December 15, 2018

New Sound and New Looks for Providence’s Music Hot Spot, The Strand

posted on: Friday March 2, 2018

The newly renovated Strand Theatre in Providence

Photo courtesy of newenglandfilms.com

by Patrick Fuller ’21

A&E Staff

The iconic neon sign of Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel has been replaced by the plastic simplicity of The Strand, a collection of white letters against a basic black backdrop. The newly named music venue faced internal renovations as well when The Strand Ballroom & Theater introduced a brand new raised stage, state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, and a giant floor free of previous obstructions.  Overall, The Strand’s website promises “the ultimate event experience.”

On Thursday, February 22, The Strand delivered on this promise when they welcomed Portugal. The Man.  An array of different people, ranging from wild teenagers to older superfans gathered together to shout lyrics, jump uncontrollably, and mosh to the music of opener Twin Peaks and main act Portugal. The Man. The openers, friends since elementary school, boasted a ’60s garage-rock, garage punk sound from Chicago, reminiscent of the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Beatles.

Listening to Twin Peaks’ most recent album Sweet ’17 Singles on any streaming service may lead one to think of this band as a producer of swaying beats, teenage angst, and mediocre lyrics at best. However, their live performance was a completely different animal.

Vocalist and guitarist Cadien Lake James screamed through guitar solos, hair flailing. Guitarist Clay Frankel stumbled onto stage, five beers in—the epitome of new-age disillusionment. The band soared through its hits, inspiring the crowd to mosh through “Blue Coupe,” “Wanted You,” and “Walk to the One You Love.”

Afterwards, the main act, Portugal. The Man, took the stage. The Lords of Portland, a psychedelic rock band from Wasilla, Alaska, placed front man, guitarist, and vocalist John Gourley next to bassist Zach Carothers as they transcended genre stereotypes.

After all, the band is famous for mixing hip-hop, hard rock, and psychedelic rock, to form a general attitude of musical freedom. Behind the instruments were strikingly distracting visuals: animated bodies multiplying rapidly, women in latex straddling beach balls, kaleidoscopic images melting into mountains. The only possible purposes for these pictures could be to imitate drug trips or make a joke out of other musicians’ over-the-top stage antics.

To add to the mockery, Portugal. The Man warned the audience on the projector screen beforehand that, “We aren’t really good at this whole stage banter thing so enjoy these slogans created by our management.”

These so-called “slogans” quickly became political and comedic: “Hey kids do you like to smoke weed?” “Do you enjoy talking politics at family gatherings?” “That’s right kids no computers here, only real instruments!” “We don’t usually like to talk politics, but this needs to be said: f—k.”

Opening with a long rendition of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Portugal. The Man shook the floor with distorted guitar and heart-throbbing bass. Seamlessly, they transitioned into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” which transformed into “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” off of the band’s 2013 album Evil Friends. 

For the most part, the performance consisted of relatively older songs with hits from their past two successful albums, Evil Friends and In the Mountain in the Cloud. However, tunes off their newest piece, Woodstock made cameo appearances: the album’s politically charged, nostalgic “Number One,” the happy, optimistic “Live in The Moment, the subtly true “Rich Friends,” the critical “So Young,” and the rebellious “Noise Pollution” made up half the set.

Of course, the performance would not have been complete without the song of 2017, “Feel It Still.” But the true crowd pleasers were singalong classics like “So American,” “All Your Light (Times Like These),” and “Sleep Forever” from In the Mountain in the Cloud.

The album Evil Friends was equally represented through “Plastic Soldiers,” “Evil Friends,” “Modern Jesus,” “Hip Hop Kids,” “Atomic Man,” “Sea of Air,” “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” and “Holy Roller [Hallelujah].”

Through hypnotizing visuals, passionate playing, and songs catered to new and old fans alike, Portugal. The Man contributed to their increasing mainstream fame and the growing reputation of The Strand.

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