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Interview with Slug from Atmosphere

slugEver since the start of their own record label with Rhymesayers Entertainment and the release of their debut album Overcast! during the mid-’90s, Minneapolis hip-hop duo Atmosphere has risen to be one of the biggest names in independent music. Recently I managed to have a chat the MC of the duo in Slug about the group’s North Of Hell Tour making a stop at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel on November 18, their new album Southsiders, life continuously on the road, and an inside look at one of the most talented rappers around today.

Rob Duguay: Atmosphere will be coming to Lupo’s on November 18 to once again set the stage on fire. You’ve performed in Providence numerous times, so what always makes you want to mark The Creative Capital on your calendar when you head out on tour?

Slug: We’ll go anywhere that’ll let us perform so there’s no real way to answer the question on why we keep coming back. The real question is why do you let us keep coming back? We keep coming back to Providence because you guys treat us like you love us. You guys treat us like we’re amazing and that’s the kind of validation you just don’t get everywhere. I’m a freak for validation, I love it, it’s like orgasmic. Technically we’ll go anywhere that lets us/ Estonia, Providence, Uruguay, anywhere.

RD: We’re all looking forward to the show at Lupo’s and it should be a blast.

Slug: I’m looking forward to it as well, I really like Lupo’s actually. There’s few venues around the world that get it the way that I get it. I grew up in Minneapolis attending and later performing at a venue called First Avenue, so I was trained a certain way as far as how we work and how we do our job. Lupo’s definitely fits the way that I was taught, it’s very comfortable from the loaders to the sound engineers to the bartenders and the staff in general. It fits my view on how things should work.

RD: That’s awesome that you feel that way. Lupo’s is a great club that treats everybody right. You attribute a lot of Atmosphere’s success to going on tour relentlessly. If you had a story that comes to mind from being on tour whether it was a crazy girl or a crazy situation at a club what would it be?

Slug: There was a woman outside of the old Met Café in Providence back in 2001 across the street from an ice cream shop. This woman was out there after the show and the crowd pulled out into the street. Back then we weren’t that popular so there was probably only around 100 people. We’re all just kind of standing around and this girl just took her shirt off. She started kind of making a scene outside and she was yelling at us. I’m not totally sure what she was attempting in general, but she was trying to get everybody’s attention. She was asking “Am I the jezebel? Am I the jezebel? Am I the jezebel?” and there was this guy I’m sure a lot of people in Providence know named Sage Francis who pointed at her and said, “You’re the jezebelly!”

It stuck with me. I feel that there was something inside of that moment that kind of stuck with me forever just as far as how I work with people and how I interact with people. We all have our own interpretations, every action is entitled to some sort of intention. What the problem is that we all don’t necessarily interpret your actions as vain as nobody interprets my actions as vain. It’s the kind of thing at that moment where she was the artist, she wanted us all to see but she had no control of how we interpreted her art and that stuck with me as far as how I interact with my audience and I don’t have these expectations of people to interpret my art the way I mean it. On that particular night, whatever that woman was trying to get across, our interpretation of it was far more interesting than whatever she was trying to say with her actions. That’s my favorite part about art. I might write a song and there’s no way that it’s going to be as cool as how an audience member interprets it and that’s what gives the song its life. Otherwise, it’s just this linear path that I’m on as an artist.

RD: It’s crazy how much an event like that had an effect on your artistry. Speaking of art, this past May Atmosphere put out their seventh studio album, Southsiders. A lot of musicians and artists who have an extensive catalog like your own always manage to have at least one sub-par release, while on the other hand, Atmosphere has always put out a quality record. What do you think is the main reason why you and Ant have always managed to keep things so fresh?

Slug: Well, I have no idea. I’m not even sure, we may have fallen off but I don’t know how to measure that kind of stuff. I just know that we are fortunate that people allow us to continue to do this and therefore we just try to do our best. I don’t really know what I’m doing, I’m still trying to feel my way through. We just see it at eye level; at a higher level it’s just a matter of marketing, promotions and having business strategies. When you’re running on your own steam I don’t know if there is a secret, you just do your best to be yourself and do your best to do your best. If you’re fortunate enough to get the gig then cool, but if not then it’s ok, it’s not the end of the world.

RD: Ever since the At It Again tour that you did in the mid-2000s, Atmosphere has been known to perform with a live band. When you first had this idea come to fruition, did you experience any challenges while you were teaching all of these musicians how to play hip-hop tracks?

