered this performance that had Mike D’s and my jaw on the floor. Guitarist Terry Linehan described this to me as their goth album, but “Dead and Gone” and “You Alone” rock my world. I’ve been doing this for more than a decade, and this the first time I’ve been excited for a record winning this category.
Reggae/Ska: Natural Element – MR
A staple at The Parlour’s reggae night, Natural Element has been killing it for years. The band draws on influences like hip-hop, jazz and Afro-beat, to create a truly immersive experience.
The band began as a house band for Foundation Mondays reggae night at The Parlour in Providence, and evolved into something more. “At first it was just me and Matt [Odabashian] fooling around. Djim Job and Osi Brathwaite joined us, and then Becky Bass and Vere Hill – now we’re a collection of musicians. We’re merging DJs with live performance, which is a stadard mix in Jamaican culture but unusual up here. Now we’re getting gigs pretty regularly. We opened for Yami Bollo and backed up Warrior King. We’ve gotten a lot more active, so it’s grown into a more serious project,” said band member Gregory Rourke. They also have their first CD of all originals coming up.
Vibe on. Catch them in their element every Monday night at The Parlour (two sets starting at 10pm), where you can also check out something called “Upsetta International: Selectors Chancellor and Pauly Dangerous.”
Jam Band: Daddie Long Legs – JB
Daddie Long Legs is favorite of jam fans around these parts, and their mix of funk and groovy rock keeps audiences moving. This is not the first Motif win for Tim Doyle, Adam Smith, Dave Faustino and Matt Nilsson. Catch them at The Met every once in a while.
Garage Band: Eric & the Nothing – JB
“I never expect to win anything.” Humble words from the band becoming the Daniel Day-Lewis of the Motif Awards. The crooning ‘60s-style rock band scored a win for Breakthrough act in their fresh-faced days in 2016, and another in this category last year. Recently, they have really rounded out their sound by adding drummer Bob Guisti and switching Billy Moretti to guitar, becoming a quartet. Word on the street is E&TN are putting out a record soon, and they’ll be at AS220 on Jun 22.
Pop Punk: Senior Discount – JB
It’s been a long and successful run for Senior Discount, another repeat winner, who released their first album There Were Four Who Tried back in 2006. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Gym Class Heroes, Girl Talk, Boys Like Girls, The Bravery, Guttermouth and Less than Jake. Check them out this Thursday at the ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, Mass. If SD’s Facebook page is to be believed, the show will be “packed and crazy.”
Post Punk/Goth: Hope Anchor
Motif Music Award attendees were treated last week to a high-octane performance from the Post Punk/Goth winners. Hope Anchor is made up of RI-area rock veterans, and all the experience really shows. They’re great at the brooding, Cure-like tunes that’d you expect given the category, but they’ve also got some more upbeat rockers. Check out last year’s excellent Beautiful Corpses to see why the Rhode Island masses have decided to bestow this honor.
Punk: Hairspray Queen – JB
More and more, Providence seems like the place to be for high-quality punk rock, with Downtown Boys striking it national earlier this year. Hairspray Queen takes
the noise crown for the second year in a row. This music is fast, brash and not for the faint of heart, but the band is very skilled at creating melodies underneath all the discord. Check out their EP and live album at their Bandcamp: hairsprayqueen.bandcamp.com
Hardcore/Metal: Olneyville Sound System – JB
Olneyville Sound System is a heavy experimental noise band that has been wowing audiences for 20 years. The band consists of only drummer Adam Autry and bassist Dan St. Jacques. Plumbing the depths of the power that lies in pure low end has made this duo a Providence original. Check out “It Ain’t So” from 1999 for a true assault on the eardrums: youtube.com/watch?v=_akGXzVniwI
Female Vocalist: Malyssa BellaRosa – MC
The chanteuse of Fall & Bounce, the brains behind Malyssa & The Liberators, takes home “Best Female Vocalist.” Ms. BellaRosa didn’t wake up in this position, she made it happen. Through years playing acoustically or rocking it out, she’s been a staple.
