Mobile DIY Antifolk Rockers Celebrate 10 Years

Durham, North Carolina based folk rockers Beloved Binge will be stopping in RI on their country wide tour. The couple, who describe their music as, “rubble pop in a punk pot,” have been compared to Olympia, WA indie record label k-records, placing them somewhere in the ranks of indie folkies and shoegaze rockers. Beloved Binge is celebrating 10 years of making music, their 10 year “bandiversary”. Their music spans the rolling sounds of folk, and extends out to the feedback filled backbone of garage rock. The constant that winds through their recent album Pockets is the way the duo’s voices come together, part folk chorus, part rock anthem.

Eleni Vlachos is the self-identified drummer of the multi-instrumentalist duo, which will be gracing the stage at AS220 this Wednesday. She and husband Rob Beloved, quit their jobs and got in an ‘82 camper van with their dog, to tour the United States in celebration of making it 10 years.

Beloved Binge does more than just make music. Both members are vegan and work to raise awareness of the suffering of animals, especially as part of the high production food system. On a trip while touring they were traveling from LA to San Francisco and passed a feedlot for dairy cows, the conditions in which the animals were being kept convinced them to take the step from vegetarianism to veganism.

“One of our interests is reducing suffering in the world,” Vlachos explained. Animals make up a lot of life on the planet, and the members of Beloved Binge believe that with increased awareness of plant-based food options, people can make the switch.

“It’s hard to change,” she acknowledged, “Every meal is choice.”

Vlachos is also interested in film work. She has made two films, one called Seeing through the Fence which focusses on the reasons for switching to vegetarian and vegan diets, and why people are reluctant to do so. She will be giving out free copies at the show. While they are on tour this fall she is working on a new project called Big Talk. She is asking the artists they meet while touring questions off her “big questions” list, such as “What is the hardest part of being alive?”

Vlachos grew up in Seattle, working the cash register at her father’s pizza place. Her mother’s family had many classical musicians. She started playing the drums at age 21.

In 1998, Vlachos traveled to Crete, as part of a trip around Greece to get to know the country and visit her father’s family, there she bought a bouzouki (μπουζούκι, pronounced: boo-ZOO-kee), a Greek instrument resembling a lute.

“My father was embarrassed,” she joked, the instrument is usually played by men.

Vlachos met Rob while they were both still living in Seattle. She was looking to get involved with a new band. After the third member of their group left, they re-located to Durham, North Carolina.

“We were kind of broken-hearted,” Vlachos said. They decided to move somewhere new. They had heard nice things about the weather in North Carolina, so they packed up their stuff and moved.

“When we got there it was like a ghost town,” she remembered. But the town opened itself up and revealed a welcoming arts community that has helped them feel at home.

When planning their tour to celebrate 10 years of music making slotting Rhode Island in was an easy choice. Rob’s father lives in the city.

They have played AS220 before and are fond of its DIY ethos. The DIY movement is a large component of what they do. Their tour is self-organized and they are traveling by camper van with their dog.

Looking back on ten years of writing and performing Vlachos finds that the biggest changes are those of perspective.

“You look for ways to entertain yourself,” she said. Tired of playing gigs the same exact way every time they incorporated a theatrical element. Once, they put on a show of Three’s Company inside their performance.

But touring is a major draw when for Vlachos when it comes to going around the country.

“Playing shows is a way to connect with a community that you don’t get when you’re just traveling.”

Beloved Binge will be playing AS220 Thursday August 14. Check out their music at belovedbinge.bandcamp.com.

Roots Report: Don’t Let These Shows Pass You By

Okee dokee folks … As I mentioned last month the summer shows are plenty. I have managed to get to quite a few so far and have many more to attend. One commonality I have noticed among the performers is that a lot of these folks are getting old, some very old. I guess I am, too. With age comes wisdom … or just the AARP?

Shawn Colvin was the first of the bunch of concerts I went to last month. Colvin played the Narrows in Fall River, and she made several jokes alluding to her age. She is just 58 years old. In spite of her mocking her own diminished capacities of memory and eyesight, she put on a great show. Nimfest in Newport presented Susan Cowsill. She is the youngest member of the Cowsills and checks in at age 54, just a year older than I am. She still has the youthful look she had as a child. Her voice and performance are still top notch and I didn’t hear her make any age-related jokes, though her audience was a bit up there in years. The former Newport resident drew a nice-sized crowd to King’s Park. Unfortunately, Cowsill seemed to rely more on random cover songs than her own or even Cowsills material. Next up was Yes at the Newport Concert Series. This bunch just looks ancient. Despite the fact that I thought they might break a hip or need CPR on stage, they too put on an amazing show and pulled off great live versions of the Fragile and Close To The Edge albums in their entirety. They can still play as well as they did the last time I saw them 30 odd years ago. The lead singer who replaced Jon Anderson seemed young enough to be a son or even grandson of the band members, though he behaved and looked very Jesus-like and appeared to be singing to his father above. The topper of the senior citizen summer tour had to have been the Crosby, Stills and Nash show at PPAC. What was supposed to be a CSN show was more of a Crosby-Nash show. Stephen Stills’ voice, for lack of a better word, is toast and he was off stage quite a bit. He could barely talk, let alone sing. I actually felt bad for him. However, his guitar playing is still strong. CSN as a group, whose ages are 69 to 72, are pretty tired, though Nash is still a pretty strong performer at 72. They did make age-related jokes; Crosby made one in reference to putting out a new album instead of rolling over and dying at their age. Funny, but not really. For some, the nostalgia factor of seeing these legends live skews their audio palates. While CSN was an enjoyable show, it is tough to see legends who are burning out with age. I guess maybe it is better to burn out than fade away. I would much rather watch these bands than most of the auto-tuned/computer sampled products of music of today. These folks are/were the real deal. There are still plenty of great performances (young and old) to catch during the remaining days of summer. Read on…

