Last yearís Best Music Poll winners Planet Groove are in the midst of doing some tinkering to their lineup these days, in an attempt to take their Latin rock/pop/jazz sounds to the next level. The band, together 10 years later this year, play two huge gigs this week ó one at Chanís on Saturday, and one an official Cinco de Mayo down at the Ocean Mist on . . . yeah, you guessed it, May 5.
"Weíve wanted to build something unique but marketable for quite a while now," says drummer Ajay Coletta. "The challenge was trying to find the right membership to make it to the next level. Weíve had some wonderful players in our ranks. Now, finally, we have what weíre looking for."
Enter vocalist Wilson Suarez. Born in the Dominican Republic, the singer extraordinaire played with a variety of successful Latin music acts, including a 16-piece salsa group picked up by Sony International. Suarez has also toured in US and Europe. His addition has prompted the band to make significant changes in the Planet Groove sound and style.
"Itís something weíve always loved and a niche thatís not filled around New England," says Coletta. "We didnít want to compete against blues and jam acts anymore. But we were percussion-heavy already, so it made sense to move more in that direction."
Though Suarez, a talent they found through a local Latin radio station, has been with the band less than four months, Planet Groove already found the time to cut a demo. "Itís primarily cover tunes," says Coletta, "because we could learn those songs the quickest. Doing covers is not taboo in the Spanish market like it is in the US market. They encourage it. But this spring and summer weíll be starting to write original tunes with Wilson." A quick listen to the demo, Rojo Vivo, shows an outfit eager to move into more traditional Latin idioms, with Suarezís powerful voice leading the way.
The band is also keen on bringing the singer along as a rocker and incorporate some Latin rock crossover material, a la Santana and Los Lobos. "The blues and rock feel makes us more diverse; with the instrumentation we enjoy, itís a good complement to our piano-driven, polyrhythmic stuff," Coletta says.
Speaking of polyrhythms, the band also welcomes El Salvadoran percussionist Jaime Hernandez to the fold. "He came into the audition with a style all his own," says Coletta. "We thought he was messing up, but he really has a traditional style that is very unique. It adds another dimension to the sound."
With the Hispanic pop idiom one of the fastest growing among all popular musics, Planet Groove ó a marquee band on our little scene ó is poised to take full advantage, with a new lineup and a newly defined vision for its sizzling Latin vibe.
Planet Groove plays Chanís on Saturday, May 1 from 8 to 11 p.m. and at the Ocean Mist on Wednesday, May 5, where there will be plenty of Mexican food to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
TAKINGITTOTHESTREETS. The Providence Invasion is on again, says organizer Sean Sands over at Rattlehead Central. Theyíre looking for 40-plus bands to toe the lunchtime line this year. Huh? You mean you donít know about the Invasion?Hereís the info:
At high noon in the middle of the work week, a slew of bands will hit the streets to perform at predetermined locations for one hour. Crews from a multitude of media organizations (print/TV/radio) will do on-location reports. For 60 minutes, downtown Providence will be invaded by local music. Itís a beautiful thing ó 100 percent pure promotion and community spirit.
"This is the easiest gig youíll ever book," says Sands. "Thereís room for everyone, and everyone gets the same headlining set. All you have to do is step up and make a difference."
Of course, some bands canít play during the day as a full band, or have trouble doiní the unplugged thing. But, according to Sands, thatís OK. "You can get involved by helping out in an administrative position. We need generals, couriers, sound people, promo people . . . all kinds of folk to make this happen. Itís a lot of work, but itís the toughest job youíll ever love."
If youíre interested in participating, or have questions, go to www.rattlehead.com/invasion or call 383-6688.
UNDERGROUND. A bit of a pall has been cast on Little Stevenís Underground Garage Battle of the Bands, to be held here this weekend at the Call. While the intention is good and the quality of music being staged is pretty high, the host city is not adequately represented. This is by no means an indictment of the personalityís fine radio show. But if youíre holding a competition in a particular city, you should make sure that the lionís share of participants come from that city. "It seems that actually itís just another case of the Providence music scene taking a hit," says Mark from a local band that didnít make the cut. "At least eight of the 19 bands (perhaps more) were actually Boston bands and had little or no connection to our city." Local participants include the Dino Club, the Marlowes, Blues Bastard, Grandevolution, and area punkers Meat Depressed. This is not enough for a contest being held within our city limits. "Local bands have a hard enough time as it is getting gigs and exposure in this town," Mark continues. "It seems to me that if this battle comes around to our town again next year, a few rules ought to be followed a little more closely."
WANDERING EYE. Tonight (Thursday the 29th) at the Brown University Underground (75 Waterman Street) from 8 to 11 p.m., Triple M Threat, the Quails, and Secret Cock play a free show. All comers welcome. And good luck to Beyond Blonde tonight when they perform in the finals of the Battle of the Bands at the End Zone, on 105 Washington Street in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The cover charge is $5.
On Friday (the 30th), local acoustic act Folks Together open for the legendary Eric Andersen at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River. Call (508) 324-1926 for info, or check out www.ncfta.org. Also on Friday at 9 p.m., Otis Read, Phil Edmonds, Michelle Levy, and Peter Breen enliven the Tinkerís Nest in Warren.
The Blizzard of í78 is finally back in action with a completed album in the can and ready for a summer. Hear some new songs on their website: www.theblizzardof78.net. To kick things off, the band is headlining a benefit show at URIís Edwards Auditorium on Saturday. All the details about the show can be found here: www.MusicLives.org. The proceeds from the show will be donated to the Station Family Fund.
Next Wednesday, Black Forest/ Black Sea will throw a CD release bash with Nottinghamís Saint John and the Audrey Ryan Band at AS220. BF/BS just returned to Providence after a four-month European tour, where they played more than 80 shows.
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Issue Date: April 30 - May 6, 2004
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