Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone teams up with brother to create Hurtsmile


While the Boston-based rock band Extreme is in-between touring and recording, lead vocalist Gary Cherone has been busy with his latest venture Hurtsmile. The singer, who also fronted Van Halen for three years during the late 1990s, said he is pleased he finally has the opportunity to collaborate with his brother, Mark Cherone, the guitarist for his new band.

“The project actually started in 2007, just before Extreme reunited,” Gary said. “It was a long time coming. Mark and I always talked about it over the years but never wrote together. I’ve always been a fan of his guitar playing and when we found ourselves in the same area, we wrote some music. We didn’t know it would turn into a full band, so we made some of the music available on the Internet.”

The following year, Extreme released Saudades de Rock, their fifth studio album. They went on tour in 2009, so Hurtsmile was put on hold. But, after Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt joined R&B recoding artist Rihanna on tour last year, Gary thought it was the perfect chance to pursue the project.

He and Mark recruited bassist Joe Pessia, an alumnus of Bettencourt’s band, DramaGods, as well as the guitarist for the Boston-based band, Tantric. Dana Spellman, who was once a student of Extreme’s former drummer and current Dream Theater drummer, Mike Mangini, handles drum duties.

“The time was right so Mark and I decided to pitch a record,” Gary said. “It was such an easy process. Mark and I came up with initial ideas for songs with lyrics and music and presented it to the band. Then, everyone threw in their two cents. I’m really inspired by the people I play and write with.”

The band’s self-titled debut album was recorded at Gary’s Massachusetts home and released shortly after in the United States on February 15th via the Italian-based Frontiers Record label. Pessia co-produced the album with Gary.

“He also engineered the whole thing,” Gary said of Pessia. “He has an objective opinion of the songs outside of what Mark and I think. And Spellman has an incredible memory. We can throw him three or four ideas and he remembers all the arrangements that we forget. He plays like a Manic and he’s always up for anything. You could say that about a lot of drummers but he brings a lot of passion to it. Recording with these guys was a lot of fun.”

Of the 12-tracks, Gary said “Stillborn,” “Just War Theory,” and “Love Thy Neighbor,” are among his favorites to sing at shows. He feels other songs are tougher to do live.

“I like the trilogy at the end of the album, ‘Slave’ and ‘Beyond The Garden/Kicking The Goads,’ but those are harder to perform,” he said. “It really depends on the environment you’re in.”

He said their brief tour of Japan earlier this summer helped them develop and fine-tune their music, as they performed eight shows in ten days for the tsunami and earthquake fund, Rock n’ Relief.

Additionally, Hurtsmile played a few gigs in the East Coast this summer and made a stop at Showcase Live in Foxboro, which is not too far from Gary’s hometown of Malden.

“It’s always good to play home,” Gary said. “They are always special shows.”

He said Boston gigs also tend to feel a bit nerve-wracking for him, as he lost his voice during a Van Halen show at what is now the Comcast Center in Mansfield in 1998. He sometimes feels unsettled prior to performing as a result.

“That show comes up in my mind every time I play in Boston,” he said. “The reason I lost my voice was because I didn’t have my game face on. I wasn’t prepared that night. The tour was successful and the fans were great but there were a few groups of loyal Sammy fans and Dave fans that sometimes got in my head when I was up there on stage.”

Nevertheless, he enjoyed his time with Van Halen and is proud of 3, the album he wrote and recorded with them. “Josephina” and “A Year to the Day” are two songs he enjoys most.

“Those three years with Van Halen were awesome,” Gary said. “They were great to work with. A lot of people think he has a crazy persona but Eddie Van Halen is very sweet and generous. He’s one of those guys who puts a guitar on and you can’t keep up with him because he’s a genius. The ideas just keep flowing out of him. Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen were great to me, too. We had a lot of fun doing that record and being on the road.”

When asked what he thought about Mangini taking over on drums for Mike Portnoy in the progressive rock band    Dream Theater, Gary said Mangini is certainly capable. In fact, he described Mangini and Portnoy as two of the “best drummers on the planet.”

