Valuable advice for finding music on the road

Are you the kind of music lover that finds music on the road? Here is a short guide for you.
Joe Satriani And Steve Vai Perform At Harrah's Resort Southern California
Joe Satriani And Steve Vai Perform At Harrah's Resort Southern California / Daniel Knighton/GettyImages

Here at AudioPhix, we like lists. They’re fun to write, fun to read, and usually kick off some good arguments when readers get to tell us just how right or wrong we are. It’s a nice way of calling attention to music that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

But it’s not all we do. We cover news, offer opinions on cultural trends, and dig up interesting stories from the past. We do reviews, both retrospective and of new releases. And we cover live shows. That’s kind of what today’s short essay is about. But as I thought about it, it dawned on me that this particular concert review wasn’t exactly a concert review. It’s more of a manifesto. Lower case “m” and very, very fundamental, to be sure, but a manifesto nonetheless. One that I think is important to put out there every so often.

And thus, I manifest...

I traveled recently from my home just outside Washington, DC up to Providence, Rhode Island. I was going to be visiting some friends for the weekend, and my schedule was tight. Still, I wondered if maybe I could squeeze in a bit of live music while I was away.

This is Manifesto, Pt 1: Whenever possible, try to visit a local music club when you are traveling. Experience what is going on in other cities.

I spent a week or two checking the internet for advice. I looked in Providence,, but also extended my search to nearby towns like Pawtucket and East Greenwich. I didn’t find much. Some of the recommended clubs had been shuttered. A surprising number of the others offered karaoke or DJ disco nights on the weekends. COVID-19 did quite a number on local music scenes everywhere.

Manifesto, Pt 2: Yeah, it may be fun, but avoid Karaoke at all costs.

I actually got on a plane for my trip north without anything very promising on my schedule. Then, Friday afternoon, I was strolling up one of the cool little sidewalks in Providence – Wickendon Street, filled with throwback coffee shops and kitschy little stores – when I came upon a small record store. Olympic Records, it was called.

Run for the past 13 years by a very nice man whose name I learned and then forgot. I asked him where I could catch some live music on Friday or Saturday night. He sheepishly admitted he didn’t get out very much, but fortunately, he pointed to another guy over in the corner of the store flipping through some vinyl. This gentleman was able to reel off pretty much every club and act that was playing later that night. In other words, he was a thousand times more useful than the internet had been.

Manifesto, Pt. 3: When in a strange town, find a local record store. That’s the hub of info on the local scene. That’s where you will get your questions answered.

He told me about a good local rockabilly band that was having a release party for their first album at a little bar downtown. The bar was called Askew. The band was Soapbox Saints.

The only problem was that we had late dinner plans with friends. I probably wouldn’t be free until sometime after 11. Now, that’s not a problem for some people in some towns. But for an old guy like me in a town like Providence – maybe a bit of a problem. The first trick would be to convince my wife to let me go. She solved that by insisting she go with me.

The second trick was convincing myself I wasn’t too tired to walk about three-quarters of a mile through a city I didn’t know. (I just can’t bear to Uber less than a mile.)

Manifesto, Pt. 4: Don’t talk yourself out of going to shows. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

(By the way, that applies to life in general, but I don’t want to stray too far from my current topic.)

And now, the review. Soapbox Saints were excellent. There may have been additional excitement since this was the very first day you could get their very first album, PLAY IT COOL. But I’m guessing they’re very good all the time. They are a trio fronted by guitarist/vocalist Billy Moretti. Jack Hanlon slaps a mean upright bass, and Tony Nimmo pounds the drums.

They played some strong originals like their singles “Looking for Love” and “No Time.” They dove in on some ‘50’s bop with “The Clown,” and some western swing with “It’s a Crime.” They served up a few high-powered covers of “Cathy’s Clown” and “Pump It Up.”  All in all, they rocked the bar the way an up-tempo live act is supposed. They were, in a word or two, terrific fun.

That’s what you get from live music in small clubs in new towns. That’s what I got the next night when I went back to Askew to hear The Fatal Flaw and Carissa Johnson, a couple of acts from just up the road in Boston. Not only did both provide a lot more high-octane fun – they had good stories to share. Fatal Flaw frontman Joel Reader introduced us to his family who were at the show. His two young children were dancing up a storm right in front of the stage.

And Joan Jett sound-alike Carissa Johnson was undeniably happy to have her Cure-All bandmates with her. As she explained, the past several years had seen guitarist Steph Curran and drummer Nick Hall spread out across the country, but now they were all back in the northeast and playing together. The energy was obvious.

Next. March Ten live 80s albums. Ten fantastic live albums from the 1980s. dark

And this itinerary doesn’t even mention hearing several songs by the acclaimed Led Zeppelin cover band Lez Zeppelin. They happened to be playing at a brewery I was lucky enough to stumble upon. But I only heard a few songs, so I won’t offer an opinion.

Manifesto, Final Pt: Life is short. Music is good. Go hear it live whenever you can – especially in new places.

(You know what – I will review Lez Zeppelin – they were AWESOME!)

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