April 27, 2004

Head to Lupo's
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Boston is blessed with a great assortment of music venues ranging from the edgy and always dependable Middle East in Cambridge to the fancy Wang Theater in the Theatre District.

The best local concert venue, though, unfortunately isn't that local. It's Lupo's at the Strand in Providence, RI.

Despite being only one hour closer to the musical epicenter of America, it appears as though many musicians would prefer to only travel to Providence if they have to leave New York, rather than coming all the way to Boston.

Or maybe it's just that Providence has the best live music club north of New York. Lupo's attracts a consistent flow of top notch performers who are too big to play in a smaller Boston venue like The Paradise, yet still not big enough to fill the FleetCenter.

In the next few weeks alone, Lupo's will host Bouncing Souls and Reel Big Fish on June 20, and Incubus on July 2. This week, BB King, whose Boston bar/club was closed last year, will be at Lupo's on May 1 in addition to Talib Kweli on April 28.

The arrival of Talib Kweli in at Lupo's is just one example of a fairly major artist coming to Providence who will not perform in Boston on the same tour. On the night after his Lupo's performance, Kweli heads back to New York for another concert rather than continuing on to Boston. This trend is especially noticeable among popular underground rappers. In addition to Kweli, The Roots and the fifth semi-annual freestyle battle called the Mic Wars will appear at Lupo's.

The superior hip-hop concert selection in Providence, despite the smaller city size, cannot be attributed to a greater demand in Rhode Island for urban music but is a direct result of how great of a club Lupo's is.

Though the Middle East and the Paradise are phenomenal clubs, they both have a reputation as primarily rock clubs, despite their often diverse schedule. The reputation isn't entirely undeserved though. The Paradise is, after all, officially called "Boston's Legendary Rock."

The ambience of Lupo's is comparable to the Middle East but considerably less claustrophobic. There is plenty of space in front of the stage for mosh pits and generally rowdy behavior without needing to worry about crashing into anything but fellow fans.

The balcony is the best view in the house and allows people to escape the crowded pit of fans near the stage. The acoustics and lighting are superior to just about anything in Boston. No matter where you are, you can hear and see the music on stage just fine.

Unlike the reputation of many other bars and clubs in Providence, Lupo's is a very strict enforcer of the legal drinking age and will only accept real identification. The beefy bouncers are not subtle with underage drinkers or anyone else causing trouble, which can add added entertainment to your visit as long as you're not the poor guy in trouble.

An announcer repeatedly reminds the crowd over the PA system that they are in a non-flammable building with plenty of fire escapes. The motivation is to calm patrons following the recent club fire tragedy in Rhode Island, but its more irksome than comforting.

For some reason, artists seem to stick around after the concert at Lupo's more often than they do here in Boston, and music fans aren't ushered out of the venue as hastily. As a result, Lupo's might be your best chance to get that coveted autograph from your favorite musician.

Though Boston offers plenty of concert options, the trip to Lupo's is worth the fast and cheap train or bus ticket to Providence. Find a friend at Brown with whom you can stay the night, and enjoy a nice night in Rhode Island.

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