Slater Mill Showcases Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll Flick  

Published in the Woonsocket Call on October 11, 2015

When planning the 2nd Annual S.A.M. Fest, in conjunction with this years Pawtucket Arts Festival, Slater Mill’s Executive Director, Lori Urso scheduled a showing of Jim Wolpaw’s “Complex World.” Urso, also a professional musician, knew featuring the film at her event in August was a great way to both promote a local Providence filmmaker and give homage to The Young Adults, a popular rock band playing at the nonprofit’s weekend festival, too.

Rediscovering a Classic Film at S.A.M. Fest

On Aug. 30, more than 80 people gathered early evening at Hodgson Rotary Park to watch on a big outdoor screen the 81-minute offbeat cult rock ‘n’ roll comedy filmed at Providence’s Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel. While the film attracted the curious, many adoring and loyal fans of The Young Adults came to check out the flick, too, says Urso.

The Complex World captures one night at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, with its zany plot involving terrorists, political conspiracy, 100 pounds of explosives in the bar’s basement and drugs, with music from iconic Providence bands such as the Young Adults, NRBQ and Roomful of Blues. The film had a brief two-month run in a Boston and one week in New York City, and it garnered good reviews. However, a distribution deal with Hemdale, a major film distributor that released “The Terminator” and the “Last Emperor,” fell through, ending up in a lawsuit. Even though Wolpaw won his case and a small settlement, the legal battle sealed the film’s fate. Over the years, the filmmaker’s DVDs have been sold on a website, and the last public showing was in 2010, for two days at the Providence-based Cable Car to raise money for a local charity.

Urso, 51, remembers being an extra during the 1987 film shoot, “a biker chick hanging out in the bar’s parking lot” at 79 Washington St.  “Quite a few people that I knew showed up to be extras that night. I’m glad I was able to be part of it,” she said.

Rudy Cheeks one of the founders of Young Adults and co-writer of the Phillip & Jorge column published in “Motiff Magazine,” was in attendance during the S.A.M. Fest screening, and he observed people of all ages in attendance, many of whom watched the film for the first time.

Even though the film was produced about 25 years ago, “it’s held up pretty well over the years,” says Cheeks. “The strongest part of the film was its ‘mise en scène,’ the capturing of the inside atmosphere of the bar.”

Adds, Rick Bellaire, Chair and Archive Director of Pawtucket-based Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, the Wolpaw’s Indie film produced outside of the major film studio system, is a great Rock and Roll documentary.  “It was a snap shot of what was happening in the Rhode Island music scene at the time the film was shot,” he says.

The Making of a Classic Film

While it took about two-and-a-half months to shoot the film in 1987, it took more than two years to bring “Complex World” to the screen of the Cable Car Theatre in 1990, says Wolpaw, noting that it ran for a record four months. The veteran filmmaker, who was nominated for an Academy Award for a 1985 documentary, was brought into this film project by Rich Lupo, the owner of Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, who just happened to be his roommate at Brown University and later a bartender and manager at the Providence bar.

In 1970, when both young men graduated from Brown University they shared their dreams. Lupo planned to open up a bar with music while Wolpaw wanted to become a filmmaker.  Wolpaw agreed to use Lupo’s bar in film if he opened on up.  “I never would have believed at that time we would both end up at that place,” says Lupo.

According to Wolpaw, the efforts to create and fund a film began a year before the bar was going to be torn down to make way for condos. The film was to use Lupo’s as a basis for the movie to “explain the spirit of the bar,” he said, noting that it would be shot like a documentary film.

Lupo invested the most to produce the film, but with increased costs, other friends chipped in, said Wolpaw. The unique film stood out among films that were produced in Hollywood, he said, “noting it was not the typical movie.”

Two years of editing and reshoots would later result in the final film, says Wolpaw, noting that over the years and even at the Slater Mill screening he “had trouble watching it.” Shooting the film like a documentary just did not work for the plot, he said, but it captured an early era of the Providence music scene.

Even after more than two decades since being released, orders for “Complex World” keep trickling in, says Wolpaw, who has worked as an adjunct film professor at Emerson College in Boston, the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is pleasantly surprised that orders come in from such faraway places as British Columbia and France.