Slug: At the time I thought that the reason to do it was to challenge ourselves. The reason I even started to go down that path was because I was becoming comfortable doing what I was doing with just a DJ. I felt that it was probably not ok to feel comfortable so when I started working with live musicians it was 100% challenging. Obviously hindsight is 20/20; when I look back on it I feel it was just a part of me that wanted to stretch, grow and to just make sure that I wasn’t allowing the audience to become complacent and allowing myself to become complacent. The challenge just wasn’t to challenge myself or just to challenge the musicians I was working with but it was also to challenge the audience. In underground rap it was kind of a no-no to work with a live band because that was what The Roots were doing and if you did it you were just trying to be like The Roots so there was a part of me that really wanted to challenge our audience.

RD: There’s nothing wrong with taking a risk, especially when people appreciate it. You’ve done numerous collaborations with the likes of Murs, Aesop Rock, KRS-One, Sage Francis who you mentioned earlier and even Minnesota indie rockers Lifter Puller who was lead by currently frontman of The Hold Steady Craig Finn. Is there anyone else you’d like to do a project with in the near future?

Slug: It’s hard to say, I don’t really make a list of people for that kind of stuff. I did a song with Tom Waits a few years ago and that was kind of like the last big fish for me. At this point I’d love to do a song with someone like Willie Nelson. He’s probably the last starfighter for me, I’d love to do a song with Willie.

RD: That sounds like it could be pretty interesting if it ever happened. What can fans of Atmosphere expect next year? Are you going to do another album? Are you doing a big tour? Will you be producing?

Slug: I’m not sure. I want to spend a decent amount of time with my kids. I do intend to do some traveling and go around playing music and writing songs. As it stands right now we’ll be definitely be doing another tour to hit up a few cities that we missed out on this time around, but other than that I just plan on enjoying my life.

Atmosphere’s website: rhymesayers.com/atmosphere




Sage Francis Grasps Listeners by the Neck and Shakes with Copper Gone

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Earlier this month Providence’s hometown hip-hop hero, Sage Francis, lovingly referred to as “Uncle Sage,” released Copper Gone.  The much anticipated album marks the end of a four-year hiatus and his first studio album under his own indie label, Strange Famous Records.

Copper Gone is a 14-track trip into the psyche of Sage, merging his eminent quick-tongued sharp lyrical flair and what may be his darkest autobiographical poetic styling yet. He masterfully uses twisted imagery as commentary on his personal state of affairs along with the absurdity of today’s popular culture (“Knit me a sweater with the intestines of attention whores,” he  raps in “MAINT REQD”).

“It’s mainly in reference to houses that get stripped for their scrap metal,” Sage explained of the album’s title. “There was an abandoned building near where I live that had ‘Copper Gone’ spray painted onto it in an attempt to keep people from breaking into it. It was basically a plea to the people. Like, ‘Hey … there’s nothing left. I’ve been stripped clean. Stop fucking with me now.'”

The album explodes out of the gate 15 seconds into the first track, “Pressure Cooker,” with an abruptly shouted, “I been busy, get off my nuts,” as if to say, “Yeah, I’ve been on hiatus. What’s it to you?” setting the pace for the level of energy that holds strong through the entirety of Copper Gone. “I definitely felt the pressure to have an album that socked people over the head. And in the bread basket. And in the bean bag,” Sage explained of creating his first full-length album since 2010’s LI(F)E. 

The power that Copper Gone demonstrates commands the listener’s attention through mellower lulls in the track list as well with captivating lyricism and well developed, easy riding beats. Sage’s infamy as a wordsmith comes to fruition with his visual storytelling. He depicts a love gone far downhill in “Grace,” rapping in the outro,

“This a music box that haunts me from the top-shelf of the bedroom closet 
I don’t touch it, it just cuddles with my conscience
I’m on constant guard, jittery the whole night
Clinging the sheets because it sings to me slow like
And that’s her song running through an hourglass…”
 

Sage’s lyrics flow easily over by a diverse mix of beats from a number of producers in addition to affiliates Buck 65, Alias, Ceciel Otter and Reanimator. “A French producer by the name of Le Parasite put together [the “Over Under”] beat,” Sage explained, “It was actually submitted as part of a remix contest we held on our website a few years back. I liked the beat so much I asked him if I could keep it on reserve for an original song. The beat for ‘Say Uncle’ also came about in a similar way. In fact, now that I think of it, a lot of the producers on this record got in touch with me from the remix contests we held at Strange Famous. Crazy how that all worked out.”

Indie record Copper Gone has seen an overwhelming amount of support in its first month in circulation. Mid-June the album reached number 135 on Billboard’s Top 200 list of current albums and number 23 on the list of current hip-hop. Sage is currently on the final leg of his US tour, ending the journey at home in Providence.

He’ll be tearing down the house at Fete with Strange Famous artist and RI local, B. Dolan on July 4. What can fans expect at this homecoming? “Pure fucking insanity. We’re leaving it all out on the stage that night. If people leave that show feeling like it wasn’t the best show they’ve seen in recent years I’d be surprised. This will be one for the books. No doubt. Medical ones especially,” Sage assures us.

