Subject RIP, Randy Hien
DateCreated 9/27/2006 6:31:00 AM
PostedDate 9/27/2006 6:21:00 AM
Body No wedding talk today.
Randy Hien, long-time owner of the Providence nightclub the Living Room, died Monday morning after being struck by a car (article). For bands in the Rhode Island/Southern MA. area the Living Room was the first and best chance to get original music heard. Trying to get a new band off the ground? Call Randy. Putting the old band back together, and need somewhere to tune up the stage show? Call Randy. Inventing an entirely new genre, something so bizarre that it can't be described and as yet has NO AUDIENCE? Call Randy. He loved all of it, and loved owning a nightclub. He was forced out of his location in the CIC complex (the "Big Bubble" we used to call it) in the early '90s and it took several years and false starts before coming to the current location on Rathbone St. I remember that he put every dime he had into the new building, and that it was almost his undoing - he told me at one point that he was sleeping in his car rather than lose the club (although I was never sure if that was true; club owners tell bands a lot of things when it's time to get paid.) Long after the Rocket and Club Baby Head, the Call, Lupo's and the Strand had given up on local bands or gone out of business he continued to provide a forum; a place with a great PA and toilets that never worked.

I was more fond of the CIC complex, which if memory serves was the second location for the Living Room. A Providence history buff (or musician older than me) might have some details about the first club; I think it was downtown near the original Lupo's (from which Rich was also forced out to make way for condos.) We had some great gigs there, opening for Molly Hatchet, Ian Hunter and many others. Randy's mom would cook for the bands and they would have supper in the back room after sound check. They did a compilation album featuring the top bands on the scene and the listing reads like a Who's Who of Providence 80's Royalty. At the time, everyone thought Little Rhody was poised to become the next Minneapolis; then the credit union collapse took down the area's economy and killed off most of the nightlife for years. The era of people going out to see bands on any given night of the week ended, and the music industry went to Seattle instead. You have to wonder how much longer it would have taken the scene to recover if the Living Room hadn't reopened.

It was almost exactly ten years ago that old friend Justin Carlotto, who was one of the first soundmen at the latest Living Room, himself died after being hit by a car. Randy sponsored the memorial concert, of course, and I remember him that night enthusiastically greeting everyone that came to pay tribute. He was wearing the world's silliest-looking baseball hat (the brim must have been a foot long) while he worked the door; in retrospect it pointed out the fact that very few of us had any idea of his life outside the club. Randy coached the Lincoln Little League team for thirty years, and took them to the national championship in 2004. How many kids got their start playing baseball for him, then years later played their first gig in his club?
Rest in Peace.

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