He also said Mangini is in a position he can parallel to his experience with Van Halen.

“I know what he’s getting into,” said Gary. “There are a lot of loyal fans that are going to hate him just for replacing Portnoy. But, it’s the perfect band for him because they are progressive and Mangini can bring some craziness to it. He’s one of a kind.”

Currently, Hurtsmile is working on new material. In 2012, Gary plans on picking up with the members of Extreme, including Bettencourt, bassist Pat Badger, and drummer Kevin Figueiredo. The band last performed in 2009 at the House of Blues in Boston.

“Right now, Nuno and I are writing material separately but we’ll get together when he finishes up with Rihanna and we’ll write for the next record,” he said. “We’re hoping to get music out before we tour but you’ll probably see us before you hear new material.”

Before the interview ended, Gary cleared up a humorous misunderstanding that was documented about his athletic aspirations. During a question and answer segment he had with a reporter when Extreme debuted, a reporter asked him what he wanted to do for a living when he was a child and he said he hoped to be a professional basketball player but a knee injury derailed his dreams. He didn’t think the reporter took him seriously.

“It was a joke but it’s been following me my whole career,” he said. “When you’re a kid, you want to be a sports hero but we both laughed during the interview because I’m not very tall.”


An open letter to our readers

Hello Everyone,

As all of you know by now, even though I will keep my position as Director of Marketing, I am a 50% owner of Limelight. I’ve always enjoyed marketing because it’s different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s fun, exciting and it’s not your typical office job. I especially enjoy promoting the local music scene. I know talent when I see it. I must say that just from this year’s Limelight Music Awards, there’s a lot of tremendous talent out there. In my capacity as co-owner, I would like to help all the amazing bands in New England get noticed and be heard. Just because there is a slight change in ownership doesn’t mean Limelight is totally changing, the only thing changing is that Limelight will be better than ever! We will continue to provide the same coverage that we’ve been known for and are still going to have our amazing and talented staff that includes Jessica A. Botelho (Managing Editor), Kristen Pierson (Photographer) and Gorette Sousa (Graphic Designer). Some new faces will be added to the fold in the upcoming weeks. As to the future, we hope to upgrade the Limelight website and we have some exciting events planned throughout the region to showcase local musicians. Furthermore, our five year anniversary concert will be coming up soon so make sure to keep posted for that! Thanks for reading and I appreciate all of the support I’ve received so far…you rock!!


Katie Botelho

Co-Owner, Limelight Magazine & JKB Management & Booking


Pre-teen guitar prodigy set to open for Buddy Guy at The Z


Twelve-year-old Quinn Sullivan knows how to handle a guitar. That’s why blues legend Buddy Guy has appointed him to be the opening act for his current tour.

As a New Bedford native, Sullivan said he thinks their upcoming performance at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, August 24, will be special because he’ll be back in his hometown with his loved ones.

“My whole family is going to come out for the show and it will be a big celebration,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

In fact, the two guitarists met at the historic theater five years ago when Sullivan was eight. He went to see Guy perform and they were introduced after the gig.

“It was so cool because I didn’t know I was going to meet him,” said Sullivan. “It was a wonderful experience. I had a guitar with me for him to sign and from there he said, ‘Be ready when I call you.’”

Shortly after, Guy contacted Sullivan and requested that he join him for a few shows. By the third performance, Guy asked him to appear on his Grammy-nominated album, “Skin Deep,” which was released in 2008.

“I played the solo played on, ‘Who’s Gonna’ Fill Those Shoes,’” Sullivan said.

To repay the favor, Guy performed on one of Sullivan’s songs, “Buddy’s Blues,” which is featured on his 12-track debut blues-rock album, “Cyclone.” It was released in early spring of this year and produced by Tom Hambridge in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The album is number seven on the blues tracks right now,” said Sullivan. “I’ve written songs with Hambridge and have been learning a lot from him. Recording was a really cool experience because he’s a great producer. He’s written for so many artists and is really a cool guy. Being in the studio was awesome.”