Copper Gone is available for purchase on strangefamous.com on vinyl, CD, digital download and yes, cassette tape.

Sage Francis with B Dolan
July 4, 7pm
Fete Ballroom, 103 Dike St, Providence



Mike D’s Top 5: Can’t Miss Shows of June

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From Hip-Hop to 80’s Rock

1. Friday, June 6: Scott Bradlee & Post Modern Jukebox (An Alternative History of Pop Music); $17 advance / $20 day of; 8pm doors / 9pm show; All ages; The Met, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. Internet sensation Scott Bradlee & Post Modern Jukebox are taking their act off the web and into the clubs and are hitting The Met in their inaugural run. The band takes modern songs ranging from all sorts of pop cultural charts and shows and revises them with styles of jazz, ragtime and swing. Unlike other recent cover gimmicks like Pizza Underground, these guys have the chops to not only hang with the original versions, but in some cases surpass them. My favorites include their Edith Piaf-inspired version of “Sweater Weather” by the Neighbourhood and “Ducktails theme.”
 

2. Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7: Roadhouse the Musical; $5; 10:30pm; The Wilbury Theatre Group, 393 Broad St., Providence. This is the most important musical moment in Rhode Island this month, if not in history. Finally, someone had the common sense to put the second greatest movie of all time (Point Break is number 1, duh) to score. That someone is mastermind and running enthusiast Brien Lang who wrote and directed this piece. Who will play John Doe? What will a torn-out heart look like in person? How drunk will I already be at 10:30? Will “The Polar Bear Fell On Me” be a song in itself??! So many questions, only two performances to find out. Cancel all plans.

3. Sunday, June 8: Atmosphere performing with Damian Marley; $39 to $55; 7pm; All ages; Blue Hlls Bank Pavillion, Boston. Hip-hop partners Slug and Ant, better know as Atmosphere, finally return with a brand new, back-to-triumphant-form record. Southsiders, their first record in three years, is a great album from start to finish. Many of rapper Slug’s common themes, such as hyper self-awareness and relationships, are present, as well as what seems to finally be contentment with marriage. Check out standout tracks “Camera Their” and front runner for my favorite song of the year so far, the bonus track “Idiot.”
 
4. Friday, June 20: Littlefoot, Dr Jones and the Shiners, See Through Dresses, Free Pizza; ~$6; 9pm; All ages; As220, 115 Empire St., Providence. Littlefoot and Dr Jones and the Shiners are two of the finest local bands Providence has to offer. If you haven’t seen either of them yet, you are doing it wrong. The openers are both new to me and the names intrigued me. Omaha’s See Through Dresses sound like they are part of the early to mid ’90s RI music scene and would fit in on a small factory show. They’re a perfect blend of ’80s dark post rock and indie pop. Boston’s Free Pizza have a lot going against them before the first listen. I hate the band name. It should be a 311-frat-dude-never-left-Attleboro band. The first song reminds me of Dead Milkmen / Ween and the next song sounds entirely different — early Against Me! vocals with Modern Lovers. It’s all over the place, but doesn’t sound like Bad Head or Dirty Fish, so better than I thought the name would bring. Get there early.
 
5. Friday, July 4: Sage Francis, B Dolan; $15; 8pm; All ages; Fete, 103 Dyke St., Providence. Did anyone really think Sage was done touring and recording? Five years after announcing a hiatus, Sage is back with his fifth studio album, Copper Gone. I haven’t soaked in the new record yet, but the track “Vonnegut Busy” has been on constant rotation in my playlist and it sounds like vintage Sage. The Sage Francis Copper Gone press conference on YouTube answers all pressing Facebook questions. Fortunately for you, he has love for Providence.



Souls of Mischief: ’93 Still Infinity Tour Hits Pawtucket

IMG_2327The Met played  host to the Souls of Mischief during their 20-year anniversary tour of their legendary debut album, “’93 til Infinity”. This Oakland-based hip-hop group, comprised of four life-long friends, A-Plus, Tajai, Opio and Phesto, together has created one of the most influential anthems of the ‘90’s hip-hop movement: the title track of the album,  ’93 ‘til Infinity. This song is a timeless classic. It has a simple, but beautifully melodic beat that works seamlessly with the song’s message of promoting peace, friendship and of course, chillin’. A perfect message to kick off a summer of music with.

The crowd early on in the night was pretty thin and the supporting acts did their best to amp up the audience for the Souls of Mischief. When they took the stage at midnight, the shift in energy  was astounding. They walked out on stage and the waning crowd filled the room in seconds. The group was completely unfazed by the relatively small showing and instead, connected with the crowd and how excited they were to be in Pawtucket, RI of all places. Tajai, specifically, reminisced about his youth and his precious G.I. Joes (made by Hasbro) coming from someplace called Pawtucket and how “souped” he was to finally come through.

