Forecast for fall pop season in the Berkshires
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., September 20, 2002) – With the fall season the Berkshire pop concert scene typically takes on a more relaxed pace than summer, but with artists like Suzanne Vega, Guy Clark, Richie Havens and Richard Shindell headed this way, the fall scene is no less exciting than summer was – especially for folk music fans.

Suzanne Vega is no stranger to these parts, having performed in and around the Berkshires countless times. But her November 9th show at Mass MoCA (662-2111) in North Adams is her first since the release of last year’s critically-acclaimed album, “Songs in Red and Gray.”

Also in North Adams, the second season of the Railway Café (664-6393) is under way at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt performs on October 5. Tom Prasada-Rao and Rachel Bissex share the stage on November 2, and Berkshire folk trio Wintergreen performs on December 7.

Down in South County, the Mahaiwe Theatre is back in action for at least one show this fall, with Woodstock veteran Richie Havens performing a show produced by Club Helsinki on November 23.

Club Helsinki (528-3394) itself continues to present an eclectic array of folk, blues, rock and jazz performers this fall. Highlights include a Helsinki debut by Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark, of “L.A. Freeway” fame, performing on October 12 on a co-bill with Mary Gauthier, who is touring behind a great new CD called “Filth and Fire.” Other stars returning to Helsinki include Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks on October 20, singer-songwriter Richard Shindell on October 26, and jazz guitarist John Scofield on December 9 and 10, all of whom sold out the club on their last visits. Another sure bet to pack the club on November 4 is the new pairing of Phish bassist Mike Gordon and guitarist Leo Kottke, who have just released a duet album and whose shows this fall are bound to attract hordes of noodle-dancing types starved for a serving of Phish of any kind.

Also at Helsinki are ex-Peter Wolf guitarist Johnny A tonight, hip-hop rockers Spookie Daly Pride tomorrow night, All Stripped Down, featuring singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg and Fuzz from Deep Banana Blackout, next Thursday, and the Laura Love Duo with Jen Todd next Friday. The Tarbox Ramblers return to Helsinki on September 28, followed by Unfulfilled Desires on October 2. Jazz singer Rene Marie performs on October 5, followed by punk-country group Demolition String Band on October 11, blues singer-guitarist Popa Chubby on October 17, and Australian guitar wizard Jeff Lang on October 18.

Cult-rocker Peter Case performs at Helsinki on October 24, followed by local singer-songwriter Sky Smeed on October 31, followed by Boston pop band The Push Stars, pushing their new CD on November 1. Punk-mambo group Babaloo plays on November 2, and Jim Weider, former lead guitarist for the post-“Last Waltz” version of The Band, brings his group to the club on November 8. Slavic Soul Party brings its unique Eastern European brass band meets downtown avant-garde approach on November 21.

South County audiences will also celebrate the release of hometown guitarist Robin O’Herin’s new CD, “Red, White and Blues,” featuring traditional and original country blues and gospel, at the Berkshire Blues Café in South Lee, on October 13. And the menu at the Castle Street Café’s music lounge gets spiced up with back-to-back performances by the Lee Shaw Trio on September 27 and the Mike Musillami Ensemble on September 28, featuring an all-star batch of players including pianist Ted Rosenthal, winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, drummer George Schuller, son of composer Gunther Schuller, and bassist Dave Shapiro, who performed with the Woody Herman Band.

The Berkshire Museum (443-7171) in Pittsfield presents several top-name touring acts this season, including folk-blues singer-songwriter Chris Smither on October 5, Four Bitchin’ Babes on November 2, the “Voices of Winter” folk trio featuring Priscilla Herdman, Anne Hills and Cindy Mangsen on November 30, and country-swing group Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, with singer-songwriter Brooks Williams, on December 14.

