An essence of Providence will arrive in Westerly on Saturday evening, filling The Knickerbocker with art, music and performances usually reserved for the nooks and crannies of the state capital.
There will be rock music, folk, jazz, spoken word, hip-hop, familiar names and new ones, all sharing a lineup as part of the Divine Providence Festival, now in its second year. A project of longtime friends and Providence-based musicians, Chrissy Stewart and Natále Tsipori, its first iteration was held last year at the Jamestown Arts Center with idea of bringing Providence musicians to other parts of the state.
“A lot of these musicians would never be on a bill together,” Stewart noted, emphasizing another aim of Divine Providence: to bring together artists from across the city’s various scenes, which can feel divided.
“Let’s get out of the city, let’s not play at the same venues over and over again,” Tsipori said, noting that people in South County or Jamestown or Westerly don’t often make it to shows in Providence, and that people in Providence don’t often make it to shows outside the city. In this way, the festival is meant to be a bridge, for both musicians and patrons.
The event will run from 6-11 p.m. at The Knickerbocker Music Center, 35 Railroad Ave., Westerly, and is a collaboration with Westerly Sound, an initiative of Sean Spellman, a Westerly-based musician. Tickets cost $18 in advance via Eventbrite and $20 at the door.
Featured acts include Ian O’Neil with members of Deer Tick, Death Vessel, Charlie Marie, Haunt the House, Vatic Kuumba, Allysen Callery, The Horse-Eyed Men, Jesse & the Tree People, Leland Baker Jazz Quartet, Dan Blakeslee and a few surprises.
There will also be art and vendor booths featuring Tom West, White Buffalo, Madeline Tavernier and Dan Blakeslee, as well as visuals and performances by Micaiah Castro, Rob Houllahan and others.
All proceeds are divided amongst the artists, which includes the labor of love put in by Stewart and Tsipori, who noted last year they each pocketed about $17. Their idea is for the festival to grow over time, becoming more sustainable, either through increased sponsorships, grant funding, or a combination of both.
Ian O’Neil, who first heard about the festival last summer, will be joined on stage by two of his Deer Tick bandmates, Chris Ryan and Dennis Ryan. A longtime fixture of the Providence music scene — and a resident of the city’s West Side for about 10 years — he now tours around the country and abroad with Deer Tick and, more recently, with Robert Ellis.
“I really enjoy being able to take a lighter approach to playing,” he said of being able to play locally, amongst friends. “There’s a looser feeling to playing in Rhode Island and knowing I’m going to drive home afterwards … I’m looking forward to it.”
O’Neil has a solo record coming out in the fall called “Ten Years of It,” and will be playing tracks from that release as well as trading songs with Dennis Ryan, which he said “makes for a pretty interesting set.”
When asked how the music scene in Providence had changed over the years, he recalled going to more warehouse shows and said the opening of the Columbus Theatre on Broadway was a definite shift. When that venue opened about seven years ago, it provided a service that was missing, and filled a void, he said.
“A lot of people who live in Providence, especially from the older scene, they wouldn’t imagine playing in Westerly,” he said, noting that economic factors and transportation are very real obstacles, as well as the general sense among Rhode Islanders that things in this state are far away.
Like Stewart and Tsipori, he noted the city’s music scene can feel fractured, with people sticking to their usual circuit of bars and stages. He’s looking forward to seeing Death Vessel play Saturday, noting he’s been a fan since before Deer Tick formed and that frontman Joel Thibodeau is a good friend who he doesn’t get to see enough.
Other artists on the lineup who have piqued his interest? “I’m more excited to see this Leland Baker Jazz Quartet than anyone else,” he said, adding: “[And] come see Death Vessel for sure. They’re fantastic.”
Once everyone gets together, there is a sense of camaraderie, she and Stewart said, which is largely why they pour their love into Divine Providence: for the betterment of the community.
“We feel like we’re taking Providence on a field trip and Providence is like a circus — we’re bringing the circus to town,” Tsipori said. “We’re bringing our magic.”