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On the Cover: September 2022

Motif is excited to welcome illustrator and visual artist Jeremy Ferris to the cover of our 2022 Fall Guide. Ferris is currently living in PVD where he is the Digital Projects Librarian at Providence Public Library. Ferris holds a Master of Library and Information Studies degree from Simmons University as well as Bachelors degrees in Studio Arts and Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester in upstate New York, where he is originally from. Ferris relays that “his work revisits what we can see and what we miss of ghosts and reverberations.” 

As an artist, he has been part of several exhibitions and curated two of his own solo exhibitions. Ferris calls his creative process circular, and says that he isn’t “rigorous” with sketchbooks, but often writes or draws on scraps of paper throughout his day that may or may not get lost in the shuffle. As influences, Ferris cites Maeve Martin, Agnes Martin and those involved in the Providence Comic Consortium. The Pawtuxet Valley Textile Strike was his inspiration for this piece in particular. 

In 1922, RI experienced one of our most catastrophic labor strikes. This walkout lasted eight months and caused the end of what most saw as a ‘prosperous period’ following the end of World War I. When workers found out that their days would get longer- and their paychecks slashed in half due to a local family selling the mill to a corporation, as many as 3,000 – 5,000 workers from multiple mills ultimately decided that they had enough and either walked out or suffered the consequences of the strike when their mills closed. 

The strike dominated in the newspapers, overshadowing both smallpox and the death of Pope Benedict XV. The New York Times reported that the Governor mobilized artillery companies to control the rioters that were attacking the mill plants. 

The decision to portray these strikes on our cover is to honor the centenary of these strikes that so devastatingly impacted RI and the memory of what those ancestors went through to help pave the way for unions and more just working conditions. Pawtucket, as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, was also the birthplace of several union-building firsts, including perhaps the first industrial strike in the US and certainly the first strike by women workers, in 1824. 

Photograph by Carey Goodrich, 2021.




Rhode Island: Basics for Beginners

Welcome to Rhode Island! The nation’s Ocean State offers a plethora of quirks for visitors, students, and residents. With the school year starting off, an influx of new students are moving into their dorms and will soon crowd the city’s hottest locations. If you are one of these new students, a first-time visitor, or have just moved to our small but richly nuanced state, the following is a brief guide to help you adjust to the local culture.

Beaches

RI is the Ocean State and for good reason. There are beaches everywhere, but it’s going to be too cold most of the time to swim. But beach areas have restaurants known for their seafood. Hurry before they start closing up for the season! Also, making friends with someone who has a boat will also help you enjoy the sea and see the land from another perspective. Finding a “friend with a boat” is an RI tradition almost as important as “Knowing a guy,” and dates back at least to the HMS Gaspee (a particularly RI tale we don’t have space to get into here. But google that one: You’ll find a whole month of local celebrations around May, in the spirit of, “Hey, remember that time we got really drunk and set that boat on fire?”)

Newport

Newport is home to the Folk Fest, Jazz Fest, and many other events. It’s a “long drive” by Rhode Island standards since it’s around 45 minutes from Providence but it provides great restaurants, waterfront walks, and more. Located on Aquidneck Island which is the largest of Rhode Island’s many islands. Yes, Rhode Island is more than one island. We have a lot of bridges!

Thayer Street, Providence

What used to be a trendy or cool strip with the latest in subculture fashions and off-beat restaurants has been turned into Brown University’s Food Court. Like many things in Rhode Island, you will hear locals lament for what it once was.

Beverages AKA Say “Yes” when someone offers it to you!

I admit that this got me when I moved here, so I feel it’s important to share so the same confusion doesn’t set onto you. A “cabinet” is a milkshake. It’s called a cabinet because all of the ingredients come from the cabinet. Duh! Yes, I felt stupid as well. It’s similar to a milkshake but not quite an Awful Awful. An Awful Awful is a frozen beverage from Newport Creamery and is similar to the more well-known (outside RI) Friendly’s Fribble. It’s not as thick as a milkshake because they use an icy milk technique but it’s considered to be “Awful Big and Awful Good.” But wait, Rhode Island has more! Frozen lemonade is a big hit. There’s Del’s and Mr. Lemon and like any competitors, there are die-hard fans on both sides. 

If the aforementioned beverages aren’t enough, there is coffee milk. It’s not coffee, it’s milk with coffee syrup – usually Autocrat. Similar to chocolate milk, this local treasure exposes children to the addictive coffee bean early in life which is probably why RI runs on [Insert Favorite Coffee Location Here]. Order your coffee milk at a diner or breakfast location to give it a try.

Hot Wieners

If it’s 1 am and your friend says “Let’s go get some system.” They are inviting you to eat hot dogs or “wieners” with them. These hot dogs are smaller than the ones at the store. They actually fit in the buns. Then on top, they add a meat sauce with meat, celery salt, mustard, and onions – from what I can tell. Similar to White Castle’s “murder” burgers, I feel as though if you didn’t grow up eating such foods, your stomach may not have built up a tolerance and the results could be destructive. Tread carefully, but try it if you’re into it. Note, these go great with coffee milk.

Party Pizza

You’ve had pizza, you’ve seen Sicilian square pizza, but have you tried Party Pizza? Also known as Italian Bakery Pizza or RI Pizza, this cheeseless cold pizza is doughy with impeccably fresh and delicious tomato sauce. Think of it more like a casual bruschetta. It’s a staple at most RI parties (if they’re good) because it’s not hot and easy to grab. Locals will argue which bakery makes the best but now you should investigate for yourself.

Everyone Knows Everyone

While Rhode Island’s population increased 7 out of the 11 years between 2010 and 2021, according to the Census Bureau, it’s still a small state. That means BE CAREFUL. You never know who is related to who or if your last {insert favorite dating app here} date will end up being someone important in your future. The pool is small, kids. Don’t piss anyone off — or pee in the pool, so to speak.

Local Icons

No matter where you are in Rhode Island, you’re bound to run into something unique. Here are a few of the big ones. If you see a pyramid named Apex – you are in Pawtucket (Pronounced: Pa-tucket, not PAW-tucket.) Pawtucket also boasts a giant Potatoehead couple thanks to Hasbro and the historical Slater Mill, the birthplace of the first water-powered textile mill in America. From I-95, you might see a Big Blue Bug. His name is Nibbles Woodaway. The “pineapple” welcomes you to Federal Hill but it’s actually a pine cone or La Pigna. If someone asks you for directions to any of these, but you’re not yet sure where things are, just tell them to turn right at the Dunkin. There’s always a Dunkin, so you can’t go wrong with this approach. 

Regional Chains

We all miss Bennigan’s but fortunately, RI has its own Americana chains which you can enjoy. Take the time to visit a Chelo’s, a Gregg’s, and a 99 Restaurant and see which you prefer. They are all family friendly or good for groups. They aren’t open 24 hours like diners in New York but that’s why we have IHOP.

