Jack Downey ’23
McPhail’s is one of the unsung attractions of Providence College’s campus. The small bar and activity room on Slavin’s lower level not only serves drinks but also hosts many fun events, such as trivia nights and bingo nights. It offers a pool table, a ping pong table, a foosball table, and so much more. However, not everybody knows that McPhail’s is also the College’s premiere music venue.
For a time, perhaps due to a lack of musicians or a packed schedule, the only music coming out of McPhail’s was pre-recorded. Then, there was no music because the COVID-19 pandemic shut the student entertainment center down for over a year. However, McPhail’s rebounded in spectacular fashion on Sept. 10 as people once again came to enjoy their Friday night. With the return of the people came the return of live music.
The band for the night, called GraceNotes, provided an excellent backdrop for the joyful occasion. Fronted by Grace Maffucci ’22, the band also consisted of Met veterans Joe Genest ’22 (lead guitar), Gavin Woods ’22 (bass), Cat Mazo ’19 (drums), and Griffin May ’24 (rhythm guitar). Completing the lineup was keyboardist extraordinaire Jordan McBride ’23.
The band spent the night serenading the crowd with well known favorites, such as “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett. They also played some funk tunes to liven the atmosphere, one of which being “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. No matter the genre of music, GraceNotes had people moving—or, at the very least, tapping their feet while they ordered drinks.
Later in the evening, local music legend Nolan Donato ’22 made his return just a day after playing The Met—a live music venue in Pawtucket, RI—to a massive crowd. He led the band through crowd favorites such as “Sweet Caroline,” to which nearly everyone sang along. By this point, the crowd was at its peak, and this sing-along was the perfect way to respond to that energy.
After Donato’s set concluded, May took lead vocals on “What I Like About You” by The Romantics. A classic 80s jam, May’s onstage charisma and crowd interaction kept the bar’s energy at a fever pitch. Riding this wave, GraceNotes took the stage again and played the last hour of the night as the regular crowd shuffled out.
Overall, it was a night that exceeded expectations. People polled beforehand believed that no one would go to the show. After all, it was a Friday night. Wouldn’t people rather hang out with their friends and party? It turns out that McPhail’s has a greater draw than expected, which, after a year of not being able to enjoy the space, is nice to see.
Aside from the music, the usual attractions of pool and ping pong had lines of people waiting to use them. Throughout the night, the repeated thwack of paddle hitting ball provided an uneven metronome to the band as they played. The highlight of most people’s night, however, was the return of the legendary McPhail’s milkshake. McPhail’s makes some of the best shakes in the world, and the line to get one was nearly out the door. Eventually, the staff, who handled the entire night like pros, ran out of milk, which disappointed many. Fortunately, the band was there to keep people’s spirits up, and there will be many more milkshakes in the nights to come.
Live music at McPhail’s is set to become a more regular occurrence on campus, with a concert billed for Sept. 25. Hopefully, this is a continuing trend, and McPhail’s will become known as “the place to be” to hear what Providence College has to offer musically.