Jacob Nathan grew up in Boston and now lives in Providence, RI where he is the Lead Production manager at AS220, a non-profit arts organization with four rotating gallery spaces, a performance space, a youth program, a recording studio, a print shop, a darkroom and media arts lab, a high-tech fabrication and electronics lab, a black-box theatre, a dance studio, four dozen affordable live/work studios, an AS220 owned and operated bar and restaurant, plus a handful of locally-grown non-profit and commercial tenants.
Did you know that you it’s possible to take the T to Providence? Rent’s also pretty cheap down here Bostonians… just saying… and there’s lots of show spaces. More pertinent however is this list of things that made the AS220 Performance space really happy this year! New Years resolution suggestion: make it your 2014 resolve to get deep into the wonders down under:
HALLOWEINERS: Halloween is the de-facto religious holiday of Providence. An interesting discovery is that if you go to New York System Olneyville Wieners on Halloween and ask the guy for a “Halloweiner” he will laugh, but the other guy there will tell you to shut up. It’s awesome. Also awesome is the all-beef-psychedelic excursion that Olneyville Sound System submitted to our AS220 Free Music Archive Fall Sampler called “Two All the Way” (which is also how one would correctly order at The System without getting an earful).
DOWNTOWN BOYS: I admit it… when I first saw a Downtown Boys set, I couldn’t help but fear that they would be a ska band. The horns: they are misleading. Also misleading is the name of the band itself considering they are a female fronted group. If you haven’t ever seen the band but are reading this column then you are in luck! You get to skip the initial confusion and jump right in to loving one of the most fun bands in Providence. Are you mad at colonialism? Tall boys in pits? People that won’t shut up? Exploiting the working class? It’s all good. This is the right band for that. When you see Downtown Boys for twenty minutes, by the time they are done tearing it up you’ll be just as mad—but you will have had a metric ton of fun as well. It’s very refreshing to see a punk band with such positivity and also a use of horns that won’t make you want to hide in a corner. Equally exciting is MALPORTADO KIDS—the stripped down, baille and dancehall infused brand of electronic politico-punk side project of two of Downtown Boys’ members.
THE COSMIC HOME RUN DERBY: Have you ever watched the MLB home run derby while running only the ambient noise channel of the surround sound signal into phasers, delay and reverb, while simultaneously playing Brian Eno’s Apollo and projecting Carl Sagan’s Cosmos onto three different screens? Oh and also, there’s a laser projection of stars on the ceiling! You haven’t done this? Well this is what the Cosmic Home Run derby is all about and the inaugural event was a smashing success. Here’s to a new timeless tradition and post-modern American pastime.
14 FOOT 1: Shredders! When you see 14 Foot 1 you find yourself thinking things like, “damn.” and, “why is there this new moisture in my pants?” It’s like connecting copper wiring to the top of a weather vane and running it through the crowds’ hands during a giant game of Red Rover in a lightning storm. You’ll try to bob your head, but then you’ll realize that you have no idea what the time signature is, then you’ll realize it simply doesn’t matter and that the sounds make you feel oh-so-good. Then maybe later you’ll feel bad because… damn… how do they play like that… sigh…
BUILDING 16: A staple amongst an ever-rotating cast of DIY venues for many years, B16 sadly closed its doors this year for good. But it didn’t close until after a week-long, heartfelt final hurrah with a massive medley of bands. The ultimate night was capped off with a bellowing performance by What Cheer? Brigade and the burning of a casket filled with written accounts of everyone’s B16 memories.
WHITE LOAD: About three years ago I started recording White Load every time they performed at AS220 with the intent to release a highlight reel of stage banter. It’s truly a wonderful spectacle to behold. These dudes are scumbags in the best way imaginable. It’s as though they are surrogates for vintage professional wrestling “heels” loaded up on a cheap 6 packs, who instead of playing hockey, decided to “play” filthy hardcore. Witnessing White Load is a real love/hate affair that makes one question their self-esteem. Once I saw an audience member that was bleeding due to something thrown astray during a set (possibly a cymbal). Afterwards they were the first to happily exclaim that though the band were pricks it was a killer set. This is a band that has their own cheap microphone labeled for them at the venue because they are certainly “not allowed to have nice things.” I’m fairly certain they’d wear that tidbit as a badge of honor.