Another thing that Sullivan thinks is “awesome” is the fact that he finished sixth grade just a few months ago and is now on tour with Guy. This summer, he said he is enjoying the opportunity to travel the United States and visit venues he’s never been before.

In particular, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado and Hollywood Bowl in California were the biggest highlights of his journey so far. He also liked a few clubs in Chicago.

“The best part is definitely playing at cool places with him,” Sullivan said. “I’ve been all over the country. It has been awesome to travel with a legend.”

During the last four years, Sullivan and Guy have played together more than 30 times. On this tour, he’ll open for Guy at about 20 concerts and will also play a handful of solo shows.

But, Guy isn’t the only well-known blues guitarist Sullivan has rubbed shoulders with. In February of 2009, he performed with B.B. King at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

“It was incredible,” said Sullivan. “I’m going to be doing another show with B.B. King and Buddy in upstate New York soon.”

Someday, he hopes to expand his already incredible resume. He hopes to play a show with Eric Clapton.

“I’ve loved him since I was five or six,” said Sullivan. “I’ve always looked up to him as a guitar player, an artist, and a person, so that’s why I want to meet him. He’s just a cool musician.”

In addition to Guy, King, and Clapton, Sullivan has been heavily inspired by other blues and rock musicians such as the Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks, and Pink Floyd. The Beatles are among his favorites, too.

“They would have to be the band that I would say influenced me the most over the years,” he said. “I’ve listened to them since I was three. I was a Beatle fanatic and that’s all I listened to for five years. My mom and dad always had their music in the house and I loved them right from the start.”

Immersing himself in his parents’ music collection is what sparked his interest in guitar. He said the instrument, “just kind of stuck out over everything else.”

“My parents bought me one when I was three and I started playing around with it,” Sullivan said. “I began taking lessons when I was five. From then on, I kept at it.”

He can also play the drums, some keyboard, and a little bass. But, when he’s not busy being a young celebrity, as he has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show; The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and Jimmy Kimmel Live, Sullivan said he likes hanging out with friends and playing tennis and basketball.

“And I love scary movies,” he said. “I like ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘Paranormal Activity,’ and ‘Halloween.’ But, I don’t think of myself as this big star. I just think of myself as a regular kid.”

Sullivan will continue to tour with Guy for the remainder of the summer, through the spring. In that time, he plans to finish up his second album.

“We already have some tracks written,” he said. “We’ll probably start that in December or January.”

Tickets for the show are on-sale now by phone (508-994-2900), online, or in person at the box office. The Zeiterion’s box office is located at 684 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA 02740. Box Office Hours: M-F 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.zeiterion.org.

YORK ready to ‘shine like a star’


With a few new members added to the mix, the North Attleboro-based band, YORK, just celebrated their CD release party at The Ruins at the Colosseum in Providence on June 3. After putting together their first full-length album, “Box Full Of Memories,” they said their group is as solid and fresh as ever.

“The new members have made everything feel more complete and whole,” said Emily Rickard, who plays keyboard and shares vocal duties with bassist Dan Pawlowsli. “Before, we were going through any musician we could grab to call ourselves a full band. Musically, our compositions have been evolving constantly. In one of the songs, ‘Shine,’ we have a pretty intense solo that I would have never guessed to be in a YORK song.”

Pawlowski agreed, saying they have “evolved a lot musically.” He also said their live shows are much stronger, as they added a second guitarist and incorporated a new drummer.

“Mike Taub, our guitarist, and Erick Cifuentes, our drummer, bring a lot of energy to our live performances, something I would say we were slightly lacking,” he said.

John Shay, the original guitarist, said each member impacts every song “immensely” when writing.

“There are a lot of different emotions that come with the task and everyone tends to put their own into the songs we decide to track,” said Shay. “If we were to break it down, usually [Rickard] and [Pawlowski] mainly influence melody and structure; [Taub] and [Cifuentes] tend to influence a lot when it comes to the composition of music; and I influence the lyrical content.”

