Saturday was a hot day and I had some stuff to do around the house, so I only went to the PVD Fest for a few hours in the evening, opting to take a RIPTA bus from East Providence rather than deal with altered traffic and parking. When I stepped off the bus and saw the crowds , and people selling beer and cocktails in go- cups , it felt like being on Bourbon street! Giant black and silver dinosaurs bobbing their heads high above the crowds, and all sorts of colorful characters including Big Nazo puppets and members of the Extraordinary Rendition band made for a carnival atmosphere . Kids were playing in a mountain of suds where someone had set up a bubble machine on one of the side streets. For the moment it like I was in a whole different city, except running into a few local friends. I had also met a kindred spirit on the bus and we had similar interest in what bands to see so we ended up hanging out together for most of the evening.
The first band I saw was Red Baraat, a Brooklyn based band that fuses funk and northern Indian music together and is really high energy. They got everyone up dancing right at the beginning by encouraging people to get up out of their seats and move closer. After a few songs they called for a few dancers to come up on stage for a sort of contest. I recognized one as a Zumba instructor who also teaches Indian dancing. Two of the others were costumed members of extraordinary Rendition Band, so they almost looked like part of the show. The music was so infectious we could not stop dancing but I had to use the bathroom, and found to my dismay they only had 3 port-a-potties near the main stage,, so it was a long wait.
After Red Baraat we went to get something to eat at one of the food trucks, but some of them were out of food, and most had very long lines that were moving very slowly. I ended up going to Haven Brothers. They've been in business for about 100 years and are reputed to be the first diner in America. The hot dog I had was nothing special, but they seemed to be the most efficient at catering to the large crowds.
After eating I went to catch what I thought was the Afro Cuban All Stars ( due to bad info from the volunteer staff) m but learned later it was a Puerto Rican ensemble called Plena Libre. Many in the audience were salsa dancing. I recognized some of the songs from Zumba so danced in my own style, then headed home a little after 11:00.
Jorge Elorza, mayor of Providence, was quoted in the local media as saying: “It is my vision that this festival becomes something akin to South by Southwest in Austin or New Orleans’ Jazz Festival.” Only in it's second year, PVD Fest has potential to become a destination festival but I have a few suggestions to help make that happen:
1) IF YOU ARE GOING TO SELL BEER HAVE A LOT OF. PUBLIC BATHROOMS, This seems to be the case with most of the outdoor events I've attended in Providence. How much can it cost to add more bathrooms?
2) Have better info. The printed brochure was confusing and hard to read, and the website was not much better. The volunteers were not well versed in the performance locations or the schedule. When I had asked where the 2 bands I wanted to see were going to be playing they directed me to the wrong stages. Luckily everything was running a little behind schedule (another flaw that worked to my advantage) .
3) If you are going to encourage public transportation, have extra buses! The RIPTA buses stop running shortly after 10 pm on Saturday and are not very frequent. And Sunday is worse. Luckily I was able to get a ride home with a friend but it would be better if the city could provide better transportation options so people could enjoy more of the Fest. New Orleans and Austin do a pretty good job of this with the Jazz Fest and Austin City Limits festival.
Despite these minor inconveniences, the PVD Fest was a really fun time. Hopefully they will learn a little more each year so it will continue to grow and attract more visitors to our unique city, like the Lowell Folk festival.