A few new music venues have sprung up in Pittsfield, including the Common Grounds Coffee House (499-0866), presenting folk singers at the First United Methodist Church on Fenn Street. Longtime Tom Paxton sideman Geoff Bartley performs at Common Grounds on October 5, with local singer-songwriter Erin Larkin warming up the crowd. Singer-songwriter Kelly Moore is at Common Grounds on November 2.

Southwestern restaurant La Choza (448-6100) celebrates its grand opening in the new Central Block this weekend, and Grateful Dead tribute band Liquid Dead will be on hand for the opening festivities this afternoon at 4, and again tonight and tomorrow night. La Choza plans to present live music every night of the week, with Tuesdays devoted to jazz and Wednesdays to blues performers. Holy Water Undertow, a regional supergroup of jam-band talent, is forming just to play Sunday nights at La Choza. The group includes Max Creek keyboardist Mark Mercier and Reverend Tor guitarist Tor Krautter, and will own Sunday nights at 9:30.

La Choza will also be presenting local and regional bands and artists, including pop-rock group Clintone on September 26, funk band Concentric on September 27, jam-band Hi8us on September 28, and folksinger Tom Kennedy on October 3. Brother Cleve from lounge act Combustible Edison will team up with the Pontani Sisters on October 12, Chris McDermott performs his brand of jazz-blues on October 18, and Robby Baier’s Melodrome plays on October 19. Boston lounge act Seks Bomba performs on October 31, and Senegalese native Mamadou Diop brings his Afro-beat ensemble to Pittsfield on November 29.

World-music fans will also be interested in hearing the Liberty Balalaika Ensemble, playing traditional folk music from Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe, at Temple Anshe Amunim (442-5910) on October 13.

World-music fans should also take note of several world-music concerts at Williams College (597-3146) this season, including traditional Georgian ensemble Zedashe on October 5, and Masters of Persian Music, featuring vocalist Mohammed Reza Shajarian, tar player Hoosein Alizadeh, kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor, and tombak player Homayoun Shajarian, on October 16. The Mike LeDonne Quartet, led by Hammond B-3 organist LeDonne, performs at Williams on November 7, and fans of avant-garde music might want to check out the FLUX Quartet on November 15 – their program includes works by Ornette Coleman and John Zorn.

Hot Pstromi, one of the longest-running klezmer bands, founded by klezmer revival pioneer Yale Strom and featuring Yiddish vocalist Elizabeth Schwartz, performs at the Spencertown (N.Y.) Academy (518-392-3693) on November 16 at 8.

In Albany, singing sisters The Nields are at the WAMC Performing Arts Studio (1-800-323-9262) on October 18, followed by country singer Richard Buckner and Kamikaze Hearts on October 19.

Rock keyboardist Bruce Hornsby plays at the Egg (518-473-1845) in Albany on September 29, followed by smooth jazz vocalist Will Downing on October 6. Jazz continues at the Egg with saxophonist Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band on October 11. Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush play progressive bluegrass on October 12. Smooth-jazz vocalist Boney James performs at the Egg on October 26, singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky on October 27, the Herbie Hancock Quartet on October 29, and Native American singer-songwriter Robert Mirabal on November 15. Chilean vocalist Claudia Acuna sings on November 22, and Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady reunite as Acoustic Hot Tuna on December 8.

The Troy (N.Y.) Savings Bank Music Hall (518-273-0038) presents an eclectic lineup of performers this fall, including legendary folk-rockers Roger McGuinn and John Sebastian on October 4, the Dave Brubeck Quartet on October 11, traditional Irish ensemble Solas on October 12, and Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson, in an acoustic solo performance, on October 15. Singer-guitarist Doc Watson is at Troy on October 26, and Scottish folk artist Jean Redpath brings her group, Ensemble Galilei, to Troy on November 23.

The Indigo Girls are at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, N.Y., on September 26, and the Counting Crows are the R.P.I. Fieldhouse in Troy on October 4, and at the Mullins Center at U. Mass-Amherst on October 5. Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry headlines at the Calvin Theatre on September 28.

[This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 20, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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