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Bridging the Gap Between Folk and Jazz Fests in Newport: Bridgefest

 

The quaintness of Newport makes it the perfect location to spend a summer night, whether you’re listening to music at Fort Adams or just grabbing a drink at one of the many bars that lie on Thames Street.  

The last two weeks of July, however, usher in an unparalleled wonder in the form of the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals. But with four days between the two festivals, music junkies become antsy for their next fix. Fear not, music junkies, the Newport Festivals Foundation, the organization responsible for Folk and Jazz Fests, is bringing Bridgefest to the masses of Newport from July 25 to 28.

“The Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival have contributed to Newport’s narrative as an ultimate summer destination throughout the years,” said Jill Davidson, festival director of the Newport Festivals Foundation. “Bridgefest aims to do the same by keeping the festival spirit and excitement going strong during the week between the festivals.”

On April 28, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County sold their ownership of the prodigious festival to the Newport Festivals Foundation in hopes of extending the reach of the seven-year tradition. Luckily for us music lovers, that means four days of nonstop beats and rhythms that will shake Newport to its core.

“There wasn’t much to ‘fix’ about Bridgefest,” said Davidson. “Just like at the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival, it all comes down to the music, and what you’ll hear at Bridgefest this year is akin to the great folk and jazz you’ve come to expect from our festivals.”

Everywhere from Bowen’s Wharf to the Newport Vineyards is contributing to the grandeur, and with music going until 1am, Newport will certainly never remain quiet for too long.

To the surprise of many, no plans have been made for any artists from either of the bookend festivals to join in the festivities, but time will tell. I mean, Norah Jones is in town for both weekends, so who knows? “It’s always a possibility for the future as Bridgefest continues to grow,” added Davidson.

Easily the most enticing music-esque event of Bridgefest is the Tribute to Miles Davis occurring at the Jane Pickens Theater the night before the Jazz Fest kickoff. The Doug Woolverton Sextet, the house band for the evening, will run through Davis’ 1958 Jazz Festival performance, which, in case you haven’t heard, is the pinnacle of live jazz albums, providing a proper segue into Jazz Fest weekend.

Bowen’s Wharf, most notably, will be the only venue all weekend offering free music nightly during Busking at Bowens. This scenic venue will host a variety of local acts including Panoramic View and Thatcher Harrison, with Coole Swan pouring some of their famous Superior Irish Cream Liqueur every night.

Coming to Newport with kiddos? Fort Adams will host a folk and jazz-centric family concert on Wednesday, July 27, featuring the delightfully playful Alastair Moock and the smooth stylings of the Newport Jazz Assembly.

Other notable music ventures during the week include the Sights and Sounds of Shangri-La at Doris Duke’s Rough Point Estate on Wednesday, July 27; Steve Deconti at the OceanCliff Hotel on Monday, July 25; and MatthewFest at Greenvale Vineyards on Tuesday, July 26.

Looking for food? On Tuesday, July 26, the Canfield House will host an upscale dinner for all you folks with a taste for the finer things in life while on Thursday, July 28, the Newport Vineyards will host a Jazz & Wine Clambake with local clams from McGrath Clambakes. Shuck yeah!

Unlike previous years, music will undoubtedly be the central focus of the festival with little to no options outside of the musical and culinary realms. This, however, will play to the Newport Festivals Foundation strengths, allowing for a deeper emphasis on their mission rather than providing a hodge-podge of events.

“Community is what the Newport Festivals Foundation comes down to, from the bonds that we’ve formed with Newport and our festival audiences over the years to the students who benefit from our music education initiatives,” explained Jay Sweet, executive producer of the Newport Festivals Foundation. “An opportunity like this, to expand the ways we can bring music to the Newport community and the broader music-loving public, is what we’re all about.”




