Out and About: Upgraded Knickerbocker showcasing up and coming bands

Published April 30. 2019

Shari Lynne Rosenthal, Special to The Times

Looking for new bands showcased locally?

The Knickerbocker Music Center at 55 Railroad Ave. in Westerly features well-known names like Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, as well as musicians and groups such as Amy Helm, Neyla Pekarek and the Ballroom Thieves with special guest Jesse Terry.

The Knickerbocker is now a music center with an upgraded stage and speakers and a state-of-the-art sound system. It also upgraded the Green Room (the place where musicians can hang out when they aren’t playing).

I spoke to Mark Connolly, who is both manager and executive director of the Knickerbocker on a recent Friday night when I went to see a couple of bands. Mark said, “I want people to say when they leave here: 1) That was an amazing show 2) That was a great venue and 3) That they’ll want to come back.”

The Knickerbocker, which just enlarged its stage and raised it 8 inches, is looking for bands to interact directly with the audience in a more intimate way.

“We know what the younger crowd is looking for and now we are providing it,” Connolly said. “The Knick is no longer a place where your parents went to hear their music. We’ve gone national now. We can attract the bands we want now.”

The venue also bought an apartment behind the building so band members can stay over.

“We are a dine and dance club that also has a Tasting Bar so we can showcase local breweries and new twists on cocktails and seasonal signatures in our Tap Room,” Connolly said. “The Tap Room has no cover charge and on Wednesdays it’s Vinyl Night. Vinyl always sounds so much better than a CD.

“I want to say we still are a ‘purist club,’ meaning that our main focus is still all about the music.”

He said they took down the TVs in the Tap Room because it was competing with the music. Also, on Wednesday nights they have a half hour dance lesson in the main room for $10- from 7-7:30 and then a band that plays till 10 p.m. “We want to offer these dance lessons to the community at large,” he said.

“There is a renaissance going on in Westerly now,” he continued. “We are building a multi-venue regional campus for the arts. We have joined with the United Theatre in a partnership that will involve the local schools as well as the Philharmonic Orchestra, which is from East Providence.”

The new United Theatre partnership will be celebrated May 17.

“We want to include all ages in the making and promotion of music,” he said.

I was impressed with an up and coming band called Upstate. The three young women were exceptional. It was like listening to a modern Andrews Sisters with a punch.

Their melodic charm was so strong and yet each of them could stand on their own. At one point, they came into the audience and continued to sing and dance with the audience together in an improv frenzy. And it was only their second set in Rhode Island.

They were opening for Jonah Smith, who is a regular here at the Knick since he was discovered in 2014 in “America’s Got Talent.”

For more information, call (401) 315-5070.

Shari Lynne Rosenthal lives in Stonington. If you have been to a cool place in the region lately, tell us a story about it by emailing

2019 BMA-Nominee Badge.png

January 2019

The Knick All Stars' album Love Makes A Woman has just been nominated for Soul Blues album of the year by the Blues Foundation!

The Knick All Stars is the showcase band for the Knickerbocker Music Center and is comprised of members of the Roomful of Blues, the Duke Robillard Band and Sugar Ray and the Bluetones among others. Our most recent album, Love Makes a Woman, features vocalists Darcel Wilson, a faculty member at Berkley College of Music, and Thornetta Davis, the Queen of Detroit Blues, and is a tribute to Aretha Franklin. All sales proceeds go to the United Theatre and KMC’s educational program with the RI Philharmonic.

Love Makes A Woman has just been nominated for Soul Blues album of the year by the Blues Foundation! Also Thornetta Davis, a vocalist on the recording, has been nominated for Soul Blues Female Artist of the year.

We were featured on Rhode Island Homes, one of the top sites for Providence, RI Real Estate. Check out the article here: Knickerbocker Cafe Has All the Feelings.

Photography by Chris Vaccaro.

Photography by Chris Vaccaro.

September 2018

Rhode Island Monthly

According to Merriam-Webster, "Knickerbocker" is an old-school nickname for a New Yorker, or, more specifically, a descendant of New York's early Dutch settlers (supposedly because they were known to wear loose, short trousers called "knickers"). So how, pray tell, did such a designation become the name of a beloved blues institution in downtown Westerly? 

Read The Article >>