Monday, February 23, 2009

Field Notes: Feb 23

Finally our topic has been (mostly) set on stone: Alyssa and I will be working together investigating Providence's folk scene. While she will focus more on the folk-rock, more national and less underground scene that revolves around bands that started in Providence like Deer Tick, I will investigate the other side of the spectrum, the more underground, independent and less known indie-folk scene that includes bands like Vio/Mire and Annikki Dawn. Together, we will make a comparative ethnography.

Unfortunately, there have not been many shows to go to other than one I attended in late January. I will describe what my experience was here. Soon I will do some Internet field notes on whatever resources I may find (there aren't many) on both Vio/Mire and Annikki Dawn. I hope to attend another show (apparently Annikki Dawn has a show in the same venue on March 2nd), and will have an interview with either some band members or the venue owner. After doing some research on the record labels, apparently they appear to be very friendly and open to talk, so hopefully I will get in contact with them too.

January 23, 2009

I heard of this band Vio/Mire as the songwriter Brendan Glasson played with Parachutes, a band that had been touring with Sigur Ros. I got excited to find out that since he was from Providence, there would be many opportunities to go to live shows. Upon going to his Myspace page I noted that his tour ended in Providence. Without knowing that I would end up looking into this scene more closely, I decided on going.

The Venue:
I've been to a few shows in Providence already but most of them have been in either Lupo's or Club Hell. This time it was at The Pigeons Chest. When I googled it, the only page that really linked to anything in Providence was a Myspace page. After reading its "about me", I found out that it was a recently opened "antique store" that sometimes hosted shows and displayed art. Finding the address and bus to get there wasn't difficult, and Friday night I went off in an adventure.
The Myspace page said it would start at 8, so I tried to get there around 7:45 pm.
When I got there, I walked around the small store looking at its items. The front of the store had a relatively small open space with some couches and empty floor space; I guessed this was where the performance would take place. The rest of the store was packed with antiquities and vintage items. Hanged on the walls were some pieces of artwork, I guess this was what the Myspace description meant when they said they would display art.

The Crowd:
There weren't many people around when I first arrived. There were basically the storeowner, another guy that appeared to work there and about 4 more people who appeared to be their friends. Two of these were a young couple with a baby.
8 pm came along and there weren’t any indications that a show was going to start. The store has a vintage espresso machine. The guy who was making coffee asked me if I was here for the show, I said yes and asked when he though it would start. He said he didn't know, the musicians hadn't arrived yet and they didn't know when they were arriving. Not very good news considering I had to take the bus back home eventually...
Around 9 pm more people started arriving. Everyone appeared to know each other, or at least have one member of the group they arrived with that knew someone who was already there. No one really went alone, most people showed up in groups of 3 or 4. Mostly everyone appeared in their late teens or early 20s, probably mostly college students. Many looked like they could be art students, some followed what we may call "hipster" fashion, and had an edgier or more artsy look. This was to be expected as the show was hosted in a trendy vintage store run by people that appeared to be dressed in a similar fashion as the crowd.
A group of 4 elderly people walked in the store and engaged in conversation with the younger kids. They appeared to be very familiar with the place and the people who ran it.

The Performance:
The band appeared at the venue around 9:30. I didn’t notice that they were the band as I was not familiar with their appearances. At first they just appeared to be another group of concertgoers as they walked in, said hello to those they knew in a very familiar fashion and then mingled for a while. The only reason I then noticed they were the band was because by 9:45 they started setting up their instruments in the front of the store.
No microphones or cables were set up. The only things that were not their instruments on what could be called the stage space were a couple of stools. After tuning, the lights were dimmed and Brendan said “everyone come up to the front and get cozy with us”. We all did, the crowd sat on the floor relatively close to the performers.
The group consisted of 3 people, all of them sang although Brendan was the obvious lead. The music was completely acoustic, a combination of a stand up bass and two guitars, sometimes alternating with a banjo, a xylophone, and bells. They had a drum for one of their songs too. Before the show I did not own any of his albums, so basically all the songs I knew came from his Myspace page. They played most of those, and then more from the album. The crowd seemed to know the songs as they sometimes jokingly requested more saying “You have more songs than that, how about you play …” Vio/Mire’s set was short, about 30 minutes.
There was a short break when Brendan said that soon they would come back as Annikki Dawn. Everyone basically stood up and mingled, some went outside to talk to the musicians. Brendan stayed inside and talked to those who approached the “merch table” to buy CDs and shirts.
As I was one of those people who went over to buy the album, I talked to him briely saying how much I loved his music. In a very honestly humble style he thanked me and said that that was awesome. He also very graciously thanked me for buying his CD (which was only 5 dollars). He didn’t appear to have that stereotypical “rockstar” attitude; his way of talking to those who approached him was very familiar and friendly.

After the short break, the same three band members came back to the front of the store, this time the lead being Kyla Chech who previously played the banjo and guitar in the Vio/Mire set up. She played some songs off her Myspace page and her album. The ambient was the same, intimate and close as everyone once again sat on the floor close to the performers to hear them play. Annikki Dawn played for about a half hour, ending in a similar fashion. I approached the table once again to buy Annikki Dawn’s album and was thanked by Brendan once again.

Vio/Mire's album had this DIY feel to it, as the album art was printed in different colored paper, and when it was opened, confetti dropped down from the interior. The paper "case" is basically a piece of square paper with the corners folded in, held together by a circular sticker. Annikki Dawn's album also had the same feel as it was not an actual CD case that held the album. Apparently there are only currently a few copies of each cd. From the markings on the CD I bought, apparently there are 50 Vio/Mire cds (mine being #39), and from Annikki Dawn's Myspace I read she has about 100 copies available.

Satisfied with the experience, I left behind the chatter of about 40 people and went back home around 11:20 pm.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting topic. I was left wondering how Providence's local indie music scene would compare to other local scenes. How is Providence's different from NYC? From Chicago? From Philly? This is probably too general of a question for you to research- my feeling is that humble artists you found at this show probably are all over the US. Another question: Where is the Pigeons Chest? What part of Providence is it in? Would this be important at all? Great ethnography though.