Dirtying Up the Kayak

A few weeks ago, I stood in my garage and looked at my kayak hanging from a mount on the wall. There were still streaks of dried mud smeared across it and shriveled-up weeds stuck to the seat from adventures past. I never bother to clean it because I like how it looks when it has been used. The only question was where and when my first voyage of the year would be.
I shot a text message out to a few of my adventure buddies. Within minutes, the plan materialized. On that coming Sunday, we would go kayak fishing on the Hunt River in North Kingstown.
Sunday came, and we arrived at our spot. It was a slow moving river, perfect for a mellow day on the water. My friends dropped in before me while I peed in some brush. I knew we would be paddling for a good part of the day, and there wasn’t going to be another opportunity to do so for a while. I finished my business, then zipped up and dropped in.
We made our way upriver against the current, which is usually the better way to start your day. After a long day of paddling, you do not want to fight the current on the way back. I have made that mistake before, and I won’t again.
The plan was to go fishing for bass, pickerel, trout or whatever was biting. Everyone chose their preferred lure while I chose the kind I always dig out. That would be the in-line spinner, or roostertail, as they are often referred to. They are my favorite style of lure to fish with. They are known for catching fish in big numbers, but not necessarily big fish, and I am okay with that. I decided to start the day with a golden yellow one.
Our little fleet of three kayaks and one canoe made its way upriver, occasionally backing up and wedging ourselves into the brush on the side. This prevents the current from pushing us back downstream as we cast our lines. We would try a spot for a few minutes, then paddle farther upriver where we would back into the side and try again.
As the day rolled on, none of us were getting any bites. It was really hot and we were losing steam. Little by little, we stopped fighting the river and let it push us downstream as we fished our way back at a more leisurely pace. Still, we got no bites.
The day wasn’t over yet. Back at our trucks we decided to drive over to a little pond that runs off the Pawtuxet River in West Warwick. I suggested this spot because I always seem to have luck there.
I changed from my golden yellow roostertail to a silver one with red fur. It was a very sunny day and I figured the silver would reflect more light.
I dropped in and paddled my way dangerously close to a dam with a waterfall. Once again I was fighting the current. I had to constantly check to make sure I was not moving too close to the edge of the dam as to not go over it. The water usually gets deeper just before a dam, and I catch fish in spots like that fairly often. This tactic is dangerous and I do not recommend it, but it is what I did, and it paid off. On my first cast, I had a fish on. It was a largemouth bass, and the first fish of the day. I was on the board.
As usual, after the first catch of the day, my interest in fishing waned for a bit and I focused more on kayaking. I crept up the pond pretty close to the edge. The trees on the side provided shade and broke up the wind that was pushing against me in the middle of the pond.
There were some shallow areas that made me glad to be using a sit-on-top kayak. The whole device floats on top of the water as opposed to the sit-inside kind. With these, you sit below the surface level of the water, and subsequently, might bottom out in weedy or shallow spots. The sit-on-top style is more ideal in these situations, at least in my opinion, but there are a lot of styles of kayaks for many different purposes.
Again we reached the point where we were sick of fighting the current and let ourselves drift back. A pond is usually a great place to kayak because of its still water, but this pond had a waterfall that created a current similar to the river’s. The ride back is always nicer, but it ends quicker. I managed to catch another bass and a pickerel on the way. Not a bad day.
We dragged our kayaks back to the truck. Mine has a rope tied to the front, which helps with the dragging. We tied them up, gave some fist bumps, and went our separate ways with the promise of another adventure in the near future.
Now the kayak rests in its rack with new markings of mud and pieces of dead weeds stuck in the seat. Whenever I enter my garage, I have to fight the impulse to take it off the wall and throw it in my truck. There are so many good places to go in Rhode Island, and I am always eager to give it a new coat of mud.



Crossing Bridges to Find Public Art

 

It’s as though the highway between Providence and Rhode Island’s waterfront becomes a portal to a preserved time. Perhaps it is the preservation of our state’s landscape, native history and settlement that becomes the primary subjects for public art in these areas.

As I drive into Narrangansett, urban industry begins to fade away and the landscape becomes the force behind a thriving economy. I can smell the ocean. Seagrass grows along the roadside as bittersweet beautifully strangles trees. Horses graze in fields with skyline for miles. Crops are being grown, and there are signs for fresh pie. Marshes, sanctuaries, and ponds exist next to local businesses that mimic homes with exterior walls finished with weathered wooden shingles. There is an artistic homogeny within the architecture.

Passing the Block Island Ferry, I get out of my car to explore Rose Nulman Park, the Point Judith Lighthouse, dilapidated benches, dandelion turned to seed, rose hips, cyclists, sea breeze, and bluffs leading to the beach by the Atlantic Ocean.

