Downtown Boys

Paper Bee

Sunday, April 28
Doors: 7:30pm | Show: 8pm


The United States’ myriad inequalities, hatreds and phobias are painfully evident in 2017, offering proof that the age-old dichotomy of “political bands” versus “apolitical bands” simply doesn’t exist. Either you are comfortable and unfazed by the current reigning power structures, or you choose (or have no choice but) to use your music as a vehicle for the dismantling of oppression and the creation of something better. No matter what your songs are about, you are choosing a side.

The position of Providence, RI’s Downtown Boys has been clear since they started storming through basements and DIY spaces with their radically-minded, indefatigable rock music: they are here to topple the white-cis-het hegemony and draft a new history. In the words of vocalist and lyricist Victoria Ruiz, they are “five unique and individual people who believe in the spectrum of people, experiences and emotions.” On their self-titled 2014 EP on Sister Polygon Records (run by their like-minded friends in Priests), they offered songs like “Slumlord Sal,” which strikes out against abusive landlords. Its accompanying video relays the idea that cops can be literally smacked out of their oppressive mindsets and into an exuberantly queer dance party. This is how Downtown Boys began, combining revolutionary ideals with boundless energy and contagious, inclusive fun, and their resolve has only strengthened as both their sound and audience have grown.

Cost of Living is their third full-length, following a self-released 2012 debut and 2015’s Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records. They recorded it with Guy Picciotto, one of indie-rock’s most mythological figures, in the producer’s chair. (Although best known for his ability to sing while dangling from a basketball hoop, he’s also produced pivotal albums by The Gossip and Blonde Redhead, among others.) “He very much enabled us to believe in what we were doing enough to get the record done, and get it done well,” says Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, Downtown Boys’ guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter. Picciotto fostered the band’s improvisational urges while also pulling the root of their music to the forefront: unflinching choruses, fearlessly confrontational vocals, and the sense that each song will incite the room into action, sending bodies into motion that were previously thought to have atrophied.

Downtown Boys are keenly aware of the increased visibility and credibility that comes with signing to a corporate-media conglomerate such as Sub Pop. They’re using this platform as a megaphone for their protest music, amplifying and centering Chicana, queer, and Latino voices in the far-too-whitewashed world of rock. Opener “A Wall” rides the feel-good power that drove so many tunes by The Clash and Wire as it calls out the idea that a wall could ever succeed in snuffing the humanity and spirit of those it’s designed to crush. “Promissory Note” is a bold self-introduction to the exclusive clubs that either ignore Downtown Boys’ existence, or possibly worse, feign appreciation: “So what’s the matter, you don’t like what you see? I can’t believe you’re even talking to me!” Ruiz shouts that she won’t light herself on fire to keep you warm, and, like underground rock pioneer Alice Bag’s vitriolic verse, it’s a claim you wouldn’t dare question. “Tonta,” one of the three songs written and sung primarily in Spanish, is an introspective and emotional portrait of anguish, and it calls to mind the mighty scrum of Huasipungo at an ABC No Rio matinee.

Compared to previous efforts, Downtown Boys have shifted from a once-meaty brass section to the subtler melodic accompaniment of keyboards and a saxophone, coloring their anthems with warm, bright tones while Ruiz spits out her frustrations, passions, and intents. Some might say it shows a sense of maturity, as Downtown Boys have undoubtedly smoothed down some of their earlier edges, but there is no compromise to their righteous assault and captivating presence. Like the socially conscious groups of years past, from Public Enemy to Rage Against the Machine, Downtown Boys harness powerful sloganeering, repetitive grooves, and earworm hooks to create one of the most necessary musical statements of the day. We should all do well to take notice!


Paper Bee is a Philly based rock band with choral elements and deep basement roots. Soon after originally forming in New England in 2015, Paper Beerecorded the split recordNow I Know You And See How Wide You Are To The World with Loone. After a few years of small tours and local shows, the band took a several year hiatus when songwriter Nick Berger moved to Philadelphia.A new iteration of the band came together during early pandemic times in 2020 to record their first full length album,Thaw, Freeze, Thaw

Nick’s songwriting explores the soft centers and the sharp edges of loving relationships and overlapping traumas, as well as questioning the nature of belonging, both in space and within queer bodies. Difficult to pin to one genre, the songs onThaw, Freeze, Thaw incorporate a range of sounds from gentle bedroomy synth to harsh sludgy distortion, introspective finger-picking to cacophonous, crescendoing loops, blast beats, off-kilter time signatures, and many places in between. Threads of repeating chord progressions, rhythms, riffs, and lyrics run throughout the album, tying it all together in a circular arc that leads the listener through a story about where home exists, internally and externally.

While living together during quarantine, bassist Sam Cook-Parrott, drummer Anthony Richards, and Nick on guitar and vocals, dove into sculpting and reworking the album as a much needed creative outlet during the chaos of that time. The dynamic instrumentation reflects the camaraderie and joy of the experience, learning to read one another to seamlessly flow through the songs. Sam’s understated and emotive bass lines, Tony’s driving yetrestrained drumming, as well as vast and intricate vocal harmonies from Cherise Nystrom, Maryn Jones, and Sam create a rich, well rounded, and densely woven soundscape.

Throughout 2021 and 2022 Paper Bee has grown into an engaging and reliable local band in Philly. Without any releases showcasing the current line-up, they’ve managed to perform regularly, building momentum for a much anticipated album. 2023 will see the release of their full-lengthThaw, Freeze, Thawas well as touring and more shows at home.

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