Photo: Andrew Losowsky

Mike and Christo Yanish are brothers, but they each pronounce their last name differently. In fact, Mike uses the stage name “Mike Yaya” because “no-one could pronounce Yanish.” Mike, who is a high school senior, has been playing guitar for nearly six years, while Christo, who is at Boston University, switched from piano to guitar a couple of months ago. They play at Tazza every Sunday. “We try to do at least three or four open mics a week,” says Christo. “Tazza is my favorite.”

Allysen has always loved to play music, but her performing career had a tough start. “I had horrible stage fright. I went to a doctor who gave me relaxation techniques and medication I have to take before I go on stage. It’s made all the difference in the world.” She plays regularly downtown at AS220, Tazza, and Local 121. She grew up in Rhode Island, has a 15-year-old daughter, and just got married this summer to the editor of the Bristol Phoenix. “We met when I wrote him a letter about a music venue.”

Jimmy works as head of security for shows at Lupo’s, at the Black Rep at 276 Westminster Street, and runs the security for the Sound Session summer music festival that takes place on this street. He is also an actor and a writer. “I’ve written a play based on the song Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday. I had never heard it until about two years ago, when my mom and brother were talking about it. So I went home, listened to it, and of course I was blown away.” The song is about the lynching of black men in the South. “I set my mind to building this diorama of a black dude being hung from a tree, and I built my fairy tale around that.”

The first time Ted went to Lupo’s, it was located on Westminster Street near Empire Street, and was “one of the greatest rock clubs anyone ever went to.” He remembers the time that, when he was 17, “James Brown’s bassist broke his amp. So a guy at Lupo’s called a friend of mine who had one and asked us — two high school kids — to bring it along. It was one of the great musical experiences of my life.” Ted also frequented the second Lupo’s, here on Westminster Street, where Craftland is today. “I saw Iggy Pop there. It was incredible. He moved like a wounded jackrabbit.” In the 1990s, Ted was a guitarist in The Upper Crust, then a senior advisor to President Clinton, and is now director of a rare books library at Brown. As for the current Lupo’s on Washington Street, “I’ve only seen one gig there. I’m older now.”

Betty-Lou is staying at the Westin hotel, and is in town with her choir for an “a capella” convention. “We sing in harmony without accompaniment. It goes anywhere from gospel to jazz — today we did a set that was just old ABBA songs.” She lives in Toronto, Canada, and joined the group 25 years ago, to meet new people. Last year, the choir performed in Russia. “St Petersburg is a lot like Providence — very old, with lots of history.”

What is now an empty lot next to Tazza was once one of the city’s finest venues for live entertainment, Low’s Opera House, which opened in 1878. Among the performers who graced its stage were Oscar Wilde and the French actress Sarah Bernhardt, as well as vaudeville performers, opera singers, and an all-female minstrel troupe.

When Buddy was a kid, “this was a hustling, bustling place. I remember riding the streetcars, too bad we don’t have them any more. All that was a different era, before people moved out to the suburbs. I remember coming to take my piano and singing lessons in the Alice Building” (above where Symposium Books and Tazza are today). He remembers singing “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you,” and “Where do you work a-John?” “I was about nine years old and my singing was terrific.”

Adam is on tour from Iowa City. He is the bassist in a band called The Tanks, and he’s helping to unload the gear for their gig at The 201, the bar just to your left. “Our set is a half hour usually. We try not to play too long because it’s so loud.”

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  1. […] our first week, we told stories about coffee, and this morning we installed ‘music‘. It’ll continue for 14 weeks, and will also feature other events, including a special […]

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