I return to my car heading toward the South County Museum when I notice a massive wooden sculpture in Sprague Park re-establishing the over 30,000 year existence of the Narragansett People in this region. Outside 174-acre Canonchet Farm stands Enishkeetompauog Narragansett, a 23 feet tall Douglas fir sculpted into a portrait depicting the embodiment of the Narragansett natives according to Hungarian artist, Peter Wolf Toth. The title essentially translates to, “the people of the small, narrow point — a part of all humanity.” The artist honors local Native Americans’ input before beginning his work. The sculpture created is certainly a composite of the physical characteristics of the local tribes as well as their history. “My work chronicles the epic struggle of all people facing injustice,” said Toth. This work is a wonderful example of public art restoring the history and values of our ancestors.

On the contrary, when we think of Narragansett, The Towers near Narragansett Pier have become the center for social life and tourism since 1885. Surviving two massive fires in 1900 and 1965, the structure has held fast through the tests of time, acquiring an almost magical reputation for indestructibility — truly Narragansett’s good luck symbol.

Kate Vivian, Towers Coordinator, boasts, “In 2016, we have 128 private events booked (103 are weddings), and approximately 85 events are open to the public including weekly ballroom dance lessons and live music during the summer season. We generally present 10 chamber concerts each year, lectures on the history of the town, the architecture and so on. There are several projects for entertaining children each year. And we often celebrate the arts in the building.” Surely this cultural revival is beneficial for the economy.

I enjoyed the rest of my evening hiking along Bass Rock Road, one of my favorite places in all of Rhode Island. My fiery Australian cattle dog hopped along boulders and rocks by my side. Beautiful views framed the journey to the north, south and east. Naval helicopters flew overhead while waves crashed against the black algae coated rocks, and the shapes of stones disappeared beneath my leaping feet. It was an invigorating mile leading us to the sun setting over Scarborough State Beach.

Another slightly gray day with rain mist in the air, I drove along Route 77 along the Sakonnet River into Tiverton’s historic Four Corners near Fogland Beach. Metal works, antiques, galleries, fine cheese shops, boutiques, ice cream and cafes exist within a charming unhurried atmosphere of quaint 18th century buildings. This historic farming town continues to sustain its original beauty and lure.

Barbara Pelletier is head of the Tiverton Arts Council, which consists of volunteers from the community. She says, “We are trying to draw the community into the arts world.” The council hosts exhibitions featuring local artists’ work in their Town Hall. They are also planning to host a movie matinee. Barbara says, “I think the state sees arts, all phases, as an opportunity to grow the economy.” I agree.

The South Coast Artists, Inc. is an active non-profit corporation encouraging and fostering artistic growth and recognition among Tiverton and Little Compton Artists for about 13 years. This local group provides opportunities to view art made within the community; to interact with local artists; and to have access to artists’ creative working environments. southcoastartists.org

As I leave Tiverton, by way of Windmill Hill Road passing rows of rhododendrons, blooming lilacs, rose hips, branches covered in moss and lichen, private burial grounds, I again end my journey with a connection to stones. Row after row of stone walls leads me along West Main Road.

That’s when I realize I may have missed the most important feature of public art currently in this town. Did you know there once may have been 250,000 miles of stone walls in America’s Northeast, stretching farther than the distance to the moon? Robert Thorson, author of Stone by Stone, writes, “The stone wall is the key that links the natural history and human history of New England. Stone walls became a defining element of the Northeast’s landscape, and a symbol of the shift to an agricultural economy.” These same stone walls lead me through Portsmouth and Middletown into Newport where the arts community is alive and thriving.

Newport’s City Planner, Christine O’Grady shared this, “Newport has a wealth of publicly available art in a variety of forms, from traditional historic structures, statues, open spaces and streetscapes to the more modern public art forms on display throughout the city. Emphasis on the natural environment of the city is also something that cannot be overlooked when describing how pedestrians perceive Newport. The layout of public spaces developed by Landscape Architect, Fredrick Law Olmstead, more than a century ago are being reexamined as the city prepares for the future. These long established green space areas enhance every form of art within the city for the pedestrian. It is often said that ‘art is in the eye of the beholder’ and the way that I see it as the city planner is that there is some form of art here in Newport for everyone.”

