Cranston's Rolfe Square is the place to be this weekend — namely the Artists' Exchange ("around the corner from the old Park Theatre," as we locals say), which is presenting its New Music Festival on Friday night and all day Saturday. More than 30 acts from across southern New England are scheduled to entertain simultaneously on three stages, all coordinated by Tom Chace, whose many accolades most recently include a Best Male Vocalist victory in our 2011 music poll as singer/pianist for the Propellers. His band, along with a handful of labelmates from 75or Less Records (which absolutely cleaned up at our BMP Awards Show last week), are part of a fantastic and diverse roster, which ranges from Kristi Martel to the Headcutters to Lee McAdams & the Cosmic Factory to Anne's Cordial.
YEE-HAH! Martel will perform on Saturday.
Warren native Chace spent 10 years living in Seattle before he returned to his East Bay hometown in '06. He quickly landed at the arts collaborative, which is owned and operated by Gateways to Change, a non-profit dedicated to serving the needs of adults with developmental disabilities. Piano instructor Chace has served as AE's musical director ever since.
"Two weeks after I returned to Rhode Island, I discovered the Artists' Exchange and I instantly fell in love with the mission, the culture, and the people," Chace told me last week while chatting up the New Music Festival.
Chace's former Northwest digs lent some inspiration to the three-stage setup, as he spent nearly a decade attending the annual Bumbershoot festival in Seattle.
"I wanted to put together two days of all-original music by local artists on three stages performing simultaneously, and I like the idea of making the audience choose what to hear and when," he said. "And I've been fortunate to be able to snag this eclectic brood of performers for this event."
Proceeds will benefit the Artists' Exchange, which bustles with weekly family-friendly events and shows at their Black Box Theatre, as well as numerous arts and theater classes and various summer camps for kids. Chace refers to the upcoming fest as a "family-friendlyish event," which made me chuckle, recalling a Propellers set I caught during an early Sunday afternoon arts and crafts sale last year, when Chace almost let the F-word slip (twice) while singing a line on "Worry," as kids and parents moseyed about the parking lot carnival.
Chace's 75orLess colleagues headed to Cranston include Mark Cutler, Sweet Love, Suicide Bill and the Liquors, South Coast rep Chris Moon of the Blood Moons, and a busy David Tessier, who recently released an EP on the Warren-based label. There are also killer songwriters (Steve Allain), barroom blues and roots acts (the Benedictions, the Throttles), and much more (all set times TBA, making for some impromptu choices day of show). While speaking with Chace, I had him skim through the roster and offer some thoughts.
"Allysen Callery is an outstanding musician and songwriter, a true gentle powerhouse; Kim Lamothe is a dynamic storyteller; Mark Cutler, a legend. David Tessier is taking a moment away from rocking with Hedwig and the Angry Inch [he's the musical director] to bring the melody. Fried Miracle brings the groove and soul, while Tony Jones and the Cretin 3 — the thumping girth. The Pomp is lawless, and Red Eye Flight bring great harmonies into the mix."