My name is Rob, I'm originally from Shelton, CT, and I've been a proud Rhode Island resident for nearly a decade. I'm a journalist for the Pawtucket based alternative arts and entertainment publication Motif Magazine, where you can find my weekly Album Of The Week review on their website. I also write for the Boston based, award winning online music magazine Vanyaland, that also covers the Providence area. Along with writing, I work in radio as a board operator for the sports radio station 103.7 WEEI in Warwick, where I produce broadcasts for the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and other things. I've mostly lived in Providence during my time in Rhode Island and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
My familiarity with The Ocean State started when I was a kid and my family and I would see our cousins who live all over Rhode Island. My cousins here put on an annual 4th of July cookout at their beach houses by Scarborough Beach in Narragansett and I've been going to it ever since I was a toddler. When I was a senior at Shelton High School, I really wanted to get out of Connecticut. Since Rhode Island College was my father's alma mater and many members of my family were either employed or attending there, I decided to apply and I got accepted. Going to Rhode Island College as a Communications major with a concentration in Mass Media is a big reason for what I do for a living today.
I initially got involved at Rhode Island College's radio station at 90.7 WXIN during the end of my first semester of college in the winter of 2005. Eventually, I got my own time slot on Tuesday nights doing a music oriented radio show called Kickin' Out The Jams, named after a song written by one of my favorite bands, The MC5. By January 2008, I got a job at WXIN as the Alternative Music Director. For three years there, I managed the station's largest music department with a weekly rotation consisting of 35 CDs, an average of 13 radio DJ's other than myself, and booking 90.7 WXIN's Rock Hunt. The Rock Hunt got me connected with countless local bands and is one of the main reasons how I've become ingrained in Providence's local music scene. Around the same time, I started doing my Album Of The Week review for Rhode Island College's newspaper The Anchor.
Since leaving both 90.7 WXIN and The Anchor, I've worked for 920 WHJJ, 94 WHJY, the internet radio station and blog 990WBOB, and the internet publication GoLocalProv. I've done over 300 interviews in my career, with local and national acts, and I've reviewed hundreds of albums. I passionately enjoy what I do for a living and I feel grateful that I'm surrounded by great friends and family. Life for me has been truly special in Rhode Island and I feel more at home here than I ever did in my home state of Connecticut, by no means belittling where I come from.
One of the many things I love about the music scene in Providence is that each place has something uniquely different to offer. Dusk on 301 Harris Ave has this gothic ambience and dark lighting that makes it a faintly elegant place to see a show. I've seen plenty of garage rock and metal shows there in my life, Rick Sunderland always provides a great atmosphere, and Mike Day and Dan Baldwin do amazing sound for such a small space. Danielle Laskey is also the most underrated mixologist in the city, just ask her to make you something and let her imagination run wild into something delicious.
The Parlour on North Main Street is a harmonious fusing of the divey establishment and the neighborhood bar where everyone knows each other. Since I live in the area nowadays, I find myself going there a lot more often. The place's name is an homage to The Living Room, an old venue where two of The Parlour's three owners - Gregory Rourke and Aaron Jaehnig - used to work. They have an excellent selection of beer and whiskey along with delicious food. It's a prime place to catch live original music, but you should stop by there on a Monday for the best reggae night in the city. Wednesdays are fun when The Funky Autocrats play and on Fridays, all the characters come out for karaoke. Thursdays and Saturdays provide some of the best local and national bands you've never heard of.
There was a time in the late 2000's and early 2010's when Firehouse 13 on 41 Central Street opened up and as it made the transition from being an art gallery to a live music venue, it became a hot spot. For a couple years, the place was mostly dormant and then ex-Club Hell owner John Difruscio took it over in 2014. The first time I went back there after John became the manager and talent buyer, I got to see skate punk legends Agent Orange play and I was completely in awe of how the place had transformed. Now Firehouse 13 is back to doing art gallery showcases, but it's still putting on spectacular live shows.
Dusk, The Parlour and Firehouse 13 are my three favorite places to see live music, but AS220, Psychic Readings, The Columbus Theatre, Aurora, The Met, Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, Providence Performing Arts Center and Fete Music Hall are quality places in Providence as well. I also have to say that The Wheel House in Narragansett, The News Cafe in Pawtucket, and Jimmy's Saloon in Newport always put on a good time too. We are absolutely spoiled to have so many fantastic places to see live music in Rhode Island and each place has its own distinct charm.
Bars & Pizza
My hometown of Shelton, CT is within a 15 minute drive of the pizza mecca in New Haven, so obviously I have high standards when it comes to getting a quality pie or slice. In Providence, I'm a big fan of both Nice Slice and Antonio's on Thayer Street, Pizza J on Westminster Street, and Bob & Timmy's Grilled Pizza on Spruce Street (on Federal Hill). I also adore The Big Cheese & Pub in Cranston and Vasilio's Pizza on Atwells Avenue in Providence isn't bad when you have one of those late night cravings.
When I'm just looking to go to a bar for a beer, I like going to either E&O and The Scurvy Dog in Providence's West End, Nolan's Corner Pub on Federal Hill or Doherty's East Ave Cafe in Pawtucket. I'm not really into Providence's bougie places that have been popping up for the past few years. I like places with a wonderful selection of craft beer, cool things to look at on the walls, and a clientele that's down to earth and conversational. Having a TV where you can check out a game is a big plus too.
Local Craft Beer
It's incredible how many independent craft breweries have been starting up in Rhode Island during this decade. My favorite local brews so far have been Whaler's Brewing Company's East Coast IPA, Revival Brewing Company's Night Swim'ah summer seasonal and Foolproof Brewing Company's Peanut Butter Raincloud Porter that was out during the winter. I also like Bucket Brewery's Sabin's Maple Stout and, though I might be in the minority, I've enjoyed a few of Narragansett Beer's craft offerings. I like the Big Mamie American Pale Ale, the Town Beach IPA, the Reanimator Helles Lager, and the I Am Providence Imperial Red Ale, the last two being part of Narragansett Beer's Lovecraft Series. Last but not least, Coddington Brewing Company in Middletown is the best kept craft beer secret in the state.
What I'm Up To Now
Along with being a journalist and working in radio, I also book shows under the company name Top 5 Fiend. For the past couple of years, I've put on an annual Birthday Benefit Bash around the time of my birthday on April 24th, with all the proceeds going to the J. Arthur Trudeau Center, an organization in Warwick that has been providing services and care for people with autism since the 1960s. The third edition is a four night benefit starting on April 21st at The Parlour, April 22nd at AS220, April 23rd at The News Cafe and the final night, on my 29th birthday, at Firehouse 13. [Get all the details by clicking here for the Top 5 Fiend Facebook Page and the event listings.]
Photo Credits: Photos of Pizza J pizza, beer glass, the craft brewing apparatus, and PPAC are courtesy of Ashley Farney; Photo of the interior of The Columbus is courtesy of Richmond Jeffrey. Photo of Dusk co-opted from Rob's Facebook. Top 5 Fiend logo (by Michael Borge) taken from their FB business page. Parlour sign from their website. Photo of Rob, taken at The Parlour, is by Patty J.