I’m a hater; yeah I support artists, but I think people blur the lines of good or bad. Like, this grapefruit is good because it is local. But I got sick. Doesn’t matter, it is local.
Malyssa BellaRosa is not that grapefruit. It doesn’t matter that she is local, she is powerhouse of song and melody that we need in these times.
Male Vocalist: Steve Delmonico – MC
He might be the best single supporter of local music because he is everywhere. Recently he sniffled at me, “baby Deer Tick,” and I said, “Who said that?” Of course it was me. I think I meant it in a flattering way. I love Steve as a performer because he brings it, whether with The Quahogs or solo. He is more rock ‘n’ roll than any of us can hope to be in our wet dreams. Steve went through a period where he didn’t know if he’d lose it all. He came back and triumphed and brings his raspy voice to tell the truth.
Breakthrough Alt Act: Sugar Cones – MC
After a few lineup changes and years honing their sound, the Sugar Cones broke on through to the other side with their debut Self-Titled EP big time this year. The Sugar Cones’ spirit of adventure bleeds all through the EP from the spy noir surf guitar lead on “Pretend” to the cello on “Good Time” coloring the backbeat. To experience the Sugar Cones, one has to see them live because that is where all the dimensions come alive. From the roots to the rock, a Sugar Cones show is a like a 45-minute demon exorcism. Check out the Sugar Cones online at malyssabellarosa.com/sugarconesband where their debut EP is available for order.
Tribute Band: Dirty Deeds – MC
Sometimes I joke about dynasties when an act keeps winning over and over, but that would undersell Dirty Deeds. They win because they make people’s nights, their weeks, months and sometimes their years. AC/DC is a universal thing, and even though their members have been dropping like flies in recent years, we still want to hear those songs that spurred Axl Rose into action, and as much as I love Axl, he really doesn’t help anyone. Dirty Deeds, on the other hand, kicks out those jams all night, all year, and shakes you all night long.
Cover Band: Sybil Disobedience – JB
It’s no coincidence Sybil Disobedience is a perennial favorite in this category. Frontwoman Sybil Castellone has a dynamic stage presence and a great voice, and SD’s musicians are stone cold professionals. Their repertoire is large, moving from “Uptown Funk” to AC/DC. Catch them on Friday, May 25 at Lou’s Café in Manville, and June 1 at The Joint Bar and Grille in Cranston.
Alt/Rock Festival: PVDFest – JB
Now in its fourth year, PVDFest may be the biggest, most ambitious festival the city has ever attempted. And by all accounts, it seems to be a success. It’s not really a rock, or even a music festival – think of it as an everything festival. Art, music, theater, street performances and installations come together for an immersive experience celebrating the capital city. Of the acts announced so far, some to watch are: Consuelo’s Revenge, Tiny Diamond, Blackletter, and Brown University’s premier faculty rock band, Dirty Filthy Basement. More info at: pvdfest.com/artists-2018 and on page 10.
Best Hip-Hop Act: The Funk Underground – Louie
Providence-based The Funk Underground consists of Syde-Sho, Kevin Rodriguez, Taki Bano, Osmoses & KelKeyz. The groundwork they’ve put in so far is incredible, so be on the lookout for their debut project to be released this spring on thefunkunderground.com!
Breakthrough Hip-Hop Act: Toad and the Stooligans – Louie
The members of the five-piece hip-hop band from Providence have been building group chemistry since their early high school days, and it’s great seeing the award go to a group like this. Check out their project, Very Handsome, full of rocking alternative hip-hop jams on Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming services.
Best EDM DJ: DJ Venom – MB
For the sixth year in a row, DJ Venom has been named Motif’s Best EDM DJ. Over two decades ago, he first sank his fangs into the Northeast’s rave
and hard dance music scenes. Venom currently heads up Freq, a weekly dance night at Alchemy. He also runs Morlock Music, an artist collective and production company, and produces once-monthly “Hard Dance Nation” podcast episodes on Soundcloud, which are unique, long-form hardstyle mixes.
