Tag Archives: Michael Thibodeau

Cage Uncaged at Nick’s

Written by Matt Robert
From the September 12, 2013 issue of Worcester Magazine.

My Facebook news feed inundates me with an infinite stream of event listings, highinterest news bytes, memes and photos of, well, everything from a friend’s breakfast to a sustained injury to, well, everything. After a while, I stop noticing anything.

Two weeks ago, however, my eye stopped on a post by a local musician, Michael Thibodeau, who sought a few volunteers for an upcoming show.

Nothing unusual, right?

Except, in this case, he needed 12 people to perform on AM/ FM radios.

Ah, John Cage is back in town, I thought.

The late John Cage is on a short list of 20th century composers – or inventor, as he referred to himself – that embodies everything many love or hate about modern art. The piece in question, “Imaginary Landscape no. 4 (March no. 2 for Twelve Radios),” is just one of hundreds that challenges our old-fashioned notions of what music can or should be. It is also one of four Cage pieces being staged for a centennial celebration of the artist by the Cage and Cardew Society, a Clark University group headed by Thibodeau and Clark Music professor, Matthew Malsky, on Wednesday, September 18 at Nick’s Bar and Restaurant.

The Cage and Cardew Society came together about a decade ago, when Thibodeau and Malsky, his advisor, staged the first “Living Room Concert” (named for the Cage piece performed at that first concert) that featured performances of student compositions by other students as well as avant-garde works, in a “supportive” environment in which to present their “‘outside’ musical ideas,” says Malsky.

The teacher and mentor stayed in touch after graduation, often organizing programs. One recent night, over beers at Nick’s, says Thibodeau, the two began imagining Cage’s works in the intimate, ambient room. “Nick’s is a favorite watering hole and a great supporter of local music,” says Malsky. “It offers the kind of laid-back environment we’re looking for.”

The result is a four selection program, consisting of “Living Room Music” (a multi-movement piece for a percussion and speech quartet that involves making instruments of common household objects), the self-explanatory “Music for Amplifi ed Toy Piano,” the aforementioned “Imaginary Landscape no. 4” and the legendary “4’33”,” a work that has been the object of widespread scorn and ridicule and, for some, living proof of the scam that modern art represents. In fact, the audience howled and jeered at Cage after the inaugural performance of the piece in 1952.

I won’t spoil the fun or surprise for the uninitiated by describing the work (or by attempting to defend it). Another Cage piece currently being performed (yes, currently being performed) helps to suggest the creative world he inhabited. The 1985 “Organ 2/ASLSP” (“As Slow As Possible”) is underway in a chapel in Halberstadt, Germany. The performance, begun on September 5, 2001 (Cage’s 89th birthday), will continue for 639 years and is expected to continue until the year 2640. The first 17 months, for example, represented the opening rest prior to the first tone and a website allows the curious to hear the current tone.

It all probably sounds like hokum to the skeptical, but Cage’s work was rooted in his study of Buddhism and the I Ching, and he devoted himself to the revolutionary concept of incorporating chance into musical composition and performance. Further, in the years since his compositions sent classical audiences into fits, tectonic shifts in the scope of even the most mainstream and bland popular music has meant the adopting and embracing of much that was once avant-garde, like making instruments out of things like turntables, water drops, closed and prepared (manipulated) piano, and even elements of silence and sounds inherent in the performance space and among the crowd.

Malsky says that he and Thibodeau will be involved in every performance and “they may have to play a chair or a radio or something,” but, though “they may be challenging for the audience,” the works are “fairly standard for the performer.”

If this all sounds heady and uptight and overly serious, it isn’t. Thibodeau and Malsky are planning on a night of fun. When asked what we might expect from the show, Thibodeau shrugs off the question and says, “I think we’re all wondering that.” Malsky adds that the format, modeled after Cardew’s 1960’s London “Scratch Orchestra,” intends to bring together “‘musicians’ and those who wouldn’t usually call themselves musicians.”

“The personnel is always open,” Malsky adds. “We’ll fi nd a way for anyone who’s interested to participate. Michael and I are merely instigators.”

I clicked “Going.”

See the Cage and Cardew Society performance at Nick’s Bar and Restaurant, 124 Millbury St., Worcester on Wednesday, September 18 at 8 p.m.

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Great Scott! Ralph’s Show Features Music of Huck, Childhood, and Pistol Whipped

by Matt Robert/ photo by Louie Despres

Originally appeared in the December 27, 2012, Worcester Magazine.

“The main concept of this was that it isn’t really a memorial, it’s a celebration of music,” says Paul Dagnello, bassist with late local legend Scott Ricciuti’s longest running band, Huck, about the show Saturday night at Ralph’s that will bring together three of Ricciuti’s most enduring musical projects: Childhood, Huck, and Pistol Whipped. “The focus is on the music. The memorials were very visual for people. This is going to be the audio portion of that.”

