Last Friday, a legendary Providence club closed it doors.
Rhode Island's PDP fans knew The Living Room as our home base, the place where we had many of our most significant live performances and where we chose to celebrate any time we had new music to unleash on the world.
PDP supporters also came to complain loudly at times that we played too many shows there, that the accomodations weren't five-star, that Bud Light in cans and Jack Daniels in plastic cups weren't what they expected from a night on the town. It seemed that the things we thought of as charming were unacceptable to Joe Rapfan, that they'd prefer a door on their bathroom.
Well, eventually, they got a bathroom door.
You see, what the complaining voices didn't get was that over time, The Living Room grew from being a place that we played to a home base to a home. The staff had become people we were glad to be able to call friends. They were a rag-tag bunch that recognized a hip hop crew that had a similar unorthodox makeup, and embraced us at a place that was more at home with the guitars and black t-shirts that came through the door with other local bands than with the crates of vinyl, non-stop tagging, and relentless attempts to turn the place into a blunt-smoke hot box for the ages that accompanied the RI hip hop community.
PDP became so closely tied to the venue that when word of the spot's demise started to make the rounds, a writer from a prominent Providence publication reached out to get my feelings on the subject. Not because he wanted a quote for a story; because he wanted to see how we were dealing with the news.
What people also forget is that The Living Room is the only local venue to never turn its back on hip hop music. Name another club or bar or location, I'll tell you about a time when live rap music (and sometimes even DJs!) were not welcome at that place. The Hien family and their extended Living Room fam made sure that never happened, and that's something that the community should always remember and appreciate.
In 2006, the great Randy Hien, longtime owner of the Living Room, passed away. PDP organized a benefit show for his family in November of that year. We've decided to re-run some of the reaction articles from that show here now, as a way to mark the passing of another great, The Living Room itself. Before that, you'll read the farewell letter from Aaron & Greg, two of the guys who made up a big part of the heart & soul of the club these past few years.
And so, standing at the end of an era, we can definitively say: Rhode Island never thanked you enough. And neither did we.
So, one last time: Thank you for everything. Those times will never be forgotten.
-Storm Davis | PDP
Thank You Providence! We Love You! Goodnight!
This past Friday, in a very fitting way, six local metal bands played a show at the Living Room. There were some newer bands, young and full of hopeful optimism, and some scene veterans, doing what they love as they have hundreds of times before on that stage. It was the kind of show that kept the doors of that club open for the last fifteen years, and it was the last show.
Randy always said the reason he loved musicians so much and why he kept the doors of the club open when logic and reason both probably dictated otherwise, is because musicians are the last great dreamers of the world. Randy felt it was a dream worth getting behind and he did so with a contagious optimism. The dreams of countless musicians were given a home inside The Living Room, and the scene flourished within its doors. From the hard working veterans of the local scene, to the touring acts, to the teenagers playing their first show on a Monday night in front of their girlfriends and parents, Randy made everyone feel welcome. He always encouraged and supported the bands and his employees in any way he could.
The current staff of The Living Room has taken an enormous amount of pride and put a lot of hard work into keeping Randy's dream alive. It is with heavy hearts and for reasons outside of our control that we will be unable to continue hosting shows at The Living Room. We sincerely apologize to any bands with shows booked that will not be able to take place. Please look for further announcements about shows that are being moved to other venues. We would also like to thank every single person that ever performed, drank, fought, danced, puked, sang along, worked or dared to dream within the walls of that club, or the two locations that preceded it.
What the future holds is still uncertain, maybe a new location and a new set of dreams. But in the mean time, if you see Papa Joe or Little Pete, any member of the Hien family, DJ Venom, Max Creek, or any of the people or bands that made The Living Room what it was to you over the course of the last thirty years, say thanks. A lot of blood, sweat and tears were shed on that stage and in that room, let's not forget why and who made it possible for us all to live the dream.
What dreams may come…
Aaron Jaehnig and Gregory Rourke
On November 15, 2006, PDP held RI Rap Remembers: A Benefit for the Randy Hien Family Fund, to raise money for scholarship funds for the children left behind by Living Room owner Randy Hien, who passed away in 2006. We present to you some reactions to the night published by attendees, in the interest of saying goodbye and thank you one more time to one of the Ocean State's greats.
RI Hip Hop Honors a Friend
By Reza Corinne Clifton
PROVIDENCE, RI - Last Wednesday, November 15, in front of an all ages audience beginning at 8:00 PM, a number of artists performed and paid tribute to a monumentally important man in the local music scene. It was during "Rhode Island Rap Remembers: a Benefit for the Randy Hien Family Fund," a show which took place at The Living Room on Rathbone Street. It which featured a bevy of local hip hop emcees (rappers): Poorly Drawn People: Reason and Dox, Storm Davis, Symmetry; Chachi, Romen Rok, Jon Hope, and Minister Ref; and turntable dj's, Sterby Rock and Al Bums.
For decades, Hien, and later The Living Room with Hien at its helm, were known for inviting people of all ages and ethnicities, and befriending musicians and promoters with any level of exposure. While this writer never personally met Hien, I know that I consider the live music/performance experience so sacred in part because I began going early—to The Living Room as a high school student, thanks to the regularly-held all ages events.