A Prolific Filmmaker  

Besides his Classic “Complex World,” Wolpaw is known for innovative approaches in considering artists and issues in the arts, and he has an impressive number of films under his belt:  “Cobra Snake for a Necktie” (Showtime 1980), a portrait of rock ‘n’ roll legend Bo Diddley; “Loaded Gun: Life, and Death, and Dickinson” (PBS 2003, INPUT 2004), a quirky look at poet Emily Dickinson that was chosen by “The Library Journal” for its list of Best Poetry Films; and “First Face: The Buck Starts Here” (PBS 2011), an accounting of the dollar bill portrait of George Washington.

Even at 67, Wolpaw, who has won awards at more than a dozen film festivals worldwide, has not slowed down. He is still working on three projects, a film about Cleveland poet and activist Daniel Thomson, one detailing the history of Rhode Island’s Ladd Center and a fictional narrative film about poet Dickinson. Hopefully, they will have a long shelf life and audience like “Complex World.”

“Complex Word” can capture viewers who wish to relive their experiences at Lupo’s, and purchases of the DVD benefit the Gloria Gemma Foundation and Advocates in Action. For details, go to www.complexworldthemovie.com.

 

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Lupo Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Five Nights of Music

Published in Woonsocket Call on September 20, 2015

Rich Lupo, 66, acknowledges that time flies by fast. In fact his namesake music venue, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, celebrates its 40th Anniversary next month.   We sit at the Cup & Saucer, a retro-fifties decorated diner on Pawtucket’s historic Main St., reminiscing over four decades of being actively involved in Rhode Island’s music scene.

In September 1975, although primarily a blues club, Lupo’s became the first venue operating in the Capitol City to embrace all types of live music. The Brown University graduate opened Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel at 377 Westminster Street (a 4,000 sq. ft. former retail store) after unsuccessful attempts to a find a location in Fox Point & North Main St.  Ultimately, his decision to open up that club (followed soon by The Met Café & The Living Room) led to a revitalization of Providence’s music scene.

The Early Years

In his early years, Lupo remembers working long hours as a house painter during his college years and after and saved up the $15,000 to start his bar.   As a teenager, he would tell others how cool he thought it would be to open a bar, with people dancing to records playing from a jukebox and listening to live bands. The young club owner dreamed of having Bo Diddley and other rock & roll heroes play on his stage.   This would happen.

According to Lupo, it turned out that customers only showed up on live music nights. So, while the jukebox stayed, band nights soon expanded from one to seven nights per week. The Heartbreak Hotel became a home to bands well-known for blues, rock n roll, country rock, jazz – that came to New England looking for a gig.  Many local favorites — including Roomful of Blues, Rizzz, Wild Turkey, The Young Adults, Schemers, NRBQ and Max Creek – played there and continue to do so.

Lupo says that the first national act at the club was harp player Big Walter Horton in November 1975.  In 1976, teaming up with independent booking agent Jack Reich allowed the club to expand past blues to rock and beyond. That year, The Ramones played his club.  In 1977, Lupo’s had Bo Diddley week – 9 consecutive sold out shows with Bo backed by The Young Adults. Over the next few years more rock n roll and blues icons appeared at Lupo’s: James Brown, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Iggy Pop, The Pretenders, The Go Gos, Stevie Ray Vaughn — to name just a few.

Being Forced Out by Condo Development

In 1988, Providence downtown gentrification would force Lupo close his initial club.  Reaching out to a college friend & realtor, he found his new digs at the former Peerless Department Store, reopening in 1993. The new space was great because, though large, it still had a sense of intimacy.

With its’s 10,000 sq ft of space, the club could do more and larger concerts.  The space also annexed The Met Café, an intimate venue for smaller touring acts and local bands. At The Met, customers saw the early shows of future stars such as Dave Matthews, Oasis, and White Stripes.

At this 2nd Lupo’s, the first shows were Belly and Meat Loaf. Later, the club hosted acts as diverse as Ziggy Marley, Hole, Radiohead, Garbage, Willie Nelson, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Anthrax, and even Tony Bennett.

In 2003, the club was again forced to move and Providence City officials suggested the Strand Building on Washington Street. But the club had to share this space with the existing NV dance club, a separately owned business.

At its new location, there was no room for The Met. It would take 7 years for Lupo & his wife, Sarah, to reopen The Met, just three miles away at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket.