Ricciuti’s untimely death in a car accident in April devastated a massive fan base that included among the most ardent fans a sizable core of local musicians, artists and club owners, and left a gaping hole in a scene in which Ricciuti played an outsized role, performing most nights of the week in one ensemble or another, or appearing solo. Numerous emotionally charged memorials were held – the most notable at Vincent’s – and a variety of tributes have occurred since, but none to this scale.

“We could have done a week’s worth of events,” says Dagnello. “He was involved in so many different things…[but we] kind of just whittled it down to those three bands.” The choice to feature Huck, Childhood and Pistol Whipped (and not Friday Farewells, A Pony for My Birthday, or Preacher Roe), Paul says, is that “those were probably the ones he was in the longest,” recalling that Childhood was together for about 10 years, and Huck for 17 or 18 years. Finally, Dagnello says, “It’s a good representation of his different types of songwriting, plus a decision just had to be made on what was possible to do for a night where it wouldn’t get too out of control.”

This event—sponsored by longtime Scott Ricciuti patron, Orcaphat Records owner, and executive producer of Huck and Pistol Whipped’s CDs, Colin Butler (“He was there in the studio with us every single day,” says Dagnello), and organized by Ricciuti’s friend and collaborator, Bee’s Knees (and Friday Farewells) guitarist Michael Thibodeau — faced several obstacles.

“I know, for me, and I think for Danny [Lucas, drummer with Childhood and Huck, and Ricciuti’s longest running collaborator], it’s the first time we’re going to play since…in a club or live. We all have a very hard time doing this, says Dagnello, further citing less obvious and more pragmatic difficulties, some of the material is simply hard to recreate.

“Childhood [is] kind of figuring out how to do Childhood with just the surviving members,” he says, “whereas Duncan [Arsenault], Jeff [Burch], and Scott were the core members of [Pistol Whipped]. And then with Huck [as with Pistol Whipped], we lost our lead singer, our guitar player and our front man, so I know it’s been difficult — beyond just the emotional — dealing with that: How do we actually play a show without a third of our band.”

“We were gonna need help,” he says.

“For this show,” Dagnello says, “Huck is going to have nine members. We have two guitar players playing the whole night, and then we have a couple people filling in vocal duties, and then I’m probably going to do a couple songs up on vocals.”

Additionally, the show will feature (including the numerous Huck extras) several special guests from Ricciuti’s rather large circle of peers, though organizers are loath to reveal them.

“In some ways we want it to be a surprise,” says Dagnello, “because we don’t want it to be part of the promotion for the event…because, as far as we’re concerned, on that night they’re in Huck…. The people that are involved are doing it because of their love for Scott and their love for his music, their friendship. As far as Huck is concerned, all those people are in the band that night, they’re part of the band that night.”

Recreating the original sounds, even with a roster of talented fill-ins, many of whom were familiar and even devoted to Ricciuti’s music, or intricately linked with its production, also proved a challenge.

“We kept everything as close as we could [to] Scott. He had a specific way of playing guitar; he had a specific way of singing and that’s hard to replicate, but the guys working on this are definitely trying their hardest to emulate that, because it’s part of our sound,” Dagnello explains. “Not having Scott there playing guitar, it’s not going to sound just like Huck. It’s going to sound close, but it’s still not going to sound like it.”

“[Ricciuti’s] vocal range, and the power behind it, was tough for people,” Dagnello says. “Danny and I and someone like Roger [Lavallee, who, as engineer at Tremolo Lounge Studios, produced most of Ricciuti’s career output] and somebody like Colin Butler, we’ve sat with these songs for hundreds of hours—recording, playing and everything. And it’s kind of like bringing these people into this world that they’re brand new to. So, they get to see more of Scott than the prior four got to see.”

Lastly, players had to grapple with a notebook of deeply personal lyrics whose genesis was the intimate bonds forged over decades of intensive, and mostly glamourless, work and play in clubs, rehearsal rooms, vans, studios – friendship, love, loss, mistakes, and hopes.

Dagnello notes the particular challenge faced by those who “are going to have to sing the songs. I think the hardest part was all of us all having to sit down and read all of these lyrics….To actually sit back and take these groups of songs, read the lyric and tell the story of the lyric definitely hit a lot of us…as pretty tough. Scott was definitely a magic worker with words. So, that was a real tough part with everybody.”

Even the venue has significance, though, this choice, too, proved hard, as Ricciuti, over the years, could have had his number retired in just about every music room in central Massachusetts. Organizers ultimately chose Ralph’s, though, because, as Dagnello says, “as far as Huck…and Childhood…was concerned, Ralph’s was one of our homes. I think [Huck] played Ralph’s more than any other club. There’s a connection with Vincent [Hemmeter, owner of Ralph’s, Vincent’s, and Nick’s]. He was good friends with Scott. Erick [Godin, owner] from the Lucky Dog was good friends with Scott [too].”