I am not sure if I will ever get to finish the aforementioned highlight reel of banter due to the band’s recently announced breakup and the fact that I don’t think they ever played more than 14 minutes. But they proved that in a brief period of time there is a lot of damage that can be dealt. They will be missed… but only sort of.
OMNIVORE/TALISMAN: Glenna Kay Van Nostrand’s solo meditative, loop based, gorgeous musical endeavors are best appreciated in candlelight (or moonlight) looking at the faces of all your loved ones while drinking something warm. Witnessing Omnivore feels like 2 parts a journey and 1 part a performance. It’s minimal and leaves you feeling peaceful—like you just ate a bowl of porridge in winter and sighed, “just-right.”
FOO FEST: Foo Fest is like loading up a music shotgun and blasting out countless bits of sonic wonder into the summer sky and watching them land all over thousands of sweaty people. It’s an AS220 tradition, with a smorgasbord of over 25 bands on two stages, tons of food trucks, artist booths galore and a good ole’ anarchist book faire. Seeing Black Pus close out the indoor stage of this year’s Fest was one of the only times that I wasn’t completely sure the space was going to make it out alive. A quote from a local reliable source on site: “I enjoyed myself.
RHD: Resources for Human Development’s Rhode Island chapter meets every Tuesday and Thursday morning in the AS220 performance space. They provide art therapy to adults with developmental disabilities. The atmosphere is always incredibly warm, excited and there is some seriously amazing and unique creative work that is produced by the group. Every staff member is an incredible person and seeing their relationships with the adults in the program is inspiring. Spending some time with the RHD crew is something that can’t be more highly recommended.
FEELS: The experimental electronic duo of Ted James and Anthony Ferreira make some freaky and dreamy down-tempo jams. They fly low and incognito but it is known that they recorded in an old bank vault somewhere. Anthony left AS220 recently to pursue some sort of manifest destiny in Las Vegas. His other projects included A Trillion Barnacle Lapse, Honeyhander, and Spanish Dancer. He was probably your sound dude cracking some real serious jokes if you played there anytime in the past 5 years. He’s such a swell guy that somewhere in the soundbooth “The Anthony Ferreira Memorial Soundbooth” is scrawled in Sharpie.
IAN COZZENS: One of the most joyful months at AS220 was when Ian’s art show graced our sad lonely white walls! Ian’s prints are so skilled and beautiful that it borders on frightening. They are precise, bold and declarative. His print of the three towers of the Manchester St. Power Station should be a new iconic Providence image.
VIO/MIRE: A cello, reed organ, pedal bass, guitar, and possessing beautiful voice make quite the poignant combination in conjunction with Brendan Glasson’s stirring songwriting. I hope that one day they perform inside of a symphonic hall made entirely of ice constructed outside my bedroom window so that I can cry myself to sleep the “right way.”
THE “YELLOW DUDES”: Downtown Providence features a mystery crew manning yellow jackets that serve some sort of mysterious civil purpose. Are they cleaning the streets? Are they keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior? Are they robocops? Are they to steer tourists to interesting retail spaces? Who knows?! But they certainly provide intrigue to the downcity landscape.
LAURA BROWN-LAVOIE: Laura’s writing is radiant and moving. So much so, that even after seeing a totally ridiculous number of performances (probably over 70) I find a new way to be impressed each time. Her performances are remarkably grounded and authentically humble. It’s hard not to fall in love after hearing just one piece. Whether she is writing about farming, concussions, heartbreak, or drone operators, she provides a novel perspective to each subject that one can dwell on for a lifetime.
Happy new year from AS220! See you cool cats in the FUUUUTUUUUREEE!!!!!