Ending our conversation, Lupo looks back and quickly rattles off some of the ups and downs of the last 40 years.  Although there were plenty of both, Lupo best remembers realizing the dream of his heroes playing his stage and countless nights of joyous audiences – taking some of the sting out of spending 15 of the 40 years fighting evictions.

But, Lupo remains even-keeled by following advice from his eighty year old friend, Chuck Lynch, who always says “Just keep jogging in place.”  If he follows this advice I expect him to remain in business for another 40 years.

The Upcoming Anniversary Celebration

Lupo’s 40th Anniversary Celebration will take place on October 7 – 11, 2015 at The Met, Hope Artiste Village, 1005 Main St. Pawtucket.

Here are the details:

Wednesday, October 7 —   Max Creek $10 (Adv), Doors 6PM | Show 7PM

Thursday, October 8 — “40 Years of Rhody Blues” –  Hosted by Duke Robillard & featuring Al Copley, Rich Lataille, Greg Piccollo, Doug James, Carl Queforth, Marty Ballou, Marty Richards, Rob Nelson with Special Guests: Ken Lyon & James Montgomery. $10, Doors 6PM | Show 7PM

Friday, Oct. 9 — The Schemers, Neutral Nation, Jungle Dogs and Rash. $10, Doors 6PM | Show 7PM

Saturday, October 10 — Rizzz.  Members of the Wild Turkey Band
& Friends featuring Tom Keegan. $10, Doors 6PM | Show 7PM

Sunday, October 11 – The Young Adults, Georgie Porgie & The Cry Babies. $15, Doors 6PM | Show 7PM

For more details, call 401-331-5876 or go to www.lupos.com & http://www.themetri.com

RI Music Hall of Fame is Poised to Honor the Best

Published in Pawtucket Times, April 18, 2014

Arthur “Pooch” Tavares, with nearly 60 years in the music business, continues to reach out to his old fans and to new generations as well. The 70-year-old Tavares is still performing about 75 concerts a year all over the world with three of the brothers (Perry “Tiny,” Antone “Chubby” and Feliciano “Butch”) who made up the original quintet which became know worldwide as simply Tavares. (Fifth brother Ralph retired from the road in the 1980s.)

The brothers grew up in the Fox Point and South Side neighborhoods of Providence and Tavares says, “The good lord has seen fit to keep us all together.” The most notable moment he remembers from his long career is when The Bee Gees gave his group “,” one of the key songs in the score to Saturday Night Fever, for which they won a 1977 Grammy Award. But running a close second is being inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.

“It’s quite an honor to be recognized for your music in the place where you were born,” states Tavares.

With just two weeks to go until the induction of this year’s class into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF) on May 4, at The Met at the historic Hope Artiste Village, Vice Chair Rick Bellaire gives this columnist the details about those who are being recognized as Rhode Island’s best.

In announcing the RIMHOF Class of 2014, Bellaire says, “This initiative provides a great opportunity to acknowledge Rhode Island’s musical greats and celebrate their achievements and now we finally have an organization whose primary goal is to promote and preserve our state’s rich musical heritage. With actual exhibit space, coupled with our online archive, we have in place the tools to curate and showcase the best of Rhode Island’s musical artistry.”

Bellaire notes that it’s sometimes easy to forget, and even hard for some to believe, that such world-acclaimed artists actually have roots right here in Ocean State. “For the smallest state, Rhode island has produced an inordinately large number of truly great, successful and important artists and their devoted local fans helped to place them on the world stage. Tavares is a case in point.”

According to Bellaire, from their earliest days in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence, it was clear the seven Tavares brothers were born to make music. They are recognized as pioneers in the evolution of R&B from the Soul era into the modern Funk and Disco movements of the ’70s and ’80s. They had over a dozen major hits and won a Grammy for “More Than A Woman,” their contribution to Saturday Night Fever. “But,” says Bellaire, “the best part of the Tavares story for me is not about how great they are or how successful they are. Everyone knows that. For me it’s about their journey. They worked really hard to get to the top. Their story will continue to inspire young musicians for decades to come.” Tavares will appear in concert on May 3 at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel.