To record the album, YORK hooked up with producer/engineer David Adam Monroe of Time Bomb Studios based in Somerville, Mass. Monroe heard their music on MySpace and contacted the band. He let them know he was interested in working with them.

“We looked into him and we thought that he seemed pretty legit,” Pawlowski said. “It turns out that he was. [He] is one of the reasons YORK sounds the way it does today. He showed us a different way to take on the writing process and helps us get the best out of every song when we record.”

Shay said teaming up with Monroe was the best decision the band has made in their three-year career. He thinks of Monroe as a father figure, but also a friend and mentor.

“He tells us when our lyrics are just there to fill space, when a certain section of a song just doesn’t sit well in the song, and tells us when to shut up or get out of the room when we’re going delirious in the studio,” said Shay. “He is always giving us advice and direction. It is always the best times of our lives when we head into the studio with [him.]”

Now that the album is complete, they said they are relieved and feel accomplished.

“This was, in my opinion, the main bridge we had to cross to start pushing us and getting the sound of YORK to peoples’ ears,” said Pawlowski. “Yet, this is just the start to where we want to be with our music.”

Rickard also said it’s odd not going to the studio anymore, as they visited Time Bomb Studios three months straight when they were recording. But, overall she is excited about their new material.

“It took two years, but it seems like we just finished it all so quickly,” she said. “The songs we recorded are perfect for where we are in our lives. For me, it showcases what people can expect from us [and] what we’re growing into because it has songs that we recorded two years ago and songs we recorded two months ago.”

While Rickard and Pawlowski typically both provide vocals for all songs, their album includes two tracks they sing on their own. These songs are “Shine” and “Digging My Own Grave.”

“We wanted to have two songs on the CD that were different from the others,” Pawlowsli said. “This also lets us show that there isn’t one main singer in this band. [Rickard] and I both take on the same goals.”

In May, the band co-hosted The Cheap Seats, a weekly two-hour radio show on COOL 102 in Hyannis, Mass., with Cat Wilson. The show features local bands and artists as co-hosts.  Wilson encourages them to share their personal stories and they suggest music for her to broadcast.

“It was awesome being on the radio with Cat,” Cifuentes said. “She seemed really supportive and my Spanish-speaking skills actual came into use to promote for a Cinco-de-Mayo celebration.”

Taub agreed and said since it was their radio debut, “it was a bit nerve-racking at first, but ended up being a lot of fun. Cat seems to love our sound and she genuinely believes we can make big things happen and it feels good to know there are supporters like her out there.”

In addition to having their music played on COOL 102, two of the album’s singles, “Let Me In,” and “Reservoir,” have recently received airplay on several FM stations, including WHJY, WBRU, and Pixy 103. The band hopes to sign with a booking agency in the near future and start extensive touring.

“We want to do all that we can to make our passion possible,” said Cifuentes. “We all know that this is what we are. I’m a drummer, not a waiter.”

Shay said they want “to find a way where we can support our dream and ourselves while enjoying the experience with our best friends.”

For Rickard and Taub, they can’t wait to return to the studio.

“I think we’re already eager to record another album,” Rickard said.

Taub agreed and said, “writing and playing music is addicting, so I think I speak for all of YORK when I say we can’t wait to get back into the studio. A lot of music nowadays is played and recorded just for the sake of being played and recorded. It lacks the unique feel that every band should have. I feel that YORK is bringing back something that’s been lost for years.”

For more information about YORK, visit their newly designed website at www.thisisyorkmusic.com.

Photo by Kristen Pierson

New Bedford Festival Theatre is ready to ‘rock the house’


Armand Marchand remembers when the government was trying to draft him for the Vietnam conflict back in the 1960s. He was about 25 years old and working as an English and drama teacher in the New Bedford Public Schools. At the time, teachers were exempted from the draft. It was around the year 1968 when civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy had been shot. People in the U.S. were conflicted about what was going on.