Singer-Songwriter Jackson Browne will visit the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) on Wednesday, August 20. Playing solo guitar and piano, Jackson will perform songs from his entire body of work. Jackson Browne has written and performed some of the most literate and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics. The 65-year-old Browne is best known for songs such as “Doctor My Eyes,” “Here Come Those Tears Again,” “Rock Me On the Water,” “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty,” “The Pretender” and “Fountain of Sorrow.” He was honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. Beyond his music, he is known for his advocacy on behalf of the environment, human rights and arts education. He’s a co-founder of the groups Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and Nukefree.org. For more about this show, “Take It Easy” over to PPACRI.org

If you don’t know who Kala Farnham is by now, you should. She is a pint-sized, piano-playing powerhouse from Putnam, Conn. Kala is quickly becoming a mainstay in the RI and surrounding area’s music scene. I first saw Kala perform as part of the Sweet Little Variety Show at the Roots in PVD about two years ago. I was amazed at the talent of the young girl who played a keyboard that was bigger than her. From where I sat she appeared to be no more than high school age but I was shocked when she said she had been playing piano for more than 20 years. Kala started lessons at age 3 and now at the ripe old age of 26 has been playing piano almost as long as she has been walking and talking. She just released her first studio CD, Anahata: Wake Up Your Heart. Farnham’s three previous releases were more homemade products. Though I am not fond of reviewing CDs, I am making a bit of an exception for this one. I love this CD and wanted you all to know about it! The disc starts out with a simple tinkling of a couple of notes on the keys, but quickly launches into the big, fully produced sound of ”Naked Honest”. The 13 song recording features 12 original songs by Farnham and one cover. Kala handles all keys and vocals; Daisy Castro adds nice touches with violin, and master guitarist Duke Levine provides tasty licks throughout. From the aforementioned lead track ”Naked Honest” to the final cut, “Maitri,” the CD delivers wonderful songs that are strong both lyrically and musically. Favorites of mine are: “Songbird,” “Pencil & Ink,” “Ruthless” and “Maitri.” She is a classically trained musician with influences of pop, Broadway and world music in her sound. For ease of description, Farnham’s style can be compared to other female singer-songwriters such as Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Vanessa Carlton, Fiona Apple and Norah Jones, but she definitely has a style of her own. Those who are fortunate to see Kala live are wowed in the same way that I was. If you are interested in catching one of her shows this month, she will be splitting the night with Adam Trudel at Stage Right Studio, 68 South Main Street in Woonsocket (stagerightstudio.org) on Friday, August 29. For more, tickle your ivories to kalafarnham.com

Many of you may remember the work of the late singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. “Taxi,” “Cats in the Cradle” and “W.O.L.D.” are just some of the fine songs that he left us with. He also left a daughter, Jen, as part of his legacy. Jen Chapin is a remarkable singer-songwriter in her own right. She writes and performs her own music but it has the soul of her father’s work. She has been compared at times with Laura Nyro, Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette. Jen has been featured on “Late Nite with Conan O’Brien,” NPR’s Mountain Stage and WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, and Sirius Satellite’s The Loft. She has performed on stage with Bruce Springsteen, and has opened for Bruce Hornsby, Smokey Robinson and the Neville Brothers. When Chapin tours, she plays with her husband, bassist Stephen Crump, as well as guitarist Jamie Fox, a group billed as the “Jen Chapin Trio” that is described as playing urban folk music. She is out on the road this summer and will be making a stop at Sandywoods Center for the Arts in Tiverton on Friday, August 22. She released her 7th album, Reckoning, last year and when I saw her this past November in Hingham her show consisted mainly of material from this disc. Reckoning was produced by 5-time Grammy award winner Kevin Killen and its songs are “songs of ambition (and the lack thereof), of anger, and gratitude, of privilege, and being without, of being overwhelmed but still hungry for more life. In short, of family.”   Harry Chapin was instrumental in starting the organizations the Presidential Commission on World Hunger and World Hunger Year, and worked tirelessly for them. Jen Chapin carries on his work and is on the board of WHYHunger, the organization founded by her father. The show at Sandywoods will keep this up. They will be collecting canned goods for the local food shelter and donations for WHYHunger. For more, taxi over to jenchapin.com or sandywoodsmusic.com