Politics

If you register to vote in Rhode Island, you should be aware that you vote in September for the primaries prior to the November election. With Rhode Island being overwhelmingly Democratic, quite often there aren’t any Republicans even running, so the primaries are where the real electoral decisions are made. RI used to abide by the advice, “Vote early and often,” but nowadays it’s just, “Vote early.” Use your voice, vote, and get involved locally to support your community.

It used to be…

RI has been growing and changing especially since legendary (for good or ill) former mayor Buddy Cianci revitalized Downtown Providence. Everything used to be something else and often this is how locals will refer to it. Thankfully we have GPS to help us navigate, especially since all of Interstate 95’s exits are changing to match their mile markers. I’ve never learned how to successfully stop an old person from telling me directions verbally and including a turn, “Where [something] used to be,” so best luck and try not to get confused when you encounter the nostalgia of a former Almacs or the ghost of a former Benny’s. RIP Benny’s.

Whether you’re here to visit or to stay, we hope these pearls of wisdom will help clear up any confusion that might otherwise result from exposure to these inscrutable RI cultural eccentricities.




Grassroots Bluegrass: Tending to a homegrown music fest

Rhode Island is known for iconic music festivals. For decades, Newport has been home to two iconic music festivals: folk and jazz. As time has progressed some festival goers have started to feel that these shows have gotten too big, that the festivals have gotten too commercial and some people just go to them for social media clout with little care for the music itself. 

Sal Sauco, the president of the RI Bluegrass Association, and the rest of its members have an alternative. A newer festival that is still in its infancy; where music is still the focus of it all. This two-day festival dedicated to bluegrass music is called the “Ocean State Bluegrass Festival and Pick-nic,” which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Sep 17 – 18.

Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance (RIBA) was established in 2013 and their mission is to promote the appreciation of bluegrass music, and serve as a resource to educate and coordinate with fans, students, teachers and musicians in the surrounding area. Sauco has been a fan of bluegrass for many years and is the mandolin player for his band The Greystone Rail. “I started out strumming guitar with some guys playing 70’s music. They said that I should check the bluegrass music playing at the Maple Glen. I kept telling them that I didn’t like bluegrass. One weekend I went by myself just to say that I went and I ended up realizing that I had met my people.” 

A contingent of the public believes that bluegrass is “hillbilly music” and associated with the Ozarks. “I was down in Nashville last year and they were asking about the scene in New England. (New England) is actually on the forefront of contemporary bluegrass music,” Sauco said. He added that there is a huge influx of youth that is pushing this New England bluegrass movement as well. 

This will be the third annual occurrence of the festival. The first was in 2018 but the last two years were interrupted due to COVID. “The festival allows us to reach out to people in an easy-going environment. Anyone that is just curious about us will find themselves a good time. It also allows us to showcase this great music… so we are grateful to be doing it again.” The event will take place at Frerichs Farm in Warren, RI. “It is a great venue and they love hosting the show. It also allows them to sell their products.”

This year’s festival will feature three bands on Saturday night; The Hosmer Mountain Boys, Poor Monroe and Rock Hearts. Cathy Day, the fiddle player from The Hosmer Mountain Boys, said, about their band being able to play the festival: “Keegan and Simon (the guitar and banjo player) have been going to bluegrass festivals since they were babies, so playing at a festival like this, is like a family reunion. People have mentored them and watched them grow up.  I’m so proud of these boys and super proud as a mom to be fiddling and singing harmony on stage with my son and his best friend.” The talent is all from New England and Rock Hearts have been featured on XM Radio.

One interesting note about the festival is that you can camp overnight at the farm. “It is a tradition of bluegrass festivals to have a camping element to it where people will play late into the night,” Sauco said. When you wake up in the morning, the festival will have a relaxed feel. Though there are no main acts Sunday, visitors will still be entertained by “pickin’ circles,” raffles and workshops for people looking to learn about bluegrass or to hone their own skills in what they call a “slow jam” format.

The second annual Ocean State Bluegrass Festival will take place from Saturday, Sep 17 to Sunday, Sep 18. Gates will be open on Saturday at 3pm and the music will start at 6pm. Tickets are $20 for the show, $30 if you intend to camp. Sunday it is free admission and activities will start at 11am. Parking is $5. 




August Holidays, Ranked: Our hottest month lacks hot holidays

Folks, it is HOT. I’m writing this in the middle of a stinkin’ heat wave. There are times I wish my apartment wasn’t built before the Great Depression, and this is one of them. Central air really was a great idea. 

As now you’ve come to expect, I’m here to serve up some more HOT takes (how fitting) on the holidays of August. Hold onto your pants, folks, because Leo season has some doozies. And with arguably no real, tradition-steeped holidays occupying this month, we had to dig pretty deep.

5. Victory Day: Monday, August 8

“Don’t worry guys, we aren’t celebrating the nuclear elimination of tens of thousands of Japanese people.” — RI General Assembly, 1990. We probably shouldn’t be recognizing a holiday that requires this clarification, but it seems that we are ready to make the sacrifice for the long weekend in August. RI has the distinction of being the only state to continue to acknowledge the end of WWII with a state holiday, since Arkansas dropped “World War II Memorial Day” in 1975. Probably because about 1 in 10 Rhode Islanders served in the war at the time. 

Whenever I think of the end of WWII, I think of how it took not one, but two atomic bombs for Japan to surrender. Imagine — a bomb is dropped on your country that wipes out an estimated 70,000 people (the entire population of modern Pawtucket, for example) in the blink of an eye. It’s the deadliest single moment on Earth since the meteor killed the dinosaurs — and the Japanese government (of the time) doesn’t blink. People are crazy. 

4. Just Because Day: Wednesday, August 27

Just Because Day celebrates spontaneity. The probable boomer who instigated it seems to believe that people would use Just Because Day to bestow random acts of kindness upon friends and strangers, but I seriously fear what Gen Z will do when they hear about this. They already eat laundry detergent and hit the woah with reckless abandon. Let’s keep this between us. 

3. National Oyster Day: Friday, August 5

It may surprise you to learn that for the first 200 years, oysters outnumbered quahogs in RI. Roger Williams’ notes describe members of the Narragansett Tribe fishing for them. It wasn’t until the Hurricane of 1938 wiped out oystering infrastructure, in addition to WWII depriving the industry of willing hands, that the quahog stepped in with its cute little foot. 

Both quahogs and oysters are great for the environment, as they filter their watery environments through filter feeding and provide habitat for other marine life. So if you see me at midnight wearing a ski mask dumping oysters and quahogs off the Providence Pedestrian Bridge to clean up the Providence River… no you didn’t.

2. National Spumoni Day: Sunday, August 21

I’m gonna be honest, folks. When I first read that August 21 was Spumoni Day, I thought it was a tribute to Dino Spumoni, an Italian-American big band swing singer who fakes his own death for post-mortem popularity on an episode of Hey Arnold!. He’s right up there with Chip Skylark (“My Shiny Teeth And Me” was a banger) and Ernesto de la Cruz (at the beginning) on my list of favorite fictional singers. Don’t sleep on Spongebob in that category either — Sweet Victory, The Campfire Song Song, and Krusty Krab Pizza were all childhood-defining. 

