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Rock party in P-town

Even the performers don’t know what to expect from next week’s five-day festival

By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2009
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Let’s be honest. Rock ’n’ roll isn’t exactly the first thing that leaps to mind when you think of Provincetown. Drag queens, karaoke bars, and summer tourists, yes. Loud guitars and humming amplifiers? Not so much.

Veteran Boston music promoter and booking agent Martin Doyle wants to change all that - or some of it, anyway - and he’s convinced that bringing a five-day music festival to the picturesque Cape Cod community just may do the trick.

“It’s been a highly, highly incredible experience,’’ Doyle says over the phone from Provincetown, where he says he’s been working frantically to prepare for the influx of musicians and, he hopes, a few thousand tourists and music fans. “There’s nothing, really, in the Northeast going on like this. I think it’s a huge void that needs to be filled.’’

The event, which hits town July 22 and runs through July 26, is dubbed Provincetown Rocks: The Festival! and the exclamation point is a good indication of the defiant zeal Doyle brings to a project that is, by far, the biggest musical endeavor he’s attempted.

More than 100 artists, most of them from the Boston area, are scheduled to perform in 10 downtown clubs - all within walking distance of one another - next Wednesday through Sunday. “If everything goes well I’m going to make it bigger next year,’’ Doyle says and then laughs, as if catching himself. “But I just want to get through this year. It’s been a lot of pressure and stress.’’

Indeed, despite a lineup that reads like a who’s who of Boston’s rock and pop scene of the past 30 or so years - from veterans like the Neighborhoods and Dogmatics to new kids on the block such as the Bon Savants and this year’s Rumble winners the Luxury - Doyle has had to scale back his ambitions. He aborted plans to have the Grammy-nominated Presidents of the United States of America headline when sponsorship funding was less than he had hoped. But the promoter says the festival was never in danger of being canceled, as has been rumored.

“This thing was never not going to happen,’’ he says. “This thing has always been 100 percent go.’’ Doyle insists his initial idea was to showcase “big regional bands’’ such as the Bon Savants, the Luxury, the Upper Crust, Taxpayer, Freezepop, and Neighborhoods - all of whom are confirmed to play. “Those are the original acts I had as headliners,’’ he says. “I just went back to the original game plan.’’

Neighborhoods singer-guitarist David Minehan is cheerfully taking a wait-and-see approach to whether the festival will be a triumph or train wreck. “Who knows? It should be interesting at the very least,’’ says Minehan, whose band is scheduled to play July 25.

For Minehan, next week’s festival brings back fond memories of the shows the ’Hoods played in Provincetown “back in the day’’ with one of his heroes, Lou Miami (the Boston glam rocker who died in 1995) and his band, the Kozmetix. If next week is even half as fun, he’ll be happy.

“Luckily, we have some hardcore fans who will follow us to the end of the earth even after all this time,’’ Minehan says. “It’s nice to know somebody still cares.’’ Those who do can expect to hear at least a couple of songs from a new album the ’Hoods have in the works.

Lights Out singer-guitarist Rishava Green says his Boston outfit, which plays Provincetown for the first time ever next Thursday and Friday, is “very psyched to be on the bill. It signifies a step up for us of breaking out of Boston proper, so that’s encouraging.’’

Green says the timing of the festival seems ideal for the Lights Out, which has a new album, “Color Machine,’’ coming out in September. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s an opportunity to ply our trade, meet some new people, and hang out with our buddies in the scene. Plus, it’s a great place to go.’’

With their powdered wigs and tight-fitting knickers, the Upper Crust should fit right in with P-town’s colorful atmosphere. “We’ll have to do something else to stand out from the crowd,’’ deadpans Upper Crust singer-guitarist Nat Freedberg, whose less-than-subtle stage moniker is Lord Bendover. “But we’ll think of something.’’ The Upper Crust plays the first night of the festival. “It’s an ambitious undertaking . . . and we’re really excited about it,’’ says Freedberg, who predicts a “carny-like atmosphere’’ for the proceedings. “Even if it does result in what most people call disaster, it will be a story that we can tell to our children and to our children’s children. We can say we were there.’’

“I definitely heard the rumblings like, ‘Is this thing legit?’ ’’ says Taxpayer singer-guitarist Jay Marsh (whose band plays next Friday) with a laugh. “But the way I looked at it was, I’ve already booked a hotel out there so if it happens, that’s totally awesome. And if it gets canceled at the last minute, I needed a weekend away anyway.’’

PROVINCETOWN ROCKS: The Festival! July 22-26 in Provincetown. Go to www.provincetownrocks.com for a complete list of artists, venues, ticket prices, and more.

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