Springing up concerts

Shemekia Copeland performs at Club Helsinki on Friday, March 28

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., March 25, 2003) – What has been a busy winter concert season for pop music fans will continue right on into spring, with dozens of pop, rock, folk, blues and jazz artists scheduled to perform in the Berkshires and in the greater region, a season that will culminate with Rosanne Cash’s concert on May 25 at Mass MoCA in North Adams, kicking off that venue’s summer performing arts season.

Club Helsinki (413-528-3394) continues presenting top regional and national nightclub acts this weekend, with Grammy-nominated blues singer Shemekia Copeland performing tonight at 9. Named Female Artist of the Year in last year’s W.C. Handy Blues Awards, Copeland is in the running in five categories in this year’s Handys – the blues equivalent of the Grammys – including best entertainer, best female artist, and best album for the Dr. John-produced “Talking to Strangers.”

Upcoming shows at Club Helsinki including all-female rock band Antigone Rising tomorrow night, Appalachian string band the Reeltime Travelers next Thursday, and the Jessica Lurie Ensemble, fronted by Living Daylights saxophonist Lurie next Friday. Also coming soon are alt-country singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier and the Hazard County Girls, an all-female, punk-rock group in the tradition of Sonic Youth and L7, on April 5; Boston singer-songwriter Mary Lou Lord on April 6; folksinger David “Inch by Inch” Mallett on April 10; singer-songwriter Jess Klein on April 11; Olu Dara on April 12; the Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players on April 13; Soulive saxophonist Sam Kenninger on April 18; avant-klezmer group Naftule’s Dream on April 27; and folk-blues singer Chris Smither on May 10.

Artists from this summer’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will present a special preview show at Helsinki on May 15, and bluegrass mandolinist Tim O’Brien, a co-founder of legendary contemporary bluegrass group Hot Rize, performs on June 1. Jonatha Brooke, former lead singer of the Story, will make her Helsinki debut on June 13. Helsinki also continues to present the Randy Kaye Trio Plus One on Monday nights and its popular open stage with special guest hosts on Tuesday nights.

Helsinki is no longer the only nightclub in town. Armi presents local and regional acts on weekend nights – Advanced Phunk performs tonight, and a quartet of female singers, including Maya Papaya, Marjorie Thompson, Rachelle Garniez and Kelly Hagan, perform tomorrow night. In coming weeks, Armi presents bluesman Bob Ray Bishop (4/4); Little Sammy (4/11); Grateful Dead tribute band Ose (4/12); David Lowe (4/18); and Cuban conga legend Carlos “Patato” Valdes (5/3).

The Castle Street Café continues to present jazz on weekends, from the likes of 17-year-old piano prodigy Miro Sprague leading his trio tonight, to pianist Lee Shaw, the Marian McPartland of upstate New York, on April 25. Other performers of note coming to Castle Street are saxophonist Gordon Brisker (April 5) and Berkshire roots-rocker Steve Adams, celebrating the release of his terrific new CD on April 23.

In Pittsfield, La Choza Cantina continues to feature local and regional bands like Jonah Smith tonight, Wakarusa tomorrow night, the Reverend Tor Band on April 12, and Mountain of Venus on May 2. La Cocina continues to feature jam bands like Midnight Jamboree tonight, Holy Water Undertoe on April 4, and the Feed on April 25. Jam-band fans will also enjoy a couple of jam-fests next month: Rev Tor headlines a multiple bill with Holy Water Undertoe and Flipper Dave at Bucksteep Manor in Washington on April 20, and the granddaddy of all jam-bands, Max Creek, celebrates its 32nd anniversary at Eastover in Lenox on April 26, also with Rev Tor.

The county’s two church coffeehouses – Common Grounds in Pittsfield and the Railway Café in North Adams -- continue to bring folksingers to the Berkshires on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, both often schedule their concerts on the first Saturday of the month, creating a dilemma for folk fans, who will choose between Vance Gilbert at the Railway and Priscilla Herdman at Common Grounds on April 5. Cosy Sheridan comes to Railway on May 3, followed by Mark Erelli on June 14. Berkshires artists Bob Thistle and Meg Hutchinson perform a double-bill at Common Grounds on May 3, followed by the Crocketts from Eastern Massachusetts on June 7.