Anyway, turns out Spumoni is a colorful Italian gelato dessert, often with fruits and nuts. I’ve never heard of it, but check it out sometime. 

1. National Kool-Aid Day: Friday, August 12

OH YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic pitcher pitchman is coming through a wall near you on the second Friday in August. I had no idea how well the Kool-Aid Man captured the American imagination in the 1980s, appearing in a Marvel Comic, an Atari game, and even being used as hair dye. And the Southerners figured out that by adding Kool-Aid to a pickle jar and allowing that to marinate for a week, you can enjoy what are called “Koolickles,” a salty-sweet, unnaturally-colored snack. 

Dang. What can’t you do with this stuff? (Apparently, snort it. A popular post on the r/unexpectedkoolaidman subreddit is “I snorted Kool-Aid powder and I think I’m dying.” Food for thought there.)

Happy August!




Beardly Fashion: Urban Fellow’s Seth Davis shows how beards make the man

They say that confessing guilt is good for the soul. With that in mind, I shall make this startling confession: I am a man with a beard, and I have never had a barber trim or shape it. 

With that burden off my chest, I now feel free to say that I am growing out my beard to better look the part for a folk metal band I sing for. My beard is a vibrant red which naturally grows straight down. This has led to some issues. For example, if I wear a collared shirt, it pushes my beard back up so it looks like I survived some small, cartoonish explosion. I decided that I needed expertise in the matter and consulted with Seth Davis of Urban Fellow Barbershop & Shave Parlour, located on Washington Street in PVD. 

Seth Davis is the founder of Urban Fellow. He explained that out of high school, he became a laborer because “[I’ve] always been good with my hands.” Growing tired of the work and constantly being outside, he decided to put those hands to different use and went to barber school. Once he graduated, he started working in salons and old-school barbershops. Over time, he developed his craft and decided that he should start his own shop. 

Davis opened Urban Fellow in 2014, originally in Warwick. “It was daunting at first, but we were able to grow quickly and start building a list of regulars,” Davis said. In 2019, he decided to move headquarters to their current PVD location. “About half of my [employees] stayed with us in the move… it was tough convincing our regulars to drive from Warwick to PVD. We even provided little coupons.” Then, of course, the pandemic hit, which further complicated what they did. “Our full name is Urban Fellow Barbershop & Shave Parlour. During the pandemic, we couldn’t cut facial hair which took half of our name off it.” Despite the setbacks, today’s shop stays quite busy with its nine barbers full of reservations.

There are not many places around PVD that specialize in facial hair. I asked Davis why that might be: “Not many salons have people trained in facial hair – the majority of who they work on are women or children. You may find an old school barbershop that does work on men’s facial hair, but they only know how to do older styles of trimming. Our barbershop is for the modern man and we cater to modern styles … it’s not that the other places aren’t capable of doing a good job, they just don’t get the practice.” Davis teaches aspiring beard-trimmers around New England how to properly cut men’s hair. “It feels good to help these kids,” he said.

Davis went on to explain why facial trimming and beard shaping are important in the modern day. “Beards are becoming more acceptable and prevalent in modern American business. However, the important thing now is to have proper maintenance of them … During the pandemic, it was understandable seeing people a little more unkempt. But now that we are going back out in the world, we need to stay presentable and look clean.” He encourages people who grow out their beards to use balm and oils to ensure they do not get split ends. “When you have a split end, it’s basically a hair in half which leaves it brittle and can fall off or stick out. Keeping the beard hydrated with balms and oils leads to better control over how you are growing it.

Before he picked up any cutting implements, Davis studied my head and explained what he suggested we do. I agree with what Seth said about his hands: He is incredibly gifted in how quick his are. They deftly move between cutting implements, trimming my hair as he casually keeps up conversation on whatever topic we talk about: sports, music, craft beer, etc. When it came time to trim my beard, he looked like a swordsmith, wielding his (straight razor) blade with precision, ensuring there are no imperfections or stray hairs. He is a master of his craft. This isn’t just a job for Seth, it is art.

The result of the cut is astonishing. My face looks completely different than it did before. Cleaning and shaping your beard truly makes a difference. I went to a party right after my appointment and was complimented by quite a few friends, unprompted, about how good it looked. After my experience with a trained professional, I will not be going back to a salon anytime soon — I’ve learned the importance of beard shaping.

So remember, if you have a beard, make sure you are not just growing it out. Give it the love and care that Seth and other barbers would.




RKOcon 2022: National Convention Timewarps to PVD

RKOcon 2022 in Providence, held Wed – Sun, Aug 3 – 7, is a worldwide convention for “shadowcasting” theater troupes, hosted by the RI-based RKO Army, one of the largest such troupes in the world with about 30 regular and 15 semi-regular performers. Grounded in the midnight cult movie tradition that has grown up around The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “shadowcasting” is the practice of dressing up in costume and acting out the action on screen as the film runs behind the actors, visible to the audience.

Usually rotating on a three-year cycle, Providence hosted the convention in 2013, 2016, and 2019. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 events, which would not have been in Providence, were canceled, so it worked out that the 2019 and 2022 events in Providence are somewhat back-to-back.

“The nature of the Rocky Horror convention is that it is a community con as opposed to a [commercial] comic con. The people mostly know each other, however, we’re certainly open to new people attending and would welcome … their patronage,” said Roy Rossi, cast director of RKO Army. At commercial cons, by contrast, “They’re there to sell, whereas, yes, we have vendors, but we’re not chiefly there for that. This isn’t a vendor con or a vendor-driven con. It’s not a star-driven con. And quite frankly, the stars of this con are the people who come from other casts.… We’re emphasizing the people who are going to be performing on stage.” Attendees can also participate in a number of scheduled panels and competitions.

In addition to Rocky Horror (1975), the convention will “shadowcast” a number of other films, including Shock Treatment (1981, the little-known quasi-sequel to Rocky Horror), Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical (2005), and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008). Most events will be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (before 5pm) at the Hilton Hotel, 21 Atwells Ave, in downtown Providence, except for the “main event” performance of Rocky Horror at the capacious Stadium Theater, 28 Monument Sq, Woonsocket, beginning at 7pm Saturday.

While seeing various actors from around the world take turns in the stage roles, a practice known as “con casting,” audience members will be encouraged to shout out lines and hurl props at appropriate times during the movie. Prop bags will be sold, $3 each, containing items whose significance will be immediately understood by devotees: toilet paper, a party hat, a sponge, a newspaper, playing cards, a noisemaker, cardboard toast, a paper plate and a non-latex vinyl glove.

Attendance is strong despite the pandemic and consequent two-year hiatus, Rossi said, removing the ability to “ride off the coattails of some of the other big conventions. At this point, we have to create the coattails.” Registrations to attend the full convention are slightly ahead of expectations. “Right now we’re at about 260. I think we’re going to get to 275, which is more than we thought.”

