Monthly Archives: December 2011

Alone on the Providancefloor

Got in from Boston in a bus packed with Brown University students who took themselves quite seriously, debating for the full hour-and-a-half ride about international policies non-stop (probably getting pumped up for a model-UN Conference or something), leaving Mika and I in a state of stress dangerously close to annoyance when we both realized that cranking up the volume on the Ipod wouldn’t cover their academic chatter anyway.

The anti-gentle driver of the “Peter Pan” Bus threw our bags out the trunk like garbage, which always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Thank God my guitar case fits in the overheads and I don’t have to trust those brutes with it. Mika mumbled a well-deserved “Hey, fuck you” to which the driver replied with a low grumble that (maybe) expressed semi-embarrassment. He then full-throttled through Kennedy Plaza, happy to be relieved of his duties.

After checking out the local high-school ice-skating talents doing a free show outdoors and going through the thin Occupy Providence settlement, we got caught in the usual hell of american public transportation: no schedules listed, no bus numbers or line itineraries on the bus stop pole, just figure it out man! After much confusion and back-sweat, we found the right bus that dropped us in a pretty shady part of town. Firehouse 13 was standing there in its magnificence, unlikely joint located in a dark deserted back-alley behind a Mc Donald’s parking lot ; it’s funny how culture somehow manages to find its way in the cracks of the mainstream entertainment (Remember Ground Zero in the suburban mall…). The staff was extremely nice and supportive, the sound was great and the local acts full of talent (special mention to Keith McCurdy of Vudu Sister, who nailed it with solid heartfelt vocals and strong effective songs) but unfortunately, it was a poorly attended Saturday night shindig. The awesome owner Lizzie made up for it as well as local punk/roots band Revered Bastien’ cover of The Misfits: “Brains for breakfast, brains for lunch, brains for dinner, brains for brunch…”.

We learned some cool things on the ride back thanks to nice fellow Bastien, like how the Italian mobsters ruled Providence for a long time when they came in the 60’s (before being busted and handcuffed after the Reeko act) and reshaped it to resemble their homecountry, building Venice-style water fountains, cobblestoned streets and other great architecture that enhanced the city’s beauty. Built in 1630 and full of nice historical districts (the gorgeous Benefit Street with its old Brown University buildings and student residences, which represents a good third of the city, Wickenden Street and its great strip of privately owned antique shops and coffee houses, and finally India Point Park where the wharves used to swarm with commercial boats’s goods flowing in from India and Africa), it apparently has the biggest design school in the country and as you may see in the pictures, is home to lots of interesting buildings from the late 17th century.

Spending a beautiful sunday walking around to get a sense of what was Providence was about, we were definitely hit with a weird sinking feeling strolling through these pretty but extra-deserted streets, spotting lots of abandoned boarded-up businesses no one seems to bother to pick up, even Downtown. Sometimes a student or two would exit a huge ancient building and pass by with an Iphone with a hood on, like a ghost rushing to its next haunting mission. When feeling uneasy and a little spooked in empty Providence, I couldn’t help but think of the horror master H.P. Lovecraft who used to roam around the West Side of this city, and definitely understood a little more where he got some of his inspiration for coming up with the Miskatonic University, Arkham and the creepy parallel worlds he conceived and located in or around Rhode Island.

Of course, our Couchsurfing host Dan was fantastic, furnishing us with warm welcome (even with repeated late-night arrivals) and delicious breakfast with his favourite hard-to-find hot sauce Lingham’s that he orders by cases from Malaysia from the Internet. Dan’s roommate Brie told us about where she was from in Pennsylvania and mentioned the oddly-named Amish towns of Virginville, Blueballs and Intercourse.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a pleasant surprise, which proves once again that good thing come to the ones who don’t expect them at all. Twenty minutes north of Providence, it was even more deserted and gloomy and when we got off the bus (yes, hell again to hop on that one), I knew we were in for a trip. But as soon as we pushed the door of The News Cafe, odd little bar at a odd corner of an odd town, we were greeted with a larger-than-life smile from Jill the bartender who shouted: “Welcome to Pawtucket, sirs! Please help yourself to the hot-dog table, if you’re hungry, they’re still hot!”. It was all uphill from here, meeting Matt the friendliest booker who performed a great opening set of Nick Drake/Jeff Buckley- influenced songs with a lot of soul, gutsy lines and successful ambient instrumentals. His brother Mike closed the night with a great set, playing tasteful electric guitar that had a fantastic tone, and singing beautiful songs in a raw and energetic voice.

So here is how this week-end went: two poorly unattended shows in a deserted city, which made me feel quite alone on the Providancefloor, but I leave with my pockets full of new friends and great inspirational music. This is why I’m in for.

Advertisements

PROVIDENCE & Pawtucket, RI

An exquisite party at the Whitehaus

The Whitehaus is the kind of spot that America and the rest of the world needs. A place where you can read “sharing is the gateway to abundance” at the bottom of a hand-crafted mug. A place where people hug the real hugs, care with the right care and smile with a straight smile. A place where art is taken seriously without forgetting the fun of it. It is awesomely located in the pulsing heart of Jamaica Plain, or should I rather say, “JayPeeh”, a very multicultural neighborhood, host to a very vibrant art community. We were welcomed with open arms and hearts, and very soon stories were shared: everybody was still very excited about a big show that happened a few days earlier outdoors with twenty underground experimental bands performing in the bear cages of Franklin Park.

