Saturday July 11th was the culmination of The Black Rep‘s (site has inline sound) week long genre defying music festival, The Providence Sound Session. Featuring no less than 18 musical acts on two separate stages, it was responsible for the sudden outbreak of dancing in the streets all day long. Knowing the whole shebang started at noon I tried to rouse myself as early as possible. Excited for weeks, I’d been prompting my brother Tim and m’lady Nicole to come along with me for the free day of music. Nicole was brave enough to join me for the day but Tim had yet to rouse from his slumber so I set off to Providence solo to grab her, before heading down to Westminster Street.
Nicole and I arrived towards the end of Tevellus‘ set, just in time for me to catch their last number, “Turkish Samba,” as we approached the main stage:
A fully instrumental number it was fast paced and exciting, with both Spanish and Indian sounds, it got the gathering crowd moving early, most still polishing off an iced coffee. On stage were Glenn Alexander playing drums, Derrick Cordeiro on 12 string acoustic guitar, Mike “The Fever” Cordeiro playing keyboards, Zachary Paquette on bass, and Matt Tarpy on electric guitar creating the music and Sasha the fire gypsy & Ms. Fury were as equally as intriguing providing visual interpretations of the music with brightly color cloth swatches. It was quite the show and I’ll look forward to catching a full set next time I have the chance to see them perform.
Chris Rosenquest was scheduled to perform next, as Tevellus began to clear the stage, Tim called and said he was looking for us on Westminster so we retreated back through the wealth of vendors in search of him, making special note of the team making fresh kettle corn. Snagging three ‘Gansett tall boys, the we made it back over toward the stage for the beginning of Rosenquest’s set. Breaking out my camera I captured his first three songs, “Cheri,” Hannah,” and “When Are You Gonna Change:”
I’ve had the chance to watch Chris perform a few times before but always as a Writer in the Round, this was the first chance I’d gotten to see one of his solo performances. Taking center stage Chris liberally used loops and samples of himself to give “Cheri” further depth. Breathing life into his poetic lyrics, Chris sang and howled his distinctive brand of gritty folk for his home town crowd, obviously excited to be a part of the festival. Capoing on the fourth fret for “Hannah,” Rosenquest displayed more intricate rhythmic strum and finger picking patterns, lyrically and vocally wearing his heart on his sleeve. Utilizing loops again, “When Are You Gonna Change” seemed an introspective and cathartic piece for Chris, howling at the microphone to let out his inner frustrations. He continued his set with other original works I believe to be titled “Press On,” “Red Moon,” and “Oh Mama.” Overall a very impressive performance, rife with emotion and live self production. The next scheduled band to appear was unable to attend due to unforeseen travel troubles so Nicole, Tim and I made our way out, wandering in search of an ATM while someone took to the stage to play some CDs. After all, I wasn’t going to be supplying ‘Gansetts all day!
Completing our ATM missions, we arrived back just in time to catch Zili Misik‘s opening number, “Neges Ibo:”
Starting their song the ladies of Zili Misik, dressed all in white began to sway in a synchronized dance and sang with entrancing harmonies. Delivering on their promise to “take us to a beautiful Haiti,” they began a tropical jazzy and uplifting song, packed with energy, hand drums, horns and soulful vocals I couldn’t stop myself from shaking along to the vibe. The crowd began to pick up the energy as well and dance along. As Westminster began to fill, my stomach began to growl and I danced my way to the food vendors, dragging my cohorts along with me. In my standard indecisive nature I made two rounds taking in all the sights and aromas of the street festival before deciding on some good old fashioned soul food. As I began to devour my fried chicken and collard greens like a ravenous dog, I heard commotion from behind the Black Rep and suggested we make our way back to see what was happening. Passing through the alley we arrived at the Jam Stage at the end of Dani Danger‘s set during her bluesy performance of “Hit the Bricks.” Dissapointed In my own time management I decided to stay put and enjoy my lunch during the stage change for Spogga.
Hitting the stage solo, Spogga began his experimental set, utilizing looping technology to create a one man band sound. I had the chance to capture his first three songs, “Old School, New School,” “Laugh with You,” and “Standing By:”
Self live production is becoming an ever more prevalent talent for solo performers, and Spogga has had years of practice perfecting this art. During “Old School, New School,” he looped a reggae sounding guitar riff and utilized his semi-hollow sound hole to echo backing vocals into the loop. Using his guitar pickup as a percussion instrument, Spogga began his next loop, to start “Laugh with You” blazing a bluesy trippy guitar riff and jamming out for a while. Actually upon rewatching some of the video the first two may actually be one song, the loop and jam changed, but used the similar sparse lyric “Laugh with You”. “Standing By” showcased quite a bit of singing, and hip-hop flow, and his deepest lyrics of the set. It was easily apparent Spogga loves what he does, and is quite the entertainer. Music director at The Spot on Thayer, I should have plenty more chances to check out his experimental style. As Spogga continued his set, Nicole and I went back around front to the main stage to catch a bit of Infusion Experience‘s set, and had the opportunity to clip two of their Latin Jazz numbers:
The flamenco style of the first song had me shaking me hips, the tone made be believe it was a romantic song, with the lyrics Spanish I was really only able to pick up on “baila,” and dance I did. David Upegui was playing trumpet and providing lead vocals, Todd Andreozzi on nylon string acoustic guitar, Kurt Rowlinson on electric bass and a yet to be named percussionist made up the Infusion Experience. The second song, fully instrumental also had romantic tones, and each musician had the chance strut their stuff.