I drive along Broadway and notice construction. O’Grady says, “In a broad sense public art is now being incorporated into innovative and sustainable streetscape designs (Broadway Streetscape Improvement Project) installed along some of the major pedestrian thoroughfares. These projects will not only help with storm water issues, but they will also enhance the look and feel of areas being traversed by residents and tourists alike through unique pavement designs and materials.” As written on the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) website, “The project is designed using Complete Streets principles; the state’s Complete Streets Law requires that all federal- and state-funded road construction projects equally consider motor vehicles, bicyclists, public transportation and pedestrians.”

It’s interesting to witness how the City of Newport, The Preservation Society of Newport County (Rhode Island’s largest cultural organization) and The Doris Duke’s Newport Restoration Foundation incorporate contemporary design into the county’s architectural heritage. I normally think of the mansions along Bellevue Avenue, The Cliff Walk, The Forty Steps, Washington Square Park, Eisenhower Park, Fort Adams, Breton Point, The Bird Sanctuary, Trinity Church, and Queen Anne’s Park as never-changing. Yet, it’s happening, and the improvements are maintaining the integrity of the original design while further educating the public and serving a utilitarian purpose.

The Reinvention of Queen Anne’s Square is one example of contemporary art meeting preservation in design. “Doris Duke thought out of the box a lot,” said Pieter Roos, foundation director. “That has allowed us to think out of the box.”

Maya Lin is an artist and architect focused on creating places for individuals within the landscape. She was hired to create “The Meeting Room” in Queen Anne Park. I can remember learning about the American earthworks movement while studying at Parsons, and hearing about Maya Lin for the first time. I was blown away by the way her architecture became one with the landscape as though it had always been there. Her forms were subtle, showing minimal juxtaposition to the natural environment.

The threshold to a foundation of an outdoor room created by Lin reads, “Rained all day. Made jelly & did various other Housekeeping matters which consumed the morning.” (Franny Clarke’s diary 1867) The surrounding walls become seats for the public and encourage rest, reflection and conversation. (Read more here: bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2013/05/25/doris-duke-foundation-reinvents-newport-queen-anne-square/TvFm9qwW6oFqh41ijNY8cP/story.html)

The Newport Art Museum is the only museum to focus on the art and artists of Rhode Island. The Pell Bridge is an icon designed by Alfred Hedefine. And the bronze wave with feet outside Perry Mill Market was designed by Kay Worden. Newport has so much to offer.

To learn more, visit newportrestoration.org or newporthistorytours.org




Summer In Newport: An Alternative Approach

Warm waves arrive in the Ocean State and half of us are bound to at least visit Newport. With approximately 3.5 million visitors, it’s sometimes hard to remove Newport from a few key tourist activities: the Mansion tours, the Folk and Jazz Festival, sailing (a good resource for lists of races is the SailNewport website). And yes, sometimes it can be fun to don some white and navy, chow down some fried seafood, and see where the night will take you along Thames Street, but the diamond activities in Newport happen in the north end of town. Although a local will never discourage you from enjoying a cocktail out on the lawns of Castle Hill for a lazy day watching boats and sunsets, here are some suggestions for you if you’re tired of, or have already done, standard Newport.

Before You Go

A heads up: Locals know that the nights to visit Newport — the nights with the most interesting things happening — are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. These are the nights when there’s live music in every drinking establishment and the artsy and cool events are in full swing.

Biking Is the Only Way to Go

If you want to enjoy Newport, you have to grab your bike rack and your penny-farthing. The city is constantly trying to improve the parking situation, but it’s not adequate. Find some long-term parking (see the visitor’s center) and be free-as-a-seagull for day and evening! Bike Newport has fantastic resources on bike routes in town, and their 4th Annual Kaminitz Father’s Day Ride on June 19 celebrates and benefits bike safety education and initiatives. It starts at Fort Adams and does the scenic route around Ocean Drive with activities at the fort for youngsters, walkers and people who really just want to have a great day waterfront.

Art Stuff

Sunday Gallery Sunday is a contemporary arts tour of Newport put together by artists, gallery owners and locals. It is an insider’s view to cool, can be guided or self-guided and weaves you through established and up-and-coming gallery and studio spaces. The tour is a really fresh addition to the Newport arts scene and often culminates in a discussion at the Newport Art Museum. It is suggested you brunch at local favorite Stone Acre Pantry, an eco-conscious farm-to-table establishment with a relaxed neo-husmanskost vibe, before your tour. Sunday Gallery Sunday runs every first Sunday of the month.