It was clear talking to artists Chachi and Romen Rok that Hien's support and welcoming spirit has been a significant factor in moving a diverse, amorphous RI hip hop agenda forward. While Chachi might describe the hip hop scene as in a "soon to blow" state, he also categorizes it as "very persistent" and "kind of depressing at times"—due to low fan support. Romen identified the local scene similarly, remarking that it causes and consists of lower back pain and anxiety. These are common to any local music scene, but it's having club owners like Hien—who appreciated the real challenges but still valued music, creativity, and people who work hard—that make a difference in whether local music can thrive.
Through full-length cd's, radio shows, frequent performances, regional and national appearances and collaborations, name recognition, and more, last Wednesday's artists are thriving in one way or another. And last week's show was about showing that they haven't forgotten one of the heroes who helped make it possible.
After his death this past September, The Providence Phoenix, an alternative weekly distributed in Providence and across RI, published a heartfelt and sincere tribute about his life that included anecdotes and remembrances from the various friends and associates he guided, encouraged, loved, and impacted. Click here to read that article.
Reza's article originally appeared on her site here.
Reza Corinne Clifton is a community organizer for high school reform at RI Children's Crusade for Higher Education. She is also a freelance writer who is regularly published in several RI-area publications. Her articles can be seen at www.RezaRitesRi.com and she can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video of PDP's performance at the RI Rap Remembers: A Benefit for the Hien Family Fund courtesy of LeeLeePDP.
Randy Hein Benefit Show
by: Phil Mack
Nov 19 2006
Being foreign to these parts I wasn't aware of Randy Hein's presence before his death. I was made aware while driving my car home from work the night of his death. A local sports radio station announced that a long time Little League coach and community leader had died in a car accident. Maybe later that same week I heard the owner of Living Room had died. I didn't know the connection at first. I didn't learn the impact until Wednesday night. This man was widely respected in the overground and underground. He must have been a special person. Doing things for all types of kids. Respect. I hope his family and friends are well.
Mortal, DawnStar and I rolled in the Hyundai. I was looking forward to putting my feet in the RI hip hop scene for the night. Of course we were late. Royal was rocking and Sterby Rock (Wednesday 3 to 6 on WRIU 90.3 ) was on the turntables. Went outside and this cat wearing beads came up and gave Mortal some germ free elbow daps.. lol, I never saw that one before. I was thinking about it every time I touched palms the rest of the night.
Minister of Reference was next up. He was the first I heard bring the benefit to the street. Randy Hein made it possible for many people to rock. Ref dropped over beats and did some a cappella jams. Here's a piece I won't forget… "you wanna stick your dick in a dime but you're too chicken to try" fuck that's funny to me… Abstract Soul joined ref but I hardly knew it because I actually thought that shit was playing off a fucking CD. Then I realized.. Those aren't digitally mastered pre-recorded beats, it was dudes mouth. He drops beats like an MPC with multiple kits loaded.. Amazing.
Hip Hop crowds like to stand back early and move up late… reminds me of what Ref was talking about. John Hope was having too much fun. He stomped around the stage and gave it his all, I was feeling it. Al Bums was on the CD now but John Hope also wanted to do some a cappella. I think there was miscommunication but professionals keep moving. The crowd was starting to fill out Roman Rok came on. This man has a lot of energy. Moving and shaking all over the stage. The crowd started to MOVE CLOSER. I put myself close again and clicked some dope photographs. I have one that makes Roman look like some sort of disturbed scholar with Al Bums feeling it in the background. Storm Davis and Roman rocked a GnR based joint together. It's cool how you can take a song that was cool and make it into a new song that's cool. Also, the Storm Davis shirts are fresh, I got one from Mortal cuase that shit would never fit him!
There were a ton of beatiful pairings of women at the show. They always go in pairs don't they? Then they hang together all night. Some sort of Hip Hope show buddy system. You know the ones that come with the scene becuase you'll see them talking in many circles, not always in pairs. I saw different guys trying to separate some of these connected bodies... That's a rough situation to walk into unless your intentions are pure. There was also some dude with designer genes on, obviously purchased with "holes included".. haha..
Chachi was next. John Hope came back to rock with Chachi as well. All I know is… The vibe was strong the crowd was growing stronger. My unoccupied hands were in the air. What a great place to be and to have on Wednesday night. Both these cats rock with much passion and know their respective intentions. About this time I saw Mortal fuming near the merch table... Apparently Chachi is now the mayor of Rhode Island hip hop! An election needs to be scheduled I guess.
Poorly Drawn People were schedule last. Turns out dude with the germ free elbows and beads is Symmetry who hadn't rocked at AS220 the other night. Reason, Storm Davis, and Dox made their presence known like they do. I was wondering, does Reason have any eyes? I never see'em on stage. I did capture a photograph where he obviously looks directly out from under the brim of his cap... Dox would kinda chill at the corner of the stage and watch Symmetry and Reason do a couple tracks. I have a photo where he's obviously as impressed with their skill as I'm impressed with his ability to make beats.
Thank you, Randy Hein. We're in your debt. All the artists that got up portrayed this sentiment with much respect. Rhode Island hip hop is alive. With all this talent in every corner how can it not get better for everyone involved? Togetherness is key. You can't realize your potential without a gang of backup and support.
Post show there was parking lot building and bullshitting. There will be an election and my friend Eric D is a new fan of the scene. Sterby Rock and Al Bums were back behind the revolving track machines rotating all night. I saw Save1 back there as well. Mic Feen was in the crowd and Esh was at the merch table generally looking ill due to illness. Peace to all the deliverers. R.I.P. Randy Hein.