“It was a very turbulent time,” Marchand said. “It was very difficult for a young person, like myself, to assess what was going on. There was so much going on.”

But along came a show that addressed some of the issues of the day and did so in a different way that young people could relate to. “Hair” was the first rock musical. Mr.Marchand went to see the original production and said he found it to be “extremely energizing and deeply moving.” He said he felt a personal connection to “Hair” that he still does today.

The only places where “Hair” will be performed this summer is on Broadway and at the Zeiteiron Theatre in New Bedford, Mass., where it is being produced by the New Bedford Festival Theatre that Mr. Marchand founded. The show will run from July 8 to July 17 at the Zeiterion Theatre. Mr. Marchand said “Hair” has never been performed in Bristol County or on the Southcoast, so many people in the area may not have seen it. They may not have seen the show, but he said they will recognize songs, like “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Easy to be Hard” and the title song.

“Hair” tells the story of the “tribe”, a group of politically active, long-haired hippies of the “Age of Aquarius” living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War. Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends struggle to balance their young lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their rebellion against the war and their conservative parents and society. Ultimately, Claude must decide whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or to succumb to the pressures of his parents (and conservative America) to serve in Vietnam, compromising his pacifistic principles and risking his life.

The show, a product of the hippie counter culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, was controversial with its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, profanities and nude scene as its songs became anthems for the peace movement of that time.

“This is an opportunity to see a landmark musical,” Marchand said.

When Marchand hears the song “Aquarius,” he thinks of the dawning of an age and a pivotal point in contemporary history. He says the theater reflects what is going on at the time. He remembers the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and said that pushed the American landscape in a different direction. When “Hair,” was made, he said it was a time of political upheaval. He notes the wars in the Middle East and said people still wonder if the wars will ever end.

“I think it’s extremely relevant to today,” Marchand said. “This was to the Vietnam era probably a very significant musical. It was anti-Vietnam war, but it was vastly entertaining.”

While “Hair” may have been made because of issues that people were dealing with back in the 1960s, Marchand said the show is appropriate for people ages 18 to 80. Marchand said the energy that comes from both movement and voices in the show is a trademark of “Hair.”

Auditions for “Hair” were done in New Bedford, Boston and New York. Members of the cast come from as far away as Olympia, Washington, with others from the Midwest, New York and a strong contingent from the Boston and Providence, R.I. areas.

“The show expresses to me the ideas of youth,” Marchand said. “It’s very youth oriented and just by sheer coincidence, nobody in this cast is over the age of 30.”

Marchand said rock works well with a musical. He said shows that are chosen for the New Bedford Festival Theatre have to have excellent music. The Theatre has produced “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” with music from the 1950s, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which features rock music and the soft rock of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Alex Tirrell, who has done a lot of rock musicals in the past, will be the music director for “Hair.” Marchand said the show will get people to tap their toes and they will want to jump up and dance. Michael Susko will be director/choreographer for the show.

“We’re telling everybody we’re going to rock the house here in New Bedford,” Marchand said as he sat in his office. Marchand said the audience will be invited up on stage at the end of the show for the performance of “Let the Sun Shine In” which he says will leave people uplifted.

“Hair” was recently revived for Broadway and Marchand said he does not know of any changes made to the show for that revival. He said there was extremely high interest in the show when it came back to Broadway and it won a Tony Award for best musical revival. He said the revival did such good business, that it is being brought back to Broadway against this summer.

“Which tells you that ‘Hair’ has stood the test of time,” Marchand said.

This summer, the New Bedford Festival Theatre is also producing another landmark show in “A Chorus Line” which won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 1975.

“A Chorus Line today is cited as being the best Broadway musical ever,” Marchand said.

Marchand said the show, which features the songs “What I Did for Love,” “One Singular Sensation” and “At the Ballet,” appeals to a lot of women who have taken ballet lessons, but also expresses what young performers go through as they audition for parts in shows.

While not everyone goes to such a Broadway audition, Marchand said the show has a universal message because everyone has to prove themselves at one time or another to advance their lives. He said the show deals with human hopes and ideals and is usually dedicated to everyone who has to stand in line.

