Friday night, the indie and electronic pop Providence-rooted group Bellerophon performed at music hall Aurora in downtown Providence, stirring up combustive, synth-heavy ecstasy in one of the creative capital’s most seminal venues. The concert was one of Aurora’s final shows and serves as a flattering adieu to an integral space for musicians residing in the 401.
A part of the “Aarp-Tronix” showcase of local electronic music, Bellerophon’s set joined those of fellow artists The Kolour Kult and Favourite. But the outfit’s sound remains singularly defined by a diversity of influences encompassing everything from 80s new-wave to Italian industrial music. “Our influences extend from Depeche Mode to The Knife to Juan Luis Guerra,” said Mauricio Ossa, Bellerophon’s vocalist, lead guitarist and frontman.
Such a multifaceted soundscape might lend itself to a certain performative flexibility — a virtue epitomized by the group’s recent addition of saxophonist Ben Shaw, who debuted with Bellerophon Friday night.
“This was actually my first ever gig with (Bellerophon),” Shaw said. “Mauricio contacted me a while back about playing synths and horn with him, but then the supremely talented keyboardist Antonio (made) his way into the group,” Shaw added, alluding to the aural gap filled by Antonio Forte, whose inaugural performance as a member of Bellerophon was at Providence’s Foo Fest on Aug. 12. Today, the group is comprised of Shaw, Forte, Ossa and drummer Brian St. Pierre.
The Aurora show, along with Shaw’s addition, bolster the burgeoning alt-rock outfit’s upward momentum. With each supplemental part, the group gains a broader and more transformative sound — a sonic apex perhaps most realized in Friday’s set as the group appeared in its largest, most comprehensive incarnation to date.
“The sound was much bigger and fuller and projected more confidence as we’ve become more accustomed to each other,” Ossa said. “We’re much more consolidated as an ensemble.”
Friday’s “Aarp-Tronix” marks Ossa’s final show at a venue that has done much to cultivate his creativity. “I played a handful of shows at Aurora in 2014 with an indie rock project called ‘Blacksow,’” Ossa said. “But as Bellerophon, I made my debut there in February 2015 and in subsequent shows went on to open for UK band ‘Until the Ribbons Break’ during the Free Mondays concert series.” In 2016, Ossa was awarded a Dorry — an arts and culture award bestowed by the Law and Order Party, a Rhode Island newsletter — for electronic act of the year. “Honestly, some of my best musical moments happened (at Aurora). … I’m sad to see it go.”
“Aurora has always been fantastic to us,” Shaw said. “I used to go to Wednesday’s jazz jams all the time when it was still called the Roots Cultural Center and then was fortunate enough to be the emcee of the next iteration of the jam when it switched to Aurora,” Shaw added.
In a press release, Aurora officials both lamented its closure and celebrated its history as “a vibrant venue for creative expression and community interactions.” And although its illustrious pedigree of performers includes such nationally-acclaimed musicians as Thee Oh Sees and Denzel Curry, the venue has chiefly served to spotlight and mature local artists like Bellerophon from its inception.
“That place has just given me so many fantastic memories and opportunities to make music for and with good people,” Shaw said.