The $10 event will feature Pistol Whipped at 9:30 p.m., Childhood at 10:30 p.m., and Huck at 11:30 p.m., as well as a rolling soundtrack between sets of Ricciuti’s prodigious recorded output.

“We’re going to be playing all of the other stuff that Scott has been included on, like the Pony for My Birthday stuff and the Preacher Roe stuff…Huck songs we’re not playing that night, Childhood songs…and possibly unreleased Pistol Whipped material.”

While no CDs will be made available at the event, those wishing to purchase Ricciuti’s music can visit “Scott’s website where they can go song by song and pick and buy whatever they like,” says Paul. “Everything is online.” Scottricciuti.com.

Catch the celebration of Scott Ricciuti music on Saturday, Dec. 29 at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St. at 8 p.m. Tickets $10.

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Soft Balls: The Balls Dedicate Vincent’s Acoustic Show to Scott Ricciuti

by Matt Robert / photos by Jessica Lovina O’Neill

It takes some serious balls to call your band The Balls, but, then again, The Balls have lots of balls! They’ve been a sensation since their first gigs over a decade ago, and though the band has left and come back, changed their sound and personnel, they still deliver the most outrageous show in town, and, perhaps, just about anywhere. (Bassist Wayno calls it “controlled sexual stage chaos.”)

Frontman (to call him “singer” really doesn’t capture it) Andrei “The General” Krutov is a force – sort of G.G. Allin meets Jerry Lee Lewis meets an atomic bomb – bringing punk to new highs and lows. He delights in brutal, puerile, sexually charged punk, inciting and interacting physically with the crowd as the band (Jon Ho [Jon Wensky], drums; Wayno [Wayne Winslow], guitar; and Johnny Ace [Brian Hoffman], bass) lay down double-barrel garage rock – fast, tight, and straight, on unapologetic ditties, like their legendary “Shiny Nipple,” “Razor Burn,” and “Sucky Laundromat.” If Pussy Riot got thrown in prison for their music, I suspect a much harsher fate would await The Balls in the Gulag.

“Fan participation is key,” says Wayno, “and our fans are as motley as it comes. Most of all, our passion for playing music shows when we play.”

This weekend, though, The Balls hope to show their softer side – the softer side of their balls, if you will – in a special, intimate acoustic show at Vincent’s that they will dedicate to their late local music compadre, Scott Ricciuti, who passed away in the spring of 2012 in a car accident. (See “Scott Ricciuti 1963 – 2012,” in the April 11, 2012 issue.)

Wayno says that the band is “going more Johnny Cash/rockabilly for this show,” and promises that “The General will be telling stories of his Russian youth and rather perverted times of his life, as well.” These stories, according to a Facebook post, include adventures in “motel hot-tub sex” and “doing it in a walk-in freezer” and other legendary exploits that got Krutov in great trouble during his school days in Soviet-era Russia, such as performing an English version of “Smoke on the Water.”

The dedication to Scott, Wayno says, is because “we miss him dearly. He always treated us like the rock star we knew he was.” The Balls fought in the same musical trenches night after night that Scott knew better than anyone, having spent the better part of his life working area clubs. And though the two acts may seem to have been fighting for different armies, Scott’s high energy, punk-sweat live persona has much in common with Krutov’s. “It went deeper than just the drunken ‘I love you, man’ at the end of the night,” Wayno says. “He knew the scene needed contrast and always found a compliment for you.”

Though Wayno hasn’t been in The Balls that long, he has “been playing in this scene for 25-plus years,” he says, and has “jumped up with [Scott’s longtime band] Huck a few times.”

Friday’s Vincent’s show will not be a tribute. Longtime band member Brian Hoffman says that the plan is not to cover Scott’s songs, but rather simply to play a show with him in mind, including mutual friends from the scene, such as Deb Beaudry from Group Action, who Wayno says “will be doing a few covers with us,” and, according to Brian, Scott’s close friend Michael Thibodeau, who “will sit in on mandolin.”

The volume will be lower, but Balls fans shouldn’t be worried. Despite the venue, Wayno assures us that they “play the same now as when we we’re in our twenties.”

“The General,” he says, “is a legend and can hump any crowd into submission. Even if you don’t like the music, you leave entertained.”

Catch The Balls when they play their acoustic set at Vincent’s, 49 Suffolk Street, Worcester on Friday Nov. 9 at 8 p.m.

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Scott Ricciuti: Epilogue (The Extended Cut)

After publication of “Scott Ricciuti: Epilogue,” in Worcester Magazine, on April 12, 2012, I continued to interview and to work through the material. Here is the “extended cut,” which I will continue to add to if/when more interviews occur.
Buy Scott’s music with Huck here.