The show was a blissful ride through the group’s history, mixing classic tracks like “Cab Fare” with more recent releases, like “Tour Stories”. The four emcees seamlessly passed around the mic and to the crowd’s enjoyment, dropped a song from their well-known hip-hop super-group, Hieroglyphics, which includes the likes of Casual, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and more.

When it came time for their last track of the night, ’93 ‘til Infinity, the member of the group who produced the timeless beat, A-Plus, took the mic and broke into the humbling story about the origin of this classic. He had bought a record by Billy Cobham in the bargain bin of a record store for a dollar, which he sampled and turned into the masterpiece we have today.

In this age of technology, mass-beat-production and laptop DJ’s, the Souls of Mischief stick to their roots of analog production, flawless flow and chill beats, and what a breath of fresh air that is. It’s exciting to see their tour dates increasing and their presence at an assortment of festivals this summer. They’ve become timeless and will stay relevant from now ‘til infinity.




Rail Jam Thursdays at The Avenue Sandwich

 

By Ali Walsh

 

Urban culture was in full swing at The Avenue Concept’s latest rail jam on Thursday, June 6. Over 100 graffiti artists, skateboarders, B-boys and DJ’s transformed the skating center at Kennedy Plaza, all at no cost to those who arrived.

People as young as 11 years old grabbed their boards to meet and learn from fellow skaters, without any worry of breaking Providence laws. There is no skate park in the city, which leaves these skateboarders no place to legally do what they love.

Eddie, a Cranston native and local skateboarder, believes events like this are positive for the city. “Having a skate park in Providence would keep kids off the street and out of trouble.”

Above the sounds of wheels grazing a rail or hitting the pavement after landing from a ramp, live music filled the air. DJ’s Jackson and Micah, Kansas natives, grew up together and moved east to pursue a DJ career. Now they teach workshops within the Avenue Project to mentor and help other DJ’s grow. IMG_10391-640x960

Next to the DJ booth lay a wooden floor where B-Boys took turns battling: competing, but also encouraging each other.

Across the way, the Avenue Concept contributed free materials for all to use to create a graffiti masterpiece. Both professional street artists and those who wanted to try it for the first time came together to create collaborative art.

Yarrow Thorne, founder of the Avenue Sandwich, created this event so that the youth of Providence had a place to express their “urban culture.” Skateboarding or creating graffiti on buildings are illegal in Providence and most major cities. Thorne explains that instead of shutting down these talents, we should embrace them in a more controlled environment.

“We recognize the problem. Instead of ignoring it, we should come together and turn it into a positive,” Thorne said.

The event was a great success, despite little advertising – primarily word of mouth. Skate parks are so few and far-between in the state that once one skater catches wind of a rail jam, everybody knows (thank you, social media).

The Avenue Sandwich event occurs every other Thursday in Kennedy Plaza, occurring next on Thursday, June 20. Thorne encourages anyone interested in skateboarding, graffiti, breakdancing or music to “come hang out and enjoy.”

Check www.theavenueconcept.com for a full schedule of events

 




2013 Motif Music Award Winners

By Marc Clarkin and John Fuzek 

 Check out photos from the event here

Best Rock Band 2013

Atlantic Thrills

Atlantic Thrills sweep of the Best Rock and Best Punk categories attest to the fact that they’re just a great no frills rock ‘n’ roll band. I wouldn’t call them a “punk” band per se – more like a rock ‘n’ roll band for adults that grew up on punk. They just completed the mastering of their first recording, which captures all the zaniness of the Atlantic Thrills live. Look for the CD release later in the year but catch the band at Dusk on May 4.

Best Punk Act 2013

Atlantic Thrills

(See above.)

Best Live Act 2013

Vertical Twin

Vertical Twin is one of the best acts to catch live. These aren’t exactly the youngest guys out there but they’re jumping up and down without missing a beat. Their live show mirrors the intensity of ElectroSonicMotherPhonic, which is kind of like stoner rock on amphetamines. Vertical Twin’s standard brand of motor punk meets ‘70s heavy rock makes for a great night out for fans of rock ‘n’ roll.

Best Reggae/Ska Act 2013

Soulshot

Soulshot have been whipping crowds into a frenzy on the dance floor for over a decade now. It’s about time they get some well deserved recognition. For anyone looking for a straight up traditional true vibes reggae bands, Soulshot is your it. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of both legends like Skatalites and locals like The Agents and The Dub Squad.

 

Best Jam Band 2013

Fungus Amungus

Fungus Amungus have continued to be in the top tier of local jam bands since 2005 when they were a finalist in the WBRU Rock Hunt. I don’t see that changing anytime soon with marijuana decriminalized. Their annual New Year’s Eve shows are must see pilgrimages for dancing hippies. Fungus Amungus specialize in churning out funk and reggae infused jams for the masses.