Bellaire provides some background on the other new RIMHOF inductees:

The Castaleers are recognized as the state’s Rhythm & Blues trailblazers. They came together in the mid-1950s when members of various groups formed a permanent lineup consisting of Richard Jones (later replaced by Joe Hill), George Smith, Dell Padgett, Ron Henries and Benny Barros. In partnership with songwriters/producers Myron and Ray Muffs, they had four national releases and paved the way for the rest of Rhode Island’s R&B greats.

Paul Gonsalves of Pawtucket started out playing tenor sax in big bands including Count Basie’s. As a master of many styles, he became a pivotal figure in the evolution of post-war modern jazz. He joined Duke Ellington in 1950 and provided a crucial ingredient in the modernization of Duke’s sound. His place in the history books was guaranteed by his famous 27 chorus improvisation on “Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue” at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.

Randy Hien of Woonsocket entered the music business in 1971 when he took on the job of reopening the old Loew’s State Theatre as The Palace in downtown Providence to present Rock ’n’ Roll concerts. When the Palace closed 1975, Randy purchased the original Living Room on Westminster Street by trading the keys to his Jaguar XKE for the keys to the club and the liquor license. He kickstarted Rhode Island’s original music scene by instituting a policy which welcomed bands who performed their own music. The club became the center of the state’s music scene and Randy its biggest supporter

Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra founder and conductor emeritus Francis Madeira initially came to Providence to teach music at Brown University in 1943. Finding no professional symphonic orchestra, he created one bringing together a 30-member ensemble that would bring the music of the European masters to the Ocean State. Maestro Madeira will be inducted into RIMHOF on May 10 during a performance by the Philharmonic at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence.

Winston Cogswell of Warwick,was literally present at the birth of Rock ’n’ Roll after moving to Memphis, Tennessee in 1954. At Sun Records, as a guitarist, pianist, songwriter, arranger, producer and recording artist under the name “Wayne Powers,” he collaborated with some of the most important figures in music history including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. He returned to Warwick in 1960 and began working with pianist/composer Ray Peterson. The duo formed Wye Records with a third partner, engineer Ken Dutton, and their debut release as The Mark II, “Night Theme,” became a national hit. Wye remains the only Rhode Island label to score a Hot 100 hit.

By the end of the 1960s, Duke Robillard of Woonsocket had already earned a reputation as one of the finest blues guitarists in the state after stints with the short-lived original lineup of Roomful of Blues and Ken Lyon’s Tombstone Blues Band. In 1970, he reformed Roomful with a three-piece horn section to play jump blues and under his leadership, the band practically single-handedly revived the genre with two albums for Island Records. In the early 1980s, Duke began to pursue a solo career at Rounder Records. His jazzier side emerged with the release of “Swing” in 1987 to critical acclaim. “Duke recently told me he feels that, in music, blues is the universal language,” says Bellaire. “So I say, Duke Robillard is fluent in many languages!”

Freddie Scott of Providence moved to New York in 1956 and began his career as a songwriter for Don Kirshner working alongside to Carole King, Neil Sedaka and Paul Simon. His songs from this period were recorded by Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Tommy Hunt and Tommy Hunt. Freddie entered the charts as a singer himself in 1963 with “Hey Girl” written by his friends Carole King and Gerry Goffin. It hit Billboard’s Top 10 and is considered a classic today. In 1966, he scored a #1 R&B song with “Are You Lonely For Me.” His last album was “Brand New Man” in 2001.

In 1976, Cheryl Wheeler moved to Rhode Island to pursue a career in music on the Newport folk scene. She was quickly recognized as one of the finest songwriters and singers to surface in a decade or more. In 1986, her first album brought her national attention. Her song “Addicted” was taken all the way to #1 on Billboard’s Top 40 Country chart by superstar Dan Seals in 1988. Since then, she has released a series of albums of her comic and emotionally intense songs
which are considered singer-songwriter classics around the world. Says Bellaire, “Cheryl is a treasure. Her songs are perfect – every note and every word propels the story forward. She’s also a masterful performer. She can have you in tears one minute and rolling in the aisle the next. Every show is magical.”

RIMHOF Chair Bob Billington says, “This year’s honorees are amazing. Their histories in music are superior. Rhode Islanders should meet and greet them in person at our events. They will not be disappointed.”

Tickets for the Saturday, May 3 Tavares concert at Lupo’s and for the induction ceremonies and concert on Sunday, May 4 at The Met can be purchased at
http://www.rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com. He also serves on RIMHOF’s Board of Directors.