Thursday afternoon; Todd and I have spent the day shooting product. Its hard to believe we are actually engaged in putting a business together! The day looks like this: wake around 8, meditate, stretch, take a hot bath with my latte and put on some leggings and a comfortable tunic...skip the makeup but add some jewelry because...that's the way I roll; jewelry even in yoga and ballet class, jewelry at the beach, jewelry at the bar, jewelry in bed...you get the picture.
While I bathe Todd sets up. Today we are shooting shoes, accessories and jewelry. After the bath I pull product and we are ready to go. Just about this time, a friend stops by for a lunch appointment so we take a break. Lynn sits on a high stool in the kitchen and we all catch up while I make make an impromptu version of chef's salad: today it has spinach, lettuce, sugar snap peas, olives cherry tomatoes, scallions, cucumbers, avocado, boiled eggs, turkey breast and hummus with a nice parmesan vinaigrette. Todd makes fruit salad with cantaloupe so sweet it tastes like candy-- one of Todd's many talents is that he picks perfect melons at the grocery store. I wonder where he learned that?
Of course we must have wine with all of that. And some candles. We eat, drink wine, have a leisurely conversation and finish up with cappuccino while we delve into the box of chocolate truffles Lynn brought as her contribution.
Back to work and there is still time for Todd to make beautiful photos; me acting as assistant; polishing, steaming and styling. We work steadily for 3-4 hours. And even though it means there is more work tomorrow we decide to wrap up and go out for the evening.
Somewhere in our crawls through the art-web we have come across something called "Providence Hoot". It is listed as open mic and because we are wanting to see some spoken-word-type art, we have added this event to our calendar. So around 7 we get out of our stretchy work-at-home clothes and don attire appropriate for a couple of oldish hipster (we hope!) bohemians and set out.
The address is for Anchor Studios which is somewhere in the Armory district. As we follow our GPS instructions down ever-narrowing streets and into a graffiti-strewn alley, I am glad that it is still light outside just in case this is some sort of joke or evil attempt to lure some old white folks into the jungle. But, no, here it is; cleverly hidden behind some dumpsters and an alleyway: Rice Street, Anchor Studio, and the Rocket Street Food truck is parked right in front. Excellent! We can eat junk food when we get hungry.
A little tentatively, Todd and I venture inside....
....where we are immediately greeted by Josh and Sarah; a couple of the friendliest, most welcoming twenty-somethings we have ever met. They introduce themselves and ask us about ourselves listening as if they are genuinely interested in us. More likely they are genuinely interested in questions like "how on earth did these two oldsters wander in here?" After a brief discussion of our mutual interest in the Providence arts scene, they point us in the direction of the free beer, tell us to make ourselves comfortable and the music will be beginning shortly. At this point I clue in to the fact that we are not at a poetry slam. Oh well, we are flexible. It's art. It's a new experience. Whatever...
We wander in and take a look around. The space is a large open studio space with white moveable walls set up to form a club-like setting. There are folding chairs facing a small square raised stage with a couple of microphones and a sound-system; the control panel is off to one side. The room is long and narrow at the back of the room in the direction Josh and Sarah pointed us, a long table is set up and another very friendly twenty-something, Samantha, dispensing very good craft and local beers - for free. We consult with Samantha for a few minutes, make our choices and wander. On a small round table next to a high window there is a sign-up sheet and a sign saying that each performer will be allowed to perform two pieces. So far there are not too many people on the sign up sheet and there are not too many people in the room. But right on time - about 7:30, Josh climbs onto the stage to begin the show. He is wearing a shirt with a large logo on the front of a head with earphones. Whenever he speaks or in response to any sound, the logo flashes on and off. Very cool! I want one of those t-shirts! Josh announces the first act and they begin.
During the next 3-4 hours we are treated to a variety of music performed by solos and duos. Most are accompanied by guitar but one man performs with a squeeze box and one young woman, after apologizing for having nothing prepared, sings acapella in a clear, phenomenally beautiful voice. One young man climbs on to the stage and tells us that this is his first public appearance anywhere and that he is incredibly nervous. He sings two songs without ever making eye-contact with the audience, but that is the only sign that he is not a professional stage performer. His guitar playing and singing are so polished, so completely gifted that I keep thinking I am confused; that I have misunderstood and that this is simply his first performance in this type of venue. Later, when I ask someone about this, his roommate tells me that no, this is the first time anyone has ever convinced him to sing publicly. I hope this won't be the last time. It may sound like hyperbole but it is not; this guy has such amazing presence and such a marvelous voice that I am breathless in anticipation of his career and where I will see him perform again.
(click photos for gallery)
There is a friendly and communal air to this whole thing. The musicians tune-up on stage and tell us about their art, nervousness, their inspiration. Encouragement from the audience and other musicians is sincere and whole-hearted. They loan each other guitars and tuners, offer their services as accompanists, improvise, take turns manning the sound equipment. A stunning young French woman explains, before she sings "The House of the Rising Sun" that she always thought the song was French and now she will be singing it in English for the, first time; "please forgive my mistakes". Her performance accompanied by her own and one other guitar is lovely. Then she offers her home as a venue for upcoming Hoots as she has a very large garden and patio. People have continued to arrive in a steady stream; the room is full now and it is standing room only.
Josh and his flashing shirt climb on stage and remind us that the Rocket Street Food truck is outside and open for business. The owners of Rocket Street Food have offered a free meal to anyone who will come outside and serenade them with a full rendition of "Rocket Man". In response to this offer, one of the women has written her own lyrics; an ode to the excellence of their hamburgers entitled "Rocket Can". She invites everyone outside during the break and encourages us to sing along during the chorus. I'll pass. If you ever heard me sing you will understand why. Sometimes life is cruel. There are very few things I would like more than to be able to sing. But all the way back in 5th grade, after my 20th attempt to audition successfully for the Honor Choir, I looked in the choir director's eyes, registered the look of pity there and faced facts... Moving on, I can lip sync with the best and so we all join in. It was good fun and the burgers were exceptional!
After the break, more performers, more free beer, and in spite of the fact that Todd and I are strangers here, and as old as any two other people here combined, we are welcomed into their camaraderie with warmth and charm. When the performers are all finished, we stand around for a while listening to canned music and discuss the blossoming art scene in Providence. Finally, around 11PM we wander out into the night. Across the street there is a night club with live music blasting out into the night. Todd and I look at each other and laugh. Shall we go in.....?
Our evening at Providence Hoot proves the rule; the best adventures are often spontaneous and unplanned. I’m sorry; I simply cannot resist the cliche. It was a hoot...!
Providence Hoot has open mic nights the third Wednesday of each month at Come out to Providence Hoot’s eighth OPEN MIC at Anchor (42 Rice St.) in Providence on Wednesday, June 18th, from 7-10pm.Check it out at www.pvdhoot.com
(Photos courtesy of Sarah Mead -- Thank you!)