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Jonathan Garber, left, and Dave Russo perform with their band, “Country DnA,” during a fundraising outdoor concert held at Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale Saturday afternoon. The set, which also featured Jeff Burns, Rhode to Bali and Matt Fraza, officially kicked off the spring season for the Wakefield venue.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Saturday brought a chill to the air, but over 70 people created a warm — even a hot — welcome to the Pump House’s first outdoor concert for the 2021 season.

The desire for live music shoved aside any concerns about the cold as music drifted around the people gathered on the lawn of Pump House Music Works.

Under an 80-foot long white tent, they sat  in chairs or around picnic tables — and either alone or in groups — to hear bands take to the stage. It didn’t matter whether they knew or followed any of the bands.

“It is our first outdoor live concert since we shut for the season last October and this is great to see people here again,” said Pump House’s owner and music master Dan Collins.

Jeff Burns, Country DNA, Rhode to Bali and man-of-many talents Matt Fraza and his band — called of course the Matt Fraza Band -  played a number of songs some knew, others just hummed along to or tapped there feet in some beat.

The Beat Goes On

Nothing beats some concert music, even if it’s cold.

They were well prepared with blankets, hats, mittens and warm down jackets at the temperature dipped to the mid-40s when Country DNA began playing at 5 p.m.

“We got here at 4 p.m. and couldn’t wait to get in,” said Paige Balsamo, sitting at a picnic table with her husband, James. They live in Scituate, were “kid-less for the night and we were looking for some live music,” she said.

Diane Acton of North Kingstown was gathered with her friends Gail Ornstein of South Kingstown along with Tom and Nancy Duell of Hope Valley.

“We love live music,” exclaimed Acton, she tucked a tan blanket along the inside arm of her lawn chair. A blue Marmot down coat slung across the back of it. She is also a player of live music in a local ukulele band.

“I like performing, but I like the feel of a band when listening. It’s not what you get when you play by yourself,” she said about what she draws from watching other musicians play.

Alan Woodmansee of Wakefield came with friend Carolyn Petze of Framingham, MA.

“We’re ready for just about anything,” he said about getting out for his first concert following the coop-up from COVID for the last several months. He wasn’t a follower of the bands playing. He just wanted some music to soothe the itch.

Like others, he had his Army green wool blanket snuggled next to him while Petze covered herself early in a forest green blanket and zipped up a warm coat.

It just wasn’t a night for listeners to enjoy the music. It also was a night for the musicians to enjoy making it.

Fraza, who has been writing songs during the pent-up times of the pandemic, told The Independent he was glad to be on stage again. “I missed the audience so much. It’s great to be with them again,” he said.

During his COVID cloister, he said, he wrote songs entitled “I’m Bleeding” and “Skeleton Fever” about the many hassles of living in a pandemic-fear filled world as well as country with unsettled political and social turmoil.

Another new song is “Kingstown Road,” he added, pointing to the road just alongside the Pump House‘s lawn.

“It talks about a place you leave, but that you always come back to. Some people go far afield, but they always come back. It’s a place you know and people know you,” he said.

Mingling among the crowd of Pump House followers was local musician Devin Bender whose own recently self-released albums include “Musical Magic,” “Tearing Down The Wall” and “Loving Awareness.”

They’re available on Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, Apple Music, and CD Baby, said Bender.

“When I listen to other performers, I am inspired by each because I can hear them and watch how they do things that might be different than me,” he said.

The Venue Goes On, Too

Pump House owner and promoter Dan Collins smiled as he looked from the bands to the gathered people. The bands Saturday night dedicated all the ticket proceeds to help support the non-profit Pump House.

Collins explained that it has faced crushing losses since COVID curtailed in-person gatherings, especially during the winter months.

At the moment, the music center - like many other arts centers in the area - faces debt because of ongoing expenses and a loss of revenue due to virus fears and restrictions.

Collins estimates he is about $20,000 in the red from just winter cancellations.

The state’s “Take It Outside” grant helped him to pay for the tent and another that has been built around an enlarged outdoor stage. It now has sound proofing curtains to help lessen the reverberations to nearby neighbors.

He also said that a new fence, which the Town of South Kingstown gave $10,000 to help defray costs, has been built as a sound barrier to respond to some neighbors’ complaints about loud music.

Helping with these projects have been Kevin Matteson, owner of Kevin Matteson Construction in Wakefield. Shane Ford and Shane Vasquez gave a helping hand to put up the new fence.

“Live music brings people together,” Collins he said. “I have a community center whose mission is to provide live music. I never have any problem filling the place with people. This is a great town for music.”

Bill Seymour is a freelance writer covering news and personality feature stories in Narragansett, North Kingstown and South Kingstown. He can be reached at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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