2015-01-15 / Around Town

Tom Perrotti the Un-Common Fence Man

By Mark Gorman

Tom Perrotti, musical director of the nonprofit Common Fence Music Series, has a passion for folk, Irish , and reggae styles of music. Tom Perrotti, musical director of the nonprofit Common Fence Music Series, has a passion for folk, Irish , and reggae styles of music. While many folk music fans claim to have been at the Newport Folk Festival the day Bob Dylan “went electric,” one local musician recalls being at Dylan’s “electric” rehearsal on that fateful July day in 1965 – and he knew he was hearing something special. Meet Tom Perrotti.

“My father belonged to the Kiwanis Club and they had the food concessions at the Jazz and Folk festivals. In those days, the performers got a plane ticket, $50 and they got fed by us,” explained Perrotti. “I worked alongside my father. I heard Dylan rehearse ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ on the electric guitar. Then a few hours later, I heard the actual performance.”

The versatile instrumentalist grew up in a large, musical Newport family. He is one of eight children. All the children took piano lessons, but Perrotti’s interests eventually turned toward stringed instruments. “My grandfather Mario would go to auctions and he picked up a matching Gibson guitar and mandolin for me,” he recalled.

His early schooling at the festivals gave Perrotti a deep appreciation for many types of music, but folk, Irish and reggae remain his strongest passions.

In the 1970s, he enjoyed playing the Saxon Coffee House and was an opening act at the old Salt on Thames Street. The mandolinist guitarist was in a variety of local reggae bands before forming his best known group, Man on the Street, in the early 1980s. They still occasionally make local appearances. Additionally, Perrotti partners with multi-instrumentalist Jack Wright and vocalist-drummer Tom Maguire in The Patchy Caubeens.

At a recent performance, Perrotti delivered strong, percussive guitar work, coupled with his crystal-clear singing voice. He truly is a pleasure to listen to.

For the past 21 years, Perrotti is perhaps best known as the musical director of the nonprofit music series Common Fence Music. He explained their mission: “We seek to present under-exposed but culturally relevant folk, roots and world music through concerts and workshops.” The series’ 20 Saturday night shows per year have been a wonderful and affordable mainstay of our local music scene.

The eclectic and talented acts Perrotti books for the series have never disappointed. A Common Fence show should be on everyone’s to-do list this winter and spring.


A Gathering of
Fiddlers and Fishermen
WHEN: Saturday Jan. 24, doors
open at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Common Fence
Com munity Hall,
933 Anthony Rd., Portsmouth

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