ON STAGE IN JAMESTOWN!
By day, Narragansett Avenue is the scene of quaint shops, busy sidewalks and a bustling lunch crowd. As day gives way to evening, Jamestown’s main thoroughfare comes to life as home to a thriving local music scene.
The average visitor might not peg Jamestown as the place to hear some of the area’s best musicians, but islanders and long-time visitors know a secret: For great music at a great price, Jamestown simply cannot be beat.
Area bands know it, too.
“If I let everybody who wants to play here come and play, it’d be a different band every week,” said John Recca, owner of the Narragansett Café. “We probably get two or three solicitations a week. There are a lot of bands out there, but this is a fairly difficult place to get into.”
“The only time there’s been a cover charge is when it’s been for a benefit,” Recca said. “But all the money goes to the organization.”
Recca’s operating philosophy of great music with no cover charge draws music lovers from throughout the area. In fact, the Narragansett Café was recently honored as “Best Blues Hangout” by Rhode Island Monthly magazine’s “Best of Rhode Island” awards.
“This place is famous all the way to Providence,” he said. “That’s remarkable to me. It’s a long way to drive.”
Recca said the Narragansett Café books mostly rock and roll bands on Friday and Saturday nights, such as local favorites Nasty Habits, which Recca called a “pure rock and roll band,” and 5 Flavor Discount, a band that brings along two go-go dancers. “It’s terrific,” he said. “It’s the raciest thing we have at the Gansett.”
Other fan favorite bands include Lazy Dog and Brass Attack, which Recca said has its own following and tends to draw a lot of people.
Almost all of the bands are cover bands, according to Recca. “Some are doing music like Springsteen, Southside Johnny and the Rolling Stones,” he said. “But the better ones are writing their own music, too.”
Recca said that many of the bands that play at the Narragansett Café have been doing so for 10-plus years and that in the year and a half he has owned the business, he has added just a few new bands. Still, he likes to mix up the rotation.
“Nobody plays more than once every six to eight weeks,” he said. “I don’t want anything to get old.”
Music on Friday and Saturday nights typically starts at 9:30 and goes until approximately 12:45 a.m. The Westmoreland Street Jammers will play tomorrow and Gary Guitar Gramolini and the Grinders will play Aug. 1. But while weekend nights are all about rock and roll, the Narragansett Café is also home to a successful blues series. On summer Sundays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Recca offers “Dark & Stormy Blues,” featuring blues artists such as the Tim Taylor Blues Band and Professor Harp. Black & White will perform this coming Sunday, Aug. 2.
“These are real, true blues players,” Recca said. “They’re the real deal.”
“Blues & Bloodies Sundays,” a blues brunch series, will begin again in February, according to the Narragansett Café’s website.
The blues series has been a great boost to business, according to Recca. “It’s definitely one of the coolest things we’ve done,” he said.
Another cool addition has been “Acoustic Wednesdays,” featuring Tom Wright and Friends. “He does covers of James Taylor, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and Bob Dylan,” Recca said. “We’ll be doing that for the summer.”
Jazz fans can head down Narragansett Avenue a bit to catch some cool jazz at Trattoria Simpatico. Owner Phyllis Bedard said the restaurant features a variety of music, including jazz and contemporary sounds from musicians like Andy DiPaola, Steve DeConti, Ron SanFillipo, Art Manchester, John Monllos, Dave Manuel and Al Brenner. Sunday afternoons typically feature the Conny Williams Trio, which plays “strictly jazz,” according to Bedard, while Sunday nights feature special guests such as Stu Krous.
“It’s not all jazz,” she said. “Some people don’t like jazz. Music is conducive to people having a good time and every musician is special here. The music is a big draw.”
Like Recca, Bedard said there is no shortage of musicians who want to play here in Jamestown. “We’ve got some real professional players here,” she said. “I’ve got a line up trying to get in. Nobody leaves.”
Bedard also said that patrons do not have to eat dinner at the restaurant to enjoy the music.
“They can come to the bar and sit or stand to hear the music,” she said.
Jazz lovers can also catch some great music from islander Madelaine Montminy Crabtree and her band at the Bay Voyage. Crabtree will play tomorrow, July 31, at 6 p.m. and Bay Voyage Marketing Assistant Sara Stanton said the group will play on occasional Friday evenings throughout the summer. Call 423-2100 for information about scheduled appearances.
Summer is also the perfect time to catch a free concert at East Ferry Memorial Square on Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m., part of the Summer Concert Series offered through the Jamestown Recreation Department.
Greg Abate will perform this Sunday, followed by Jose Costa on Aug. 9 and the Jamestown Community Band on Aug. 16.
The Jamestown Philomenian Library also hosts occasional musical performances. Information about upcoming events is typically available on the library’s website at www.jamestownri.com.