“It’s a musical about unvarnished optimism and enthusiasm,” Marchand said. “They saw in it a story that goes beyond what it’s about.”

The New Bedford Festival Theatre, which won the 2008 best professional production in the six states in the region from the New England Theatre Conference, is entering its 22nd season, but has never produced “A Chorus Line.” Marchand said the mission of the Theatre is to preserve the legacy of the American music theater which is a relatively new art form at about 150 years old. The New Bedford Festival Theatre attempts to take significant musicals from Broadway so that people can see them again.

The Theatre’s slogan is “bringing the best of Broadway to Southern New England.”


Nutshell to recreate legendary performance


Craig Naso had always wanted to do a recreation of the legendary acoustic concert that Alice in Chains did for MTV’s famous “Unplugged” show. The Alice in Chains tribute band that Naso founded, called “Nutshell,” went back and forth in negotiations with Skyworks Productions and Showcase Live in Foxborough before agreeing to do the show at a most appropriate time around the 15th anniversary of the original performance.

“It does not get old and we are so proud to get asked to do this,” Naso said. “It’s like an honor.”

Nutshell will be recreating the Alice in Chains Unplugged set on Aug. 12, starting at 10 p.m. at Showcase Live.

Nutshell is a four piece band that tries to stay true to the original live sound of Alice in Chains.

“We’re going to try to have candles on the stage, not the ones you light, but the ones that are flickered,” Naso said. “We may add a couple of songs to it, though, as well as the songs they did. It’s going to be a great show.”

Naso said the original show was very plain and raw with the musicians so close to each other on a small stage. He said the audience could see vocalists Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley looking at each other a lot during the performance.

Naso said Nutshell will play the songs from the show straight as they sounded. He said the band wants the lights to be low and the audience to be seated, just as the atmosphere was when Alice in Chains did the taping at Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 10, 1996. Naso said he wants the atmosphere to be very relaxed and for people to sing along.

“It will be a nice mellow show with really good music,” Naso said. “Hopefully, people will enjoy it and feed off the love we have for the music.”

It’s not like Nutshell, which consists of Naso on lead guitar and the vocals of Cantrell, Doug Merrill as frontman singing the vocals of Staley, Pete Gelles on bass and Pete Keoplin on drums, is not used to playing acoustically. The band usually includes about 45 minutes of acoustic music in its regular show. With the show stripped down, Naso said the audience can tell how good the late Staley’s voice was.

“When we play, everybody loves the acoustic sound,” Naso said. “They like it better.”

For the acoustic show at Showcase Live, Nutshell will have another musician sit in on rhythm acoustic guitar which Alice in Chains did on Unplugged with Scott Olson. Nutshell has picked a fan of its tribute band, Tom Toye, to play Olson’s part at the recreation show.

“He’s come to all of our shows and he really shows his love for us and I found out he can actually play,” Naso said.

In April 1996, Alice in Chains emerged from a three-year hiatus by performing on the MTV Unplugged show, the acclaimed acoustic mini-series that allowed viewers to experience popular rock bands performing their material in its basic, purest musical form. The Alice in Chains episode turned out to be one of the most memorable editions of the series, and fans and critics alike hail it to be one of the best live acoustic performances of all time by a rock band.

The band’s highest charting singles and heavy duty grunge-rock opuses such as “Rooster” and “Heaven Beside You” went over beautifully in their new, tight and emotionally-charged acoustic delivery. A live album of the performance was released in July 1996, which debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and was accompanied by a home video release. The album received platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America and the home video received gold certification. While the performance was one of Alice in Chain’s final appearances with vocalist Layne Staley, Nutshell keeps the spirit alive by capturing its essence and presenting an authentic “unplugged” tribute show that honors the raw talent of this amazing band.

Naso said he thought the songs “Nutshell,” “Frogs” and “Down in the Hole” sounded best on the Unplugged show. He said “The Killer in Me” could have been better. But he said the flow of one song to another on the live album meshes together like a story.

