Islander and his band jam out at the recreation center
Jamestown resident Mike Larkin brought his band, the Dead Blues Society, to the Jamestown Recreation Center Sunday as part of the town’s summer concert series. Despite the inclement weather that forced the event indoors, a good crowd gathered for the performance and spirits were high.
Larkin, who plays bass guitar, formed the band back in 2007 after putting together an impromptu group to play at his 50th birthday party. “Lead guitarist Bob Shindell and I used to play in the local acoustic music scene and we would see each other in the clubs,” Larkin said. “So I asked him to be part of the group for my party.”
Larkin said that the two had such a good time together that they decided to put a band together. “Todd Manglass, who is our lead singer and guitar player, is a friend of Bob’s, and we found drummer Dave Murtough on Craigslist,” Larken said.
Dead Blues Society played an eclectic mix of songs on Sunday night, primarily focused on classics by the Band (“The Weight”), Cream (“Badge” and “Crossroads”), Otis Redding (“Hard To Handle”) and the Cranberries (“Zombie”).
“Our repertoire is very eclectic,” Larkin said. “We think that we’re unique among cover bands in the area in that we play different things. We have people in the band with different musical interests and we’re not that concerned about playing music to meet the expectations of club owners. We tend to play a lot of stuff from the 1970s because that’s the stuff that we grew up listening to. So we play Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. We play something for everyone.”
Although they are primarily known as a cover band, the Dead Blues Society has an ever-growing library of original songs written by band members. To this point, the band has only recorded for its own purposes, but there is some interest in recording a timely Larkin composition called “Sarah Palin.”
The summer marks the 24th consecutive year for the summer music series, which began on July 3 with Atwater-Donnelly, and will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 20, with the traditional appearance of the Jamestown Community Band, which closes the series each year.
Jill Goldstein is the program supervisor for the Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department. According to Goldstein, the artist selection process each year is primarily based on popular demand.
“A lot of artists have been performing with us for awhile,” Goldstein said. “They get great feedback and people want them to come back year to year. We hear from local people about who they want to hear. I try to switch it up a little though, and we had three new acts join us this year.”
In addition to the Dead Blues Society, the other new acts for this year included 5 Finger Discount. Returning artists included Atwater- Donnelly, the Lois Vaughn Band and the Black & White Band. The Black & White Band will also play at the Jamestown Day festivities on Sept. 9.
The Dead Blues Society is well known for playing benefits around the island.
“Most of our performances in Jamestown have been for benefits, which I really enjoy doing,” Larkin said. “One of the good things about having a band is that when somebody is having a function to raise money, you can make a contribution by providing entertainment. We feel that it’s a way to give back to the community.”
It was a gesture that the band did last year that helped to land Dead Blues Society a spot of this year’s summer music series roster. “The band played for free for us last year for Jamestown Day at Fort Getty,” Goldstein said. “They did a fabulous job and so we wanted them in our summer concert series.”
“Last year we were asked to play for Jamestown Day,” Larkin said. “I’ve been trying to get us into the summer music series for several years. They had an opening on the schedule and we were asked. We were very happy to do it.”
Dead Blues Society also plays popular music venues throughout the area. He said locally they started playing at the Portuguese American Citizens Pub here on the island. “Lately we’ve started playing at the PAC Pub in Jamestown,” Larkin said. “It’s good to have another place to hear music on the island. It’s a really good low-key place for the locals, and we really enjoy playing there. Joe Pokraka is doing a great job revitalizing the PAC and making it a good local music venue, and we really want to support him in that endeavor.”
On Aug. 20, the band will play a benefit for the New England Handicapped Sports Association at Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire. Then on Aug. 27, the band will be at the Oak Hill Tavern in North Kingstown, before returning to the PAC Pub on Sept. 30. To find out more about the band or to hear some of its tunes, Dead Blues Society can be found online at deadblues.com.
Larkin describes his style as “disciplined but unconstrained. While some of our more traditional blues songs require a steady bass line, on other tunes I’ll sometimes let Todd and Dave hold down the rhythm, then I’ll see what Bob is doing and riff off of his leads.”