James Toomey started a hyper-local podcast as a way to dig into and archive the ever-evolving Providence music scene. Through wide-ranging interviews with local musicians and club owners, Toomey has used Where the Living Room Used to Be as a vehicle to explore, reminisce, and support the artists and musicians in Providence.
“I started the podcast to help archive Rhode Island’s music scene in a sense,” Toomey begins. “The podcast allows me to share personal stories by guests across many genres of music and talk about the particular places they play and the other musicians that perform alongside them.” Toomey says, “I’ve purposely tried to keep the episodes as succinct as possible in hopes that a fan of a specific style of local music may still be open to learning about someone they’re not familiar with and find the interview interesting.”
In light of venues such as The News Cafe, The Parlour, AS220, and Dusk having their doors largely closed to live music, Toomey has been using his platform to curate and release benefit compilations on Bandcamp that reflect the scene and vibe of the venues we miss. Most recently, Toomey and Gregory Rourke of The Parlour teamed up to put together the mix that resulted in Everyone’s Welcome – A Benefit Compilation for The Parlour.
“The Parlour’s mission is to provide a safe space for people of all ages, backgrounds, and culture to come and enjoy some entertainment at an affordable price. I would like to say we continue to bring the philosophy of Randy Hien (of The Living Room) forth by providing a place for musicians to grow and for people to come see talent of all levels – national, international, as well as local,” says Rourke. “Everything has changed since COVID. We were completely blindsided and in shock. Nightclub business operates on a shoe-string budget – it’s a labor of love.”
In addition to the support of the Friends of the Parlour and the Save the Parlour GoFundMe, Toomey’s compilation is another way people are coming together to help keep these venues afloat until brighter days. With donated songs that reflect the regular performers of The Parlour, the compilation works as an extension to the mission of Toomey’s podcast: to support and document the hyper-local.
“All of the benefit compilations I’ve done this year have come together really quickly, like less than a week from idea to release,” says Toomey. “I did work with Gregory from The Parlour on their respective compilation. I really wanted the comps to hopefully showcase the individual scenes each of these clubs have, so I also reached out to bands that I’ve personally seen at The Parlour… People have been more than gracious – contributing unreleased tracks or even working quickly to record a song specifically for the release. I’m really happy with how they came out and they’ve collectively helped raise thousands of dollars.”
For Rourke and the folks at The Parlour, these are uncertain times, but there is a sense that venues can pull through. “It’s hard for me to ask for help of this magnitude, especially in a time where so many are struggling,” Rourke says, “but the overwhelming support from the community has given me the drive and much needed encouragement to fight. If we succeed I will do everything in my power to keep The Parlour a beacon of love, light, and hope on the East Side.”
For the time being, the compilation and the Save the Parlour GoFundMe might serve as the best way to stay connected and support The Parlour through these times. Also, keep an eye on social media to support creative outdoor shows at places like AS220, Askew, and Dusk, as well as the food and drinks still available at The News Cafe, The Galactic Theatre, and The Parlour. With a little help, their doors will eventually reopen.
“When venues open again, I think people would be more willing to pay that cover in order to be in the room for a live music and arts experience,” says Rourke. “So hopefully the reset button helps with this as well. Some musicians go on tour and play to crowds of thousands and come home to play to much smaller crowds. That’s the beauty of the small venue.”