“The lack of a con in the last two years has not helped. If people think there’s a bunch of pent up need to go to a convention, they should think again,” Rossi said. “If you figure every con, you lose people and you gain people, all we’ve done is lose people, because it’s two years of attrition in between.”

RKO invested substantial effort in crafting a COVID-19 policy that is posted on the convention web site. “The bulk of the events are in the [hotel] ballroom and will be mask-mandated. That’s where 85% of the events will be,” said Rossi. The vendor area in the hotel will also require masks. Otherwise, attendees inside the hotel but outside of those two areas will have the option to wear masks or not: “People will still do their own thing outside of the ballroom.” The Stadium Theater has their own policy and does not require masks, Rossi said, and he expects at least an additional 300 tickets will be sold to the general public for the main event on Saturday night.

The cast took a break from performing rather than try to operate virtually during the pandemic. “Shadowcasting has to be done live or it doesn’t really work. We had a couple of those things like ‘The Stay At Home Show,’ but that was kind of a novelty gimmick more than anything else,” Rossi said (“A Toast! RKO Army Raises $4,100 for RI Pride Food Drive”, by Michael Bilow, May 11, 2020).

RKO has been helped enormously by breaking convention habits and expanding the repertoire into other shows. “If we had not made that controversial decision in 2013, and we were just pumping up The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Shock Treatment on Friday, you can scratch out 30% of the attendance, maybe?” Rossi speculated. “A lot of people are coming to the con because they’re getting a chance to interact, not just at Rocky Horror, but other areas. What we’ve discovered is that people like getting up there and not just doing Rocky… and that’s driving a huge part of the excitement of this con.”

Rossi created a video presentation in 2017 called The RKO Horror Show that will be run at the con, a Ken Burns-style moving stills sequence that started as a slide show with actual slides in the 1990s. “It celebrates the movie, the music and a little bit of the history, the local history of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Rhode Island,” he said.

Rossi is uniquely qualified to elucidate the history of the show, having stayed personally involved since 1981. It first screened locally at the Showcase Cinemas in Seekonk, Mass, in 1978 for a few months, he said, before moving to the Cinerama on Hope St on the East Side of Providence that same year. (The Cinerama was razed years ago and a CVS pharmacy is now at the site.) “It ran there for four years, which at the time seemed like an eternity,” Rossi said. “I was aware of the opening night, but I elected to stay in college. I was focused on getting my degree, so I didn’t actually go until I literally went the week I graduated, Memorial Day weekend of 1980.”

Rather than perform with the Providence cast of the time, Rossi and some friends began what would eventually become RKO Army. “The lineage of this cast begins in Newport, at the Jane Pickens Theater in the early fall of 1981.” A succession of casts started and faded out at the Cinerama, he said, and at the last night the theater operated before it closed down in 1983, Rossi said, “Our cast actually performed in the very last show there.… It was uninvited. We just came in, did it. We found nobody there. We just did it.… That was the very last movie they played.”

Asked whether, out of everybody in the world, he might have seen Rocky Horror performed by a live shadowcast more than anyone else, Rossi said, “There’s a very strong possibility, because I don’t know.” In the early days, the show was twice every week on Friday and Saturday nights, around 100 shows per year. “By 1990, or by 1991, I probably hit 1,000.… I’ve got to be past 2,000.” As almost all of the pioneers retired from involvement, including Rocky Horror Fan Club founder Sal Piro, Rossi said, “I’ve probably done the show more than anybody now.”

Rossi’s friend Bob Andoscia got him into Rocky Horror, he said. The ancient technology of the 1970s was limiting. “[Bob] played the music on the vinyl and maybe we had 8-track by then. Maybe I had a cassette. Just playing the music, enjoying the music, but not going until I graduated,” Rossi said. “It was him going, basically him and his sister… The concept of people getting up there and performing while the movie is going on fascinated me.”

The DIY æsthetic was particularly intriguing, he said, because there were no formalities or restrictions. “We could just get up on our own and start doing something. It was a new phenomenon… and the fact that we could do it, it seemed like a lot of fun.… We didn’t have to go through anybody like [auditions] or something, just get up and do it.” Unlike live theater with scripts and directors, “this was more like going to a club and dancing.… They play songs, and you can dance to them.” Things are more organized now, he said. “Back then we were, I would say, socially, completely uninhibited – for better or worse.”

For full information for RKOcon 2022, including schedules and ticketing information: rkocon.com




Rhythm & Roots Goes On: A brief history in Tradition

It’s 1978 and Chuck Wentworth is lugging vinyl records to WRIU to host his Monday night radio show Traditions. For the next 37 years, as the host of Traditions and WRIU’s roots music director, Wentworth will broadcast a weekly dose of renowned and emerging roots music from the towers of WRIU to the radios of RI.

“You know the thing about vinyl,” says Wentworth. “Back then all the stuff that came out was produced by maybe 20, 25 different labels… so you knew when you got some vinyl from one of these record companies it was gonna be good stuff and it was gonna be high quality.”

In 1998, when the opportunity arose to revive a long-running Cajun and bluegrass festival facing bankruptcy, Wentworth partnered with Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival producer Mary Doub to purchase the festival, and together, Wentworth and Doub founded Rhythm & Roots. 

After spending a year in the festival’s Escoheag location, Wentworth and Doub relocated Rhythm & Roots to its current location at Charlestown’s Ninigret Park. With a smoother, more level landscape and ample space for multiple stages, overnight camping and three days of festival parking, Wentworth and Doub were able to elevate Rhythm & Roots to the event they wanted it to be. 

“My company is Lagniappe Productions,” says Wentworth. “It’s a Cajun-French term similar to a baker’s dozen, meaning you get more than you expected. That’s our attitude in terms of working with the public, they buy a ticket to the event and we go above and beyond what they’d normally get in a festival experience.”

Like Traditions, Rhythm & Roots offers listeners everything roots music has to offer—blues, Cajun, zydeco, country, swing. “You name it. It runs the gamut. We try to put a diverse sampling out there for people.” 

Wentworth also assembles festival lineups in the same way he structured his long-running radio show. “I’ve used that knowledge to put together lineups. When I set a daily schedule, I try to get a diversity of styles going and somehow keep it all connected, to find a way to start with a bluegrass band, then go to some country music, then to blues, then some Cajun music, and just keep producing daily lineups like that. The festival has a great vibe. People come here year after year, they meet up with old friends…

“There’s no pressure, people just get to hang. They bring chairs and blankets and spread out. We’ve got about a dozen food vendors. We sell beer and wine and you know, people just relax and wander the grounds. We’ve got three stages, so you can get up and go from stage to stage and listen to different kinds of music.”

In 2015, Doub decided to dedicate her attention to producing the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival full time and sold her share of Rhythm & Roots to Wentworth. Wentworth continued to build the festival, staying true to his philosophy of giving people more than they expected, of giving them a better festival experience. 

