The lowdown on Sound Session 2011

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By CHRIS CONTI  |  July 11, 2011


The seventh annual Sound Session festival jumps off all weekend long, and while this year's itinerary has been scaled down to three days rather than a full seven, you can expect another "multi-genre gumbo" at four locations, as well as the return of the Festival Parade, a madcap procession led this year by the Extraordinary Rendition Band.

Same name, new leadership for Sound Session, now backed by the esteemed Providence Inner City Arts (PICA), founded 40 years ago as a local vanguard for arts, culture, and community (and fondly remembered for the Florentine Faire fests in the '70s and '80s). PICA board president Len Cabral and his team have set up shop at the Roots Café on Westminster Street, former home of the Black Repertory Theater. This year's Sound Session initiates a proposed five-year plan by PICA (according to the SS '11 press release) to fully re-establish Sound Session as a major regional event, following questionable money matters last year (artists reportedly not getting paid).

"We are thrilled that someone stepped forward to continue Sound Session," said Lynne McCormack, Director of the Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism. "This event has been a wonderful showcase for music in downtown Providence."

The Tourism Council remains a sponsor (as does the Phoenix), and Sound Session is in good hands with PICA at the helm.

"We have assembled a team of veteran event planners and received help and information from promoters of very large festivals," said Cabral earlier this week, though he was cognizant of the potential headaches associated with up to 30,000 partygoers set to descend upon DownCity this weekend.

"Even with all the tremendous support we've received, we must face the fact that this won't be a walk in the park. But, there will be dancing in the streets," Cabral reassured.

Here, now, is a preview of what's in store for you and your dancing shoes this weekend. For the full rundown (and advance ticket info) visit

On FRIDAY (the 8th), festivities with an international flair take over the Homegrown Stage on Clemence Street (6 pm-1 am, all-ages, $10) with some of the best in Nawlins-steeped Cajun (Magnolia), traditional Irish (Devine's Diner), West African rhythms (Afrika Rainbow), and Cape Verdean hip-hop led by Tem Blessed & Isis Storm, as well as 2011 Best Music Poll champ Chachi. If you have yet to catch Chachi Carvalho rip a set, stop sleeping and get there. Things should be downright funky and freaky come Friday night at Roots Café (starting at 6 pm), with Mr. Dynamite and the James Brown Revue (the Café will host a free screening of The Night James Brown Saved Boston at 3 pm), followed by neo-soul locals Gina Wesley & DreamCatcher, and topped off with a performance by the irrepressible "mutant masked musicians" known as the Big Nazo Band.

Talkin' all that jazz on SATURDAY (the 9th), as the Roots Café kicks back with Phoebe Legere (with sidekick assistance from our pal Rudy Cheeks), as well as local blues singer/songwriter Kin Trusty and R&B duo Rob Soul & BackBone, with DJ sets from DJ Mike Delick of Afrosonic Collective fame (6 pm-1 am, $15). At the Bank of America Skating Rink, check out polyrhythmic grooves from Tobey Foyeh & Orchestra Africa and AS220's Criss Cross Orchestra free of charge at 7 pm. Grammy-nominated Latin-jazz percussionist Bobby Sanabria hosts a free workshop at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (15 Hayes Street) on Saturday afternoon before taking the stage at Lupo's (8 pm, $25).

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