The Providence Music Scene’s Summer Makeover

by The Cowl Editor on September 14, 2017

Arts & Entertainment

The former Strand Theater.
Photo courtesy of


by Ryan Cox ’18

A&E Staff

Local musicians and music fans alike experienced a series of changes this summer that rocked the local music scene. Most notably, the recent sale of alt-rock station WBRU to K-Love, a California-based Christian rock station that took over 95.5 FM at the beginning of August.

WBRU, which is run predominantly by students at Brown University, ended its 51-year run on Aug. 31 before switching over to a strictly online format.

The decision to sell 95.5 FM was based heavily on a decrease in funding for the station. What made WBRU so unique in the area was its presence on the Providence music scene, despite it being a primarily university-run station.

Events like the Rock Hunt and their annual Summer Concert Series gave the station incredible staying power in Rhode Island, as did their wide listening radius.

By contrast, Providence College’s radio station WDOM is “low-power,” meaning it has a three-and-a-half-mile listening radius, catering almost exclusively to the campus.

WBRU hopes to pick up a lower-power station in 2018, with eyes on 101.1 FM. Continuing in this way “has been met with open arms; [Brown Student and Community Radio] is willing to acquire new content in order to supplement its own programs and fill out a 24-hour broadcast day,” said Willem Pickleman, acting station manager for Brown Student and Community Radio.

The money from the sale will go to develop new broadcast media opportunities for Brown students.

The sale was met largely with disappointment. WBRU consistently catered to a large population of alt-rock fans and rising local talent.

It became the station of the millennial generation, some of whom had WBRU as the only station they would listen to in their cars. For better or for worse, the sale marks a pivotal point for the station to develop and regain its footing before launching into a new era.

A more cosmetic change in downtown Providence is the building formerly known as Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, which shared the space with the Roxy nightclub. Over the summer, the venue at 79 Washington St. underwent renovations and returned to its original name, The Strand Ballroom & Theatre. The Strand originally opened on June 12, 1915 and is the oldest theatre in Providence. Only since 2003 did it become Lupo’s as owner Rich Lupo moved to The Strand building.

The change is almost entirely superficial, as The Strand is still committed to bringing in acts of all genres. Over the next two months, the venue is hosting Bastille, Jana Kramer, 311, and Modest Mouse, among others.

They will be performing in a brand-new space with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, a renovated balcony, and a new marquee set to be installed in December.

While the local music scene is changing, and Rhode Islanders are often stubborn about change, perhaps this summer has marked a bright new future that lies ahead.