In 2021, health concerns forced Wentworth to step away from Rhythm & Roots and cancel the festival; however, just as he and Doub came to the rescue of that long-running Cajun and bluegrass festival years ago, shortly after announcing the cancellation of Rhythm & Roots, Wentworth received dozens of inquiries from prospective buyers.

“I narrowed it down to this one group out of Hartford, CT, GoodWorks Entertainment. I looked at their history, we talked at length, and I felt they were on the same page with what I’d been doing. Their philosophy is pretty much the same and they’re expressing an attitude that they don’t want to change anything. They want to come in for at least the next couple of years and observe. They’re a family business, they’re active in their community. Those are the major philosophies that I saw and said, ‘Alright, this can work.’”

Although not at the helm for the first time in 24 years, Wentworth played an active role in the booking and logistics of the 2022 lineup; he focused on securing local and regional bands while GoodWorks secured national acts. “They’re handling about half the booking and I’m doing the other half. I’m very comfortable in the role I’m in now, a lot of the stress has been relieved.”

This year’s festival brings together over 20 artisan vendors, a dozen food vendors offering cuisines from all over—Korean chili bowls, Cajun and Creole specialties, Middle Eastern fare, gyros, tacos, ribs, chowder, clam cakes—and most importantly, a lineup of over 20 high quality rhythm and roots musicians from across the country, including Little Feat on their Waiting For Columbus 45th Anniversary Tour. 

“Friday night we’ve got an all New Orleans night… We’ve got four bands that are all from New Orleans, they’ll be kicking off the festival. I’m excited about that night,” says Wentworth. “You know, it’s a pretty solid year. I’m looking forward to seeing this thing go on.”

Rhythm & Roots Festival: Fri, Sep 2 thru Sun, Sep 4 in Ninigret Park, Charlestown. For more information and to purchase individual tickets or festival passes, visit rhythmandroots.com.




Mane Character Energy: Leo season’s fiercest, fanciest foodie finds

Like it or not, it’s Leo Season, y’all! From July 22nd to August 22nd every year, the planet becomes just a little bit more extra while those of us lucky to be born under this leonine sign all declare as one that “It’s MY birthday month!” Face it: for Leos, this stretch of time is a full blown party, and not just any spot will do for these ferociously fickle felines. As a Leo myself (August 15th, a national holiday, and the date of Motif’s food truck awards!), here are some of my faves for when I just need to celebrate and channel my Main Character Energy – which is stronger than normal around this time of the year.

Porch Dining at The Clarke Cooke House

Leos are all about getting glammed up and having a fabulous time, and what better way than to indulge at one of the last spots where a dress code is (thankfully) enforced? Yes, guys must don sport jackets, and gals are expected to reach similar levels of #fashion, but your efforts will be rewarded with effortless service by handsome, tuxedo-clad gentlemen (ok, purr), a menu of locally inspired delicacies (the Lobster with Sauce Poivre Rose is winsome without catering to the masses of seafood zombies on the wharf below), and of course, the Snowball in Hell, everyone’s favorite Newport dessert – a wine glass filled to the brim with house-made chocolate mousse, devil’s food cake, Callebaut chocolate, fresh vanilla ice cream and toasted coconut. Watch all eyes turn to your table as this towering trifle is presented, complete with a birthday sparkler — but don’t worry, Leo. You’re the sparkliest one in the room.

24 Bannister’s Wharf, Newport

The Boombox Karaoke

The overlap between manic theater kids and August birthdays is unsurprisingly common, and where else can one belt out “Little Girls” from Annie while sipping on a fruity, guava-y Love Cat sake cocktail served in an actual ceramic cat glass? The Dean Hotel is already a total vibe — the 52-room boutique hotel boasts a fantastic location and distinctive decor right in the heart of downtown PVD — and the swanky subterranean lounge is the perfect place to channel your inner diva. Private karaoke rooms are available, but in true Leo fashion, the main room is where the spotlight will truly shine on you. Also, “Little Girls” is my karaoke song of choice. #MissHanniganDeservedBetter #SorryNotSorry

122 Fountain Street, PVD

Secret Garden at Ocean House

Nothing says excessive like a champagne and crepe garden, and even though Westerly is a bit far, Ocean House is a total Leo mood, and I am so here for it. The Secret Garden pop-up runs all summer long, and no birthday visit is complete without a Smoked Salmon Crepe with a generous scoop of Royal Belgian Osetra Caviar and a Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé Watermelon Crush Swimming Pool cocktail, featuring fresh watermelon and Pop Rocks! They’re even open for private dining in their lush waterfront realm, and honestly, that sounds like an ideal birthday party to me!

1 Bluff Avenue, Westerly

Cara at The Chanler

IMO, Leos are the pickiest sign of the Zodiac, so when you subject us to a tasting menu that is completely Chef’s choice, you’re either in for an Oscar-winning tantrum, or a happy kitty, nibbling contentedly on foie gras. At Cara, it’s definitely the latter. With only four tables, guests are truly the stars of the show as they indulge in five or eight course menus of bespoke culinary creations. Executive Chef Jacob Jasinki is at the helm of this impressive Forbes Five Star dining experience, and between the seaside views and gastronomic greatness, this experience is not to be missed.

117 Memorial Boulevard, Newport




Motif’s 2022 Food Truck and Drink Award Nominees

RI has no shortage of fantastic food trucks, breweries and distilleries, and we at Motif can’t wait to celebrate them at our Food Truck and Drink awards this month. With nominees spanning 45 categories, we hope you can discover a new favorite food truck or brewery to try on your next night out. While we encourage voting for your favorites and there can only be so many winners, we appreciate each and every nominee and the creativity and craft they bring to RI’s food and drink scene.

Food Trucks

Burgers

Haven Brothers

Pit Stop

Rocket Fine Street Food

Everything “AN”

Atomic Burgers

Hot Dogs & Sausages

Big Dog Eats

Dogs on the Go

Plouffe’s

The Sausage Guy

Muzzled Hot Dogs

Saugy’s

Sam’s NY System

BBQ

GottaQ BBQ

Smoke & Squeal

Supa Dupa

Little B’s BBQ

Binge BBQ

Cheese & Cheesesteaks

Fancheezical

Dinolicious

Championship Melt

Big Dog Eats

Red’s Street Food

Rhodies Food Truck

Seafood

TrapBoxPVD

Newport Chowder Company

Shuckin’ Truck

Gansett Poke

La Costa Lobster & Tacos

Blount Seafood

Julio’s Gourmet Food Truck

Hometown Poke

Tacos

Tacofied

La Costa Lobster & Tacos

One2 Taco & More

Poco Loco Tacos

Macs Screaming Corn & Tacos

RaRa’s Surf Shack Beach Wagon

Latin & Caribbean Influences

Matilda

Gonzalez Food Truck

La Carreta

Gnarly Vines Food Truck

Spanglish

Burrito Bowl

La Guaguita Del Sabor

Bajas Enterprises

JA PATTY RI Catering & Events

Tacos Mi Rancho

La Birria

Asian Influence

Incred-A-Bowl

Nanu the Burmese Fusion

Lotus Pepper

Ming’s Asian Street Food

Italian Influence

Hook N Ladder Pizza Co.