The Newport Gallery Night is a non-centralized event where galleries, museums, tours and other businesses keep their doors open a bit later than usual. The city-wide event is very low-key and includes a 28-member group of galleries, museums and cultural institutions. A walk/bike ride punctuated by wine, cheese and art in one of the prettiest towns in New England? Score. Newport Gallery Night is the first Thursday of every month.

Newport Film is returning to mansion lawns, beach fronts, tennis courts and other unique and gorgeous locations this summer, once again offering the public their summer sunset line-up of festival-run documentary movies and a viewing experience that is out of this world. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket, wine and a snack, and a $10 donation to support the non-profit! The Newport Film series start on Thursday June 30th, and runs every Thursday until September 1st. See their website for schedules.

Newport Art House is an up-and-coming contemporary arts organization that is putting on a bunch of events this summer. The NAH Brunch Art and Flea Market (BAFL Market) brings a much-awaited venue for arts and thrift-finds in the upper-Broadway area of Newport. If you’re looking for a local scene, the neighborhood north of Eisenhower park offers a chiller vibe, and the BAFL Market will add a destination to your Sunday brunch itinerary. NAH is posting their art film series June 1, which will include classics like Dune, Brazil and other weirdness. The Newport Art House BAFL Market and Art-Film series will run every other Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. See their website for schedules.

Brunch on Upper Broadway

It can be tough to visit Newport without indulging in a seafood extravaganza, and if that’s what you’re into there is no other option but Flo’s Clam Schack (just go). If you’re into exploring beyond fried seafood, a walk up Broadway any day is a good choice.

Upper Broadway boasts local favorites such as Perro Salado (Mexican inspired farm-to-table), Raw Power (raw vegan food), Mission (the best burger in town), PJs (cheap and cheerful) and Salvation Cafe (great drink menu). All of these offer brunch, and the options for dinner in Newport are vast.

Music

The live music scene is so vibrant it would fill the whole paper to accurately report on one week of it. Note: Pretty much all live music starts at 10pm in Newport. Suffice it to say that on upper Broadway alone, you are sure to catch great original bands Wednesday through Friday at Perro Salado, at Pour Judgement (aka PJs) and at Parlor. For cover bands you can peek into any restaurant on a weekday and there’s bound to be something. An evening walk down Broadway is sure to waft you in delicious au-de-foods and sounds. Check out Newport Art House’s event calendar for specifics on original music.

This summer PJs is (smartly) hosting Tweed Leisure, a local production power house slash musical-curator, for a summer residency. Headed by local musician David Passafiume, the residency is sure to produce great acts every Thursday, with bands ranging from partybands to dreampop, coming from as far away as right down the street to France and across the country. Tweed Leisure has a long record of  turning dives-to-thrives — we’re excited. Google “good news Tweed Leisure” for the full lineup.

As we like to say in Newport come for the day, stay for the lifestyle, see you around.




Beaches and Bike Paths!

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Spring in Newport’s Salty Air

It’s about to be that time of year; the north part of our state is on the cusp of turning into a steamy, empty wasteland dotted with internationally acclaimed events while the south welcomes millions of visitors who treat the place like the Vegas of the east. Before these phenomena, colloquially known as “summer,” we get to enjoy an exceptional season to take in the Ocean State and its natural treasures.

You might not think of Newport for your spring outdoor adventure, but it is a magical place between April and June. It’s just warm enough to sit water-side and enjoy the views; the streets are still fairly empty of both motorized and pedestrian traffic, and yet exploding with colorful flower gardens and plantings; fellow Newportians start to emerge from winter hibernation looking fabulous and refreshed, ice coffee’s in hand. Why are they looking so happy, you ask?
The reality is that Newport was designed to accommodate horses and buggies at best. The good news? Everything interesting is concentrated within an area easily traversed by foot (long day) or wheel (short day). In other words, find some long-term parking and ditch the horseless carriage. That’s what the locals are doing, so join us. On your bike yet? Good, let’s go.