There is a LOT of music this summer in the City by the Sea. The Newport Concert Series keeps it going under the big white tent on America’s Cup. Rounding out the summer dates are August 10 with Gregg Allman (66 years old), Dean DePalma will be on the Point Stage; on August 16 is The Beach Boys (in their 70s) with Joe Silva on the Point Stage; on August 20 will be Alanis Morissette and on August 31 is Kenny Wayne Shepard. For more, navigate to newportwaterfrontevents.com. On August 29 you can Rock the Fort and get hoochie-kooed with Rick Derringer (he is 66, just to keep the age thing going). The first classic rock concert at Fort Adams will also include Steely Dan tribute — Hey Nineteen and Rhett Tyler and Early Warning — a Stevie Ray Vaughan inspired group. For more about the show, sloopy over to: newportrocksthefort.com. You still have a few Sundays left for Nimfest’s free shows at King’s Park on Wellington Avenue. They happen from 3-6pm. For more about those shows, float over to: facebook.com/nimfest. The Touro Synagogue will present a Klezmer concert featuring the Yiddishkeit Klezmer Ensemble on Sunday, August 10 at 4:30pm in Patriots Park on Touro Street. The concert, presented in cooperation with Common Fence Music, is being given by Touro Synagogue in celebration of Newport’s 375th anniversary. Klezmer music, for those of you who don’t know, originated in the villages and ghettos of Eastern Europe where itinerant Jewish troubadours traveled from town to town and performed at joyful events, particularly weddings. With its lively beat and distinctive sound, Klezmer music, which is similar to a big band sound or jazz, has enjoyed a renaissance and renewed popularity on the concert stage and as dance music. It is free and open to the public. In case of inclement weather, the concert will take place nearby in the Colony House in Washington Square. For more, dreidel your way to commonfencemusic.org

This year, Nashville-flavored Americana, Canadian music and hot Louisiana dance bands each get a stage at The 17th Annual Rhythm and Roots Festival on opening night. This is the BEST festival and party of the entire year. No singular location outside of New Orleans or Chicago can be said to celebrate traditional music perhaps more than southern Rhode Island. Charlestown hosts the well-known summer music festival that features North-American born musical traditions that include bluegrass, folk, jazz, blues, Cajun, zydeco, R&B, country and rock & roll. The annual festival attracts over 10,000 festival-goers from about half the US and several countries to Rhode Island over Labor Day Weekend. Nationally recognized producer of the Rhythm and Roots Festival, Chuck Wentworth, describes the essence of roots music. “You know it when people play from the heart. When people are there for the joy of making music, not to make money or achieve fame… it’s non-cognitive.” This year Wentworth has booked several tradition-bending (and blending) performers never before heard in New England, and plans to introduce his loyal audience to exceptional Canadian artists in a special opening night tribute. On Friday, August 29, the live performances kick off at 4pm with three stages of music in three diverse themes. The Canadian Stage will feature a special tribute to outstanding north-of-the-border performers, and is hosted by Leonard Podolak of The Duhks (Podolak’s band is the host band of this year’s festival). Other celebrated Canadian artists to take the stage include blues sensation Matt Andersen, and the folksy, award-winning Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. Rhode Island native, and now Nashville mainstay Sarah Potenza, hosts the Americana Stage, with a night of music that features traditional bluegrass artists the Travelin’ McCourys and Grand Ole Opry outlaw (and “It Takes Balls to be a Woman” songwriter) Elizabeth Cook. This is the hottest festival of music and dance in New England. The Rhythm and Roots Festival serves as the grand finale to a Rhode Island summer. This two-and-a-half day, five-stage, all-ages festival takes place August 29, 30 and 31 at Ninigret Park in Charlestown. There is SO MUCH MORE to this festival but I am out of room! Find out more by two-steppin’ over to rhythmandroots.com.

Though this is happening at the beginning of September, I figured I would give you a head start for your musical planning. The first annual Providence Folk Festival will take place on Sunday, September 7 at Roger Williams National Memorial in Downtown Providence. The fledgling festival will feature two stages of acoustic-themed music. Headlining artists are Robin Lane (of Robin Lane and the Chartbusters) who is known for her hits: “When Things Go Wrong” and “Why Do You Tell Lies” as well as her backing vocals on Neil Young’s first album. Legend of the 1970s Andy Pratt, best known for his hits, “Avenging Annie” and “Summer, Summer” will also be gracing the festival stage. Also on the main stage, The Rank Strangers will bring bluegrass, Ed McGuirl and Joe Lambiase bring the blues, Lisa Martin a bit o’ country/folk, Dan Lilley (with Amy Bedard and Scatman) strums out the Americana sound, Allysen Callery and Bob Kendall will perform both together and solo, and Steve Allain will the provide his entertaining MC and singer-songwriter talents. The Rhode Island Songwriters Association sponsors the second stage and will present solo artists such as Kala Farnham, Jake Haller, Tracie Potochnik, WS Monroe and many others. The festival is free and is a great opportunity to get a good dose of the RI sound as well as some classic performances. If you are interested in supporting the festival financially you still have time and can help out by going to the Indiegogo fund raising site:  www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-providence-folk-festival–2. For more about the festival, cock-a-doodle-doo to HearInRhodeIsland.com