The News

“I was in the studio and my phone rang, and it was my friend John Donovan, who performed every Tuesday night at Vincent’s with Scott. Why would John be calling me at 11:30 AM? I answered it and he began with, ‘I really don’t know how to say this….’”
This scenario, experienced by Roger Lavallee, began his nightmare – one we all fear. Around Central Massachusetts and throughout the Bay State, and up to Vermont – where childhood chum, Childhood band mate, and one of his earliest friends, Ken Ebell, lives – similar phone calls announced the same horror to a nexus of distraught family members, a life partner, musicians, fans, friends, club owners and club goers, bartenders, music writers – a massive web spun over forty-eight years of life, and almost as many making music: James “Scott” Riccuti had succumbed to injuries incurred when his car left Route 290, in Northboro, and landed in the median strip.
“I ended my (recording) session, and like a zombie, went to be with my girlfriend and my dog. I spent the day cycling between numbness and breakdown,” added Roger, who, over two decades that began when sharing bills with Scott’s band Childhood and evolved as Roger became the central engineer/producer of the vast majority of Scott’s prolific body of work, inadvertently became one of his closest friends.
“[Scott] had just been up to my house [in Vermont],” said Ken. “Your girlfriend answers the phone; her face turns white….I still haven’t processed that.”

Duncan Arsenault’s photo collection of Scott

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Scott Ricciuti, posted with vodpod

The Musician

Roger’s sentiments echoed a veritable deluge of outpourings on Facebook and in articles in a host of area publications, and at memorial services at Vincent’s bar and in Scott’s home town of Marlboro, MA, as the local scene and loved ones attempted to grasp the reality that the glue of the local scene was gone.
“The area – not just the local scene – just lost the most prolific, talented songwriter they will ever see so close,” said a reeling Paul Dagnello, thirteen-year bassist for Scott’s most enduring band, Huck, expressing the overwhelming consensus about Scott, universally lauded as a poetic, smart, tireless, humble, competitive, generous, and, above all, thrillingly energetic musician.
“The obvious hit that we all take is the fact that he was at his most prolific at writing and busiest ever at performing these last few years,” said Roger. “Pretty much every night of the week, he was performing somewhere, and so many people who would see him every single week are now going to feel the loss of his presence.”
“Two summers ago, when they started recording the Pistol Whipped album, Like the Red Haunts the Wine, I dropped by the studio, and being Scott, he, of course, invited everyone in the room to sing harmonies,” Recalled musician Anne Eggleston, adding, “he wanted everyone to feel special and included. He was not afraid to invite a near stranger to sit in with him. If he knew you played or sang, he was inviting you, his ‘dear friend,’ as he called everyone, up on that stage, whether or not you knew the song.”
“His songwriting is untouchable,” Annie added. “Even the saddest tunes are upbeat; the strangest lyric fits perfectly. The magic in Scott’s music has to be his humility.”
“He was always super talented,” remembered Ken. “We started writing songs about the same time. He, of course, always wrote a lot more songs than I did. Scott would have twelve, and I’d be like, ‘These six suck, these are good,’ and he’d be like, ‘Your two are cool!’ He was churning them out even back then. He always loved The Beatles and writing music, and we always wanted to do that.” About Scott’s technical schooling in music, Ken added, “He knew everything about that. He was good at that – we both were. He was a great soloist [on sax]. Then, he picked up the [baritone] sax and would solo on that. He played tuba.”
“One of my oldest memories of him was – remember those old Magnus Chord Organs? Before we even knew what was going on, we’d be like, ‘What’s this G mean?’ (Ken sustains a long G sound).”
“I always liked how I sang with Scott, the way our voices melded. But it was also very competitive. He wanted to write a better song than me, and I wanted to write a better song than him.”
Musician, Michael Thibodeau’s professional relationship with Scott was similar, he said. “Scott and I were fiercely competitive with each other, in a friendly way. Whenever one of us would write a new song, we would love to show it to each other, and the next step was to see who could write one better than that.”
“We played so many gigs together that I don’t even remember how we started, how many we’ve played,” remembered Michael. “We’ve been playing together for six or seven years, and we did four years every Tuesday night together. I’ve played multiple hundreds of gigs with him.”
“A thousand times you’re going to hear ‘he’s a great songwriter’,” Michael added. “It’s absolutely true. He’s probably the best songwriter I’ve ever known. Good guitar player. Not the best singer in the world for everything, but, for what he was doing, you couldn’t get any better. His voice was so individual. Scott’s great gift as a musician was he knew how to make everybody else around him better. He knew that people were always focusing on him. He knew that he knew a lot of people, and that a lot of people had been following him for a long time. But he knew how to take that attention and let someone who was sitting next to him shine. Sometimes to a fault. He’d pull anybody and everybody up on stage to stand with him, because he just wanted to share every moment he had up there with somebody else.”