The Nature Loop: Newport East
BYOBike and launch off from the BikeNewport Bike n’ Ride site at the Newport County YMCA for a day-long, 8-mile seaside adventure packed with natural scenery. Purgatory Road is the other Ocean Drive — part mansions, part dunes. If it’s a Saturday you’re bound to hit some local garage sales along this road, so bring a backpack and stop for goodness sake. Check out Purgatory Chasm before sweeping down the hill toward Second Beach and heading out to Sachuest Point where you’re welcome to take a hike (literally).

Make a pit stop at Third Beach before heading up the hill to the Norman Bird Sanctuary where there is more hiking and the opportunity to chill on Hanging Rock. It’s the perfect place to dig into your grub and ponder the appropriate naming of Paradise Valley. If you’re still feeling peckish you can stop in at Sweet Berry Farm for a healthy treat, head back beach side to Flo’s Clam Shack for a well-deserved mound of fried seafood (it’s an institution and it’s good), or come into town for the evening. What to do in town? Keep reading!

For info on Park n’ Ride locations in Newport, go to bikenewportri.org/park-n-bike/

The Destination Bike Loop: Newport South
If you’re starting off in town, there is no shortage of things to do. Between April and June there are outdoor movies, star-gazing opportunities and even opportunities to pet some animals. What are you into?

Heading south on you bike you’re likely to come across many parks and spots to stop. The Cliff Walk is a classic for a long walk; on bike you can access some of the southern entrance points where the walk gets a bit more challenging and, therefore, less frequented. Take a ride around Ocean Drive, stop at the parking-less beaches, and do some laser tag at Fort Adams on your way back to town (starting back up this spring).

Are you into heirloom seeds and farm animals? The Swiss Village Foundation has an open house on June 11th and this is your chance to learn more then you thought you could about rare livestock. In years past there were opportunities to help shear sheep and there’s always the sciencey part of conservation (sperm galore) if you’re looking to get schooled.

If you stay for the evening check out NewportFilm’s lineup; they offer excellent independent movies at some remarkable sites ranging from gilded mansion to fort to beach side — all by donation. Ballard Park is another spot where there are free movies, jazz performances and other events, as well as hiking trails.

Laser Tag: fortadams.org/bVisitbFortAdams/LaserTagatFortAdams.aspx
Swiss Village Foundation: svffoundation.org/
Ballard Park: ballardpark.org/12_EVENTS.html

Walking the Town-Center
Park your car at the Newport Visitor’s Center or at the Bike n’ Ride on Broadway for a town based bike-ride or walk. You have plenty to choose between to keep active. There are daily historical tours presented by the Newport Historical Society, as well as monthly gallery nights (every 2nd Thursday of the month), not to mention restaurants with outdoor seating and just the joys of cruising the old side-streets of town. If you’re in Newport on a weekend there are garage sales everywhere. The best way to do this is to grab an iced coffee on Broadway and see where your feet lead you.
If you’re into quiet residential activities, try the Secret Garden Tour; a semi-annual event enjoyed by DIYers, architectural-geeks and garden-nuts alike. The Spring Garden Tours run from June 26 through June 28 and offer a glimpse at the “back sides” of the historic buildings of Newport done up by some serious green thumbs. Ranging from formal garden designs, whimsically creative ones, to my personal favorite; the edible garden, it makes for a great bike ride as you self-guide yourself from one home to the next.

Gallery Night: newportgallerynight.com
Newport Historical Society: newporthistory.org/calendar
Secret Garden Tour: secretgardentours.org

Outdoors in Newport? Have to Mention Sailing
We’re talking outdoors and we’re talking Newport, so we have to talk sailing. There are loads of ways to get on the water, from renting your own sailboat at SailNewport, to getting on a day-sail, to hopping on the ferry for a simple round trip from Bannisters Wharf. A quick Google search will give you plenty of options, but some boats don’t start going until Memorial Day, so make sure to double-check!

Stay a While
You might as well stay the evening if you’re already here. There is plenty to eat, see and hear in Newport during the shoulder season. Local millennials are doing an excellent job organizing local and national musical acts at bars and restaurants (check out broadwayallstar.com and Tweed Leisure on Facebook to see what’s happening). The Broadway area is experiencing a renaissance and there is music available pretty much every night of the week. If you find yourself hungering for gallery openings, opportunities to make art and other events, go to the Newport Art House website for a calendar of events by month; you’re bound to find something unexpectedly fun to do!