Bird’s Nest Italian Street Food

Nonnie’s Kitchen

A Mano Pizza + Gelato

Moving Dough Wood Fired Pizza Co.

Mike & Lenny’s Bar Pizza

Vegan/Vegetarian/Cruelty-free

Nanu the Burmese Fusion

Vegan Suga

Lotus Pepper

Ming’s Asian Street Food

Like No Udder

Basil & Bunny

Juice Junkie

Potatoes

Hot Potato

Friskie Fries

Cluck Truck

ButterHead

Red’s Street Food

Breakfast & Brunch

Lu Lu’s Little Pancakes

Sunnyside on the Street

Oatmiel Café

The Burgundian: Coffee and Waffles

Lemmiegetuhhh

Presto Strange O Coffee

Coffee

On the Rhode Cafe

The Burgundian: Coffee and Waffles

Café Modesto

The Daily Grind

Presto Strange O Coffee Truck

COFFEE 911

The Salty Brew

Rise and Grind Coffee Truck

Dessert

Sarcastic Sweets

La Fruta Loca

Lu Lu’s Little Pancakes

Black Dog Donuts

The Cupcakory

Nessa’s Snack Shop

Jo Jo’s Cupcakes

O Boy

Twisted Churros

Shishkaberry’s of New England

Frozen Dessert

Kay’s Ice Cream

Atomic Blonde Ice Cream

Kona Ice

New England Frozen Lemonade

Chelsea’s Creamery

Tizzy K’s Cereal Ice Cream

Palagis Ice Cream

Hawaiian Jim’s Shave Ice

Mumsy’s Ice Cream

Cosmo’s Fresh & Frozen Treats

Milk Caffe & Catering

Alien Ice Cream

Food Truck with Storefront

Smoke & Squeal BBQ

GottaQ BBQ

Red’s Street Kitchen

Poco Loco Taco

Like No Udder

Friskie Fries

Graphics

RaRa’s Surf Shack Beach Wagon

Friskie Fries

Championship Melt

Hot Potato

Alien Ice Cream

New Truck

Coffee 911

Hook N Ladder Pizza Co.

Mumsy’s Ice Cream

Vegan Suga

Lemmiegetuhhh

Rise and Grind Coffee Truck

Everything “AN”

Nonnie’s Kitchen

Cosmo’s Fresh & Frozen Treats

All-Weather Warrior

Farm to Sandwich

Red’s Street Kitchen

JA Patty

Rocket Fine Street Food

Other Ethnic

The Village Greek

Pit Stop

The Ish

Pierogitory

Bem Bom Portuguese

Flip N Roll

Fieldstone Kombucha

Location/Festival

New Bedford Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival

Hope & Main’s Schoolyard Twilight Party

Food Truck Friday at Mulligan’s Island

Warwick Food Truck Nights

Food Truck Friday at Carousel Village

Food Trucks at Narragansett Beach

Providence Flea

Pop-up

The Perfect Sweet Shoppe

Mamma Lasagna’s

Biggest Little Easy Catering

Kenza’s Delights

Dips Dips

Butterbang Croissants

Bites by Bre

Sarcastic Sweets

Portable Not-Quite-Truck

Wally’s Wieners

Sweet B’s Donuts

Newport Chowder Co.

Tricycle Ice Cream

Poppin Minis RI

Outdoor Treat

Lemon

Iggy’s Doughboys (Various)

Sandcastles Sundaes

Gray’s Ice Cream (Tiverton)

Cold Fusion Gelato

The Inside Scoop

Three Sisters (Hope St, PVD)

The Wright Scoop

Blount’s

Locally Manufactured Food

Rhed’s Hot Sauce

Yacht Club Soda

Ocean State Pepper Company (spices)

Hustlers Swing Sauce

Beautiful Day Granola (granola)

Sacred Cow Granola (granola)

The Backyard Food Company (salsa)

Venda Ravioli lobster ravioli

Del’s Lemonade

Granny Squibb’s (iced tea)

New RI Food Product

Lost Art Kraut-Chi

PVD Pies

Sarcastic Sweets Beernuts

Anchor Toffee

Bootblack Syrup

Farmer’s Market

Lippitt Park (PVD)

Farm Fresh RI (PVD)

Brooklawn Park (New Bedford)

Burnside Park (PVD)

Burrillville Farmer’s Market (Burrillville)

Greene Farmers Market (Coventry)

Armory Farmers Market (PVD)

Goddard State Park (Warwick)

Fishermen’s Memorial Park (Narragansett)

Schoolyard Market at Hope & Main (Warren)

O’Connell Field (Attleboro)

Pawtuxet Village (Cranston)