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

John Fuzek


The Songmill: Mary Ellen Casey’s Ordinary Day

songmillLittle Rhody is a tiny state, but I am willing to bet we have more songwriters per capita than any other. Afloat this summer in our vast pool of dedicated and talented singer songwriters is Mary Ellen Casey.

Mary Ellen is not new to songwriting. She has been writing and performing for years. Like many local songwriters trying to support themselves or supplement their income, she performs a hearty mix of her own compositions along with well-known songs by nationally known artists. Her latest and second commercially released CD of original music, Ordinary Day, showcases how beautiful and pleasant her original music really is.

Similar to the rich vocal styling of Anne Murray, Mary Ellen’s strong, yet smooth voice is perfectly suited for, and carries well, the songs she has selected for this CD.

On first listen, the songs appear to be light with very pop memorable and melodic refrains. Digging in deeper, though, you will hear much more. Between the soft lines of her lilting voice lies an undercurrent of deeper meaning – a soul searching for itself.

The album, dedicated to her soul mate, leads with an up-tempo number “The Love of Her Life” – a quest for someone looking for, and finding, that special someone. Several cuts in this collection laud those who have stayed together through the thick and the thin of it all and come out shining. Probably the finest song on the album is, “You Love Me Anyway” – a passionate and honest reflection on the strengths, weaknesses and differences that hold a couple near and dear. If you buy just one single from this collection, “You Love Me Anyway” would be this reviewer’s pick.

Just when you think the CD only shines a light on love, Mary Ellen’s out celebrating with her mates on “Paddy O’Hara,” a sprightly number that has the listener leaving their troubles behind as they step through the doors of their local pub. ”Paddy O’Hara” celebrates the Irish in us all as we tip a pint or two and toast good friends.

Recorded at Lakewest Recording and produced by Jack Gauthier, the album is a strong, comfortable listen with Duke Robillard backing Mary Ellen on lead guitar and Mark Teixeira moving things along with some tasty rhythms.

The album, all in all, is a salute to the hard working gal/guy. On “Ordinary Day,” you are encouraged to call in a “well-day” from work and simply enjoy a walk about your own town. The title cut, “I Would Love You Despite Of,” takes another look at that couple who despite working hard, carrying a multitude of family responsibilities and the weight of the world on their shoulders, push through and endure. “This Lady” is a tad sad, yet a reminder of how we all feel at times, as we struggle to juggle what life throws at us while trying to find peace, acceptance and a higher purpose in life.

“Bathroom Trash Blues” is a cute tribute to her pup’s trash-pickin’, incurable blunders. The final cut, “New England Town,” captures what it means to be home – a songwriter’s blessing for all she values.  It is a beautiful closing number acknowledging those who have come before us and the gifts we’ve been given.

Make a songwriter happy this week by buying a CD, downloading a tune or two, or shutting down that Facebook and going to listen to some original music – maybe even Mary Ellen Casey, on August 17, from 11am to 2pm at Java Madness in South Kingston. Learn more about Mary Ellen by visiting www.maryellencasey.com

I Pity the Foo Who Misses Foo Fest

Taking over Providence and AS220 is the 18th annual Foo Fest. Saturday August 9, Empire Street will be turned into a summer block party with 12 hours of music, alternative art, performances, kid-friendly activities and plenty of food and drinks. Foo Fest highlights the creative and cultural scene that Providence has to offer, showcasing DIY technology with local artists and vendors.

Headlining this year’s Foo Fest is Psychic TV. Formed in 1979, the group is still led by original member Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Psychic TV’s punk, psychedelic, electronic experimental twist is the kind of high-energy artistic style that Foo-goers have come to expect from the fest’s headliners. Genesis, alongside local screen print artist and mentor Ian Cozzens, is a recipient of Foo’s annual Free Culture Award. These winners are chosen based on the work they do that incorporates freedom of expression — they embody the organization’s uncensored and unjuried missions. The Free Culture recipients break boundaries in the cultural arts, paving the way for new art and artists.

Along with 22 other local and national musical acts on the main stage all day, there will be interactive activities for all ages. Hands-on arts and crafts for children, like jewelry making out of paper beads, will be available from 1pm until dusk. Some highlights for the big kids? Live screen printing, 3D printing from the staff of Make Magazine and info about October’s RI Mini Maker Faire, RPG game character compatibility testing, ceramic demos with kickwheel and handbuilding from The Steel Yard, and new this year, The Dream Reliquary. This participatory art installation incorporates audience members’ dreams and includes an animate GIF photobooth where you can experience an original polaroid shoot or take a few digital shots that will be turned into a GIF file that you can take home.  Theatrical arts also get some love with a special performance from members of YASI Shakes at 87 Empire at 2pm. Join them to see pieces of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Food trucks and vendors will be sticking around for the day and evening, giving a chance for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores to grub on items from Julians Omni Bus, Like No Udder, AS220 FOO(D) and many more.