Spring is in the air and Newport is a good place to experience it; hope to see you out there!




Newport New Year’s Eve

fireworksHey hey, y’all! It’s the last chance of 2015 to catch some live music and there’s no shortage of awesomeness to choose from down here in the southern end of Rhode Island. The holidays have brought a lot of people back home to lil Rhody and there are a few reunions and returns to take note of.

New Year’s Eve is flooded with fun stuff to do and if the weather keeps up as it has been, you should be able to walk around from place to place and not miss any of the excitement. The Newport Blues Cafe is featuring a dinner combo with music from Take It To The Bridge starting at 10pm.

Jimmy’s Saloon will be having its “Ocean Mic” New Year’s edition featuring sets from local performers Bill Lewis, Skip Leon, IONEYE, and comedy from Darik Santos with open jams starting just before midnight. This is a great way for any musician or performer to start off the new year.

One Pelham East will be featuring cover tunes from Smear Campaign and high energy funk/dance/electro cuts from DJ Blacklist.

If you’re looking for laughs, The Bit Players will be performing at the Firehouse Theater.

On New Year’s Day, Jimmy’s Saloon starts the year off with a bang with the hard hitting Big Takeover and My Mother’s Moustache.

Saturday, January 2, marks a local reunion as House Of Lyrics returns to Jimmy’s Saloon featuring Kee Words, Dirty Ice (DirtyDurdie), Everbody Luv Black, Big City, Sheezac & J-Earn. This is filled with many local and talented emcees with guest DJ Tone on the turntables.

Every Sunday, including January 3, you can catch the swinging grooves of Los Duderinos at Pour Judgement on Broadway.

Looking into the near future, Jimmy’s Saloon will be having “Hardcore by the Sea” with Held Hostage, Boxed In and The Struggle on Friday, January 8, and Vudu Sister, Tiny Diamond, Jillian Kay and Allysen Callery on Saturday, January 9.




Paint-Parties Are Gaining Momentum, Stepping on Toes and Making People Happy

If we are anything alike, you have a list of “emergency” events and activities for mandatory engagements with people you have nothing in common with. Ah the HOLIDAYS: An excellent time for connecting with people you genuinely enjoy dotted with periods of contact with those you do not – in-laws, distant cousins, a crowd of crazed bachelorettes, your brother’s bros, your department co-workers. If you have any artistic bones in your body an organized, dictated, paint-by-color-esque evening might give you a funny taste in your mouth. On the other hand it might be an opportunity to do something (at least a little bit) up your alley with these people. If you aren’t too picky you might just have yourself a huge blast.
Art-parties are all the rage, and for good reason. Most people are told early on in life that they are “most distinctly not” artistically gifted (which I think is a little sad for humanity but that’s a different story). By the time sensitive Americans reach adulthood, you better bet some of them need alcohol to get their creative juices flowing, especially for the corny but somewhat endearing activity of all painting the same thing en-masse. Companies like Charlie Hall’s Traveling Art Party (for hire all throughout the Northeast), Muse Paint Bar (Providence), Paint and Vino (Pawtucket) and others capitalize on the combination of inexperience, intoxication and inevitable laughs because who hates to paint? But who has the time to learn? And what’s more fun than comparing yourself to others?
The sequence of events at art-parties generally starts with a bubbly instructor introducing him/herself and the company involved, inviting everyone to grab drinks if they haven’t already, asking how many people have painted before, encouraging  the embarrassed and skeptical participant(s) that they “can do this” and that “it doesn’t take experience or art school to paint,” then introducing the (often) simple, blocky, colorful painting you’ll be recreating. A friend of mine pointed out that color mixing is a concept many people are unfamiliar with, and that it’s a useful transferable takeaway. Boom there it is; first task involving paint. From then on it’s all drinking, snacking and paint layering. Some of the instructors allow for more socializing than others, but they all generally emphasize party over painting.
Gaining mental access to the technical aspect of painting seems to be nugget of goodness in all this. Nico, a 28-year-old Newporter, reflected on her Paint Nite [sic] experience with radiating positivity, saying that she was “really surprised at the news that you’re able to make a nice picture without any experience… I thought it would be complicated, but it wasn’t; it was fun.” This same “lifting of the curtain” can bother those who actually consider themselves artistic. A 25-year-old art student friend noted that these types of parties might diminish the appreciation for the anguish and effort it takes to create an original piece, perpetuating a form of disrespect toward those who dedicate themselves to the arts. I can see that. On the other hand, most masters started out as apprentices doing something similar to paint-and-dabble, only it was hard, alcohol may or may not have been involved and they were frequently starting around the age of 12. If the people in your company look over at you and question why you’re spending $120K or so on something they just learned in two hours, at least you know who your friends are. If they churn out a Rembrandt-level work during this time, it’s very likely they had some skill before the party. If a friend with no experience recognizes his/her genius at a Paint and Dabble and becomes a successful artist afterward I’d be bummed too. But not for long because “good for them” and I’ve been working on my jealousy issues.
Personally I’d be more interested in buying the supplies and hosting a paint-party at home, but it simply wouldn’t have the same inclusive effect; when I paint I don’t like to talk to people, and I’m not into copies and I’m not typically available to answer questions. Therefore, I conclude that these gatherings meet a need and serve that need nicely. Also, let’s chill out; this is painting with booze not fine art. Happy Holidays!
There are many companies and entities that offer  paint nites. Some are willing to come to you, some have permanent homes and most require a reservation.
Charlie Hall’s Traveling Art Party “Drink and Dabble,” Providence; Scheduled at various establishments (see calendar), and available for private events; drinkanddabble.com
Muse Paintbar, 117 N Main St, Providence; A permanent space available for private parties and kids events; musepaintbar.com
Paint Drops, 560 Mineral Spring Ave, Pawtucket; A permanent space available for private parties and kids events; paintdropsri.com
Paint Nite, (Newport and South County); Hosts at local bars, see calendar; paintnite.com
Paint and vino, 150 Main St, Pawtucket; A permanent space with scheduled evenings, see calendar; paintandvino.com
Allie’s Wine and Paint Nite, Moves, but often at:
TwoTen Oyster Bar, 210 Salt Pond Rd., Wakefield 401-363-2787; wineandpaintnight.com




