Roots Report: The Kindness (and Unkindness) of Strangers


Seeing a live show at one of the many venues in Providence? Be careful where you park, even members of the band are getting towed.

Okee dokee, folks … Never underestimate the kindness of strangers or the greed of an unscrupulous tow-truck driver. The human race never fails to baffle me. Animals are far more loyal and honest, but occasionally a human, or two, or three, rises to their ranks.

For the past month I have been dealing with the excruciating pain of a pinched nerve (hence the request for massage in last month’s column). Not only has there been pain, I have had weakness in my arm and hand as well as dexterity issues. For someone who plays guitar, this is not a good thing. The pinched nerve wreaked havoc on my life, particularly my guitar playing. Fortunately January has been a little light on gigs, but the performances that were scheduled had edited set lists and much more stage banter. I just couldn’t form certain chords with my fingers, something I have been doing effortlessly for over 35 years. I prefaced all of my recent gigs with the disclaimer, “My guitar playing usually doesn’t suck as much as it may tonight. I have a pinched nerve.”


I should have canceled these gigs, but I was sick in December and already missed quite a few. At one gig a couple of weeks ago, I made my pre-show pain announcement and went into my set flubbing chords as I played. At the intermission, quite a few folks came up to me to let me know that I was doing just fine and they were really enjoying the songs and the stories in between. Then a woman came up and told me she was a chiropractor and discussed my problem with two other audience members. One was a physical therapist and the other a sort of spirit healer. They ALL were going to work on me after the show. And that they did. The PT and the spirit healer each took a turn and then came time for the chiropractor. I could feel that they were definitely getting to the problem. The chiropractor told me that I could go to her office, which was just down the street, and she would give me a full treatment. That she did and blessed me with an hour-long session. She found “buttons” that released the pain and I felt much better, but not perfect. Chiropractic care is not a quick fix; it takes many adjustments and time, but it works. Unfortunately my medical coverage does not include chiropractic, something I am very disappointed in.

After a couple of days, the pain and problems returned and I had to bite the bullet and see a doctor. Now I am in physical therapy, going to multiple doctors, and popping pharmaceuticals for the pain. Honestly I would prefer chiropractic care. Either way, if it wasn’t for the kindness of those folks at the gig I probably would have kept putting off getting the issue resolved and stuck with my stubbornness about treatment. These strangers gave this strange guy some much needed help and TLC. I thank them.

As for the unscrupulous tow-truck driver, well, these are the kind of people who make sewer rats look like cuddly teddy bears. Providence is getting to be an unfriendly city once again, and greed is taking over, which it can’t afford to do when businesses are closing and the ones that remain struggle.

I was meeting a friend in Providence at Cafe Zog before a gig. I like Zog. It’s a quirky little coffee shop, great for chilling and chatting. From there we jumped in her truck, grabbed a pizza and headed over to AS220 for a gig. Parking was a nightmare and available parking was $20. INSANE! Fortunately, we found a rare street spot and hoofed it to the venue. The show was the RISA 10th anniversary Songwriters in the Round, with a great line-up and lots of very memorable songs. Stand-outs were Kala Farnham, Joanne Lurgio, Jake Haller and Carolyn Waters. Everyone shined. After the show we drove back to Zog where I left my truck. It was not there. I saw a tow driver loading a car onto a flat bed, and asked about my truck. Sure enough, he towed it. I was PISSED!!!

Evidently there are signs in the lot behind Zog that non-customer cars would be towed. Earlier, when I arrived, none of the signs were visible as they were BLOCKED BY CARS! Besides, I was a customer at Zog and often patronize the establishment. Why was my truck towed? Zog was closed by then anyway.

I asked the tow driver how to get my truck back. He said I had to bring $138 CASH to the lot across from the Amazing Superstore (admit it, you all know where that is). Of course I didn’t have the cash. I am a musician and feel lucky if I have $20 in my pocket. They wouldn’t take credit cards. The whole deal seemed very shady, and I hope the IRS pays them a little visit. I had to get a ride home and get my truck the next day. The tow driver said they would be there.

Sunday morning I woke up and got a ride. THE PLACE WAS LOCKED!!! I called the number on the sign and the voice on the phone said they are never open on Sunday, though I was SPECIFICALLY TOLD that they would be there. He told me someone would stop by in 45 minutes. So I waited. An hour later, the same rude driver from the night before came. Smug. Now, I don’t hate tow drivers. Drivers who make their living HELPING people who are stuck or moving vehicles with consent are fine. I have benefited from their assistance many times. This process of kidnapping someone’s vehicle and ransoming it for an OBSCENE amount of money should be illegal (karma, baby, karma!!!).

