BerkFest gets go-ahead
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., May 16, 2002) – A change of regime on the Board of Selectmen in this town and an outpouring of support from the public and the business community resulted earlier this week in the granting of the approvals necessary for the staging of the fifth annual Berkshire Mountain Music Festival, to take place on the weekend of August 9-11 at Butternut Ski Area.

This summer’s festival will include over 40 bands, only about half of whom have been confirmed as of yet due to the delay in the permitting process. Although primarily a gathering of jam-bands, performers will represent a variety of genres according to a BerkFest spokesman, including jazz, world, rock, bluegrass, folk, electronic, DJ, hip-hop, and funk.

Bands already confirmed include the Steve Kimock Band, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, The New Deal, Project Logic featuring DJ Logic, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra and The Abyssinians. Also, Bullfrog featuring Kid Koala, The Slip, Railroad Earth, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Addison Groove Project, The Reid Genauer Band, The Aaron Katz Band, Psychedelic Breakfast, Shockra, Particle, Mountain of Venus, Dean Bowman, Mamacita, and Stephane Wrembel plays Django Reinhardt.

Additional acts are expected to be confirmed in the next two weeks.

Tickets went on sale for BerkFest earlier this week. BerkFest has a graduated ticket policy, whereby the price of festival tickets creeps upward at least three times as the date of the festival approaches. The deadline for the lowest-priced, three-day pass to the festival -- $95 -- is June 3, after which the price leaps to $110. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit on the Internet or call 866-266-3378.

BerkFest was undoubtedly damaged by the delay and the town’s arm-twisting, but here’s hoping it can find its way back to success and that in future years the promoters are able to pursue artists and plans for the festival earlier in the year with the assurance that they will be granted the necessary approvals.

Busy Barrington

A busy Barrington tonight. Based on his eponymous EP, Jared Lee could be Boston’s male answer to Britney Spears. The pop-r&b performer teams up with two of the Berkshires’ best performers, singer-songwriter Meg Hutchinson and Robby Baier’s funk-rock group, Melodrome, for a triple-header tonight at Bogie’s (528-5959) at 9. Woodstock bassist John Menegon brings his New York Trio Project to the Castle Street Café (528-5244). Meanwhile, over at Club Helsinki (528-3394), Jess Klein was scheduled to perform with her band tonight, but she bowed out of the date earlier this week; call the club to find out who will perform in her stead. Tomorrow night, Helsinki presents a sterling double-bill of Lori McKenna and Stephen Kellogg.

Paying tribute to Dylan at 61

Bob Dylan turns 61 next week (May 24, to be precise), which got Jordi Herold of the Iron Horse (413-586-8686) to thinking about how to honor Dylan on this auspicious birthday. What he came up with was to call on a bevy of the Pioneer Valley’s top singer-songwriter talent to recreate Dylan’s landmark album, “Highway 61 Revisited.” Thus on Sunday at 7 at the Northampton nightclub, Cliff Eberhardt, Mark Erelli, Jim Henry, Stephen Kellogg, Deb Talan, Andrew Kerr, Philip Price, Brooks Williams, and Nerissa and Katryna Nields will tackle songs like “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Desolation Row,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Guthrie concerts

The Guthrie Center is getting back into the concert business. The pre-season at the former Trinity Church in Housatonic kicks off tonight with a show by Arlo Guthrie that has long been sold out. (Don’t fret – he’ll be back on July 13.) Tomorrow night local trio Redding, Mandeville and Sweet performs its blend of folk, country, blues, gospel, and bluegrass. The summer season proper gets under way on the weekend of June 7-8 with back-to-back shows by wife-husband duo Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion.

Other Guthrie Center acts include John Flynn (July 5), Bill Morrissey (July 6), Rory Block (July 20), Les Sampou (August 3), Cliff Eberhardt (August 10), Garnet Rogers (August 17), and Christine Lavin (August 24).

Looking ahead: While there has been no official announcement, The Beat has learned that the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield will apparently continue its singer-songwriter series next fall and winter with performers including folk-blues singer-songwriter Chris Smither on October 5, “Four Bitchin’ Babes,” featuring Sally Fingerett, Megon McDonough, Debi Smith and Camille West on November 2, Patty Larkin on January 17, 2003, and Geoff Muldaur on March 7, 2003.

In other regional concert news, Club Helsinki is extending its geographical reach into Columbia County with a show by Tom Tom Club at the Port of Hudson in Hudson, N.Y., on July 6. And among the big name bands coming to SPAC this summer are Melissa Etheridge, who will be performing on July 14, backed once again by superstar rock drummer and Stockbridge native Kenny Aronoff. Also coming to SPAC this summer are Harry Connick Jr. (June 14), Bad Company and Foreigner (June 15), Nickelback (June 22), Chicago (June 23), Tom Petty (July 5), Rush (July 6), Barry Manilow (July 21), and the Dave Matthews Band (July 28-29).

The Flatlanders

Now Again (New West)

Nearly 30 years after their recording debut, the neo-country triumvirate of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock make their long-awaited follow-up. Fans of the group’s Texas honky-tonk music won’t be disappointed. The accordion- and pedal-steel inflected “Julia” recalls The Band, and “Down in the Light of the Melon Moon” echoes the Traveling Wilburys. Not since the heyday of those legendary groups have different male voices harmonized with such distinction. And the “musical saw” that distinguished the group’s first recording makes a reappearance, too. Now Again proves the legend was no lie, and the Flatlanders are a true roots-music supergroup. [5/19/02]

Uncle Tupelo

89/93: An Anthology (Columbia/Legacy)

While the years 1989 to 1993 might be best remembered for the explosion of metal-oriented grunge-rock, an equally influential and possibly more lasting genre was being carved out. With the long-promised roots-music revival finally exploding, and with Wilco shaking things up with its great new album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” the time is right to dig back into the roots of the current revival in the seminal work of Uncle Tupelo, the country-rock band that spawned Wilco and Son Volt and influenced countless other alt-country or “No Depression” bands. If you missed Uncle Tupelo the first time around, or if you’re a diehard fan who has to have the rare or previously unreleased tracks included here, this anthology is a must. [5/19/02]

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 17, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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