Mike D’s Top 5 Can’t Miss Shows of August

top51. Monday, August 18: “Tunes on the Dunes” with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds; Free!; 6 to 8pm; All ages; Westerly Town Beach. Here we are in August and once again summer is almost over. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I accomplished very little. I know nothing about this music series, but I know it’s very to close to the beach. Beach, outdoor music, one last chance at redeeming summer. Sister Sparrow are an eight-piece funk / soul act hailing from Brooklyn and seem like they would be perfect in at sunset. So where should one get dinner in Westerly? As a true Rhode Islander, I’ve never been — too far to not have a casino.

2. Tuesday, August 19: Arcade Fire, Antibalas, Dan Deacon; $40 and up?; 7pm; All ages; XFinity Center (GREAT WOODS), Mansfield, Mass. What price were tickets set at? No clue. Clicking on the venue’s site directs you to the Ticket Liquidator. Thanks for everything, Ticketmaster. Anyway, being a fan of Arcade Fire is much like being a fan of Kanye West in that you have to consistently be an apologist for their actions and words. And this tour has ruffled some feathers with the band’s instructions that patrons should wear formal attire or costume. I will be wearing my iron-on tuxedo t-shirt to the 15,000 plus Mansfield costume ball. The huge crowd should be an excellent contrast in high concept art piece meets suburb culture. Maybe I will dress up my red Solo cup for the parking lot as well.

3. Sunday, August 24: Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, The Raskins; Xfinity Center (GREAT WOODS), Mansfield, Mass. Finally, a farewell tour to Motley Crue. I have never been to a Crue show, and I most likely did myself a disservice by not seeing them in the heyday. Not entirely sure I recommend the show, but here’s notice to all those who, like me, did want to see them at some point. Regardless of it being 2014, Crue and Alice Cooper should deliver some fantastic circus-type atmosphere. And for all those who wish they had and still refuse to see them in 2014, I recommend reading The Dirt, the band’s first-person tell-all of their sordid and almost ludicrous adventures from humble beginning to the furthest thing from and on top of the rock world. It is the best autobiography of a rock band I have ever read hands down, and enjoyable regardless of whether you like the band or not.

4. Wednesday, September 3: DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist; $32; 7pm; All ages; House Of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St., Boston, Mass. The two best hip-hop turntablists of the ’90s/early 2000s are touring together for the first time since 2008. DJ Shadow broke into the mainstream with his 1996 debut full-length record Endtroducing, a masterpiece in samples and made Time Magazine‘s Top 100 All Time Albums (and my top 10 all time records as well). Cut Chemist came to popularity working with funk act Ozomatli and hip-hop act Jurassic 5 in the ’90s. The two collaborated on the 1999 self released Brainfreeze and 2001’s Product Placement. Both showcase not only the depth of their collective record collection with samples of obscure soul and hip-hop, but stand as the benchmark for the flux of mix artists to come. Do yourself a favor and pay the large cover for this one.

5. Sunday September 7th; Wavves; $16.50 advance / $20 day of; 6:30pm doors / 7:30pm show; All ages; The Met, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. Psych surf punk stoner favorites Wavves return to Rhode Island for the first time in almost four years. They are playing a few dates on what seem to be warm-ups on their way out to Riot Fest in Chicago. Since their last time into town, they released Afraid Of Heights in 2013, a record that shows great leaps forward in song writing and recording, but still doesn’t entirely take itself seriously. The record grows on you with each additional play and spent the entire summer in my car player last year. Not only are Wavves one of my favorite bands of this decade, they are at their best live.

EDM: Essentials

edmOn the stage is your favorite artist. Behind them their light show bedazzles. Their bass blasts through some of the heaviest speakers in the industry, sending wave after wave through an audience of thousands who know every word and melody.

EDM artists are today’s rock stars. Forget the guitars and drums — everything is a feeling and massive amounts of people bring unity like no religion can. Some of the best fresh unreleased tracks are played during EDM festivals in July and August for promotional reasons. Fans have plenty of opportunities to see the biggest techno, electro, house and dub step acts, and DJs from local to global.

As a fan, the essentials needed for events are pretty simple. Stay hydrated, keep the carbs and protein at a constant flow, and let the baseline melodies take you away. DJs creatively evolve during events, from setting up stages to proper sound check. As a party goer it’s very important to be aware of your favorite DJ’s time slot. It’s the best feeling when you’re up close to experience your favorite track dropping into melody.