 

Best Hip Hop Act 2013

THR33 Piece Suit

THR33 Piece Suit was born out of local rhyme vets Chanchi Carvalho and Swann Notty teaming up with J. Depina last year. THR33 Piece recently released their debut, Brand New Vintage, which features a collection of old school beats mixed with killer lines. They keep things real with a positive outlook and the beats get the masses bouncing on the dance floor.

 

Best Female Rock Vocalist 2013

Roz Raskin

Roz Raskin is always a captivating multi-instrumentalist performer whether she’s fronting the Rice Cakes or playing bass in her newer project, Littlefoot. After winning the 2012 WBRU Rock Hunt, Roz and The Rice Cakes have been busy doing a number of tours as well as playing packed hometown shows. The Rice Cakes are as electric as ever, blasting out their patented indie rock jams.  Roz’s vocals are always a surefire draw that compliment and amplify the tunes.

 

Best Male Rock Vocalist 2013

Mark Cutler

I always feel sorry for people that get nominated in the same category as Mark Cutler because it is almost an inevitable loss. Mark has been performing for what seems like forever (the man won the WBRU Rock Hunt 31 years ago with The Schemers), but he never comes off as a retro act.  Whether he’s playing solo, with his band The Men of Great Courage, or with The Schemers, he always commands a following. Sweet Pain is one of last year’s best. The record kicks off with “Salvation Cruise” that rocks in the vein of the Velvet Underground.  Gems like “Walking in the Night” and the enchanting “Come Out to the Woods” are the real treasures on this album.

 

Best Rock Album 2013

Mark Cutler – Sweet Pain (75orLess Records)

(See above.)

 

Best Americana Album 2013

Various Artists — Everyone Deserves a Home

A compilation to benefit the homeless through the efforts of Riverwood Housing First Rhode Island, aiming to, “improve the quality of life for persons who experience significant and persistent behavioral health issues or chronic homelessness by providing and coordinating a comprehensive menu of community based services that focus on recovery and personal growth.”

 

Best Breakthrough Act 2013

Ravi Shavi

It’s fitting that Ravi Shavi took home the Breakthrough this year because well, they’ve had a big breakout year. They played a ton of shows and released their debut album, Don’t Be a Cheater. One tune is reminiscent me of early Elvis Costello and the next song is something else. They have a varied arsenal at their disposal but it’s all energetic rock ‘n’ roll!

 

Best Tribute Band 2013

Forever Young

Forever Young is like a local super group assembled to pay homage to the many different musical trails blazed by Neil Young, which leaves the door open to folk, country and scorching guitar propelled rock ‘n’ roll. Forever Young packs the house, having played sold out shows in places like The Narrows in Fall River within the last year. If you’re a Neil Young fan, this could be your new favorite band to see for a night on the town.

 

Best Metal Act 2013

Lolita Black

When Lolita Black came up short in the WBRU Rock Finals, singer Scarlett Delgado said, “Some people say we’re too heavy for WBRU; well they also said that about the band that wrote this next song,” as they preceded to launch into Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissing.” Last year Lolita Black released their second album, Flesh, Blood, & Bone, which was as raw and grinding as the name suggests.

 

2013 Best Americana Act

Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons

They may be the Wrong Reasons but they certainly have the right stuff. Since 2005, the band’s fluid lineup has been fronted by Fletcher. His story-driven songs have drawn comparison to Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. He will be appearing at the legendary Newport Folk Festival again this year where many of his musical doppelgangers have performed in the past. This hard working group keeps on keeping on and chalking up the accolades. joefletchermusic.com 

 

2013 Best Bluegrass Band

The Big River Stomp

The Big River Stomp’s web bio touts them as “offering nothing but the best in original, modern bluegrass music. This is the new acoustic!” Obviously they are correct. Big River Stomp has enjoyed a lot of success in a very short amount of time and this is yet another notch, of the many to come, on their stringed instrument straps. Jim Studley, Jesse Burdick, Jeff Budzinski and Matt DiPinto are the men who make the grass blue. reverbnation.com/bigriverstomp 

 

2013 Best Americana Singer-Songwriter

Mark Cutler

From the Schemers, The Raindogs, The Dino Club, The Men of Great Courage, The Tiny String Band, Forever Young and other musical incarnations, Mark Cutler is possibly the hardest working RI musician. In his 35+ year career, he has played just about everywhere in RI and toured extensively, sharing the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Warren Zevon and many others. He has taken home just about every area musical award. His music just keeps getting better. It should be no surprise that he just keeps on winning! mcutler.com

 

2013 Best Open Mic

The Met Cafe Legends Jam.

