Itís hard to imagine today, but there was once a time in this city when music fans rallied around bands, when the rock scene enjoyed a certain unity. When one band succeeded, other bands would applaud; when live music held forth like no other form of entertainment in the city. Before the cover bands, before megaplexed nightclubs, even before dance parties, there was a time when the most popular bands in the city played a club, it was the hottest ticket town in town.
Twentysomething years ago, the Schemers were one of those bands. "The magic was in our live act," says songwriter/frontman Mark Cutler. "There was a time when we were playing once a week in Providence and tons of people would show up week after week to hear us play the same songs. It was an exciting time for us, it really was, like Hamburg, Germany during the Beatlesí early days."
Back then the Schemers lived for the moment. Young and impetuous, talented and charming, the band never struggled for audiences, never labored for their art. It all came naturally, and people dug it, night after night. "It was all very much in the moment," says Cutler. "What were we thinking? We were thinking about having a great time. That was it."
Well, they were also thinking about writing great songs, which they did frequently, as evidenced by Remember, a new collection of vintage and re-recorded material. "Itís been 25 years since we started, and we never properly documented any music on a CD," says Cutler, about the idea for the new disc. "We just wanted to have something to show for our time together."
The Schemers made a name for themselves in Providence back in the first half of the í80s, in those heady days when post-punk and New Wave wrested control of rock from bad FM radio bands. Music had been given back to regular people, who were ready and willing to listen to cool stuff again. Punk-rock served a purpose, sure, but not for everyone. New wave and post-punk tempered the angst that came before it and the Schemers were front and center, ready to be accepted. And they were indeed accepted, but not by nearly enough people.
Everything was right about the band, from the material to the presentation to the musicianship, but they never caught their Big Break. The Schemers at their peak qualified as one of the best unsigned bands in the country. "Absolutely we made some wrong decisions or no decisions," Cutler admits. "Iím not gonna give you one of those fake answers where I say I donít regret anything. Thereís a lot that I regret. I think not having a hardcore plan and some professional guidance definitely affected our careers. It was fun, but Iím sure if things were managed properly, we could have made something else happen."
Still, Cutler is approached all the time by people he and his bandmates ó Emerson Torrey, Bob Giusti, Dickie Reed, and Jimmy Berger ó positively affected with their music. "We tried to play every show like it was our last," says Cutler. "And I think people really responded to that. Playing this old material really takes you back. Itís like your first love, your first kiss. You never forget it. We were lucky enough to get a semblance of success with it. Many bands donít even get that."
The Schemersí CD release party is Saturday, May 8 at the Call. Admission is $15, which includes a free CD!
ONLINEGIGS.COM. A group of DIY musicians, bands, and agents with the belief that performing live is the lifeblood of most artistsí careers have come together. And while some acts may dream about the ever-elusive record deal, most realize that any level of true success requires real work, organization, and a dose of reality.
"The process of finding locations to perform in unfamiliar markets is a grueling one," explains Onlinegigs.com founder Jay Flanzbaum. "Add to this the frustration of trying to keep up with the neverending changes in talent buying staff, or tracking conversations and e-mails with a multitude of contacts at the same time, and you begin to understand why many bands do not make it."
Thatís why Onlinegigs.com started its central database, which members of their nationwide community help maintain so the resource stays as up-to-date as possible in terms of contacts and venues.
"By providing access to the right tools and resources," says Flanzbaum, "we believe that we can transform the current popular musical landscape into one that is not dominated by a few cookie-cutter performers. Every artist should have the ability to survive and prosper through practicing their craft."
Not only that, Onlinegigs.com embraces a socially responsible business model. The site will return an additional percentage each year to its members in the form of tour support ó items like tour posters, press photos, postcards, and promo CDs. The site is also seeking partnerships with organizations that will assist with discounts on road expenses like gas, accommodations, food, and vehicle maintenance. Check it out and see if their suit fits.
THE W.C. HANDY AWARDS. Local acts made good at the 25th Annual Handy Awards for the blues down in Memphis last week. Roomful of Blues came up huge again, winning the biggie for Best Blues Band, as well as one for Best Instrumentalist (Horns). Also showing well was our own guitar hero, Duke Robillard, who came home with Best Instrumentalist (Guitar).
It goes without saying that these awards are not only a tribute to two great performers, but to a local blues scene that rewards its own with appreciation and nurtures enough talent to carry on.
WANDERING EYE. On Friday (the 7th), the Tazza Caffé and Lounge brings in former Roomful great Doug James and his band. Get there early and enjoy some free grub (beginning at 5:30 p.m.). Music starts at 10 p.m.
On Saturday, Railroad Earth and Ryan Fitzsimmons play the Narrows Center for the Arts inFall River. RRE is an up and coming jam band with a zesty bluegrass bias. Ryan Fitzsimmons opens. Doors are at 7 p.m. and admission is $12.
And speaking of Fitzsimmons, he will be hosting the Songwriters In the Round series at AS220 on Sunday (the 9th) beginning at 7 p.m. Marcy Lang, Allysen Callery, and Ed McGuirl will all sit in with a few cuts of their own. This week the totally acoustic night will center on the theme of "Resisting the Impulse." Admission is $5.
The Providence Gay Menís Chorus will celebrate the music of ABBA through song and dance at the URI Feinstein Providence Campus Auditorium. "ExtrABBAganza," arranged by David Maddux for the San Francisco Gay Menís Chorus in 1997, sets the music of ABBA to menís voices. Performances are on Saturday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 5:30. The venue is located at 80 Washington Street in downtown Providence. Tickets are $15 at the door ($5 for children 12 and under). Call 455-4698.
Local singer/songwriter Christopher Monti opens for Canadian indie-rock talent Emm Gryner at AS220 on Saturday. That same night, the Essentials celebrate one year together with an anniversary party at the Blackstone. Expect a few Cash and Dylan covers along with their originals. Also on the bill are the accomplished Irish fiddler Brad Maloney, the Chilblains, and Jason Leibman.
Congrats to Greg Abate, whose quartet has a sweet gig at Birdland in New York City on Tuesday (the 11th). For reservations and information call (212) 581-3080. Blow it hot there, big guy.
E-mail me with your music news at email@example.com.
Issue Date: May 7 - 13, 2004
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