The Person

Scott’s close acquaintances were quick to clarify that his gifts went way beyond music. Hours of interviews revealed reverent tones about a guy whose art was his life force, and a personality of complete “inclusiveness.”
“Who’s closer than a brother,” asked Ken. “We spoke the same language. We didn’t even have to talk about stuff. We’d finish each other’s sentences. I don’t think there’s been a better person ever born,” he said.
Michael (for whose wedding Scott acted as Best Man) and Annie, both told stories of being warmly pulled into Scott’s spotlight, fostered, and nurtured. “He took the attention on him and put it on others,” said Michael. “I’ve known him for a decade, but it felt like a lifetime. He was my best friend. He was the person I was most intimate with musically, and who I talked to about everything. I travelled a lot with him. My wife and Maro – the four of us would hang out quite a bit.”
“When I started playing with him, he could have said, ‘just sit next to me and we’ll play two of my songs and then play one or two of yours.’ But it was – from day one – ‘We’re going to trade songs, we’re going to feature your songwriting next to mine.’ He really brought me along. I learned so much from him.”
“My first memory of spending time with him,” remembered Annie, “was shortly after I met Duncan – I came by the house and they had been writing music, cooking, and drinking wine, some of Scott’s favorite things to do. Meals were spiritual experiences for him and his lyrics often mention cooking. He was so kind and warm to me. He loved Duncan [Arsenault – musician in Pistol Whipped and a variety of other projects with which Scott was involved] dearly and that just seemed to pour over and include me. His love for his friends ran endlessly and he never missed an opportunity to tell you how much he loved you and give you a big hug and a kiss.”
“(Scott) had true love for other musicians. He was really inspired by everything,” said Duncan.

