Some artists play music in town, some artists tour and some artists buy a camper and live life on the perpetual road.
Able Thought is doing the latter.
While he is not new to touring, Able Thought made the jump this year from his home in Rhode Island to an old 1987 Toyota Sunrader for a perpetual tour around the country, living a nomadic life off of the money made from playing shows, selling music and selling his art – silk screened records featuring photos he’s taken. Aside from his Sunrader giving him a less-stressful touring atmosphere devoid of catching buses, crashing on counches and amassing peanut butter sandwiches, Able Thought can spend more time getting to know the cities and towns he is stopping in.
A look at his Facebook page shows a tour that has been slowly accumulating more and more dates, as he ventures further and further out West, hitting points in the Midwest and South. With the idea of Rhode Island musicians venturing out, I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore what’s going on in other music scenes around the country and see what we can bring to our fair scene.
With different vibes in every place he went, Able noted the music scenes of a few off-the-beaten tour locales such as Lowell, MA and Bar Harbor, ME. “Ohio has a whole bunch going on in places like Akron, Toledo, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus,” he reports. “That [state] has a lot of cities within an hour or two of each other all doing different, experimental things.”
Despite being such a hyper-connected society, with most music being shared and distributed freely online, place still plays a role in the development of music scenes. While artists might find influences from far off geographic places, they are still very much a product of where they live. Looking out through the computer alone can make it seem like the musical spectrum might be largely the same from scene to scene, but Able notes a more diverse landscape out there:
“Harrisburg has a lot of chippy and dreamy stuff coming out of it. Columbus seems to have small bands making electronic-based pop music; kind of dancey and ‘80s influenced stuff. Philadelphia has a lot of emo, math and punk. A lot of the Midwest cities have some experimental emo and stuff like early Arctic Monkeys and Fidlar... it’s really different everywhere. In Williamsburg and Ridgewood I’m hearing a lot of jazz-based dreamy electronic stuff. Western MA and CT have a lot of post punk. In New Orleans some spots have Laundromats inside. That’s kind of cool to drop off your laundry, grab a drink and watch a band. It’s all different! That’s the attraction.”
Besides wanting to bring back some electronic artists to influence the Providence scene, Able notes how welcoming and unique Providence venues are, with places like Fete, Dusk, The Parlour, AS220, The News Café and Columbus Theatre all filling particular niches and being places that strive to put together a bill that works. “Providence had some great house and basement venues,” he adds. “To be honest I think it would be easier for me to tell you other places that aren’t doing it as well as Providence.”
In addition to great venues, Able points out the community of musicians in the DIY scene in Providence as a definite plus: “Providence is very tight knit. Everyone knows everyone. I think that’s a really good thing. It makes it easy to know what’s going on in town on the weekends. A lot of places have a more ‘everyone for themselves’ mentality and that leads to a whole bunch of empty rooms.”
While Able Thought’s tour continues on and the country becomes smaller, it is refreshing to know that he has a good music scene to come back to… eventually.