April 17th, I ended up having to work late, which is never fun on a Friday night, especially when you have plans to go to a show! I finished about an hour late and hopped in the new (to me) car and headed to Providence to pick up m’lady, worried we wouldn’t make the opening act we hopped on the highway and headed to Narragansett. About a 45 to 60 min drive we had plenty of time to complain about the weather, Rhode Island drivers, and how we hadn’t the chance to eat anything before we hit the road. As we got closer to our destination, even in the heavy rain we were reminded of, and longing for the summer, definitely going to have to grab season passes to the beach this year, if only The Wheelhouse offered season passes as well, they have quite the season of shows coming up. We arrived and paid the cover, finding out we had over an hour before Three South opened for Pete Francis with Barefoot Truth, our hunger took hold.
Nicole and I bellied up to the bar in a few open seats on the far end next to another couple who’d just finished ordering. The tenders were swamped as a flood of people started arriving for the show, we grabbed some menus and looked over our options. In my standard indecisive nature I had glossed over the menu 3 times by the time the bartender made it back over to take our order. Having no food choice I ordered two beers and asked Nicole if she wanted anything (I was banking on the bartender disappearing for a while), she just wanted one for the time being and he went back to the oncoming crowd. About this time the couple next to us were getting their popcorn shrimp and struggling to hold out their camera to take a decent picture of themselves. I offered my feeble photography services if they would do the same for us. After they obliged, I looked at the quick image on my camera and realized I am the least photogenic person on the planet, how lucky I am to have scored such a hottie, and that popcorn shrimp would be my choice.
Gazing across the bar, and noticing my bartender was elbow deep in mixing cocktails for a gaggle of college girls I thought I spotted Jack Gauthier at one of the bar tables, amazingly the bartender arrived back with our beer and took our food order. I thought I recognized his picture from various local musician’s myspace pages, and it ill mannered to abandon my girlfriend at the bar to go randomly converse with a man who may, or may not be who I think he is.
Having only recently discovered Barefoot Truth and Pete Francis I was only vaguely familiar with their work through research I’d done on myspace. Trying to get a better familiarity with the local scene I started listening to Barefoot Truth when I noticed they were from Mystic CT, the first band from Connecticut to catch my attention. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had been around since 2003, I’d only ever heard of an Aquarium and Pizza from Mystic before. Pete Francis, it seemed, was the most popular of the performers for the evening, and was a member of Dispatch, a band that was wildly popular in Boston when I was in college, and still very popular around these parts to local musicians. Personally, I can’t claim any familiarity with their work other than coming home from work in college to find my fraternity brothers, wasted, and raving about Dispatch’s free concerts at the Hatch Shell and how hippie chicks were smokin. Three South started to warm up as I was shoving the last beer-battered crustacean into my mouth and we quickly cleared our tab and headed out to the show room.
Three South opened their set with a cool trippy jazzy jam number, the just went with some grooves and rode them out, it later came to my attention that their drummer had difficulty securing transport to the venue, and William Evans from BFT was sitting in (while having a cigarette between breaks I happened to bump into him on the deck), behind the kit. It struck me again, the kinship between local acts and how they look out for each other, he wasn’t familiar with their songs, and they played an improvisation just to make sure they could start their set on time. Alex Curnow was on lead vocals and guitar, laying out some nice riffs. Jon Ostrow played bass and was quite busy, fleet of fingers while up and down the frets.
Chris Gagnon was really great on the saxophone, and probably lends most to my calling their jams jazzy. Once Matt Gilmette arrived the 3 of Three South on stage rejoiced, and thanked William as he handed the sticks and kit on over. They quickly got to business and started to play what they called a new song. I don’t recall lyrics or much but I do being reminded of Phish’s “Esther.” Next they repositioned some of the microphones on stage, sped up the pace to a furious country blues number that actually was “My Sweet One” by Phish:
After the arrival of Matt, the whole band really gelled, Mr. Evans did a fantastic job filling in on drums and jamming out with them, but their cohesion and familiarity really shone through when the full lineup arrived. The guitar and sax were back and forth with solos the whole set, playing very well together. I’d go see them again, and had planned to attend the URI hempfest on Sunday to catch many acts I’ve been following, but never quite made the trip.
It took fifteen minutes or so for the opener to clear the stage and get everything setup for the main event, I took the set change as and opportunity to suck down a cigarette and refill my empty cup. I arrived back to a much more crowded stage area and a cramped looking Nicole. BFT took to the stage first manning their stations ready to assault the crowd with their folk rock styling during loud applause at first, into an eruption when Pete Francis hit the stage with tousled hair and baby blue guitar. Having just released “Wake the Mountain,” a joint EP, they traded songs composed by one and other flawlessly. I remember “Go Ridin’” and “One Train” and “Broken Road” from the EP I bought at the end of the show (love reference material.) All night I was floored with the versatility of the musicians on stage. Songs ranged in style and instrumentation tremendously. Pete Francis brandished his acoustic and John Jay Driscoll traded his beautiful Gibson semi-hollow (so much so I exclaimed “OMG look at that guitar its amazing”) to Andy Wrba for his bass to do a superb version of “Burnin’ Down the River:”
It was at this time Pete invited some guests on stage. First was a lovely lady whose name I missed in the furvor of applause between songs. He introduced the song as a brand new one he had been working on, presumably aftet the “Wake the Mountain” was recorded while on this tour with Barefoot Truth. Switching instruments showcasing various acoustic arrangements and at one point inviting, none other than, their friend and producer Jack Gauthier to join them on stage equpit with a mandolin, it was a folky jammy sort of night. Just my style! William Evans was fantastic on drums and vocals silmultainuously, and even had time to come out and play some acoustic guitar. John Jay Driscoll was back and forth between the red Gibson (or Epiphone) semi-hollow for which I fell in love and what I could only call a lap maple (for lack of an official term, it was an acoustic guitar, held on the lap designed for slide playing) . Wayno played some impressive keys, pounding them so hard at one point his stand shook. Andy Wrba impressed on electric bass and guitar, but notably abscent was the double bass sound I’d been used to through my research (I love me some double bass, but also realize the impracticality of touring with an instrument of such size). Pete Francis’ style melded perfectly, they all sounded as though they’d been a single band for years. Hands down my favorite aspect of the night was Garrett Duffy on the harmonica, always one of my favorite instruments and so rarely utilized to its fullest potential, let me tell you the whole room was humming and bopping to the sound of his harp playing. Barefoot Truth took the helm at one point plaing a fantastic version of “Walk Softly,” the title track of their 2007 album:
As I headed out the door a bit early to beat the crowd I made sure to pick up some CDs as the whole night was fabulous. I wish I could have stayed for the entirety but it was getting quite late and we had quite a drive. “”Wake the Mountain” and “Walk Softly” have both turned out to be well worth the $15 total at the end of the show. It turns out both albums were produced by Jack Gauthier, who through my research I’ve determined also produced Dispatch. No wonder the mere mention of his name causes most local musicans to pop wood!