Turning right back around again, Nicole and I traversed the alley back to the Jam stage to catch the next band, for which I still have no name, they provided an ambient bluesy rock song:
Around this time my friends Sean and Becky arrived and we discussed the happenings so far of the day. I mentioned the street full of vendors, and Sean’s eyes lit up at the prospect of kettle corn. We chatted as we meandered through the crowd in search of the wondrous snack. When I arrived back at the Jam stage, Fungus Amungus was warming up. I wasn’t quite prepared with my camera for their rocking opener “Matilda,” but I had chance to catch the remainder of the set, “Roller Skates,” Sophistafunk,” “Injustice,” “This Man,” and “Frankenstein:”
Chelsy Lau began singing lead vocals, Johnny Lingo whaled on the keyboards, Jarrod was on saxophone, Zach Fenner played guitar, Mike provided the bass lines and Joe Jannerelli was behind the kit for Fungus and they brought the funk during Steel Pulse’s “Roller Skates”. Following suit they continued the classic funk foray with the Bomb Squad’s “Sophistafunk.” No one in the crowd was still, feet began to follow the funky bass grooves during a fun sax lead segment. Johnny Lingo took over lead vocals for the remainder of the set as Chelsy made her exit, beginning with “Injustice,” a cover song of unknown origin (at least to me). It was a funky little reggae, which Zach blazed a long solo segment towards the end. Fungus played Johnny Lingo’s song “This Man” next, with a decidedly funk arrangement compared to its bluesy origin on 2008’s “Shake it Off.” Always one of my favorites in Fungus’ set, everyone really lets loose, this version had tremendous extended organ and guitar solos. As with many larger music festivals, the schedule had gotten a little off, Fungus hit the stage about 30 minutes after they were scheduled, resulting in a slight shortening of their set. Knowing they had time for only one more song, they broke into a cover of The Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.” Released in 1971, and the last instrumental song to hit number 1 on the billboard charts, it had the working name of “Double Drum Solo,” and thus gives the perfect platform for Joe to showcase his skills. It was an exciting rock dessert, to the main course of funk provided during their set. After the Fungus set, Nicole was musiced out, it had been a long day, and she was a trooper for staying with me so long. I walked her back out of the crowd as she made her exit.
GROW took to the stage next, and was the headlining act for the Jam Stage. Consisting of Matt Odabashian on vocals and keyboards, Mike Odabashian on drums, Gaku Murata on guitar, Nate Beauvais on bass, Ian Katz on Tenor Sax and vocals and Sneak Techniks providing the flow, GROW provided a soulful hip-hop flavored R&B funk set. I took the chance to clip the opening of their set and captured “Take from the Innocent,” “Keep Fighting,” “Bloodwater,” and “She Gives Me Pain,” before almost running out my power in my 2nd battery.
Matt’s soulfully sung verses were complimented with Sneak’s rapped verses, like two sides to a coin, “Take From the Innocent” wouldn’t be complete without the contrast. Gaku took a melodic and inspirational solo before Mike signaled a groove change with a cymbal crash and they began “Keep Fighting.” Sneak took the opportunity to pump the crowd for energy before breaking in to the more heavily hip-hop flavored song and providing the majority of the rapped primary verses. Matt sang lead for the secondary verses of the song and was the musical standout for the number with a great organ lead musical segment. Ian provided further backing vocals in between sax riffs. Ian took the musical center stage for their next number “Bloodwater,” and his ripping sax lends mostly to this being their jazziest and funkiest song of the set. Matt sang primary vocal verses again, with Sneak reiterating the end points and Ian providing harmonizing backing vocals. Sneak was dropping the cadence for the secondary verses while grooving to the sounds GROW was laying out. “She Gives Me Pain” continued in the jazz funk vein. Showcasing Matt musically at first it contained a great piano lead segment, accompanied by a steady groovy bass line, and quick drum fills. Nate and Mike kept up the bread and butter back beat as Gaku tore into a smooth guitar solo with bluesy hint. After four songs nearing 25 minutes of straight jams, GROW finally slowed down and addressed the crowd. Thank goodness, my arm was getting exhausted! I put the camera away and put my dancing Birkenstocks on for the rest of the set. Playing an astounding cover of “Billie Jean” really got the crowd into the set, who were dancing and grooving along with the band. It was an excellent set to catch GROW for the first time, and I can’t wait till they come back around to see them again. As the Staff began to clear the Jam Stage area, to convert it into a night time pay concert area for some international stars, I made my way back through the alley to Westminster and prepared myself for Santa Mamba‘s set.
My cell phone rang, it was Tim with his buddy Manzi in tow, lost amidst the sea of people in the, now immense, crowd on Westminster. After gathering my brother and his cohort we made our way down front for the best viewing angle. Low on batteries I had the chance to only capture their set opener “La Mentira:”
Gio Murillo sang and played acoustic rhythm guitar, John Medeiros played lead guitar, switching between an electric shoulder strung and a mounted acoustic, Aaron Wade manned the keyboards and provided backing vocals, Nick Wage was on bass guitar and also provided backing vocals, John Ferreira was at the helm of the drum kit and Gary Mendoza rounded out the Sound Session Search Peoples Choice winners, playing additional percussion. The opening song, as with most of their set, had an epic rock sound with Latin undertones. Great showman with vast amounts of energy it was easily apparent why they had gotten the most public votes, their sound and presence seemed to engulf the crowd. I ran out of batteries at the end of the song, and was only able to muster enough power for a couple of still photos. Songs were in both English and Spanish, but regardless of understanding the lyrics, I was motivated to move! I stayed for a few more songs, but quickly hit a brick wall of exhaustion halfway through the set. Must have been due to the energy expended dancing my ass off after running out of batteries. I regretted not being able to stay for the duration of the finale, parade and all, but as I danced my way out of the masses fully ecstatic with the fantastic festival put forth by The Black Rep.