Drinks

DIPA+

Ocean Loft by Shaidzon

Rhode Rage by Newport Craft

Stiff Sheet by West Passage

Captain’s Daughter by Grey Sail

Warren G by The Guild

Tonebender by Rejects

You Thirsty by Revival

The All Seeing Eye by Long Live

Liquid Hugs DIPA by Ragged Island

IPA

Evolver 4.0 by The Hive

Tiny Truck IPA by Ragged Island

Crawl, Walk, Run by Apponaug

Musik Express IPA by Narragansett

Object Permanence by Buttonwoods

Cranston Thug Life by Union Station Brewery

Galaxy Elixer by LineSider

What Even Is This? By Origin Beer Project

Trendy Name by Moniker

Tendril by Proclamation

Mayday NEIPA by Bravo Brewing

Tropical IPA by General’s Crossing

Kolsch

Ruby by Six Pack

Canal Street Crushable Ale by Grey Sail

Another Room Without A View by Proclamation

Koelsh by Trinity

Lager

Japanese Lager by Rejects

Meander Through by Apponaug

Irresistible Delicious by PVD Brewing Company

Is This Still Lawn Boy by Titled Barn

Chair 2 Light Lager by Sons of Liberty

Slater by The Guild

Burnout by Taproot

Donde Esta La Biblioteca by Ragged Island

Small Victories by Origin Beer Project

Mexican Dark Lager by General’s Crossing

Pale Ale

Rise by Whalers

Anthem American Pale Ale by Bravo Brewing

Observatory by The Guild

Doug White Ale by Union Station Brewery

Fox Point Ale by Narragansett

Independence American Pale Ale by The Hive

Sea and Sand by Shaidzon

Honey Hibiscus Wit by General’s Crossing

Flavored

Pumpkin Spice Ale by Lops Brewing

Blond Jovi by Linesider

Belgian Strawberry by Trinity

Blueberry American Wheat by Crooked Current

Blueberry Ale by Newport Craft

Light Ale

Debut Single by Moniker

Saison Des Fraise by Ravenous Brewing

Fresh Catch by Narragansett

House by Buttonwoods

Golden Ale & Blondes

Blueberry Blonde by Coddington

G’Day Mate by Buttonwoods

The Meg Blonde Ale by Twelve Guns

Golden Ale by Coddington

Pilsner/Pilsener

Station 3 Pilsner by Lops Brewing

Pilsner by Buttonwoods

Pawtuxet Pilsner by Apponaug

Bohemian Pilsner by Narragansett

PVD Pils by Long Live

Kōwhai by Tilted Barn

West Fountain Street by Beer On Earth

Buffalo Czech Pils by Shaidzon

State of Flow by Moniker

Grassroots Italian-Style Pilsner by The Hive

Lenni by Six Pack

Porter

Espresso Peanut Butter Porter by Lops Brewing

Blueport by Taproot

Marzanna by Beer On Earth

Reds & Browns

Bienvenu by Ravenous Brewing

Irish Red by Twelve Guns

Neopolitan Brown Ale by Crooked Current

Full Keel Brown Ale by West Passage

Sour

Lava Monster by Smug

Pinky Swear by Revival

Mango Vango by Foolproof

Flower Sour by Taproot

Monchito by Whalers

Frozie Cup Donut by Long Live

Sunrise Over Sea by Tilted Barn

Pastry Sour Key Lime Pie by Twelve Guns

Oyster Gose by Newport Craft

Stout

Coffee Milk Stout by Ravenous Brewing

Marshmallow Imperial Stout by Lops Brewing

Barrel Aged Imperial Stout by Rejects

White Stout by Crooked Current

Echo Lake Sunrise by Apponaug

Wear It Out by PVD Brewing Company

Wheat

Summer Sol by Tilted Barn

Summer Wheat by Coddington

Make This Romance Last by Proclamation

Cherry Wheat Ale by Bravo Brewing

Screaming Viking by Trinity

Easy Company Hefeweizen by Bravo Brewing

Holy Mountain by Beer on Earth

Miscellaneous Beer

Oak Aged Cask Barleywine by Norey’s

Stereo > Mono by Proclamation

Big Red Goat by Foolproof

Prosecco by Gooseneck

Malted Barleywine by Malted Barley

Ollie by Six Pack

Cabin Fever by Smug

Seltzers+

Peach Seltzer by Ravenous Brewing

Cannon & Anchor Hard Seltzer by Twelve Guns

Drift by Whalers

Cider

Orchard Blend All In by Sowams

Rhody Coyote by Newport Vineyards

Blueberry Vanilla by Tapped Apple Cider

Whiskey/Bourbon

Honey Chamomile Flavored Whiskey by Sons of Liberty

Puppy Bourbon by White Dog

Cornucopia Whiskey by White Dog

Bourbon by Working Man Distillers

Gin/Vodka

Rhodium Coffee Black Walnut Vodka by RI Spirits

Ornamental Gin by ISCO

True Born Gin by SOL

Rhodium Forager’s Gin by RI Spirits

Rhodium NRG Gin by RI Spirits

Other Spirits

Lella’s Limoncello by White Dog

Coquito Tropical by Papi’s Coquito and Tropical Juices

Battle Cry Single Malt by Sons of Liberty

Agave by South County Distillers

Favorite Beer Fest

Beervana (Cranston, October)

Craft Beer Races (Newport, July)

Newport Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival (Newport, October)

RI Brew Fest (PVD, January)

Witches Brew Fest (Smithfield, October)




Something Weird This Way Comes: NecronomiCon PVD is revived

Photo credit: Todd Chicoine / LASC

NecronomiCon Providence is a four-day convention held in the city Aug 18-21, calling itself the “International Festival of Weird Fiction, Art, and Academia.” Previously held every two years since 2013, due to the pandemic it skipped 2021 and resumes in 2022.

The name is a pun combining the “con” of convention with the fictional “book of the laws of the dead” imagined in the 1920s by horror author HP Lovecraft, native and resident of Providence.

“NecronomiCon has become this international destination for fans and devotees of Weird fiction, from Lovecraft up through myriad modern authors and artists who come to Providence as a nexus for the community of fans of Weird,” said Niels Hobbs, “keeper” (director) of the event. “Weird is one of those things that’s in the eye of the beholder, but I think of it as kind of a special Venn diagram overlap between horror, science-fiction and fantasy. But it’s also its own genre of fiction. Sometimes it’s easier to point to examples rather than definitions, but there are literally hundreds of active authors who could be, maybe, categorized as Weird in some way. Some of them are more horror, some more sci-fi.”

“Lovecraft’s work inspired a host of creative minds, most notably Stephen King, who declared him ‘the greatest horror writer of the twentieth century,’ as well as Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges, and Metallica,” according to a statement from the organizers of the event, which “includes discussion panels, academic talks, author readings, theater performances, gaming, film screenings, and a month-long art exhibition.” In an interview, Hobbs cited the Duffer brothers and their hit show “Stranger Things” as exemplars of Weird.

Guests of honor in 2022 include editor Ann Vandermeer, Argentine artist Santiago Caruso, writers Gemma Files and Cassandra Khaw, game designer Oscar Rios, Canadian filmmaker and critic Kier-La Janisse, British podcaster Jonathan Sims, and the convention’s own poet laureate Bryan Thao Worra. Over 2,000 attendees from over 20 countries typically attend.

The convention events take place at a number of different venues throughout the downtown area. “That’s one of the reasons why the official name of the convention is actually ‘NecronomiCon-Providence’ because it says much about Providence and the uniqueness of Providence and the weirdness of Providence. Rather than just have it, say, in the Convention Center where everyone’s stuck inside of a cement building, so it could be in Kansas as well as it could be in Providence, we actually make the people that come to Providence have to wander the streets and see an amazing city. We use something like a dozen different venues and that makes attendees and guests have to explore Providence, and we’ve never had complaints about that,” Hobbs said. The focus has evolved away from Lovecraft specifically and more toward the broader field of the Weird, Hobbs said, although “there’s very much Lovecraft at the root of it, people actually being able to come to a city and see the landmarks that inspired Lovecraft and places where he wrote.”

“One of the things we try to do is kind of overwhelm people with choices. So at any given time, there’s three or four different panel discussions going on. There’s probably other things happening. There’s film screenings… walking tours of Lovecraft-related sites, and any number of other things, and also just social interactions happening. It’s sort of two different things. If people are coming and attending the convention, try to just pop around and enjoy different things. There’s also gaming going on [where] people can drop in and play a game for a few hours. But we also try to have open programming that anyone from the general public can just walk in and check out some films, pay ten bucks for the day and you see all the films that are screening or pay five bucks and you can go into the vendor hall. Buy some Weird stuff for your Weird friends,” Hobbs said.

Asked, “How many capital-W Weirdos do you get versus lowercase-w weirdos?” Hobbs answered, “It’s one of the reasons why I think people enjoy Providence so much. I mean, Providence is such an amazing, quirky town. I think it’s such a beautiful, unique city. We have people come from 20 different countries usually, and they come and immediately fall in love with Providence history, its creative aspect. So they’re our kind of Weird I should say.”

