The News Cafe on 43 Broad Street in Pawtucket is the coolest little dive in the city. They have cold beer and tasty cocktails for reasonable prices, you can indulge in a stuffie or some nachos and let's not forget their trademark $1 jello shots. The place also has become a key venue for Rhode Island’s music scene due to having live music on a consistent basis. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sadly all of this is on hold at the News much like everywhere else. There is some good news coming out of this with a special compilation album raising money for the establishment.
Started by James Toomey, who is the Director Of Marketing for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and host of the Where The Living Room Used To Be podcast, “Making Pawtucket Famous” is a record consisting of an assortment of tracks from local bands and musicians who frequent the News’ checkered floor. It’s an effort Toomey began in order to support The Ocean State’s vibrant music community.
“Since this quarantine started I've tried to be as active as I can to help the music scene here in Rhode Island,” He says on what gave him the idea to start the compilation. I've made donations, bought a bunch of music, sold my Where The Living Room Used To Be podcast shirts and donated all the money to musicians. I still felt like I could do more though. Like many, I've seen a lot of livestream fundraisers and benefit shirt campaigns pop up, but I hadn't heard of a benefit compilation or saw too much in support of News Cafe as of yet. I love the News not only as a musician that's played the club but more so for the community of people there and the support they offer to both local and touring bands.”
“In my opinion, it's a wonderful space for music and like several other spots around the state, they've seemed to build their own scene,” Toomey adds. “The compilation came together very quickly, I messaged Justin Foster on April 26 to check to see if it was cool to do a benefit for News Cafe. I started messaging bands that night and pretty much by April 29 it was together and just waiting to be released via Bandcamp on May 1st when the company was waiving their fees so more money would go directly to the News. I'm so happy because that first day the benefit raised over $1,000. The songs on the compilation include bands that the bookers, bartenders and regulars are all in as well as other bands that frequently play the News so it really showcases the club.”
The compilation has some never before released tracks and even some live recordings from shows at the News. It makes it even more unique rather than it being your typical hodgepodge of local music.
“One of the unintended benefits is that it kick started some songwriting and creativity from some people,” Toomey mentions. “For instance, The Benji's pushed to finish a new song to include it and Joe Lou wrote a song specifically for this project. Plus there are new songs never released digitally, demos, and a live track recorded at the News. I do hope more people check out ‘Making Pawtucket Famous’ and pay what they can to support this vital venue in Rhode Island's music scene.”
Foster, who is the main booker and sound engineer at the News Cafe, is very happy about the support the compilation has gotten. It makes him feel like he’s back at the bar on a regular night despite the current situation.
“The generosity and community support is incredible and we are so grateful for it,” He says. “Even though live performances at the News are on hold, this compilation makes me feel like I'm under the neon martini again.”
Along with The Benji’s and Joe Lou, other acts on the compilation include hip hop artists such as Jesse The Tree and Slitty Wrists, punks like Stubborn Hearts, The Callouts, Freakbag and Funeral Cone, new wave dynamos Mortal Render and Artist Jackie and indie rockers Nova One, Cherry Pit and Ghosts In The Snow among others. There’s a lot of variety within the album so various music tastes will be appeased. Log on to https://livingroomutb.bandcamp.com/album/making-pawtucket-famous-a-benefit-compilation-for-news-cafe to give “Making Pawtucket Famous” a listen and make a donation to help the News Cafe stay afloat during these uncertain times.