Sunday, January 30, 2011

Changing the Rules!

Comedy in a center for the arts?

As usual, the Narrows Center for the Arts is changing the rules!

Over the past months, the Narrows has been building its audiences for shows featuring comedians.

Just as when the Narrows brings in new, usually young musicians. Few may attend. Then more. Then more. Then the artist--for example Eilen Jewell--sells out shows!

We think that's what centers for the arts should do! Nurture talent. Maybe change the rules for nurturing talent.

Last Friday, we changed the rules again with another comedy show, this time featuring (in the photograph) Joey Carroll, who has extensively entertained our troops overseas, Joe Holden and Jack Lynch. A good sized audience was there, maybe our largest for comedy.

We're serious about laughter, and people seem to be loving it.

The next comedy showcase will be in the spring, and we hope you'll join us! Watch this space.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Six Years Blogging

A note to thank everyone following Backstage at the Narrows since it launched in January 2005, or who joined in over the six year journey. That means you.

The backstory: I was reading the paper in early 2005 and saw that "Blogger" was providing the opportunity to blog for free. So I fired up the computer and checked out how it worked. Since it wasn't too difficult, I figured I'd add it to my volunteer duties at the Narrows Center for the Arts. Back then there weren't many of us, and we'd do one or two shows a week, with some breaks in-between. A slower pace than today.

It was fun, and I appreciate the hard work of Patrick and Maggie Norton, Bert Harlow and others to keep the music playing even when things were a bit tight. Got to hang out with stars, haul equipment like a rock 'n' roll roadie, emcee and generally enjoy the sounds and talk music with my friends.

With the blog, it became even more fun--though I remember asking people from the stage if they knew what "blog" meant. Most didn't for a few years. Not sure how many were reading it; still not sure, frankly, although people tell me they do. There's probably some way to electronically track how many are checking it out, but I've never gotten around to figuring out how to do it.

I hope you enjoy perusing Backstage at the Narrows as much as I enjoy writing and taking photos for it. There are more than a thousand entries which constitute a permanent on-line, easy-to-reference "first draft" of the Narrows' history. Proud to have provided it, and consider myself fortunate.

No biggie, though. Did it, and continue doing it, just for fun.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Power Pop for the People

It was shake some action night at the Narrows with power popsters The Spampinato Brothers leading the charge.

Led by an NRBQ founder, Joey Spampinato, the group played in the grand tradition of The Raspberries, Cheap Trick, and yes The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

Covers included "Out of Time" from the Stones, and "You're Gonna Lose that Girl," and "You Can't Do That," from, of course, the Fab Four. But The Spampinato Brothers are far from being a cover band. But if they were, they'd be one of the best.

You may have seen bass player Joey Spampinato in the "Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll" movie with Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Linda Rondstadt and just about everybody else.

Totally fun night.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Should Count Toward Church Time

You Are Not Alone--Mavis Staples--Narrows alum and soul singer supreme Mavis Staples continues to mix the secular and sacred, in the tradition of the Staples Singers, this time with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy in the producer's chair. Recorded at the Wilco Loft in the Windy City, You Are Not Alone is currently in the top twenty in the Billboard Gospel Album chart, even though it contains secular tracks like John Fogarty's "Wrote A Song for Everyone," which appeared on Creedence Clearwater's Green River LP in 1969, and Randy Newman's "Losing You," from the eye-twinkling pianist's Harps and Angels project a few years back. This is, in fact, a rock 'n' gospel album, featuring sometimes-stinging guitar and a more mainstream rock feel. Ms. Staples' flawless and powerful vocals are the show, of course, and it goes without saying that she could sing the phone book and make it scriptural. "I don't know where Tweedy's been all my life," she says in the promotional video. She's right. You Are Not Alone works and is a quality listen.

Note to Narrows history buffs: while Wilco has never played the Narrows, Jay Bennett, who had a nasty split from Tweedy and the group, did. Those of us around in the Narrows' early years remember Bennett as a fabulously talented yet troubled guy who seemed to regret his falling out with his former musical partner Tweedy. He died accidentally in 2009, in part because he couldn't get the medical treatment he needed. Learn more about him and download a free posthumous release here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Boston Songwriter Night

Boston songwriting night. Ellis Paul, left, and Meg Hutchinson below. Friday night was warm and relatively low-key at the Narrows. Both Paul and Hutchinson are based in the Boston area, though Paul (who was celebrating his birthday btw) is originally from Maine and came to Boston College to run track. Ms. Hutchinson hails from the snows of the Berkshires.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

David Johansen Unplugged

New York Dolls front legend David Johansen kept it simple with simple guitar accompaniment as he did his "Funky But Chic" or John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom Boom Boom" at the Narrows Thursday night.

Of course, those who have followed his career weren't surprised since the razor thin vocalist, still sporting skinny jeans and leather, has various personas, including folk/bluesman, jump jazzer Buster Poindexter, Sirius radio jock, and actor.

One persona, perhaps not widely known, is his down-to-earth friendliness. Narrows staff loved working with him.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let's Talk Spring and Summer, Shall We?

Some great shows just added at the Narrows.

On March 18th Anders Osborne will make his debut, originally scheduled for New Year's Day. A blizzard earlier in the week messed things up. Although we can't be sure, we think we have a better shot this time because it will almost be spring! By the way, if you're unfamiliar with Mr. Osborne--as was your blogger--his sound is along the lines of classic rock, even though he wrote a number one hit for country artist Tim McGraw ("Watchin' the Wind Blow By"). Learn more here.

May 21 it's Jesse Winchester. Enough said.

And August 20 (wow, we're already talking late in the summer), it's singer/songwriter David Wilcox, whose photo, taken at the Narrows in 2006, is above. If memory serves that 2006 show was a sell-out so it might not be too early to get your tickets for that one.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Life on the Road

The snow that didn't hit Fall River Friday evening did hit parts of Connecticut, slowing travel to a crawl for Po' Girl, as they raced on the highways to make their Narrows debut.

A plane delay earlier in the day didn't help.

Group member Benny Sidelinger flew in for the gig separately, and had the fun (!) of performing as the opening act while we waited for the rest of the group--who were actually not that late as it turned out. Guitarist/banjoist Benny sees himself as a sideman, and didn't cherish being the center of attention, although his mom, dad and fiancee in the audience seemed delighted. Area musician Louie Leeman, who performed at the Narrows on New Year's Day, kindly brought in his guitar for Benny, whose own guitar was with the rest of the group.

Despite the stress (and lack of food), Po' Girl enchanted with their mixture of folk, jazz and what have you--some call it "urban roots"--performing a strong set.

Unfortunately, after the gig some of the group was facing a 45 minute drive to their sleeping quarters in Plymouth (oops, they didn't know it wasn't exactly next door).

Life on the road.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Sometimes These Are The Best Shows

Your humble blogger was a little disappointed that the Anders Osbourne show didn't happen Saturday night because the blizzard messed up travel. (I've been enjoying his latest American Patchwork recording.)

But I shouldn't have been because the substitute show was special--at a special price of only $10!

Curtis Prince (left), scheduled as the opener for the Anders Osbourne show, blues guitar wizard Mark T. Small, singer/songwriter Louie Leeman, and frequent Narrows opener Jeremy Lyons joined together to put on an intimate show of songs, stories and even lightning fast riffs.

And a sense of history, particularly from Mark T. Small, who pointed out that "without John Lee Hooker, ZZ Top would have been playing Zippity Do Da."

Your humble blogger suggests for future reference: when you see the Narrows pull together a show at a special price, consider attending as did the folks who attended this show. It will no doubt be a sound investment of your entertainment dollar and will enrich your life too.