Lovecraft, who died in 1937, has been widely criticized for racism and xenophobia (“HP Lovecraft: His Racism in Context,” by Michael Bilow, Aug 14, 2019). “It’s a challenge, but we really tried hard, especially over the last few iterations of the convention, to make people know this isn’t strictly about Lovecraft. There will never not be some aspect of Lovecraft in the convention there. There simply has to be, it would be silly to not include him. But for a while, we’ve been realizing there’s so much more to Weird fiction. There’s so much more to Providence than strictly Lovecraft that we can’t keep doing the same program over and over again. I come from an academic background, help stage science conferences and such. So my view is very much that of an academic: Lovecraft isn’t a sacred cow, he is somebody that we should discuss, warts and all. I think that there’s a lot – millions of people around the world – who revere his writing,” Hobbs said.

“People in Portugal consider Lovecraft one of the world’s preeminent authors, which is an astonishing thing. Coming to our store in Providence: we have people from China, we have people from Argentina, we have people from Spain, Italy, all these countries and from all these ethnic backgrounds that Lovecraft himself may have been, frankly, terrified of, yet they have found something special in his fiction. The convention really tries to give a home for everybody and acknowledge the flaws and, at the same time, acknowledge that he is this remarkable, influential author, and then also look beyond that to all the latest authors and the artists who are now expanding the field of fiction. Many of them don’t draw any influence [from Lovecraft], but they’re still kind of in the umbrella of Weird,” Hobbs said.

Asked to comment on the satirical Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, set in the 1950s and featuring an African American protagonist who is an ardent fan of Lovecraft, Hobbs said, “I personally think it’s great. I know there are some people that disagree and there’s also people that completely agree with me that think the book – and then the HBO series that came from it that Misha Green made – are amazing, and I think it’s the right blend of pastiche but also making it relevant and important and making some kind of commentary out of it.” Hobbs continued, “It gets some criticism because it includes a bit of modern politics. I don’t think that’s at all a bad thing. I think that anything that makes Weird fiction and Lovecraftian fiction relevant today, I think it’s a good thing.”

Jordan Peele, who is Black, and his Academy Award-winning (for Best Original Screenplay) anti-racist satire film Get Out also falls within the scope of Weird, Hobbs said. “Jordan Peele is another great example. He is an old nerd who grew up enjoying all the kinds of fiction. One of the things that he’ll say is, when he was a kid, it was hard to find that kind of Weird or sci-fi stuff, where he could see himself. Now there’s many more Black authors, Black filmmakers, artists that are starting to represent a much more complete picture. I personally, I’m kind of psyched that they incorporate Weird sci-fi, Weird horror elements. I’d love to get Jordan Peele to become a guest of honor for us.”

“When people come into our store [in the Providence Arcade] and they’re like, ‘What are you? What is weird fiction?’ We basically can list all these things that they’ve been watching that they’ve been enjoying for the past several years, past decades or more, going back to the Twilight Zone and before that, are absolutely things that fall under the umbrella,” Hobbs said.

Because of the pandemic, the convention itself has faced increased costs, and uncertainty affecting everything from supply chains to airline travel will have unpredictable effects. “When we first started selling passes, we were just excited to have something to look forward to. Now I think the realization is the practicality of travel, especially international travel, is challenging. I’m worried that our international participation won’t be as high as it has been.… We’ll see how we’ll do this year. It’ll still be a great convention, but I’m looking forward to 2024 when we can hopefully, fingers crossed, get back to something more normal. By ‘normal,’ of course, I mean Weird normal,” Hobbs said.

As to COVID-19 accommodation, “We are requiring mask-wearing indoors,” Hobbs said. “We now live in a world where there’s no guarantees, nothing that can foolproof protect us. People making the choice to attend, I’m sure, realize there is some risk, and we just have to do our best to try to mitigate that risk as much as we can. We’ve decreased some of the room [capacities]. We’ve actually spread things out more and require mask-wearing.” Exceptions to mask-wearing will be speakers while actually speaking, for whom it will be optional, as well as events involving active eating and drinking. “All the hotels have assured us that their ventilation systems are up and running well-filtered. It’s nerve racking to put on an international convention and not be able to assure some greater degree of normal safety, but, under the circumstances, I think we’re doing the best that we can.”

The convention typically has drawn over 2,000, but, Hobbs said, “I’ll be perfectly happy if we have 1,500 attendees who have a good time and stay safe. Keep it safe and enjoyable. We were on target to completely overshoot previous records, and we may still be there and we may still break previous records. But my bigger concern – as long as the bills get paid, which is a huge thing – is that everyone has a good time and stays relatively, reasonably safe as well.”

Although committed to running the convention in 2024, Hobbs said he may back away after that. “It’s an awful, arduous experience for all of us. None of us really get paid: a few people get expenses covered and stuff like that, and small stipends because they have to give up work or whatever. This has sort of taken its toll on a number of us mentally and physically.”

The final event closing the convention is a screening of the Lovecraft-inspired film The Dunwich Horror. “The film, it’s kind of grown on me. At first, I was like, ‘Oh, that film is just terrible,’” Hobbs said. “We do this thing that we’ve made a tradition now at the Columbus [Theater on Broadway] on Sunday night. It’s open to the public, $5 admission. We call it The Dunwich Horror Picture Show. It’s kind of our version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but even more weird. Not particularly musical at all, but a really strange 1970s psychedelia movie… which is based on a Lovecraft story, but it’s very much its own trip from the height of psychedelic filmmaking in 1970. And we screen it from a 35mm print which is slowly degrading more and more and more, and people recite their favorite lines, yelling at the screen as the movie is projected. We have a great time with that. So that’s Sunday night at 9pm.… You have a whole room full of people who all, to some extent, know it and can shout along their favorite goofy lines. And there’s plenty of goofy lines in it. Meanwhile, Big Nazo is waving tentacles in your face and you have a good Narragansett beer that you’re drinking. It’s a lot of fun and it’s the very last event of the whole convention. It’s kind of ‘All right, we’re done.’ Now we could just relax.”

When it was pointed out that it would take a lot of Narragansett beers to make that movie watchable, Hobbs said, “We actually are good partners with Narragansett; they’ve helped us out with a lot of stuff. Motif has been an incredible help for us over the years, too. The Providence Tourism Council, Providence Convention Visitors Bureau have been huge supporters and allies for us. We get a variety of private sponsors and public sponsors.”

NecronomiCon-Providence is run by the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council, a non-profit organization that also operates the store in the Arcade at 65 Weybosset St, PVD: weirdprovidence.org

Passes and tickets for the convention as day-passes for film screenings and access to the vendor hall are available on the web: necronomicon-providence.com/passes-and-tickets

Volunteers can earn free passes and other goodies: necronomicon-providence.com/volunteer