Spooky Attractions 2015 Centerspread

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Newport Summer Comedy Moves

The vaunted Newport Comedy Series, which has brought the likes of Bill Cosby (pre scandal), Jeff Dunham and Cheech and Chong, has moved in more ways than one this year. First, this year it’s mostly in the fall, not summer. That’s a side effect of the other move, from the Newport Yachting Center, the venerable downtown performance venue that was decommissioned early this year, to the Newport Hyatt Regency ballroom.

The change in venue caused delays, but, “Ultimately it seems to be working out well,” says former sportscaster Joe Rocco, one of the event’s organizers. “Audience feedback has been really positive,” he says, after the first show of the revived series, which featured Kathy Griffin. “It’s more comfortable, between the chairs and air conditioning, which is huge. And we’re less weather dependent. Plus here, the front few rows are right up there – you can really see everything the performer does.” Although the venue’s capacity is smaller, it still seats over 1,000.

So far, this year’s approaching performers, in addition to Griffin, are Paula Poundstone and Lenny Clarke. “As entertaining a line-up as we’ve had, laugh-meter-wise,” says Rocco, whose partner, Bill Blumenreich of Boston’s Wilbur Theatre, books the acts. There are also hopes of a Natasha Leggero performance – the rapidly rising actress had to reschedule a planned show because of conflicts with a film and her new sitcom. And more performers may be added.

Praising Poudstone, Rocco notes, “It’s amazing how much she’s done, how many comedy awards she’s won, how many experiences she’s had.” He’s also excited about Lenny Clarke – currently best known for his role on “Rescue Me” with Denis Leary, and perhaps for his thick Boston accent. “Clarke may have been in more failed sitcoms than anyone,” says Rocco. “I counted, and I think he’s been in 52 different TV shows.” If that’s not a recipe for laughs, it’s haahd to imagine what would be. Regional actor/comedian Tony V will open for Clarke – another Bostonian who tends to show up everywhere, from “Brotherhood” to “Seinfeld” and from “Conan O’Brien” to Comedy Central.

Newport (fall) Comedy Series: Paula Poundstone Oct 9; Lenny Clarke Oct 16. 8pm at the Hyatt Regency Newport on Goat Island. Newportcomedy.com