Sundays haven’t been the same since the Met jams have started. From young to old, beginner to pro, they all play side-by-side during the Sunday sessions at The Met. With rotating hosts selected from the finest RI musicians, the Met Cafe Legends Jam lives up to its legendary status. themetri.com

 

2013 Best New Americana Act

King Sickabilly & His Full Moon Boys

“Serious songwriting from years of hardship, road experience and inner turmoil all blended together by three best friends with all acoustic instruments.” Guess what? The combination works. This new combo of seasoned pros pepper the lineup further with guest performers whose chemistry will make the perfect blend for a “formula of acoustic madness, sadness and spirit.” reverbnation.com/DaveSasquatch

 

2013 Best Blues Act

Superchief Trio

Superchief has a super-sized winning streak that goes with a super-sized trio. The Superchief Trio features a unique combination of two-fisted piano, red hot trombone, blazing guitar, rock solid bass, powerful vocals and frenzied percussion antics. Superchief’s top-notch players perform top shelf originals and covers of swing, New Orleans R&B, jump blues and boogie-woogie style tunes. superchieftrio.com

 

2013 Best Choral Act

Providence Gay Men’s Chorus

Their tag line is “Harmonizing Diversity In Song.” Started in 1995, the multi award-winning chorus has been ambassadors of sorts for the LGTB community, breaking down barriers and gaining acceptance with their music. They strive to produce professional quality shows, combining the best of musical theater, cabaret and traditional choral performance. Their struggle for equality has been an uphill battle – but as times change and minds open, someday it will all just be about the music. provgmc.org

 

2013 Best Folk Act

Lisa Couto

The lovely Riverside resident dealt the Best Folk Act and Best American Vocalist categories a one-two punch and scored a knockout with both. Her soulful singing can be compared to Alicia Keys and Sade. She has toured the East Coast and beyond. She has released two albums as part of the band Most People and is currently working on an acoustic solo project. Lisa can often be seen performing with partner Ray Cook. lisacouto.com

 

2013 Best Americana Female Vocalist

Lisa Couto

(See above.)

 

2013 Best Americana Male Vocalist

Bob Kendall

Kendall wound up in RI by way of California, Alabama and Boston. He was a founding member of Lifeboat, The Blood Oranges and The Brothers Kendall. He has shared the stage with the likes of Billy Bragg, Big Country, 10,000 Maniacs and Marshall Crenshaw as well as adding an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival to his lengthy resume. His latest release, Midnight Flower, is the collection of material written over the past decade. Kendall describes his songs as “tales of recrimination and self-deception.” bobkendall.com

 

2013 Best Jazz Act

Miss Wensday

The beautifully illustrated woman that is Wensday Greenbaum, also known as Miss Wensday, is a performing artist, singer, songwriter, actress and theatre and voice educator. She’s shared the stage with Alice Cooper, Stephen Stills, Michelle Branch, Tesla and Todd Rundgren. Alice Cooper has been quoted as calling her “the other girl next door.” Wensday also spreads awareness about domestic violence and violence against women and children, working directly with victims of domestic abuse and teaching theatre, voice and movement as a means of healing and empowerment. misswensday.com

 

2013 Best Celtic Act

Pendragon

Pendragon has won this award so many times that I don’t even know what the total is now! The heart and soul core of the band – Mary Lee, Bob and Russell – have been doing the Celtic thing since the mid-1980s. Great original and traditional tunes, talent and a little “luck o’ the Irish” keeps ‘em winning. In addition to the music, the members of Pendragon have been the driving force behind the Blackstone River Theatre, bringing traditional and ethnic performers to the Blackstone Valley since 1995. pendragoncelticmusic.com

 

2013 Best EDM DJ

DJ Venom

Venom has been a major fixture in the North American rave scene for over 20 years, gaining a wide following through his energetic club performances, on point mixing and wild turntable tricks. Always striving for more, he started up Volume Productions in 1994 to advance the underground electronic and rave scene. His many career highlights include two second place wins at the WMC battles in Miami. djvenom.com

 

2013 Best Club DJ

DJ Nook

This career DJ spins everything from electro, hip hop, punk, metal, funk and rock. Nook has a deep love for music and a huge knack for remixing, blending and scratching – always keeping the party going all night long. He’s worked a wide variety of places in Boston, Providence and Newport including Karma, The Roxy, Whiskey Park, Pearl, Local 121, Monet and Salvation Café just to name a few. facebook.com/dj.nook.official

 




Mike D’s Top Five: The Can’t Miss Shows of May

Talahassee

#1 Thursday, May 2: Tallahassee (CD release show) with Smith & Weeden and Coyote Kolb. $10. 8pm. All ages. The Columbus Theatre, 270 Broadway, Providence. Boston’s (by way of Providence) roots rock band Tallahassee are putting out Old Ways and this is the party. While I haven’t heard it yet, I can tell you that I look forward to it. Singer Brian Barthelmes might be the nicest guy in music. Providence’s Smith & Weeden and Boston’s Coyote Kolb round out the bill.  