Best Club DJ: Pauly Danger – MB
This year’s Best Club DJ is Pauly Danger, AKA Paul Bedrosian. Pauly’s passions are reggae and dancehall, but he also spins other genres, including world music, R&B, Latin, and hip-hop. Describing his approach to DJing, he says, “It’s all about the vibe. Reading the crowd’s energy and playing for the room is key, but I also try to expose the crowd to new music and sounds that come from the heart … I’m humbled to have won and I appreciate the love and support from my city. Providence, I love you.”
Karaoke Night: Friday at the Parlour PVD – MC
As the 2005 Karaoke King of Providence, I’m more judgmental than most on this category. But that time is gone and so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to write about how The Parlour has the best woman doing the best version of “You Ought Know” or if I should just talk about how there may be too many categories. I don’t know. The Parlour has karaoke every Friday. Every Friday, not just those “Good Fridays,” and is one of my favorite places to hang.
The night is run by DJ Big Sean and has been running for 11 years straight – a neat trick at a club less than six years old (the night ran at the previous Penalty Box as well). Gregory Rourke, one of the Parlour owners, who is dedicated to keeping the night “diverse, open and driven by a good sense of humor. We have people who come from pretty far away – Salem, Worcester. I think they come for the vibe,” he explained. “We welcome the tone-deaf drunken college student and the pro [vocalists] equally.” Karaoke starts at 9:30pm. more at theparlourri.com
Best Dance Night: Soul Power at Dusk – MB
“Soul Power” dance party happens the second and last Friday of each month at Dusk. For 15+ years (!), run by Ty Jesso, “Soul Power” has featured vintage rock ‘n’ roll vinyl along with special guest DJs and (sometimes) a live band. Speaking of this accomplishment, Jesso says, “My co-DJ John O’Leary and I are very honored … We love the music we spin and believe Providence deserves an alternative to the Top 40/Pop/EDM dance scene. We are glad people enjoy what we do!
Club Photography: Eric Johnson – MR
Eric Johnson is the first ever Motif Award Winner who won by a write-in vote. Of his unique victory, Eric said, “I guess I have a lot of friends!” Johnson started photographing live shows for local act Sybil Disobedience, then began getting calls to shoot other band’s shows. He said of his work that “I make enough money to put pizza in my belly and pay for my big camera.” What more could a photographer ask for?
Thanks again everyone!
For more photos, click here to see our Music Awards Cover Guide.
2018 Motif Music Award Nominees
Voting is closed, but please join us on Tuesday, May 8th at The Met for the awards!! Doors open at 6pm!
There was a record number of voters this year at 6,363. Thank you to all who voted!
Ian Fitzgerald & Something Else
The Horse-Eyed Men
The Huntress and Holder of Hands
Amanda Salemi (Consuelo’s Revenge)
Aubrey Atwater (Atwater-Donnelly)
Jen Long (SwampBirds)
Jess Powers (Cowboy & Lady)
Kim Trusty (Kim Trusty Band)
MorganEve Swain (The Huntress and Holder of Hands)
Tara Hansen (Man & Wife)
Elwood Donnelly (Atwater- Donnelly)
Ian Fitzgerald (Ian Fitzgerald & Something Else)
Mark Cutler (Mark Cutler and Men of Great Courage)
Steve Delmonico (The Quahogs)
Tyler-James Kelly (Cowboy & Lady)
Lizzie James and the