The Early Years

“We grew up together in Marlboro,” said Ken. “The first time I met him, he was a funny looking kid with a funny haircut that could play a little bit of saxophone, who was in the school band. I was in fourth grade and he was in fifth. By sixth grade, we had already become fast friends and wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll. We even had a little rock band in sixth grade – the Richer School Rock Quartet. We played “Proud Mary” – trumpet, two saxes, and a drum player. We were like Glee. The cool kids didn’t like us. We didn’t smoke cigarettes back then. We were in the band room and Scott would be playing his Yamaha [acoustic guitar] and I’d be jamming away on the electric piano.”
“We were very lucky to have a great music system at Marlboro High School in the early ‘80s. Cosmo Valente ran it – I think he still does – and there was a whole band room with sixteen Yamaha electric pianos and guitars, and anybody that was interested could come down on their free periods and play. We played all the time, and we kind of cut our teeth that way. Scott and I were joined at the hip. There were just the two of us in the theory and harmony classes. We learned all the theory and harmony.”
“We were in the Framingham Blazers Band together [Framingham Public Schools band still active today]. Being in a band at school is a funny thing. They called us band geeks all the time. But by the time when Scott was a senior and I was a junior, we were rock ‘n’ roll, playing at the proms and stuff. We had a little band called Midnight Sun, and we had a sax player, and we played Springsteen. We even played nightclubs! Sixteen years old! Like the Dew Drop Inn, in Northboro, and Manny’s, in Hudson. They let us come in because we brought…our family and friends.”
“Way before Childhood,” Ken continued, “a lot of people don’t know, but during the Midnight Sun days, we were doing old country and it was apparent early on how well we sang together. We even did a three-piece for a while, and played gigs all the way down to Rhode Island and shit.”
“And then Scott went off to college for a year, which didn’t suit him that well,” Ken continued. “And when he came back – I was kind of lost during that time – we immediately started playing music and reconnecting. And he had met a couple friends –his roommate was Danny Lucas [drummer for Childhood and Huck] at ULowell. They also met Greg Passler [guitarist for Childhood] at ULowell. Danny was the first guy. We kind of jammed with him, and then Greg came in. We also had our drummer, Chris Diraddo, and we formed an early version of Childhood – early ‘80s. We started writing songs, because that was the big thing. I still have a bunch of cassette demos. It’s funny, there was a photo on Facebook [after Scott’s death, an array of photos were posted to the site] of me with the perm? That’s when we were making those videos with Steve Diraddo, Chris’s brother, up in the cemetery!”
“Eventually, Chris Diraddo moved to Florida, and that’s when Danny came back, and that’s when we really started playing with Childhood – early ‘80s – ’84, or something like that.”
Childhood enjoyed significant local success, even winning the prestigious WBCN Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble in 1987, leading to, perhaps, their biggest gig: opening for The fixx, at The Channel, in Boston, according to former Childhood manager, Lisa Mondello Naujoks. “When the Rumble thing happened, it was kind of like a snowball effect in the opposite way, where it crushes you, you know? I don’t know why we never broke after that, but it didn’t matter. We just kept doing what we did: gigging a lot.”
“We were too young. I don’t know what happened. It all happened so fast. We were all just playing around a lot, making our music. It was a really great scene around in ’86-’87, with all the Danimal [local musician/promoter Dan Hartwell, later founder of the successful Locobazooka festival] stuff that was going on. All of a sudden bands got a little place that they could play, and the crowds started to come.”
The two played for years before parting ways in 1990, though the friendship endured and Ken still joined Scott for recent shows, including Childhood reunions and a set on piano at a Ralph’s Pistol Whipped show.
“When I left the band, it was a little acrimonious for a while,” said Ken. When asked how he and Scott managed a relationship both in and out of the band, Ken said, “One funny thing about Scott was that….It was getting to be a little bit too much for me, and the girl that I was with at the time was with child, so we got married, and I told Scott, ‘I can’t do it,’ and he was adamant to keep going on, and he was mad, and Greg was even madder. But Scott was best man at my wedding a month later, and we stayed in touch.”
“I moved to Vermont in 1992 and we were out of touch for a little while, but we would come down and see him, and after I got divorced I got back into music,” he added.
“I loved all the Huck stuff he did – I always kept in touch about that – and then we did the Childhood reunions and things like that.”
“I first met Scott in 1993 when The Curtain Society got to open up for Childhood at P.T. Beanie’s Music Box, on Main Street, in Worcester,” remembered Roger. [I, too, met the band this way, sharing bills with my band, Flubber, the same year at the same venue.] “They were absolutely rock stars to me at that point, because I had heard them on the radio and read about them in magazines. I was just blown away by them at that show: To meet them after the sound check and to be immediately welcomed into what was the best bunch of people I would meet in this business. We immediately became friends.”
“Very soon after that, Childhood had decided to come to a close, and Scott and drummer Danny Lucas, who Scott had been musical partners with since at least college, as far as I knew, put together…Huck. [They] came into the studio [Tremolo Lounge, in West Boylston, where Roger has engineered since the mid ‘90s] with me to for a few demos. From the absolute start, I jumped in with both feet…as their producer…because I loved what they did so much and understood what they were trying to achieve….We became a unit. I loved that band like I was one of them.”
“I first heard Scott and Huck play around 1995,” Said longtime Huck bassist/vocalist, Paul Dagnello.” I had heard of Childhood, but never got a chance to see them. I had a girlfriend in college who was obsessed with Huck, so I had to deal with her swooning while I just listened to the great music.”
“The first time I met Scott, I believe, was on September 21, 1996,” Added Paul. “It was the night of The Curtain Society CD release of Life Is Long Still [at the now defunct Foothill’s Theatre, in the former Galleria Mall/Worcester Common Fashion Outlets]. My band at the time was playing at The Cove [Sir Morgan’s Cove – now The Lucky Dog Music Hall] with Black Rose Garden and Huck. I remember Scott coming up to me before, in his sweet and gracious way, and saying, ‘Hey, man, I have heard so many good things about you guys. I can’t wait to hear you guys. I’m so happy you guys are on the bill.’ While the setup was happening at The Cove, he skipped out to watch The Curtain Society sound check at Foothill’s. He made sure he was back in time to catch our set. I hit the first chord and looked up to see Scott walk through the door.”
Paul added, “From there, we started meeting up from time to time…and just started developing a professional relationship. After Dave Robinson [of Black Rose Garden and original bass player with Huck]…left the band, I got a call from Scott. ‘I know you don’t play bass, but we really need a bass player, but specifically we need someone to sing harmony.’ This was a Saturday. He gave me twenty songs to learn…and said, ‘Come to practice on Monday and [we’ll] just see what happens.’ I borrowed a bass and worked my ass off to learn as many songs as I could. I showed up at practice, met Danny, and just started. After rehearsal, all I got was a ‘that wasn’t bad. Come back tomorrow night and let’s try again.’ I showed up the second night and we did the same thing. Again Scott said, ‘That was all right, and, by the way, we have a gig tomorrow and it’s a battle of the bands.’”