#2 Thursday, May 9: 95.5 WBRU presents an Earth Day Show with Silversun Pickups and Bad Books. $27.50 advance, $30 day of. 6pm doors, 7pm show. All ages. Lupo’s, 79 Washington Street, Providence. By now, you should know about and have made up your mind on Silversun Pickups. Bad Books are new to the Providence market, fronted by Kevin Devine and Andy Hull (singer of Manchester Orchestra), and their single “Forest Whitaker” is fire. YouTube it – it’s my favorite song of 2012, hands down. While you’re at it, Netflix the masterpiece Ghost Dog and have a Forest Whitaker Day.

#3 Saturday, May 11: Ghostface Killah, Jahpan and Sour City. $20 advance, $25 day of. 8pm. All ages. The Met, 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket. Wu Tang’s Ironman Ghostface Killah with a live band? Sounds pretty good. Expect a mix of classics and cuts off his new album 12 Reasons To Die, which is also available on cassette for those of you who have still not made the turn over to CD format… or are still driving 1997 Oldsmobiles.

#4 Monday, May 13: The Darkness and Free Energy. $25 advance, $28 day of. 8pm. All ages. Lupo’s, 79 Washington Street, Providence. Do you believe in a thing called love? No? Me neither. If you believe in a thing called alcohol – and drinking to the point where you don’t know whether or not you live in the ‘70s – then this is the concert for you. The Darkness are a blast live, and opener Free Energy is nice mix of all things T Rex and Big Star with some additional snarl.  Check out their James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) produced Stuck On Nothing album.

#5 Tuesday May 28: Futurebirds, Burlapen and Milk. $10. 8pm. All ages. The Met, 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket. Baba Yaga is getting Athens, Georgia-based country rock band Futurebirds a lot of attention and critical acclaim. When Pitchfork and Paste kiss your butt on the second record – that’s usually the fast road to success. I like what I’ve heard and it reminds me a lot of what’s been going on recently up here in the Northeast scene. Burlapen’s debut show marks the overdue return of veteran Providence indie song writer Rachel Jorgensen. Boston’s Milk round out the bill.

 

— Mike D




Mike D’s Top Five: The Can’t Miss Shows in April

By Michael Delehanty

 

#1 Friday, April 5: Brown Bird (Fits of Reason album release), Last Good Tooth, Alec K Redfearn and The Eyesores. $15 advance, $17 day of. 8pm. All ages. The Met, 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket. Brown Bird have been touring like crazy in the last year, not only repping Rhode Island while doing so, but also taking some of our best talent out with them for support like Joe Fletcher and the Wron


#2 Sunday
, April 21: All The Punks: Benefit for Lisa Gourley with Hope Anchor, The Loud Ones, Tony Jones and the Cretin 3, Gentlemen Soundsystem DJs and more. $10 donation. 3pm doors. McNeil’s Tavern, 888 Charles Street, North Providence.g Reasons and Last Good Tooth. Come give them a big welcome home and support for their new album, Fits of Reason. Go to brownbird.net to check out some of the new album.

Lisa Gourley has been chronicling the Providence music scene for longer than I can remember, taking amazing photos and sharing them with the community for free. She is a Providence music scene institution, and we love her for it. This is a great way for us to say thank you.

#3 Saturday, April 6: WBRU Rock Hunt Finals with The Brother Kite, Kid Mountain, Lolita Black and Torn Shorts. $6. 7pm. All ages. The Met, 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket.
WBRU’s annual talent showcase really hit a home run this year as all the bands are great. Will The Brother Kite and Kid Mountain split indie rock votes? Will the darkest of dark horses, Lolita Black, stun alt-rock nation? I predict Torn Shorts take the belt, but it’s definitely up for grabs.

#4 Saturday, April 13: Brown University Folk Fest. 1 Prospect Street, Providence.
This is a great showcase of the best and hardest working local folk rock revival movement with Smith & Weeden, Vudu Sister, The Sugar Honey Iced Tea, and The Mighty Good Boys. Who’s playing when? No clue. What time does it start? No idea. Check out posts from the bands and make sure to get there early.