How’s About Charlie
Black & White Band
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Low Cards
Tim Taylor Blues Band
Assembly of Light Choir
Newman Church Choir
Providence Gay Men’s Chorus
RI Civic Chorale
The Horse-Eyed Men
Haunt the House
The Vox Hunters
Joe Potenza Quartet
The John Allmark Jazz Orchestra
R & B
The Love Dogs
Steve Smith & the Nakeds
World Premier Band
Chachi & The International Players
Chris Monti Trio
Eastern Medicine Singers
Street Band / Brass Band / Marching Band
Black Out Drum Squad
ERB (Extraordinary Rendition Band)
The Kickin Brass Band
TAPA Percussion Ensemble
What Cheer? Brigade
10 Rocks Jazz Jam
Madcap Mondays @ Dusk
Open Mic Tuesdays @ The Parlour in PVD
Songwriter’s Open Mic @ Perks & Corks
Two Hundo Broadway Open Mic @ The Parlor in Newport
Open Mic Tuesdays @ Wharf Pub
Sundays at the Wood @ Wood River Inn
Brian McKenzie / “Bruising from the Fall”
Dan Blakeslee / “The Alley Walker”
The Huntress and Holder of Hands / “Avalon”
John Juxo / “Long Distance Driver”
Mike Laureanno / “TIGHTROPE”
Phil Adams / “Pieces of Her”
The Swampbirds / “no parentheses”
Best Americana Festival
BRT Summer Solstice Festival
Newport Folk Festival
Newport Jazz Festival
Rhythm & Roots Festival
United Folk Festival of Westerly
Warren Folk Fest
Providence Folk Fest
The Low Cards
Math the Band
Roz & The Rice Cakes
Best Live Act
Eric & the Nothing
Reggae / SKA
The Mystic Jammers
The Cosmic Factory
Daddie Long Legs
Most Dangerous Men Alive
The Stupid Robots
Eric & the Nothing
Jets Can’t Land
The Really Heavy
Seven Hats Parade
Post Punk / Goth Act
Alek K Redfearn & the Eyesores
Pop Punk Act
Ten Cents Short
Tony Jones & the Cretin 3
Hardcore / Metal Act
The Black Dove Social Club
Olneyville Sound System
Reason to Fight
Chelsea Paulhus (Tall Teenagers)
Jen Janet (Blind Revision)
Jess Maroney (Nymphidels)
Malyssa BellaRosa (Sugar Cones)
Missa Hills (The Callouts)
Scarlett Delgado (Lolita Black)
Tai Awolaju (Boo City)
Tammy Laforest (The Dust Ruffles)
AV Vienna (The Viennagram)
Damian Puerini (Tall Teenagers)
Dave Laros (Blackletter)
Eric Shane (Eric and the Nothing)
Paul Everett (Hope Anchor)
Steve Delmonico (The Quahogs)
Bill Keough / “You’ll Disappear Just Like They All Do”
The Complaints / “Talk To Me”
Hope Anchor / “Beautiful Corpses”
Kilgore Smudge / “Kilgore”
The Lincoln Tunnel / “Phone This One In”
The Low Cards / Self-Titled
Nobody’s Boyscout / “In Tongues”
Roz & the Rice Cakes / “Devotion”
People Eating Plastic
& The Galactic Shag
Dirty Deeds (AC/DC)
Forever Young (Neil Young)
Hey Nineteen (Steely Dan)
Through the Doors (The Doors)
Wicked Petty (Tom Petty)
Atlantic Avenue Band
Fat City Band
Sybil Disobedience Band
Tanya McIntyre & The Professors
Friday Night Karaoke @ The Parlour PVD
Hot Club Monday @ The Hot Club
Saturday @ Muldowney’s
Sunday @ Miller’s Crossing
Trivioke @ The BoomBox
WRIK Saturday @ Picasso’s Pizza
Best ALT / Rock Festival
4th of July Revival Fest
ELECTRONIC / HIP-HOP
The Funk Underground
Sun of Sound
Breakthrough Hip-Hop Act
Nino Da Kidd
Toad and the Stooligans
Best EDM DJ
DJ Oscar Champagne
DJ Pauly Danger
Best Club DJ
DJ Dymand Teixeira
DJ Handsome Pete
DJ Pauly Danger
DJ Ty Jesso
The Westminster Yacht Club DJs
Best Dance Night
Desirenegade Night @ Scurvy Dog
Island Saturdays @ Alchemy
POW! Indie Dance Party @ Dusk
Soul Power @ Dusk
Wattzbeatz @ The Salon
Photo / Photography
Damian Zed Meneghini