The house show there was a blast, the bomb, the bee’s knees of the cheez whiz. When playing, my knees went from trembling to sweating in the matter of half an hour thanks to the quickly rising of the temperature. More than forty music lovers were gathered and sitting quietly on the wooden floor of a great sounding room, leaving me against the wall with the watching eye of godfather Jimi Hendrix watching over me.
The opening act was a fantastic performance from a hot and inspired couple showcasing rare body interactions, but I won’t say much more about it as I put a excerpt from their great piece on the blog for your enjoyment. Deth West and Cha Feliz continued to break the ice of the room full of bodies warming up by delivering some “heavy mellow” music in the form of quiet and fun acoustic punk. Laura Jorgensen’s rich and pretty voice stood strong on top of her bandmates’ tasteful and intricate playing, involving subtle violin, playful trumpet and groovy rhythm section. This great and diverse niht of music wrapped up nicely with an energetic and friendly set by The Meadowlarks, who had never performed their songs live before, even if studio sharks for years. They had this magical crowd up in no time, stomping and chanting, the smiles were too many to keep track of.

After many great conversations and encounters (including the visit of my friend Dexter, who used to play bad-ass bass in The Keys in Montreal, and his awesome bandmate Nigel, studying music in Boston) We slept in the same room where the show had taken place, which I always love: feeling the electricity slowly settling down, the thick human warmth hanging in the air, the scent of all these sweaty bodies squeezed up in a tiny space for one short magical moment still lingering around and tickling the nostrils… The Whitehaus is the kind of spot that I want to go to and come back from.

Mouth and Mind-blowing Performance @ The Whitehaus

Excerpt from the performance: “It would be a period of detailed order” by Brooklyn-based duo Weston Minissali and Brooke Herr. Filmed by Boris Paillard at The Whitehaus, Boston, Ma on December 2nd, 2011.
Meet, greet and congratulate at promnightrecords.com / westonminissali@gmail.com / brooke.e.herr@gmail

Boston, MA & The Whitehaus

Franky Hurricane @ The Whitehaus

We asked the awesome Franky Hurricane from the great band Knight:Owls what was this sign he was doing all the time when putting his hands together like this. “Does this mean like the Whitehaus is some sort of holy house?” He said yes.

Ground Zero – Allenstown, NH

Hitting the Ground (Zero) Running!

After a smooth ride through the gorgeous Vermont hills and forests, we finally made it to the tiny state of New Hampshire, famous for its 300 state representatives only paid 200$ a year, mostly retired old guys loving the dirty local politics of it (info given by exquisite Couchsurfer host Ryan). After a quick visit (it couldn’t be that long anyway) of Concord, tiny state capital, my amigo and I got picked up at the happening “Dos Amigos” burrito place to head towards the venue of the night: Ground Zero! A Christian family-owned and run all-ages venue in Out Of The Way, New Hampshire. The 20 minute-ride from Concord was pleasant and informative thanks to Patrick’s gruesome tales about one of the major annual events of the area: the big car racing, which in his own words involves “a lot of irresponsible drunks with kids in the middle running wild and free”. Apparently, a third of the camping visitors don’t even make it to the end and get arrested before the actual race, or just pass out somewhere for two days and miss the whole thing. His description of the behavior and looks of the drunks reminded me of that haunting novel “Feast of the Snakes” book by Harry Crews, in which the author describes the self-destructive binging of all these campers coming for some snake-hunting festival in a village in the South, only famous for this event.

The glowing sign of the “Ground Zero” venue was quite a sight in the chilly and extra-quiet evening: here was this unlikely little haven for indie culture in the corner of a suburban mall, conveniently situated next to a Family Dollar store. Oddly enough, it contains a now defunct video-game shop (the court said it was a pawn shop=illegal, the upset guy was packing up his Nintendo64 games in front of us) and a huge cosy room that felt empty despite the 10-something cranberry juice-sipping crowd that gathered in there to listen to alternative music on a cold weeknight. There were a lot of preachy but somehow fun posters, flyers and tracts everywhere like “Kids always regret abortion”, “Every porno has somebody’s daughter in it” or my personal fave: “Virginity Rocks! I love my husband and I haven’t even met him!”. Some interesting graffiti was displayed on the walls to decorate the space, striving to mix bad-ass legit street art with ancient christianity messages, as for example this huge tagged barbed-wire crowned Jesus face on top of which was written “Hardcore Forgiveness”.

The 4 teen openers played some pretty bland and repetitive high school/heartfelt/highly hormonal songs of the Dashboard Confessional breed, but Dorothy’s set (Getting Found) stood out with really charming and touching words, delivered in a clear Brian Molko-like voice on a way out-of-tune guitar. I remember enjoying a rhyme going like “stop using me like a blanket/i should take all your money and just bank it” and a line something like “you might have screwed me over but at least you didn’t screw me”, that’s golden stuff right there. Of course, there was some mandatory lines involving “Jesus loves me yes I know, because the Bible tells me so” but it didn’t break the flow of the great personal storytelling she kept providing. All in all, it was an OK night as we were surrounded with very friendly music-loving people and funny chatty children (We now know all about some clubhouse a girl built in the woods, in which there’s a spy room, a guest room and then they had a party there once with chips and orange juice and then it snowed so on…) but definitely a frustrating feeling of starting my tour with a extra-small crowd and no compensation. Still a worthy experience of course.

Apart from a sore throat totally numb from sucking all day on Hall’s and Chloraceptic tablets, the travel is going smooth and sweet and the weather surprisingly mild. Mika has been gathering fantastic footage for our documentary that I can’t wait to share. Boston was fantastic but this is another story and we’re on our way to Rhode Island now…

Next post: Boston and the amazing show at the mighty Whitehaus, holy of the holies, where 40+ people crammed into a room pushing the performers against the wall, excluding another 20 squished in the hallway trying to get in and listen.
For now, I’d like to leave you with the words Franky Hurricane kept saying enthusiastically (that we had the chance to interview today, from the band Knight:Owls): “Stay high, stay hydrated Gangstaaa!”.

First Day – Concord, NH

Tagged
Advertisements