Underground sounds: Musician works to establish roots for area’s original music scene
As a late spring evening eases its way toward sunset, Anthony Quinn Carpanzano, better known as “Quinn,” watches as the first of the fans arrive for a night of original music in Stamford. He’s set it up to feature a local act, one from Brooklyn, N.Y., and another from Wisconsin.
“The thing is when you come here, it is only music,” he says, as he waits near the loading dock at Amadeus Piano Company in Stamford. “There are no dart boards, no pool tables, no TVs. You don’t know who you are going to see.”
He launched this “Riot” concert series last summer, a kind of last gasp for the underground original music scene in Stamford, which took a hit when The Fez and Seaside Tavern closed. Since November, the series has had a home at Amadeus, a piano moving and restoring company, which for several years has provided a stage for jazz and classical musicians.
“Say you come into Stamford and you’ve never been here before. You go, ‘Wow,’ this is a big city and you’d think it would have some thriving original music scene here, but it doesn’t,” he says. “But, it is there. It’s on the bubble. And the Riots are definitely getting all types of people together.”
Carpanzano is no newcomer to the scene, having watched musical venues come and go in the city since he started his musical career as a teen in the late 1980s. “Do you remember Dragon’s Lair, Streets?” Musical ghosts of the past, these were places people gathered to dance, discover new bands or make merry with those of similar minds.
Over the years, Carpanzano has powered on, finding venues for open-mic nights and mini-music fests to keep the spirit of original music alive. He covers all genres — acoustic, alt-rock, metal and punk. “I’ve always looked for diverse, unique bands. They don’t have to be the same genre. I go from alternative rockers to a girl playing a ukulele.”
He also often performs at the events, whether solo or in whatever band he is in at the time. His latest band, the Hosemen, which includes Brien Adams and Wade McManus, already has made an appearance at a Riot.
“The (Riots) remind me of things I have gone to and things I like to go to and want to go to,” Carpanzano says. “I want to create that all-music vibe. Just pure music, and art (artists often display work on the walls) and people engaging with others. You know, I think that got lost.”
Over the decades, the music industry has discovered what can happen when a bunch of musicians and their followers come together in the creative stew of underground clubs and watering holes. Sometimes, whole music genres are born, such as the punk rock music scene that emerged out of lower Manhattan in the 1970s; or grunge, an offshoot of alternative rock, that grew out of the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Connecticut had a moment, beginning in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, when the music venue Anthrax, which started in Stamford and ended up in Norwalk, became an important stop for hardcore and punk bands. In the early aughts in New York City, a rock boom resurgence, or revival, could be heard, particularly coming from Brooklyn.
In all these cases, the bands had places and venues to perform, get the kinks out and establish a sound and stage persona.
“It’s very rewarding bringing bands in to play and treating them right,” Carpanzano says. “Because I am on that side of the fence, too, believe me, I know.”
In these days of instant gratification, where partygoers clutch comprehensive music libraries in the palms of their hand and have the world’s bank of research and information at the touch of a screen, it can be difficult to advocate a bit of spontaneity and discovery. Yet, the group gathered on that recent evening seemed a bit of a throwback to an earlier time. Phones were out, yes, but when the music started, screens largely went dark and everyone was all in.
The Fire Heads, a garage rock band from Madison, Wis., opened the proceedings with some serious shredding, and Brooklyn’s self-proclaimed “garage punk creeps,” The Mad Doctors, ended the night. In between, Jacques Le Coque called it like it was before launching into a set of catchy garage punk/rock tunes.
“We are from Stamford, Conn., and we are here to play some rock ’n’ roll for you,” said guitarist and singer Pete Mazza.
The musicians and fans gathered included those who played and enjoyed the energy of these DIY spaces, sometimes actual basements, that, over the years, have disappeared or been taken off the market. In fact, the next “Riot at Amadeus” may be awhile, as organizers work out a few kinks in terms of timing. So, as Carpanzano has done in the past, he soldiers on to find new venues to keep the momentum going.
He has set up a weekly music night, “Thursday NiTe RocKs,” at 1947 Lounge (the former Tavern 489). It’s the same place that Carpanzano once hosted “Tuesdays with Quinn.” He plans to keep the masses informed as to future music showcases through social media (facebook.com/quinntacula).
“Music is a work in progress and you fine tune it along the way,” Carpanzano says. He could as easily be talking about his role as a champion of underground music spaces. “You make it better each time and learn things. If you don’t try something, you won’t ever know what you are capable of.”
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