Arts & Culture

Alums play Avon homecoming show tonight

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eight years ago, as freshmen, Jeff Prystowsky ’06 and Ben Miller ’06 were jazz DJs for WBRU’s graveyard-shift jazz show, 2:30-5:30 a.m.

Now, years later, Prystowsky and Miller — who, along with Jocie Adams ’08, compose the folk trio The Low Anthem — have toured the world and amassed a fan base far beyond College Hill. Tonight, they will be returning home for a show at the Avon.

Local bands Brown Bear and Death Vessel will be opening.

“It should be a really special show,” Prystowsky said, adding that this will be the first live show at the Avon in over a decade — a feat that took a little convincing.

“It took a lot of work to get them to agree with this,” he said, an arrangement that has proven fruitful despite the Avon’s lack of concert infrastructure.

Getting over logistical issues wasn’t the concert’s only hurdle: Due to a scheduling problem, all of the band’s instruments have already been shipped to Seattle in advance of the band’s upcoming West Coast tour, Prystowsky said. Despite the difficulties, he said, friends of the band have lent instruments, and local establishments have offered their support. The show will go on.

“All of our friends are helping us out — WaterFire is providing the sound and lights; Trinity Brewhouse is providing subsidized beers,” he said. “There were all these problems, one after another, and people stepped up from the community. It’s a hometown effort.”

The band — which released its third album, “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin,” last September — has maintained a strong relationship with Providence.

Prystowksy and Miller began playing together during their first-year stint at WBRU in a variety of groups and genres of music. They finally settled on a name and a sound and began playing shows at the Underground and around Providence at venues such as the Hot Club and Local 121.

“We did a lot on our own in Providence in terms of building what we have today,” Prystowsky said.

All three band members studied music at Brown — Adams joined the band in 2007 when she was still a senior — and Prystowsky said their experiences at the University shaped them as artists. “The professors of music at Brown certainly were influential, being people who were serious about music.”

He also said the band — which now lives together on the East Side — was very much shaped by the greater Providence arts community.

“In terms of Providence, it’s probably shaped us more not for the content of our songs, per se, and arrangement, but for being a great community of artists here,” Prystowsky said.
Prystowsky also said the artists’ community in Providence is very collaborative, a quality that fostered the group’s growth. 

“It’s a small town, and you have the Brown bands, but then you also have these Providence bands that help each other out and stay in touch,” he said.

“A lot of people at Brown don’t realize it, but the city of Providence has a lot of art going on,” Prystowsky added. “There’s a lot to the city to explore, but people write it off because it’s not Boston and it’s not New York.”

After the show, Prystowsky, Miller and Adams will be reunited with their instruments in Seattle for the West Coast tour, after which they will begin a weeks’ worth of shows in London and Holland, before heading back home to begin recording a new album.

After touring with top songwriters like Ray LaMontagne, performing alongside the likes of Elvis Costello and playing high-profile festivals that draw hundreds of thousands of people, there is one venue The Low Anthem has yet to play: Spring Weekend.

“We’ve tried to play Spring Weekend and they wouldn’t let us,” Prystowsky said. He continued. “I was like, ‘we’re playing Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo; can’t we play Spring Weekend?’ And they said no. We’ve been rejected the past eight years.”