Recent Years

“The first gigs we played together were at the Bijou [Art Cinema, on Foster Street, in the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets, which closed in 2004],” said Michael. “And there was a series on Wednesday nights at Vincent’s for a while that Huck, Curtain Society, and Mossberg [band featuring keyboardist/songwriter Steve Mossberg] would rotate. Then, they got moved over to Ralph’s, under the moose, when they first started doing stuff downstairs after Vincent bought Ralph’s. I got pulled into that group via Steve Mossberg; and Roger and Duncan. I met them first. Scott and I just started playing songs together at those things.”
“We just hit it off,” Michael added. “I vividly remember one night him pulling me aside and telling me that he thought I was a wonderful songwriter, but that he hated me, because I was so young. We just started playing gigs together.”
Drummer Duncan Arsenault’s relationship with Scott blossomed exponentially in recent years, as Scott became a regular feature of Duncan’s Thursday night series at The Dive Bar, in Worcester, where, along with bassist Jeff Burch, Pistol Whipped germinated, when Scott began introducing the pair to his original songs.
“He was so fired up and inspired by music,” Said Duncan. “I think he’s the greatest songwriter. He didn’t need to do any more work, but he was still working at it really hard.”
Roger, who engineered and produced Huck’s material, added, “He had already proven himself as a gifted songwriter for years by the time he and Danny moved on to start Huck. It’s like they started at full-tilt and somehow it kept getting better and better and better. We would finish making a CD and I would be thinking, Whoah. This thing is a masterpiece! A year and a half later, I would get a scribbled-on cassette tape of rehearsal demos of a new batch of songs and I would be thinking, Wtf? How the hell do they top that last CD? Every time.”
“In the last few years, after being really inspired by a few trips that Scott took with Michael Thibodeau to be a stagehand at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, Scott really cranked the valves wide open and turned himself into a songwriting machine,” added Roger. “He threw anything and everything he had onto the page and honed his craft into something like I’ve only heard about. He became so good at it. We would be on the road somewhere and someone would say something in passing and he would laugh and say, ‘That would make a great concept for a song!’ The next morning, I would hear him strumming in another room and a few minutes later he would come up for a coffee and say he finished that song idea.”
“He was incredibly willing to participate musically in anything,” said Duncan. “[He had] endless energy for gigging. He was down to play. There were times when he would leave a gig he was already playing and come over to The Dive and do that one, as well.”
“We had spent the last six years doing a duo,” said Ken. “Scott never stopped [putting his full energy into music]. His greatest songs came out later. His Huck songs, to me, are friggin’ incredible.”

Picking up the Pieces

“We’re going to survive, we’re going to get by, we’re going to make it through, we’re going to pick up the pieces,” said Michael. “It’s not like we’re never going to play again. But how can you replace a guy who played with everybody? You can’t get that back, because not everybody is that guy that can just sort of make everybody else around him feel good and feel better about what they’re doing.”
“Publically speaking, there’s going to be a huge void,” Michael added, “because Scott was so ubiquitous; he was everywhere. He played everywhere, he played anything. I used to bust his chops, because he’d play in a parking lot. He didn’t care how big or small the gig was. If someone asked him and he had an open date, he’d be there. As a music community – even just people who like to go to bars and drink – they’re going to notice that he’s not around. He was sort of one of the elder statesmen – the guy who’s been around so long – who had this amazing catalogue of songs. He’s going to be sorely missed. Somebody can come in and fill that public void, but personally, I’ve lost my music partner. I’ve lost the guy I played most of my gigs with. I spent more time honing my musical skills with him than anyone else.”
“You can’t have this wonderful musical community and expect when something bad happens for it to be easy,” Duncan said, though he takes heart in the “outpouring of respect for him,” including phenomenal response to the online stream of his extensive collection of mp3 recordings of Scott’s music, and downloads of Scott Ricciuti and Pistol Whipped’s “Like the Red Haunts the Wine” on Bandcamp. Others, meanwhile, have taken solace in hearing Scott’s music being piped at Oxford’s Casual Dining, in Oxford, and at TT the Bear’s Place, in Cambridge; and in the recent Boston Rumble set dedicated to Scott by Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck.
“We stopped in at a deli in Oxford to try to eat something,” said Roger [about the day he heard the news of Scott’s passing], “and the owner, a good friend and member of the local music scene, as well, was listening to Scott’s music in the store. I broke down hearing the song ‘Saddest Side of Monday’ as we walked in.”
“I can’t even begin to untangle what effect Scott’s loss will have on the local music scene,” said Roger. “It has already had profound effects on me and my closest friends, from wanting to make music in his honor to feeling really lost and wondering how do we go on without him. Among the many things that I am so heartbroken that I will miss: knowing that I no longer have the next song to record with him to look forward to is really making me think about the shape of my future as a producer.”
“Trying to picture the hole that is left in the music scene just tears me up inside,” lamented Annie. “You cannot replace the songwriting ability, the voice, the guitar skills, and the occasional saxophone moment, with any one person.”
“It’s been an unspoken promise,” lamented Roger, “that there will always be a great time ahead of me where I get to be with Scott and be a part of making another musical miracle, and with the thought that I will never be able to do that again, it really shifts my perspective about my future. I just need to hold tightly to the spirit and inspiration that he has left with me and keep trying to make new miracles.”
“We aren’t sure how to honor him without him there to play,” said Annie.