One of my favorite moments in a show is when the song releases from full drum penetration into complete silence. That’s when all the whistling goes across the crowd. All of the sudden, the heavy climbing pluck synths start filtering through the speakers. That’s when all hell breaks loose — hands in the air and smiling faces all jump up and down dancing as the beat kicks back into its maximum peak potential.

OSHEEN’s Top 10 House EDM Picks for August 2014

1. Ruffneck – “Everybody Be Somebody” 2014 remix

2. Mark Night – “In and Out”

3 Don Diablo – “Night Time”

4 Block and Crown – “Inside My Head”

5 Osheen – “Citrus Acid”

6 Federico Scavo – “Colegiala”

7 Rober Gaez – “Dancintz”

8 Haxton Whores – “Move it Now”

9 Mazi, Fomin, Doctor – “Blue”

10 Tradelove – “Around the World”

Making the Stage: Local open mic picks up

There is a stage in Providence looking for performers. Join the PVD Hoot for a chance to perform or sit in the audience for an opportunity to cheer on local musicians of all types.

The PVD Hoot is an open mic that makes its home at Anchor, a work-exhibition space on Rice Street in Providence.

Started by Josh Aromin and Sarah Mead in October of last year, the Hoot has embarked on a year-long venture to bring a performance space for all to the city. The performance stage has gone walkabout in an effort to become more of a “mobile mic” bringing the stage to the people who want to perform on it, and to audiences in the heart of downtown. The Hoot is using Grant’s Block to get outside, but this past Sunday, the rain moved them inside to the Providence Polaroid Project (the old Craftland location), across the street.

This collaboration between the PVD Hoot and Providence Polaroid is the only the first of many, or so hope Hoot co-founders Aromin and Mead.

“People keeping saying, ‘we need to work together,’” said Aromin. They have been looking to work with more of the projects that are part of Popup Providence initiative.

A rainy Sunday didn’t see the turn out that the Hoot usually gets. Only four people performed, two of whom are involved with the Hoot, including Aromin. When the stage is set at The Anchor, between 30 and 40 people usually show up. When the performance has been hosted at Grant’s Block they’ve drawn crowds of up to 100 people.

“We got rubberneckers,” Mead said with a smile.

The Hoot started when Aromin’s cousin, Armand Aromin, a violin-maker, moved his workspace into the Anchor. The Anchor provides free performance and exhibition space to its residents. Armand asked Josh for ideas of events to host.

“I said, ‘An open mic would be great,’” Aromin recounted. Cafes and restaurants often will host open mics, but inviting people in to perform or to watch people perform does not necessarily turn a profit, and the open mic remains secondary to the goal of establishment, namely selling food and beverages.

Aromin wanted to re-create the vibe that the erstwhile Tazza Cafe had at their open mics.

When they’re at home at The Anchor, they serve free beer and coffee, donated by Narragansett brewery, and New Harvest, respectively.

“We wanted to be an open mic that just happens to have free coffee and beer,” Aromin explained.

When Aromin was set to make the open mic happen, he invited friend and co-worker Mead to help him put it on. Mead has a degree in marketing, and had experience putting on events.

“Sarah had never done an open mic before,” Aromin laughed.

But Mead took on the planning and they’ve been successfully drawing a crowd since.

“Once you’ve done the first event, you figure out what to do. Every time we do it it’s tiring, but definitely worth it,” Mead said.

Sunday’s Hoot was also a send off party, because Mead is moving back to her home state, Connecticut. Aromin sang her a song he wrote, I hope when you pass through Providence it still feels like home.

One goal of the Hoot is to expand the project to other cities, so Mead’s move signals a future for the Hoot outside Providence. Until then, the Hoot will be continuing at The Anchor until this October.

Aromin recited the Hoot’s unofficial motto, “Our stage is your stage. I don’t care what your talent level is.”

For more information visit their website at http://pvdhoot.com

You can head out (and perform) 2PM performances at Grant’s block, 5PM at The Anchor:
Aug. 10 – Grant’s Block
Aug. 20 – The Anchor
Aug. 24 – Grant’s Block
Sep. 7 – Grant’s Block
Sep. 17 – The Anchor
Sep. 28 – Grant’s Block

The Sharp Dressed Band Is Looking…well…Sharp!

sharpIt’s no secret that blues jams have been popping up all over. Musicians from all over Rhode Island and the surrounding states come out to share their talent while the rest of us come out to listen or maybe just dance our worries away. There is a pretty standard procedure of how things run in a blues jam. People write down their name and what instrument they play on a sign-up sheet and the MC calls out names and sticks a hodgepodge of talented musicians on stage together. The musicians whisper back and forth about what songs they know and who is going to sing what. And then the most amazing thing happens — five or so people who have never played together or never even met manage to create something extraordinary. They play their hearts out and you would swear their performance was rehearsed. I frequent blues jams and for people like me, the not musically talented, these nights are all about seeing who is playing where, deciding which event to attend and socializing.

