Finding Your Cave: Under-the-radar music in RI

For many of us, music is a pretty personal experience. You love the music you love, and you don’t love the music you, well, don’t love. Just as important as knowing what music you love is knowing at which venues you can live your best life. Having a favorite local music venue is like having a favorite pair of pants — each one fits everyone differently. Some people prefer to sit at a cozy table with an Aperol Spritz and watch their favorite jazz band take the stage, while other people are too busy headbanging on the dance floor to even worry about holding a drink. Or, they might be precariously holding one. We don’t judge. 

Whatever the case may be for you, there are tons of different music venues in RI, and it can be overwhelming to try to figure out which places play the stuff you like to jam to and foster an environment that you love. That’s what I’m here for — I’ve taken the deep dive into four local below-the-radar music venues and created guides for each one, so you all can decide for yourselves whether or not they fit you as well as your favorite pair of pants do. 


Courtland Club, PVD 

Fittingly located on the residential Courtland St is Courtland Club (not THE Courtland Club), which opened October 2017 but has yet to put up a sign.

Every Sunday, Courtland Club features the Leland Baker Trio to perform live jazz at 6 and 8:30, and basically every other night of the week (Wednesday through Saturday) features a different DJ. Now, usually when you combine the thoughts of a club and a DJ, there’s a mental image of a dance floor, or a rave, or something hyped up like that. My brain did the same thing. Instead, DJs at Courtland Club encourage a relaxing lounge vibe, and the music that each one plays is as diverse as their crowd. People of all identities flock to Courtland Club to appreciate a nice atmosphere, a good time and good food and drink. 

Best of all, there’s no cover charge or tickets to be purchased. Reservations for Sunday Jazz and special events require a deposit, but the deposit gets applied to whatever you end up spending on food and drink. 

When you scroll through their menu, you can almost instantly pick up on how it’s influenced by different cuisines from around the world, but focuses a lot more on making it fun than making it authentic. They really cranked up the fun on this menu: “Funky Shrimp Cocktail,” poutine croquettes, soft-shell crab sandwich and pasta made with a spicy gin and tomato cream sauce are featured among other eclectic dishes. Their drink menu reaches the same funky heights as their food menu, with drinks like a grain mustard martini, a mezcal and beet “Mother Theresa,” and a two-part Gemini cocktail, based on our (at time of writing) alignment in the Gemini season. 

Every detail counts at Courtland Club. If you’re looking for an intimate setting to relax and enjoy some music, food and drink in a dark, sexy, playful environment, I definitely recommend checking out this easygoing venue. 

Askew, PVD

Down the street from Nic-a-Nee’s on Chestnut St (another under-sung musical treasure) is local staple Askew. Part bar, part music venue, part restaurant and part gallery, Askew is a fantastic place for anyone to enjoy local talent from all walks of life. During the day, in lieu of shows, local musicians are featured all day on their house radio, and local artists are featured on their gallery wall. 

From Wednesday to Sunday, you can always find great music acts, with the bonus of a weekly comedy open mic on Tuesday nights.They feature an incredibly diverse roster of musicians, from blues to rap and from rock to funk. Though most of their talent is derived locally, you can still catch some awesome groups from all over – for instance, you probably won’t want to miss Nashville’s rock and blues group Thelma and the Sleaze here on July 21. Shows are typically held at 9, and you can grab tickets for each show with prices hovering around $10. 

Alongside enjoying a show at Askew, you can also enjoy food and drink from their bar. Feel free to play some pool while you’re at it, too! The food they offer is typical bar fare with some fun, often skewer-based, twists, like 5 different varieties of sliders, Mexican street corn and flavored “Totally Taters.” Their seasonal drink specials rotate, and you can always expect something unexpected to be on the list. 

Askew is an awesome place to catch amazing local acts and appreciate the craft they all produce. If you’re looking to be introduced to a wide world of genres and people in a super casual sit-down setting, Askew is the spot for you. 

The Parlour, PVD 

PVD’s North Main St is home to The Parlour, a venue that houses an array of genres, crowds and best of all, local beers. The Parlour is coming up on its ten-year anniversary this November, and they’ll have plenty of awesome events to commemorate this special year. 

The Parlour holds shows every day of the week, with the weekends typically holding two shows per night. Monday through Thursday you can catch a show at 8 or 9, and Friday through Sunday you can hop in for a show at either 5 or 9. Sometimes there’s a cover, but you typically won’t pay more than $15 to get in. 

There’s definitely something for all music lovers here — the genres of bands hosted at The Parlour include jazz, blues, funk, rock, reggae, Americana, hip-hop, metal, punk and more. While you’re hanging out here, you’ll find that The Parlour offers food and drinks that hone in on local and regional breweries and vendors. You can find a bunch of craft beer and spirits that are produced and sold locally, and local vendors like Bobby’s Bar Pizza, who is currently stationed at The Parlour Wednesday through Saturday. What sounds better than a slice of pizza, a cold beer and a sick show? (Hint: nothing.) 

Owner and operator Gregory Rourke, a local music staple since the days of The Living Room, proudly emphasizes that no matter what style of music or entertainment is booked on a particular night, it will surely be of quality, and you’ll be able to experience it in a safe, welcoming environment with a chill, casual vibe.

News Café, Pawtucket

In the heart of historic downtown Pawtucket is the News Café, a bar that prides itself on being a customizable venue for all sorts of musicians and patrons. For 13 years, News Café and its staff have been hosting shows that not only bring great times to their guests, but great experiences to local artists. 

News Café holds shows every week, most often on Thursdays through Saturdays. Each show has a cover charge, and the range extends from $5 to $15. An awesome thing about News Café is that 100% of the money earned through covers goes directly to the bands playing. Though events are primarily inside, they occasionally hold an outdoor parking lot show in the summer. This season, they’re expecting to hold one outdoor show per month — if you want to join in on the action of jamming out in the open, don’t forget to keep an eye on their calendar. 

You’ll most often find shows that graze the genres of punk, metal, and rock and roll, which produces an awesomely eclectic, energetic vibe for a Pawtucket bar. Without a food menu, News Café allows its attendees to focus all of their attention toward the musicians on stage. A wide selection of beers and liquor are available for those who can multitask — rocking out while gripping a beverage is a pretty sacred tradition in the music world, but still only mastered by few. 

Members at the helm of News Café emphasize how the establishment is so much more than a dive bar. Up and coming bands are always given opportunities to play for live audiences, and young music enthusiasts are always flocking to see those groups perform. If you consider yourself to be one of these enthusiasts, you can’t pass up a show at News Café. 

Photos by Maddie Jarvis