The Block Island Music FestivalWarming up for the Weekend
All this week at Captain Nick’s Bar on Ocean Avenue, you can expect to find people jamming out. The yearly music festival is here! Owner Marc Scortino hosts the event, so islanders and tourists alike can come and have a great time. The event runs through Sunday, June 16, so if you missed a couple of nights, don’t worry, there is still time.
When on Block Island, it is not uncommon to see a headband or two, or probably even some knotty dread locks. That’s why it didn’t surprise me at all that the opening group for the first night of the music festival was the Block Island Drummers. This small drum circle was definitely able to entice the young crowd with its rhythmic beating, almost like a chant to the gods. The gods must have been listening, because it started to rain.
The rain didn’t seem to faze the crowd very much at Nick’s. These were mostly New Englanders, and nothing less than a nor’easter could turn them away. A few people seemed to wander off, but for the most part, people just donned their foul weather gear, making Nick’s quite a bit brighter than usual. It wasn’t only the rain jackets that were bright and shining, but also the demeanor of the crowd. Even with wet seats and hair, the people sat patiently and in tune. A couple more acts went by, and the rain started to let up to a shower, then only a drizzle.
Lo and behold, the gray was short-lived. Before anybody knew it, the sun was back out, and the few that had left started to trickle back in. By this time the sun was low in the sky, and everything seemed reflective from rain jackets to puddles. Just when I thought that it couldn’t have gotten any more beautiful, a perfect rainbow stretched over the sky. The crowd looked up in awe, inspired by the amazing sight. And as everyone lowered their heads, another band started to play.
Black Marmot was a whirlwind of energy. Their music was soft, the rhythm was tight and, oh, did they do it so right. They reminded me of older folk music, something you might imagine coming from turn-of-the-20th century Kentucky, but at the same time they were soulful. They had the passion. The night was becoming brisk, and there was still a cool breeze remaining from the rainstorm, but Black Marmot really kept you warm. Between singer Linde Clark’s beautiful, echoey voice and guitarist Tim Parker’s smooth riffs on the guitar, it almost felt like you were sitting inside. The quality of sound was just so pure and crisp.
This first evening really was a perfect night for families and couples. The crowd seemed to be an even blend of all ages and interests. Just like the music, the crowd was in harmony. Even little kids took to the stage to give dancing their best shot. They always seem to have more courage than the rest of us.
Shift up a couple of hours, and the kids went home to bed. The pace at Nick’s hadn’t changed very much and the listeners seemed to come for relaxation. I found myself upstairs in a lounge chair, near a spot a friend once told me had the best acoustics in the building. It was in this spot that I was able to listen to the Mclean Sisters, letting the gentle acoustic guitars softly flow off the resonant wooden building. Their slightly southern country-like voices evoked the feeling of a bar in the old Wild West, minus the threatening nature.
Soon enough, it was just past 11 p.m. and I was sitting outside enjoying the evening. It was then I heard a ghost; Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of the legendary band, the Doors, who died recently. The legacy he left behind is epic. Without the sounds he created, the Doors simply would not have been at all what they were. At first, I thought it was him I heard, but then the rest of the band joined in with Daphne Lee Martin, who was enchanting and spooky. Her band was something I could only describe as country/blues/modern fusion. It was new to me, and I have to say I enjoyed it.
However, before I knew it, the night was done and I was on my way home, feeling as pleasant as can be. The next night, things picked up, just a little bit.
The first night of the festival, a random man that I struck up a conversation with, told me that the festival got progressively quicker in pace every night throughout the week. It was on the second night I realized this was completely true.
I arrived at 9 p.m., just in time to see the Trenton Street Collaborative. The island was happy to welcome back, Cameron Greenlee, the keyboardist of the Collaborative, and former keyboardist of the renowned, Skatelites, who had grown up here. With his expertise on the keys, and the heavy bass lines one can come to expect from the reverberating relaxation that is reggae, the band really fit the bill. Keeping one foot to the floor I could almost feel the vibration of the bass straight across the frontal lobe of my brain. And just as the pace started to pick up to a ska-like tune, some of the local always familiar-looking young guys started hopping around on the dance floor, bouncing to their hearts content.
At 11 p.m. the pace revved up a little bit more. The band, Doug Ratner and the Watchmen, really hit it off. They came in louder and more powerful than any of the bands so far. They were almost like an early nineties grunge rock band, with even a slight punkish twist. Picture something like Nirvana, or Pearl Jam. They, without a lick of doubt, played their hearts out. I’d say it’s love when you play a guitar solo slide-guitar style — with a life-sized plastic owl. If you took a second glance at that sentence, don’t worry, you read it correctly. These guys were wild and were not hesitant to show it.
So far, my random acquaintance was right. The bands had really upped the ante, and the pace of the music had picked up a notch. During the first night out, it was only children dancing in the early evening. It was soft, relaxing and downright charming. It wasn’t the tempo that you would want on a Saturday night, but on a Tuesday it was quite acceptable, especially for all of the couples that just wanted a relaxing night out. Then on the second night things got a little bit more upbeat. There was some movement and the music turned a little bit more psychedelic. At times it even got a bit intense. It really is amazing the different genres and tones that this pirate bar can encapsulate properly.
If things keep up the way they seem to be, this should be a weekend not to miss at Captain Nick’s. The music festival has already proven to be exciting and entertaining and so far it’s only Wednesday. I personally can’t wait to see, Dr. Westchersterson, and the Shades on Saturday. The Block Island Music Festival is a party you just have to attend.