Every once in a while someone on stage has the power to control the entire room with a guitar or drum solo ripping across the crowd. The chitchat silences as the audience listens in awe. I experienced one of those moments during the performance of young musician and Rhode Island native, Rob Davis. His guitar and voice silenced the crowd for two reasons — one, he sounded amazing, and two, he is only 19 and sounded amazing. How does someone so young have the knowledge and talent to not only keep up with performers with more experience, but to actually surpass musicians who have had more stage time than Rob has been alive? I needed to know the full story so I asked Rob for an interview.

You might imagine that Rob has been playing guitar since birth, but it’s only been about seven years. Rob told me that the first time he picked up an instrument, he was in the sixth grade. He played the drums at school and the guitar at home. Later that year, he took a real interest in his musical education and talked to his parents about taking guitar lessons. Rob reminisced about his family’s support, sharing that his mother, stepfather, grandma and father all pitched in through the years. Somewhere around his junior year of high school, he and some friends formed a band called The Sharp Dressed Band.

The members of The Sharp Dressed Band are Sam Hemmendinger on bass, Jason Taylor on guitar, Evan Perry on drums, Dave Priri on piano and Rob Davis on guitar and vocals. Rob mentioned James Roy, who also sits in from time to time. The band played together for the first time at the Cranston West High School holiday show and their chosen song was “Sweet Home Alabama.” Rob never really sang and never really wanted to, but the band needed a vocalist, so he stepped up to the microphone and away they went. Rob described how his voice has progressed since then; he has learned to control it and has even added a bit of a rasp. Soon winter turned to spring and the spring talent show was knocking at this band’s door. They entered the show with two songs: “Pride and Joy” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” In the show program, the band was listed as The Sharp Dressed Band and the name stuck.

Making the transition from school shows to local bars proved easier than expected. Rob walked into FitzPatrick’s in Cranston for a jam when he was 16 years old. There he met Billy Lehourites, a frequenter of jams and an amazing guitarist. Billy mentioned to Rob that he was looking for a band to open for him at Christopher’s just down the street and wondered if Rob’s band would be interested. The members of The Sharp Dressed Band managed to slap together two and a half hours of music and they took the gig.

While the band sticks to mainly ’60s, ’70s and ’80s classic rock, there seems to be no limit to Rob’s ever expanding knowledge of genres and artists. “When playing acoustic my set list can be anything — rock, blues, jazz, top 40 hits. There is a huge difference between songs I know how to play and songs I perform. I could sit down for four hours straight and not play the same song twice.”

Rob’s fascination with different genres began when he started taking guitar lessons. “Guitar Hero had a huge influence on me. Yes, it may have been a stupid video game, but it really broadened my horizons and introduced me to artists I had never heard before.”

After that, Rob was hooked on classic rock; he talked of raiding his father’s CD cabinet for Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Van Halen. Rob slowly fudged his way through these legendary albums on his own guitar.  Senior year, Rob transitioned from rock and started taking to the blues. “My first time walking in here [Murphy’s Law] was last year, scared shitless. I did not know any blues. I played stuff like Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Thoroughgood, and Tom Petty.  People would ask ‘Do you know Robert Cray, or Buddy Guy?’”

“I don’t know them,” he’d reply with a shrug. But Rob continued as he always did, learning new artists and absorbing new material, with a little help along the way. He became a blues aficionado in no time. “I learned a lot from these guys. The blues community really takes you under their wing.”

Most talented musicians tend to see themselves becoming rich and famous in the future; however, for this modest artist that is not the case. “I’m not in it for the money, I’m really not. As long as I can put gas in my tank I’m happy.”

Despite school never being his thing, Rob is working his butt off at URI to get his degree in sociology. Why not music? “I know a lot of music majors who graduated with their degree and they’re just miserable. Music is no longer fun. To them it’s just work. If one day one-third of my income is made by music, that’d be great. But I’m not going to force it.”

As the night wore on, Rob and I continued to chat about the music scene in RI and how it’s exploding. “The Cranston music scene has been growing exponentially over the past year, and I am so glad to be part of it! Every day my name gets out there just a little more and I have the Rhode Island music community to thank for that.”

Free live music can be found seven days a week in your local townie bars. Near the end of our conversation, Rob delivered the quote of the night: “The age of the night club is dead; the local bar is now the place to be.”

The Sharp Dressed Band will be performing on Block Island at Captain Nick’s every Saturday and Sunday all summer long and Rob can be seen performing at local jams on the mainland Monday through Friday.  For more information on the band, check out their Facebook page: facebook.com/TheSharpDressedBand

Soul Memorial Honors Dennis McCarthy

imageOn Sunday, July 27, the Rhode Island musical community will come together for a special event at The Met in Pawtucket to celebrate the life of beloved musician Dennis McCarthy. The singer/songwriter passed away unexpectedly in his Providence apartment on June 2, leaving behind catalogue of well-crafted, soulful songs. The event, called Soul Memorial, will feature a host of local musicians, who will take the stage in celebration of the late singer’s legacy.