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Scott Ricciuti: Epilogue (1963-2012)

Article that ran in Worcester Magazine on Thursday, April 12, 2012, one week after the passing of local musician, Scott Ricciuti. Check out the Worcester Magazine version for outstanding photos by Louis Despres, and check back here for the upcoming extended version of this article.

by Matt Robert

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“I was in the studio and my phone rang,” recalls Roger Lavallee, a musician, engineer and producer. “It was my friend John Donovan, who performed every Tuesday night at Vincent’s with Scott. Why would John be calling me at 11:30 a.m.? I answered it, and he began with, ‘I really don’t know how to say this…’”

This scenario – one we all fear – played out around central Massachusetts and throughout the Bay State, as well as up to Vermont, where childhood chum, Childhood band mate and close friend Ken Ebell lives. Similar phone calls delivered the same tragic news to a nexus of distraught family members, a life partner, musicians, fans, friends, club owners, bartenders and music writers – a massive web spun over 48 years of life and almost as many making music: James “Scott” Ricciuti had succumbed to injuries incurred when his car left Rt. 290 in Northboro and landed in the median strip.

“I ended my [recording] session, and like a zombie, went to be with my girlfriend and my dog. I spent the day cycling between numbness and breakdown,” adds Lavallee, whose relationship with Ricciuti began with sharing bills with Riccuti’s band Childhood and evolved over two decades as Lavallee became the central engineer/producer of the vast majority of Ricciuti’s body of work. Inadvertently, Ricciuti became one of Lavalle’s closest friends.

Lavalle’s sentiments echoed a veritable deluge of outpourings on Facebook and through articles in a host of area publications, as the local scene attempted to grasp the reality that “the glue” of the local scene was gone.

“The area – not just the local scene – just lost the most prolific, talented songwriter they will ever see so close,” asserts a reeling Paul Dagnello, 13-year bassist for Ricciuti’s most enduring band, Huck. Dagnello expresses an overwhelming consensus about Riccutti, who was universally lauded as a poetic, smart, tireless, and, above all, thrillingly energetic musician.

Ricciuti’s close acquaintances were quick to clarify, however, that his true gift expanded far beyond music. Hours of interviews revealed reverent tones about a guy whose art was his life force, and a personality of complete “inclusiveness.” Local musicians Annie Eggleston and Michael Thibodeau— Ricciuti was the best man at Thibodeau’s wedding—both told stories of being warmly pulled into Ricciuti’s spotlight, fostered and nurtured.

“He took the attention on him and put it on others,” recalls Thibodeau. “I’ve known him for a decade, but it felt like a lifetime. He was my best friend. He was the person I was most intimate with musically, and who I talked to about everything.”

“The first time I met him, he was a funny looking kid with a funny haircut who could play a little bit of saxophone,” remembers Ken Ebell. “I was in fourth grade, and he was in fifth.” The two would go on to form a band as a couple of music-class geeks, informs Ebell, and would eventually conceive Childhood in the 1980s and enjoy significant local success, even winning the prestigious WBCN Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble in 1986. The two played for years before parting ways in 1990, though the friendship endured—Ricciuti stood up as best man for Ebell a month later. Recently, Ebell joined Ricciuti for several engagements, including a Childhood reunion and a set on piano at a Ralph’s Pistol Whipped show.

“Who’s closer than a brother,” asks Ebell. “We spoke the same language. We didn’t even have to talk about stuff. We’d finish each other’s sentences.”

“I don’t think there’s been a better person ever born,” he affirms.

Local drummer, Duncan Arsenault’s, relationship with Ricciuti blossomed exponentially in recent years as the musician became a regular feature of Arsenaults’s Thursday night series at The Dive Bar in Worcester, where, along with bassist Jeff Burch, Pistol Whipped germinated when Ricciuti introduced the pair to his original songs.

“You can’t have this wonderful musical community and expect when something bad happens for it to be easy,” Arsenault laments. “[Ricciuti] had true love for other musicians. He was really inspired by everything. He was so fired up and inspired by music. I think he’s the greatest songwriter. He didn’t need to do any more work, but he was still working at it really hard.”

“He was incredibly willing to participate musically in anything. He had endless energy for gigging. He was down to play. There were times when he would leave a gig he was already playing and come over to The Dive and do that one as well,” he remembers.

Arsenault takes heart in the phenomenal response to the online stream of his extensive collection of MP3 recordings of Ricciuti’s music, and downloads of Ricciuti’s and Pistol Whipped’s “Like the Red Haunts the Wine” on Bandcamp, while others too have taken solace in hearing his music being piped at Oxford’s Casual Dining in Oxford and at TT the Bear’s Place in Cambridge; hearing Ricciuti’s lilting country ballad “Saddest Side of Monday” in a local diner; and in the Rumble set dedicated to Ricciuti by Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck.

“The most heartwarming thing that has happened is the outpouring of respect for him,” Arsenault adds.

“I can’t even begin to untangle what effect Scott’s loss will have on the local music scene,” grieves Lavallee. “It has already had profound effects on me and my closest friends, from wanting to make music in his honor to feeling really lost and wondering how do we go on without him. Among the many things that I am so heartbroken that I will miss: knowing that I no longer have the next song to record with him to look forward to, is really making me think about the shape of my future as a producer.”

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