To prepare for the show at Showcase Live, Naso said he has watched the video of the Unplugged performance a lot and listens to the Unplugged album on the way to work.

“I think we’re going to come as close to it as anyone could,” Naso said of recreating the Unplugged set of Alice in Chains. “We don’t look like them. We just want to play their music, put the passion into it the way they did and give the respect to the music the way they did.”

He said the members of Nutshell are excited about the concert at Showcase Live. The band has played the concert facility at Patriot Place before.

Naso said Alice in Chains was outside of the grunge band circle of its time, but said every single album they came out with had a different sound. When the band came out with “Jars of Flies,” an album made with acoustic guitars which had its first number one single, he said no other group was doing what Alice in Chains was doing, which was combining heavy metal music with acoustic sounds.

Naso said he fell in love with the album. He said the vocals of Staley on “Jars of Flies” really touched him.

He said it made sense for Alice in Chains to play the Unplugged series which has featured artists, like Eric Clapton, Nirvana, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen, among many others over the years. Naso said the sound of Alice in Chains on its Unplugged show cannot be matched. He said the acoustic sound really amplified the beautiful singing voices of Cantrell and Staley who did not have their vocals drowned out as much by guitars as during an electric show.

Nutshell was started about six years ago after Naso discovered how much he loved performing Alice in Chains music during open mic nights. Naso said he is a friend of the Layne Staley Fund and has been introduced to Staley’s mother.

Naso said a lot of retakes had to be done during the MTV taping because of mistakes. He said Nutshell’s vocals are very tight and the band will not play a song if it does not sound right.

Nutshell has played in a lot of clubs and bars in the past. Naso said it will be nice to play the recreation of the Unplugged set at Showcase live where the venue has very high quality sound. But he said playing acoustically really shows the talent of a band because the musicians cannot hide errors.

“We’ve played a lot of big shows, but I’d say this is the biggest one because this is how we started,” Naso said.

Meowing behind the mic with Cat Wilson


With more than 23 years in the broadcasting business, Cat Wilson said she considers herself lucky to be hosting “The Cheap Seats” on Cool 102, a two-hour radio show based out of Hyannis, Mass.

“In a time when commercial music is just compressing itself, I have the opportunity to tear that hole wide open every week,” she said. “Commercial radio has gotten very small and their play lists are very tight. I get the freedom to play new music and introduce people to bands they have not heard before. There’s something for everyone.”

Wilson, who plays everything from rock and blues to pop and funk, often invites New England bands and artists to appear on her live segments on Sunday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. They share their music, experiences, as well as a handful of tunes from their favorite local bands while co-hosting the show.

“I like to think that I give them the opportunity to tell their stories about their songs, their life on the road, or their practices,” she said. “I’ve even been known to let slam poets on the air with me. It’s not an ego thing for me; it’s the excitement of it. Even if they’re not in the studio, they can sit at home with their family or be at a barbeque and hear their song being played on the radio.”

Wilson originally began hosting The Cheap Seats in 1997 on Rock 104.7 FM, which is now known as WKPE. The show temporarily went off the air before she resurrected it two years ago on WCIB Cool 102, or 101.9 FM, a 50,000-watt commercial radio station.

“It actually got a Massachusetts Broadcasters Award for an ongoing music program,” she said.

Of the many musicians she’s had on the show, Wilson said one of the most “amazing” co-hosts was Boston-based blues artist, James Montgomery. Best known as a singer and harmonica player, Montgomery fronted his own band in the seventies and has toured with acts such as Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller, and the Allman Brothers.

“I was actually a bit nervous because he is a god and when he came in, he was nervous, too,” she said. “It was just him and me in the studio.”

But as the show got going, he asked Wilson to play a CD from a group of young musicians he was acquainted with. While the song was on the air, he told her that he planned to help them tighten their arrangements.

