Okee dokee folks … ”Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” That was the fitting final song in Willie Nelson’s set when he played the Newport Sunset Series a couple of weeks ago. Nelson cranked out one great song after another during the 90-minute show. I’ve seen Willie in concert a few times over the years and I have to say that this was one of the best. The 80-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. One can only hope that he keeps on going just like the 86-year-old Tony Bennett, who coincidently has just been added to the Newport Sunset Series line-up for August 28! Speaking of not slowing down, the Newport Sunset Series has been going like gangbusters this year. They have an astounding 16 concerts this season. That is not counting festivals and comedy shows. Just last week, I attended the Willie Nelson, Chicago and B52s concerts. Local musician Greg Bass and his band, The SuperMags, scored an opening spot on the main stage at the B52s show. The SuperMags rollicked the crowd with rockabilly standards to get them ready for the B52s and then played a 90-minute set out at the Point Stage immediately after the show. The Point Stage at the Newport Sunset Festival is a renamed and re-imagined area at the Newport Yachting Center, home of the Newport Sunset Festival. Point Stage performers are the opening, opening acts for the concerts. The Point Stage area features a full bar and food and an area out by the harbor to enjoy food, drink and music by local performers. On some nights, after the show, the Point Stage powers up again for an after show party. On July 6, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings were originally the scheduled headliners at the Newport Sunset Festival, but due to health issues, Sharon Jones had to cancel. The Yachting Center didn’t want anyone to miss the opportunity for a fun night by the water. They are bringing back The SuperMags to play the Point Stage for a free show, though it will actually be The Standards who are performing. Confused? Basically The Standards are The SuperMags with one different member. Same great sound. It will be a fun night in Newport for sure. Coming up at the Newport Sunset Series you will be able to catch concerts by Pat Benatar, Styx, George Thorogood, Buddy Guy, Gin Blossoms, Chris Isaak, BB King, and The Doobie Brothers.
The Doobie Brothers used to be one of my favorite bands back in the 70s. They were one of the first concerts that I went to. I still remember it well. I was 15 years old. My father dropped me off at the Civic Center. I bought my $5 ticket to get in. Back then arena rock was big. Mostly every band could fill a civic center. The Doobies were no exception. Fans shared their “doobies” with others next to them. It was a lot of fun. One overzealous audience member managed to piss off Patrick Simmons. This guy was up against the stage doing something that wasn’t cool. There were no barricades separating audience from band. To this day I am not sure what this guy did, but it culminated with Pat Simmons cracking the guy over the head with his electric guitar! The show went on, and dry ice fog and awesome rock music filled the civic center. After the show I somehow managed to find my way backstage. This started a trend in my post-concert activities. I wandered around first visiting with the members of the opening band, Chiliwack. I never heard anything about that band again. I wonder where they disappeared to. I could just Google them. Can’t now, on a tight deadline! Facebook is distracting enough! OK, back to my story. Then, one by one, I met The Doobie Brothers. The two meetings that stand out in my memory are Michael McDonald and Patrick Simmons. I caught Michael McDonald in the garage area of the Civic Center. He was just heading out. I remember him sticking his wallet in his mouth so he could use both hands while autographing my concert program. This was so long ago that McDonald’s hair was still black! Then I wound up with a few other fans in Pat Simmons’ dressing room. Everyone was just standing about and chatting. One guy was sitting on the floor playing an Ovation guitar. Being a novice guitar player at the time, I gravitated toward him. When he finished playing, he offered it to me to play. Of course I accepted. Unbeknownst to me this was Pat Simmons’ guitar. He had just used it on stage and I was playing it! Well, at that time I am not sure I could call what I did playing. I made sounds with it. Pat Simmons was standing watching me and I said, “Wow, this is a cool guitar. How much does something like this cost?” He replied, “$2,500.” I VERY gingerly handed the guitar to him. I was a 15-year-old kid who snuck backstage. I probably shouldn’t have been playing a $2,500 guitar that wasn’t mine. This is one of my favorite celebrity meeting memories. I have many more and I probably told this story here before. Oh, well. I have seen The Doobies many times over the years and as recently as two years ago. They still rock. You can make your own rock & roll memories in Newport this summer. While I am not sure that you would meet any rock stars, the music is great, it’s a beautiful setting, there aren’t any bad seats to see the shows, and it is Newport in the summer. How can you go wrong? For more about the Newport Sunset series sail over to: newportwaterfrontevents.com/music/sunset-music-series.
The third show in the Voices Under Cover series at The Met in Pawtucket happens on Wednesday night, July 10 at 8 pm. This time the selected songwriters will take on the tunes of the band and the film, The Last Waltz. Scheduled for this incarnation are: Pete Vendettuoli, Joe Silva, Billy Mitchell, Glenda Luck and the indefatigable Juxo. These shows are a LOT of fun for BOTH the audience and the performers. They are playing songs that they usually might not play and are doing it with other musicians that they may have just met. If you are in the audience, you get to hear a lot of great music, witness some magical moments, and enjoy the, often times, hysterical banter between artists. Last month’s Lucinda Williams show was incredible. Becky Chace, Heather Rose, Tracie Potochnik and Allysen Callery truly presented a special evening that will not soon be forgotten. Hopefully they will perform this show again, somewhere. It is worth repeating! The August show will feature songs by “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen. On deck for this installment are: Dan Lilley, Mary Ann Rossoni, Steve Allain, and Bob Kendall. For more about these shows, slide over to: HearInRhodeIsland.com.
The Jill and Julia Show. This sounds like a must-see show. I know it competes with the Voices Under Cover show above, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about this one. Jill Sobule and Julia Sweeney are Jill and Julia. Sweeney has come a long way from playing “Pat” on SNL. Do you remember her in Pulp Fiction? Today Julia Sweeny is best known for sparse but hilarious television appearances, her dramatic monologues about topics like atheism and surviving cancer and, now, her career as a traveling musician with friend Jill Sobule (“I Kissed a Girl”). The Jill and Julia Show features acoustic folk guitar and singing from Jill and finely crafted stories and some occasional singing from Julia. The result is a surprising mix of politics, controversy, personal stories and sidesplitting humor. You can experience The Jill and Julia Show at the Narrows on Wednesday, July 10. For more, androdginize (ok, I made that word up) over to: narrowscenter.org.
Ok, need to wrap this up. I can’t ramble as long as I usually do – lots of stuff in this issue and not a lot of room. Wait, I am rambling saying this! Anyway, I am really digging this Motif TV thing. It’s a lot of fun to do. Motif TV, for those of you who don’t know, is an offshoot of this magazine. It’s a YouTube channel. Every month, a few of the writers each tape a five or so minute long webisode (is that an actual word?). My first show featured a couple of members from the band Oak Hill. I channeled my best Merv Griffin and did an interview. After that, Tabatha Smith and Jeff Walker played the Stones song, “Beast of Burden.” A week or so ago I taped a show with Lisa Couto and Ray Cooke. Couto is celebrating the release of her newest CD, Not Going Under. I really like this CD. Lisa lets us have it with some incredible vocal gymnastics. You can hear/see us talk about this online. Lisa and Ray also do an acoustic performance of one of the songs from the CD. I kind of like the formula of interview/performance. Would Merv be proud? Tune in and find out. MotifRI.com.
That’s it for now. I will augment my summer suggestions via the online edition. Thanks for reading.
John Fuzek www.johnfuzek.com