After begrudgingly giving him the ransom to free my truck, I got the hell out of PVD and headed home. Please heed this story and warning. Watch out where you park! And as for PVD in general, it seems it is becoming less and less friendly to the folks who support it and sees them only as objects to suck money from. I feel bad for arts organizations in PVD. They squeak by as is, and it is hard to draw people into the city to support them. Ransoming cars, high parking rates and just general unpleasantness about going downtown will surely make folks think twice about heading down. Hopefully someone will get the message before Providence becomes the ghost town it was many years ago. Where is Buddy when you need him? Enough, for now. Read on …

The legendary folk musician/activist Pete Seeger passed away last week. In all honesty, of anyone on this planet, Pete was the man I looked up to most of all. What he stood for and what he did for the world was nothing short of amazing. He kept it up well into his 90s. When his wife, Toshi, died last year I knew that it wouldn’t be long for Pete. They were together almost 70 years and they were each other’s rock. I was fortunate to meet and talk with both of them quite a few times over the past 30 years, and they were wonderful people. He left some pretty big shoes to fill. Some of us are going to TRY to fill his shoes on Friday night, February 14 at Sandywoods in Tiverton (not PVD!). We will present a memorial concert in honor of Mr. Seeger. Scheduled to appear are Atwater-Donelly, Bill Harley, Ron Tebbetts, Joyce Katzberg and Jimmy Warren, Sally Rogers and Howie Burson, and me. We will play songs that Pete wrote and made famous, and some of our own that fit into the spirit of things. The show is FREE, but get there early as it likely will be a packed house. Sandywoods was started by Pete Seeger’s daughter, Mika, so the venue is very fitting. For more about the show, inch by inch over to

Stone Soup Coffeehouse has a couple of great shows this month. Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem will perform on the stage at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on February 8. They are a band that takes what’s lying around — from tin cans, to old songs, to human stories — and creates something new. With influences from Doc Watson to Django Reinhardt, from Fiddlin’ John Carson to the funky Meters, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem celebrate America’s past and take it into the present. There will be a“Hoot” (otherwise known as an open mic) before the show. Sign-ups are on the day of the show and begin during ticket sales. Come early! My longtime and occasional partner in music, Mary Ann Rossoni, is performing on February 22 and will celebrate the release of her newest CD, Edentown, This, her eighth work, shows us an artist who has come full circle, from acoustic music and back again. Only this time, Mary Ann’s songwriting shows the benefit of passing time, of experience, of wisdom and of age. Many of the tunes on Edentown talk of loss, recovery and sacrifice. Opening the night will be Mike Laureanno and he is also celebrating the release of his new CD, Pushing Back Wintertime. For more, slurp over to

The Narrows in Fall River has a fabulous February schedule to make the trip over the big old BragaBridge worth facing your fears for. On February 7, The Autumn Defense (Pat Sansone and John Stirratt from WILCO) and The Bob Kendall Band hit the Narrows stage. One of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music, composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Taj Mahal, brings it all on Feb 13. With stunning three-part harmonies, crisp musicianship and a warm, engaging stage presence, Red Molly has been gaining fans since they formed one night at a Falcon Ridge campfire. The lovely ladies bring the warmth on February 21. Opening the show is RI’s own Marc Douglas Berardo whose newest CD, Whalebone, will surely turn new fans onto his music. His songs are musical narratives in the feel of acoustic Springsteen and Waits, with Buffett-esque subjects. You’ll want to own this one. On February 22, one of my all times favorites, one of my biggest musical influences and my friends, Aztec Two-Step, show you why their music has been described as the bridge to the Beat Generation and why they were instrumental in ushering the music of the ’60s into the ’70s and beyond. Bring your toothbrush and stay for the month. So much music you won’t want to leave! For more about these and other shows, Ken doll over to (Bob K., get it?)

Love is in the Air on February 7 at the Towers in Narragansett. Catch a night of Broadway Love Songs with a twist of jazz featuring Michael DiMucci, Phoebe Madden, David Marshall, and Ritchee Price accompanied by Philip Martorella. For more, love boat over to

Also on February 7, Josh Schurman and Paula Clare play the Gallery Acoustic Series at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston. For more, bailiff to

Common Fence Music brings you Zili Misik, a 10-piece all female band that performs New World Soul dance and roots music of the African Diaspora on February 8. Rhode Island’s own global folk-fusion band, The Gnomes, invade the CFP Community Hall on February 15 and ride the Common Fence Music “Roots Caboose” for an evening of music that in some way suggests the topic of a sustainable community. For more, choo-choo to

Blackstone River Theatre will present a split concert featuring Sheila Falls (from Greenville, RI) and Mark Roberts, and the Irish/Norwegian music of NØÍR on Saturday, February 8. For more, fiddle over to

The Little Compton Band appears Live at the Meeting House on Main Road in Tiverton on Saturday, February 15. For more, greet over to

Saturday, February 15, Tallahassee and Dr. Jones and the Shiners leap into Lily Pads and present their uncharted sonic sound while harnessing diverse styles ranging from indie to classic rock, folk and blues. For more, ribbitt over to

Monday, February 17 brings Leyla McCalla, The Sugar Honey Iced Tea, and Allysen Callery to the Fete Lounge in Olneyville. For more, “vive la” to Get some gaggers or ribs after the show!

Get a jump on March. The 22nd Annual Mardi Gras Ball at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet with Leeroy Thomas and The Zydeco Road Runners, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Cj Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band will serve all of your Fat Tuesday needs on Saturday, March 1. This is one of the biggest and BEST parties of the year. For more, Cajun over to

The 15th Annual RI Pride Goddess Show will take place Sunday, March 2 at Chan’s in Woonsocket from 1 to 6 pm. The show will be hosted by the hilarious Poppy Champlin and feature The Mary Day Band, poet-Marie Michaelle, hooper- Rachel Lindenthal, Susan Souza, 5th Elament, Miss Gay RI, Justus, burlesque with Bettysioux Tailor and headliner, Rachael Sage. For more, enlighten your way to

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!  John Fuzek