In most circles, Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer, and I guess thereís not much use arguing that. But take heart ó Labor Day weekend around these parts means itís time for another installment of the Rhythm & Roots Festival down in Ninigret Park. This weekend marks the sixth time the gang convenes down in South County and, frankly, it seems to get better every year.
"Itís a fun festival," says two-time performer Marcia Ball, who will figure prominently on the main stage Saturday night. "Itís a great time to get together with friends and hear some great musicians."
Ball has some history with folks in South County, having been a part of the beeline that ran between Austin, Texas and Westerly in the late í70s and í80s. Her former drummer Fran Christina, a Westerly native, also played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Asleep At the Wheel, and many others after moving to Austin. Ball is also friendly with the likes of local legends Duke Robillard and swing-king Johnny Nicholas.
"Mainly, Ninigret is about the music," says Ball, whose new album, So Many Rivers, proves her voice is simply getting better with age. "I love it for that reason alone. This area takes its roots music very seriously."
The festival this weekend also includes a healthy helping of zydeco and Cajun tuneage with Geno Delafose, Chris Ardoin, Steve Riley, and Andre Thierry. And roots music is well-represented, with Brave Combo, slide icon Sonny Landreth, Big Sandy and His Flyrite Boys, and Little Feat, who will headline on Sunday.
Respected songwriter and performer Jim Lauderdale will play with his friends, festival vets Donna the Buffalo, on Saturday. "Iím looking forward to checking it out," says Lauderdale, who is making his first trip to the Charleston site. "I have a lot of friends and fans in the area, so it should be fun." DTB, an Ithaca roots and rhythm rock outfit, will play their own set, then Lauderdale will join them as frontman for a set mostly culled from Wait Til Spring, the album they recently made together. Lauderdale thinks highly of his new, temporary backing band. "Iím inspired by them live," he says. "Theyíre their own entity and they bring something different to my music because theyíve got their own style, this indefinable thing about them." Itís enough to make a clumsy man . . . well, dance. "Iím not a dancer," Lauderdale admits, "but it makes me wanna move. I try to hide out a little so I donít look like a fool, but itís almost impossible not to dance."
The Rhythm & Roots Festival features four stages of music, including an all-day dance tent, instrument lessons in different genres, a workshop stage, and a family stage with childrenís activities and storytelling, and camping and swimming on-site. Daily tix are $35 at the gate, kids under 12 are free. Check www.rhythmandroots.com for updated schedule listings.
SUMMERíS END FESTIVAL. A free performance by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and the North Star Jazz Ensemble highlights the 2003 Summerís End Festival on Saturday (the 30th) at Eldredge Field in East Greenwich. This unofficial last hurrah of summer for the burg began eight years ago as a free outdoor concert celebrating community spirit. This year organizers expect to draw close to 10,000 listeners. The North Star crew will hit the stage at 5:30 p.m. Bruce Abbott (sax/flute), Marty Ballou (bass), Ron Fournier (piano), and Paul Mason (drums) have been playing together for nearly 25 years, and officially formed the ensemble in 1995. The bandís 11 recordings have sold more than 200,000 copies, and feature some of the areaís best soloists and ensembles, including Tony Bennett guitarist Gray Sargent, and the Boston Symphony Orchestraís Hawthorne String Quartet. The bandís latest release, Sax Across America, (North Star), pays tribute to this great land of ours with a series of snazzy tunes with a regional flair: "Moonlight In Vermont," "Tennessee Waltz," "Georgia On My Mind" ó you get the picture. The collection is impeccably chosen and beautifully played, framed in mellow, traditional arrangements. In other words, itís grown-up music. If you wanna impress a date with class she never knew you had, bring her to EG this Saturday.
WANDERING EYE. Tonight (Thursday, the 28th), the Call will host a night of good olí-fashioned roots íní roll, with the Rhode Island debut of Rich Gilbert & the Velvet Swingers, the new band led by the vet of the Blackstone Valley Sinners and Frank Black & the Catholics.
In addition to its namesake, the Swingers also features Mike Castellana on pedal steel guitar, Rich Cortese on bass, and Larry Dersch on drums. They say theyíll be performing "an intoxicating set of country jazz originals." Also on the bill will be the íMericansí debut show with their new drummer, Rafael Attias. Chris, Tom, Jeffrey, and Will are now a five-piece. Opening the evening will be Attias himself, performing a solo set on the guitar. Festivities get underway at 9 p.m. Go to www.thecallingnightclub.com for more details.
On Friday (the 29th), Firda will be at Patriciaís Pub in North Prov. Itís a sweet new place for live music, so head on over and watch the girls rock out. Call 726-8889. Also on Friday, the Amazing Mudshark hits the Rhino Bar in Newport. Go to www.therhinobar.com for more details. Acclaimed local jammers the Jazz Bastards will play three sets at the Bon Vue Inn (on Ocean Road in Narragansett) on Friday. Their second CD is due out this fall.
Also on Friday, Chanís Egg Roll and Jazz Concert Series will present the Doug James and "Sax" Gordon Beadle Big Band at 8 p.m. Admission is $15. For information, directions, or reservations, call 765-1900.
Bastards of Melody will be at the Blackstone in Cumberland on Friday. The bill also features $kyhigh, the Naked Sams, and Rosemary Crass. The Bastards specialize in high-velocity garage-type rock, and midtempo jangle-pop. Visit them at www.bastardsofmelody.com.
Jay Berndt, formerly of prominent local band Kilgore (Smudge), hasnít played a show in Providence in more than four years. "I got burned up and burned out from dealing with managers, lawyers, and record companies and just dropped out," he says. Until now. Berndt has a new band called Stroker Ace. "Itís got an AC/DC, Mötorhead, Misfits vibe mixed with some í70ís mustache classic rock thrown in," he notes. Stroker Ace will be at the Met Café this Saturday (the 30th) with Ded Space (from Boston) and Trandsend (ex-Carrion). "Weíre not looking for a record contract or to change the world," says Jay, "just to have some good rock íní roll fun." Amen, friend.
Bigtime BMP winners Planet Groove has some cool stuff going on, including a big three-night stand at Foxwoods (the 29th-31st). And speaking of shows, since Memorial Day of this year, the band has had a total of 30 gigs in the vicinity. Not bad for a bunch of guys with full-time jobs and families.
This Saturday night itíll be punk rock galore at T.T. the Bears in Cambridge, as Pete Depressed brings on his Return to the Scene of the Crime CD release party. The disc, a follow-up to the successful, and one would guess, helluva good time Scene of the Crime disc, which featured recording 24 bands in 24 hours at a studio up in Maine. The same drag-race recording principal applied this time. The Queers and the Jabbers headline the show with hour-long sets, and there will be shorter sets by the remainder of the bands featured on the CD. Get there early! The show will sell out!
GOOD LUCK to blues magoo Bob Angell. Seems the journeyman talent has been to London and Liverpool recently, primarily to cover the John Mayall/Eric Clapton reunion gigs for a blues ízine. And Memphis is on his upcoming itinerary, where he has plans to record his new album at historic Sun Studio.
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Issue Date: August 29 - September 4, 2003
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