Folk fans will also gather for the annual Pittsfield Folk Festival at Berkshire Community College on April 26, featuring Bill Morrissey, the dean of New England singer-songwriters, sister duo Nerissa and Katryna Nields, and Pittsfield’s own Adam Michael Rothberg. A benefit concert by Jimmy Lafave and Arlo Guthrie on May 18 at the Guthrie Center is part of the third annual “Historic Garbage Trail Walk” to benefit organizations that fight Huntington’s Disease, the ailment that killed Guthrie’s father, Woody Guthrie.

April means jazz in North County with the annual Williamstown Jazz Festival, which kicks off on April 23 with a concert by violinist John Blake and his quartet at the Clark Art Institute. Other festival events include films such as “A Great Day in Harlem” and “Setting the Record Straight” on April 24, and an “Uberjam Dance Party” featuring guitarist John Scofield on April 25, both at Mass MoCA in North Adams. The jazz festival concludes on April 26 in Chapin Hall at Williams College with a concert by Kenny Barron’s Canta Brasil.

These are just the highlights of a busy live music season in the Berkshires. Over in the Capitol Region, the Pepsi Arena will be hopping with concerts by Yanni (April 8); Elton John and Billy Joel (April 24, 26), Pearl Jam (April 29); Brooks and Dunn (May 11); Matchbox 20 and Sugar Ray (May 13); Red Hot Chili Peppers (May 17); Fleetwood Mac (May 21); Cher (May 30); and noted war protesters Dixie Chicks (June 27).

Rock singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw is at the WAMC Performing Arts Center tomorrow night, followed by the chamber-jazz String Trio of New York (March 30); klezmer-fusion outfit Klezperanto (April 26); and singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky (May 23).

The Egg at the Empire State Plaza presents Four Bitchin’ Babes tomorrow night; blues singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi (April 6); folksinger Loudon Wainwright III (April 11); classic rock band Cheap Trick (April 22); singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (April 26); and Texas legend Guy Clark (June 8). Aretha Franklin is at Albany’s newly-renovated Palace Theatre on April 11, followed by Tony Bennett (May 1); Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (May 7); Jerry Seinfeld (May 31); and Ray Charles (June 6).

Guitarist Leo Kottke is at the Troy (N.Y.) Savings Bank Music Hall on April 5, followed by Grammy-nominated Cuban jazz saxophonist Jane Bunnett (April 12) and jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (May 9).

Over in Northampton, tomorrow night the Iron Horse Music Hall features a unique concert called “A Family Affair,” a showcase of Boston-based musicians playing each other’s songs, all of which were recorded at the High’n’Dry studio and produced by former Morphine drummer Billy Conway. Among the performers are Kris Delmhorst, Laurie Sargent, Ry Cavanaugh, Jennifer Kimball, Duke Levine, Kevin Barry, Jimmy Ryan, and Conway’s Morphine/Twineman bandmate, Dana Colley.

Upcoming Iron Horse shows of note include Chris Whitley (April 6); Leo Kottke (April 1-2); Eddie From Ohio (April 4-5); Dan Bern (April 9); Stacey Earle (April 26); Mike Watt (May 7); Catie Curtis and Maybe Baby (May 10); Eileen Ivers (May 18); and Linda Thompson (May 19).

A remarkable quartet of singer-songwriters, including Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Joe Ely, are at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre, on March 29 and 31, followed by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (April 6); Rusted Root (April 8); Dar Williams (April 14); Richard Thompson and Suzanne Vega (April 30); and Kasey Chambers (June 11).

Off the beaten path but not to be overlooked are Bitch and Animal at the Pioneer Arts Center of Easthampton on April 4, and Yo La Tengo at the Academy of Music in Northampton on April 23.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 28, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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