Devoted to Downtown

Aurora lights up Westminster Street

By CHRIS CONTI – printed in the Providence Phoenix, October 1st, 2014.

Kudos and props to the team behind the versatile Aurora in the heart of downtown — billed as a “cabaret lounge and art space with the future of Providence on its mind.” In less than five months, the former site of the Roots Cultural Center (and the sorely missed Providence Black Repertory Company) has been plenty busy with an abundance of multi-genre shows, art exhibits, and engaging weekly and monthly events.

“Aurora is still a work in progress, but we aim to be a community space where all are welcome,” Jenny Young, their booking/promotions ace, said when we spoke earlier this week. One thing is certain — Aurora is in very capable hands and hopefully here to stay. Young and creative director Sam White (who also founded the wildly successful Woolly Fair) were hired by Arnold “Buff” Chace of urban development giant Cornish Associates to oversee the diverse programming schedule, which ranges from panel discussions to heavy metal and hip-hop shows (Milkbread and Zumo Kollie rocked the stage last weekend). Talk about a nice variety — the official opening night party featured the Sugar Honey Iced Tea, Night Mom, the Atlantic Thrills, DJs, and aerialist Thea Ulrich swinging above the dance floor. And judging by the ongoing happenings, White and Young seem more than willing to expand the freak scene quotient, with events catering to the nearby AS220 and RISD crowds, and well beyond.

The craft cocktail menu is another reason to swing by Aurora (the venue is open nightly), spearheaded by mixologist mastermind Jay Carr of the Eddy. Dude has pretty much singlehandedly flipped the script on what a proper, refined cocktail list should entail in the capital city, and Aurora bar manager Audrey King slings a mean Mai Tai as well as a century-old “Karate Punch” recipe, among other alluring libations (along with a select craft beer list).

I may toss back an El Diablo or three this Friday (the 3rd) when 2013 WBRU Rock Hunt champs Torn Shorts headline with special guests the Can’t Nots, the Stilts, and the Big Lonesome, all for just $5 at the door. Aurora’s October schedule is jam-packed just about every night of the week (most around $5 and many with no cover all night), with 20 events lined up, and this month’s gallery exhibitions will feature paintings by RISD alum Colin Bliss. Get down to Aurora on October 18 and celebrate the Girls Rock! RI five-year anniversary with a kickass lineup featuring Roz & the Rice Cakes, Mother Tongue, Secret Lover, Gertrude Atherton (yes!), and many more performing “good covers of bad songs.” The show is all ages with a $5 donation at the door.

Once-a-month gatherings include the Jazz Jam Session (second Wednesdays); DJ Nick Hallstrom spins underground house music and dance classics; a get-together for designers in Providence called the Clambake; and organist/composer JPA Falzone (of Vio/Mire) will host a “Piano Lounge” twice this month from 7-10 pm, appealing to the after work/dinner crowds. Be sure to visit for updates/event/times.

Plus, I need to plug a new monthly gig called “Devotion,” presented by local music vets Nick Bishop and my old pal Michael Lamantia (known to all as Mikey Lams). The duo have been friends for more than 15 years and shared time in hardcore crew Lifers. Lams paid dues touring the country as a teenager with A Trillion Barnacle Lapse, followed by the fuzzed-out indie-electro outfit MakeUpBreakUp, and most recently the grimy blues-rock duo Detroit Rebellion. Don’t expect cheesy retro nonsense here — Lams unleashed a block of My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division, and Afghan Whigs at the Devotion debut last month.

“None of our sets are pre-scripted — that’s the fun part,” Bishop said. “I only have an educated guess at what Mike’s going to bring to the table and vice versa, so the excitement comes in playing off whatever we throw at each other. We wanted to do something that would span a wide array of years and genres, which should create some really interesting vibes.”

Conti, Chris. “Devoted to Downtown: Aurora Lights Up Westminster Street.” Providence Phoenix. 2 October. 2014. Web 1 October 2014.