In the Late ’70s and early ’80s, McCarthy fronted the Groovemasters, a band whose eclectic style put his versatile voice in the limelight. He was also a member of the Dynamic Johnsons.

In recent years, McCarthy and his band had become a mainstay of the Thursday night slot at Nick-a-Nee’s. He also sat in with local bassist Joe Potenza at Aspire. A die-hard performer until the end, his last gig was at the Ocean Mist in Matunuck on May 30.

The music at the event will be a retrospective of McCarthy’s impressive tenure in the music scene. It will feature performances by The Nick-a-Nee’s Band and The Groovemasters, with a special appearance from world-famous jazz saxophonist, Greg Abate. Also in attendance will be The Ubiquitones with help from RI music veteran Marc Cutler and The Last Call Band. Running the show will be emcees Len Cabral, Rudy Cheeks and Mark Taber.

The event will also serve as a CD release party. One of McCarthy’s lifelong dreams was to have his own recording, an undertaking he never finished. Luckily, he had some great friends who stepped up and finished it for him.

McCarthy didn’t have a funeral or wake, so this is Rhode Island’s only opportunity to honor a man who meant so much to the Rhode Island music scene. If you want to help celebrate his memory by listening to some of the area’s biggest talents, this is not an event to be missed.

Soul Memorial will be held on July 27 at 4:30pm at The Met located at Hope Artiste Village, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. Entrance fee: $10 suggested donation, with a potluck dinner and all proceeds going to Dennis McCarthy’s son, Jefferson.

Dinosaur Jr. Brings the Raw, Brutal Power of Rock & Roll

dinosaurThe original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. came through a packed Met last Friday to pump some loud guitar music into the veins of local residents. Consisting of guitarist J.Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph, the band pioneered a high-octane, guitar-heavy sound in the mid-80s that was a precursor to the grunge explosion of the 90s. The show was originally supposed to be headlined by King Buzzo of the Melvins, but in a fortuitous turn of events, Dinosaur was added to the bill, turning this show into one of the concert events of the summer.

The band split in the late in the late ’90s, but the original lineup mended their famously fractured relationship in the mid-2000s and hit the ground running, making new music. And unlike many of their contemporaries, their new material has held up compared to the band’s golden age.

The show was kicked off by solo guitarist Mary Halveston, whose solo set included a number of diverse pieces. She incorporated elements of jazz, classical and distorted rock riffs to create a unique sound to effectively build the anticipation.

Buzz Osborne, a.k.a King Buzzo, frontman of metal legends The Melvins, took his turn next. Armed with just an acoustic guitar, he performed a mix of songs from his new album, This Machine Kills Artists and old Melvins tunes. There are few people who could command a room with just an acoustic guitar and vocals; his songs employed the punishing, down-tuned doom riffs he’s known for, and his voice boomed so loudly that even the people drinking outside were forced to take notice.

Dinosaur kicked off their set with the last thing I expected to hear: “Bulbs of Passion,” the first track from their debut album Dinosaur, which contrasts quiet, ambient verses with distorted, metal choruses aided by Barlow’s screaming. It was a good way to punish the audience’s ears right off the bat.

Dinosaur Jr. is the loudest band I’ve ever seen, by a considerable margin. The stage was dominated by Mascis’ three full Marshall stacks, which, as you can probably imagine, make the guitar’s volume deafening. And, of course, the volume of the other instruments has to be increased to compete, so the whole thing just ends up being ludicrously, gloriously loud.

There are some who may be thinking: That’s totally absurd! Why would anyone need three full stacks? But I say the more stacks the better! The heightened sensitivity of a lot of today’s indie music is great and all, but sometimes it’s great to just sit back and bask in the raw, brutal power of rock & roll.

J. Mascis has admitted outright that their songs are pretty much “just build up to the guitar solo,” and watching the master at work is the best part about their live show. He just stands there, hardly even changing his facial expressions while his fingers skate around the neck, creating roaring, distorted madness like only he can. The other members are no slouches either; Barlow frantically strummed his Rickenbacker Lemmy-style, and Murph’s blazing-fast fills were as clean as ever.

You’re Living All Over Me, which came out in 1987 and is thought by many to be their best album, was very well represented in the set, with songs like “The Lung,” “Raisins,” “Tarpit,” “In a Jar,” and their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” The band also tore through their ’90s radio hits “Start Choppin” and “Feel the Pain” and post-reunion singles “Pieces” and “Watch the Corners.” The band even brought it back to the early ’80s, playing a song called “Training Ground” by Barlow and Mascis’s hardcore band Deep Wound that’s “about how school sucks.” The highlight had to be their encore, the fan favorite “SludgeFeast,” with the crowd going into circle pit frenzy.

My only complaint: It’s great that the band regularly plays the crowd-pleasers, but they seem to cycle through the same songs during every show. With such a large catalog, Dino could really expand their setlists into something a little more comprehensive.

The concert may have killed a few brain cells, but it was totally worth it to see a band that is showing no signs of slowing down.