#5 Tuesday, April 23: Big Boi and Killer Mike. $25 advance; $28 day of. 8pm. All ages. Lupo’s, 79 Washington Street, Providence.
Killer Mike’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music was one of the best of the year; pairing him with El-P for production turned out to be perfect. Add Big Boi to the mix and you’ve got a classic veterans of hip-hop mega show. Holding out for an Outkast reunion show? Buy a ticket to the 2018 Superbowl.
By Michael Delehanty, Talent Buyer at Lupo’s and The Met




“Welcome to the Future” of Hip Hop

Firehouse 13 has recently begun a hip hop installment for local, far from famous acts called, “Welcome to the Future.” This could easily turn into a rant about why hip hop gets a bad name and why people aren’t noticing the poets of the scene. The first draft actually did. But as Immortal Technique said, “I’ll rip the electrons out your body and make you positive.” Thanks for the reminder, Tech.

Top two of the night to keep on your radar (cough-StrangeFamousRecords-cough):

Lunch Bagg

AKA John Phelps, age 20

Influenced by SSD, Minor Threat, MDC, Lupe Fiasco, MF Doom, Wu-tang Clan, and Kanye West along with “Skateboarding, drugs, alcohol, women, poverty, anger, happiness, sadness, my family.”

Its tough to be the first act. Especially when half of the room is only interested in one MC and the other half is skeptical. Regardless, Bagg kept the energy up throughout. Artists feed off of a crowd’s energy the same way that a crowd responds to whoever is on stage. The kids at Firehouse were less nourishing than the Atkins Diet. Regardless, he came on full blast from the launch, starting the set a cappella when his track wouldn’t start and finishing on the floor in front of the stage eye to eye with the crowd.

Lunch Bagg (still not even sure where that name comes from) is basically a prototype of one of Providence’s children of the arts. Born and bred in the West End of the city, he explains, “I was introduced to music by listening to Punk, attended a lot of basement shows and even played in a band for a little bit. I drew a lot of inspiration for my hip hop from the punk culture.” This transition came while participating a program centered around making music and writing lyrics at The Met High School. He still produces all of his beats which can be found on six of his recorded full length project, the latest being “The Morning After”, Bagg’s first physical album.

On being white:

“A lot of the time when I get on stage I can tell people in the crowd are already skeptical. Which is good. I like them to be. I like the skepticism because when I start rapping it becomes evident to whoever is watching that I really take this seriously. Everything from my lyrics to my stage presence. I think being white in the rap scene makes a lot of people second guess you, but whether or not they were right to do so is completely up to [the performer].”

Shamar Talley

AKA Shamar Talley, age 19

Influenced by John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Bradley from Sublime, Biggie, Tribe Called Quest. “Helping people understand that we are what makes this world and oppression influences me. Peace love and Happiness is basically my drive.”

If there were a breakthrough act of the night award, it would go to Shamar Talley. Timid and excited as hell at the same time, Talley’s modest stage presence draws attention to his poetic lyrical style. By his final song however, an unpredicted passion sliced through the crowd like an axe. Explaining the shift in energy, Talley elaborated, “My best friend Colin ascended at the age of 19 on February 7th, 2013. That was a month before the show. That last song was called ‘living for you’ I wrote it the day of the funeral so it was pain honestly, that’s why it came out so real.”

Though he spent his childhood shifting from place to place with his three brothers, Shamar is a self-proclaimed Cranston, RI boy at heart. Its here that he started messing around with his friends on the mic, recording raps into a beat up lap top for fun, eventually launching him to his current status in the local hip hop scene. This however was preceded by years of passion for the craft. “My mother showed me Biggie back in the early ’90s; when I was three I already knew lyrics to Juicy,” he laughs, “I was 12 writing rhymes with my boy Edinson,  around that time I started working on my writing ‘seriously’…I really figured out I wanted to do this around that time– the 7th grade.”

When he’s not in the lab:

“[I like to] play guitar and try to get my singing on point too. I want to be a well rounded musician, first things first, as far as my ‘dream’.”

 

 




Theo Martins’ ‘Wonderland’ at the PVD Social Club

By Tyler Curry

A bright light shined on Theo Martins as he graced the stage, at the PVD Social Club, Friday night. The native Rhode Island lyricist delivered an energetic performance with songs from his debut album, “Wonderland.” He kept the crowd engaged with an introspective, musical chronicle of life experience, and an energy that matched the alternative venue.

The tone of the night – Underground. The music was an alternative hip-hop medley of vibration, which matched the industrial chic surroundings of the PVD Social Club’s décor. The crowd moved freely to Martins’ “Wonderland ” single, “KILLER,” and listened diligently to a melody sung by Maryann Vazquez.  The two were a well-off duo that kept the crowd wanting more.

The PVD Social Club was the first stop of many to come on Martins’ “Wonderland” world tour. Martins explained future performances will continue to draw from “80’s and 90’s pop culture” to build an audience experience similar to a “vintage video game”. You can check out Martins’ tour at http://wonderland.theomartins.us to learn more about future events and get a deeper look inside of the artist’s “Wonderland.”

Photo Credit: Hensley Carrasco (@Sir_Hensley on Twitter)

Sincerely, dimSocialite