SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Pump House Music Works president Dan Collins said the popular live music spot on Kingstown Road is bruised from a weekend fire, but he knows it could have been much worse.
South Kingstown firefighters arrived quickly and got the blaze under control before it could spread to the roof or other parts of the building. The stone exterior of the structure, built in 1887, helped keep the fire from spreading.
Collins said he’s very thankful for the fire department’s swift response, and that no one in the building at the time was hurt. He said a few band members were present, as well as a sound engineer. All got out unharmed.
“They were getting ready for that night’s show,” Collins said.
Friday was supposed to be Reggae Night at the Pump House, and the start of a big weekend, Collins said. TJ and the Campers were slated to open for the headliner Dudemanbro.
The blaze broke out in a back room, an area where musicians often prepare to go on stage. It also serves as a workspace for Collins’ guitar-making workshop, Shady Lea Guitars.
“It’s called the green room, and it’s where we keep all of our back line sound equipment, and many custom handmade guitars,” Collins said.
About a dozen guitars of various makes and models still hang in the room, but Collins said they can’t be salvaged because of water and smoke damage.
“A lot of them had sentimental value, for sure,” he said Tuesday.
The fire started at an in-wall heating unit, Collins said, though he’s not sure exactly how it ignited and spread — that’s a task for investigators and insurance agents to determine.
The heating unit, almost fortunately, was at the base of the building, at the floor. Flames damaged the surrounding wall and did heavy damage to the rest of an area where instruments and other gear is kept. Collins estimates at least about two dozen guitars are destroyed.
The greater part of the green room, including an upper loft area and the roof, had smoke damage. Smoke also filled the rest of the building.
While the fire didn’t claim the Pump House, the disruption it caused is another challenge for its employees, the performers, and for Collins, all of whom have had a rough couple of years.
Now, he’s got about 10 employees who will be out of work until the building can be repaired and audiences can be allowed back inside. He said it would probably be next week at the earliest before that happens.
To help them, he said, he’s set up a GoFundMe page that’s collected $13,040 of its $20,000 goal as of Wednesday afternoon.
“As a nonprofit, the Pump House always needs community support to thrive, now more than ever,” Collins said.
Musicians and patrons of the Pump House throughout the years responded to help almost immediately.
Among the donors are blues guitarist and Roomful of Blues co-founder Duke Robillard, and Russell Gusetti, executive director of the Blackstone River Theatre.
“We’ve heard from people from all over the state,” Collins said.
Collins said the Pump House plans to host several outdoor events this weekend, including a steak jam fundraiser starting at noon on Sunday, May 15, to raise money toward repairing the damaged building. It also will pay tribute to local musician Jon Campbell on Saturday. Campbell, who died Jan. 9, is a Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame inductee and former Roomful of Blues member.
The musicians who enjoy playing at the Pump House have come together to help it before. As COVID took hold in 2020 and shut down live performances, several artists united to produce a virtual concert to raise money to keep the Pump House and the guitar workshop afloat.
For information on the fundraiser, and an updated list of upcoming shows at the venue, visit pumphousemusicworks.com.