“He was so interested in giving feedback to this younger band and told all these amazing stories throughout his entire career,” said Wilson. “He really is every bit as excited about finding new bands as he is about getting onstage.”

She also had Grammy-winning jazz and blues artist, Doug Bell, on the show.

“I ended up swapping recipes with him,” Wilson said laughing. “It was hilarious.”

In addition to great interviews, she said she’s also conducted some unsuccessful ones. Fortunately, her “favorite awful interview” with Goo Goo Doll lead singer, Johnny Rzeznik, wasn’t live. To her relief, it was over-the-phone.

“It was when ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ came out and they were on tour,” Wilson said. “I’d been waiting in the studio for his call to come in and the band had problems crossing Canada getting back into the United States.”

When Rzeznik called, he was an hour-and-a-half late. He was exhausted, but still willing to do the interview.

“I was excited about asking him a question about co-writing a song with Paul Westerberg of The Replacements and come to find out, Westerberg was one of his big influences,” said Wilson. “All of a sudden, I hear, ‘whoop’ and then muttering in the background. He’s gets back on the phone and said he fell off the bed while he was talking to me. The entire interview went straight into the gutter.”

But Wilson thinks it is important to learn from mistakes. In fact, she said she was “awful” when she started her career and often plays an old air-check tape of herself doing a newscast for aspiring broadcast college students to prove how “horrible” she once was.

“At the time, I was so shy that I was pretty much wallpaper,” she said. “To save my life, I couldn’t pronounce peoples’ names, whether it was an international military figure or a sports person. The kids all laugh. It seems to break the ice and there’s always that one shy, quiet kid in the back and you can see them light up a little bit when they realize how tragically bad I used to be.”

Wilson began her training in radio in high school at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. Inspired by MTV Video-jockey Martha Quinn, Wilson knew she wanted to host her own music show, just not on television. In time, she started hosting radio shows at Ripon College in Wisconsin, where she was majoring in English and working on a minor in Business Communications.

“As goofy as it sounds, it was MTV that did it for me,” said Wilson. “MTV just came out and I was developing my ear for music. I said, ‘that’s what I want to do except I don’t want to be in front of a camera.’ I was always more comfortable behind a microphone than on stage or even in class in front of people. I could just sit in a room and listen to music. As far as I knew, I was talking to myself about the music I was playing.”

After graduation, she moved around the country and worked in various radio stations. She lived in locations such as Olympia, Washington, and Savannah, Georgia, before returning to the Cape Cod area.

For Wilson, her most cherished thing about Cape Cod is the fact that “you’re always a half a person away from a musician.”

“Once you start talking about music, people say, ‘oh, yeah. My son’s in a band,’ or ‘I used to be in a band,’ or ‘I play in a band,’” she said. “It’s really amazing the musicians per capita we have here in Southeastern Massachusetts. That’s why I love being able to have the show here. Music is such a part of the culture and it’s great because there are so many talented people.”’

While she hosts The Cheap Seats on Sunday nights, she spends her days as the Marketing Manager at Cape Cod Harley Davidson.

“I had Aerochix do a benefit show there last summer and it was hugely successful and a whole lot of fun,” she said of Boston’s only all-female Aerosmith tribute band.

Wilson said she wants more bands to know how much she enjoys providing an avenue for them to expose their music. She encourages artists to send her their material so she can share it with her fans.

“I don’t play everything I get, but I do always listen to it,” she said. “I’m always willing to talk with bands and I do one-on-one meetings with them. I love music and I count myself very lucky that I’ve been able to find my little niche. I always thought of The Cheap Seats as this crappy local music show, but what I realized is that it’s just music. Whether the musicians are 16 or 60 years old, it’s good music and that’s all that matters.”

Wilson can be contacted through The Cheap Seats website at thecheapseats.net. Artists can also mail their information and music to Cool 102 at 154 Barnstable Road Hyannis, MA 02601. Check out The Cheap Seats on Facebook.com/thecheapseats. Past interviews can be accessed on the web site.

Photo by Jay Kenney

Music and entertainment coverage since October 2006!