Local musical scene

Local bands, venues resume live performances

By Jack Downey ’23

Summer 2020 was dark time for musicians everywhere, especially those who do live shows. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world, people were forced to spend much of their summers squatting, biding their time until life returned to normal.

However, to say that no good music came out of this era would be a lie. Many artists have capitalized on their new abundance of free time to write and record. However, there was a sense of tension over what would happen to the music industry.

However, the summer of 2021 was a completely different picture. With a brief window of semi-normality made possible by COVID-19 vaccines before the Delta variant begins to strike back, music has returned to the world. Suddenly, concerts and other live musical events became commonplace again. While there are still some rules in place to mitigate the re-emergence of the Coronavirus, live music was definitely back.

Rhode Island was no exception to this resurgence. As people began to feel more comfortable stepping out of the safety of their homes, places in Providence such as Dusk and Askew offered them fun places to go. The former started hosting spacious outdoor shows and the latter held open mic social distancing parties. Eventually, as cases of COVID-19 dwindled even more, these two places started hosting booked weekly concerts in the blink of an eye. Local bands jumped at the chance to start doing what they love again, and many performed to record crowds as the hungry Rhode Islanders for the live music experience flocked to the shows.

The need for live music was so great that some bands have taken matters into their own hands and put on big house shows as more popular local venues are slowly reopening. For example, Atomic Action and Youth Distribute, two record labels in Middletown, Rhode Island, put on barn shows. The performance premiered on June 14 at Simmons Farm and featured a bill that included local legends Bullet Proof Backpack as well as the peace criers from the Massachusetts Peace Test, New Hampshire-based hardcore band Tossed Aside and the just fury of the New Jersey group Frost. Despite the threat of downpours, people turned out in droves to jump into the mosh pit. Merch has been sold by the spade, as has the vegan food from the Born From Pain food truck. The show ended when lightning began to crash all around, providing a dramatic conclusion to an intense but welcome experience.

This past summer, the Lake House in North Smithfield is another example of a home offering a unique live experience. Hosted by Seb Toledo of the Amanita group, performances took place among the trees near a serene lake. While the groups played, participants could cool off from the summer heat or simply relax by the water. The atmosphere of this place is unlike any other in the area, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.

The famous AS220 venue, located in downtown Providence, mainly focused on live broadcasts. However, to qualify these productions as “livestreams” would be somewhat inaccurate, as their production quality was off the charts. Recently, AS220 has started to allow people to go home, combining limited capacity concerts with their high quality video productions. This setup gives bands the unique opportunity to have professional live footage and audio, something local bands almost never have. These recordings could help give local bands a more legitimate shine, and AS220 is doing the scene a great service.

While the Delta variant now seems to be lurking around every corner, local music doesn’t seem to be going anywhere just yet. Hopefully the momentum built during the summer months can continue into the fall, giving local bands a better chance to do what they do best: create and perform.

About John Villalpando

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