Fall 2003 pop preview
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., September 19, 2003) -- Just when you thought it was safe to kick back and relax after a hectic summer of concertgoing five or six nights a week, they’re back. Well, maybe not five or six nights a week, but certainly every weekend, and if you look a little further beyond the borders of Berkshire county, the news is that concert venues are refusing to roll over and play dead despite the worst box-office summer in history, instead programming an eclectic lineup of performers especially leaning towards roots-music and contemporary folk.

The fall season kicks off tonight when the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, an avant-garde big-band, presents a free concert in Chapin Hall at Williams College in Williamstown. Later in the semester, Chapin Hall plays host to jazz saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis (Nov. 14), among others.

Mass MoCA in North Adams continues its popular dance party series with shows by Middle Eastern funk outfit Atlas Soul on October 4, the Tiger Lillies on October 31, and Medeski, Martin and Wood on December 6. Folk legend Joan Baez comes to MoCA on October 18 in a concert that has been sold out for weeks. Also in North Adams, the Sephardic vocal group Voice of the Turtle performs at Drury High School on October 12.

Club Helsinki in Great Barrington presents a mostly familiar lineup of folksingers, roots artists and Latin bands in upcoming weeks. The Tarbox Ramblers perform tonight, and the Nicole Nelson Band, fresh off a crowd-pleasing appearance at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, checks in tomorrow night. On Sunday, Suzzy and Maggie Roche return to Helsinki, and on Thursday, Australian guitar wizard Jeff Lang performs. Other upcoming highlights at Helsinki include Olu Dara (Sept. 26), guitarist Johnny A (Sept. 27), folksinger Garnet Rogers (Sept. 28), and Latin-jazz Grammy nominee Jane Bunnett (Oct. 4).

The county’s two church-based folk coffeehouses continue to present regional and national songwriting talent – unfortunately on the same night each month. The Railway Café at St. John’s Episcopal Church in North Adams pairs up Boston’s Peter Mulvey with Pittsfield’s Bob Thistle on October 4. JoAnne Spies warms up the crowd for Billy Jonas on November 1, and Lori McKenna performs on December 6.

Over at the Common Grounds Coffee House at the First United Methodist Church in Pittsfield, Lui Collins performs on October 4. The Berkshire folk supergroup Redding, Mandeville and Sweet follow on November 1, and folk legend Bill Staines concludes the fall season on December 6.

The Berkshire Museum continues its very popular “Originals in Song” series on October 17 with a double-bill featuring new-folk favorites Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert, who just released a duo CD, “Side of the Road.” Cheryl Wheeler makes an encore appearance at the museum on November 22, and the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players make the leap from nightclubs to auditoriums at the museum on December 13. Also coming to the museum as part of the seasonal “Festival of Trees” celebration is the world-famous klezmer-fusion outfit, The Klezmatics, on December 6.

Pianist George Shearing fronts his quintet at Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in Lenox in a benefit concert for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic on October 4, while over at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, Arlo Guthrie plays a three-night stand on Oct. 10-12. Highlights of the schedule at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket include the Berkshires’ own first lady of folk, Bernice Lewis, on September 27, and folk-rock outfit Milagro Saints, in a two-night stand on October 17-18.

Beyond the county’s borders, the Spencertown (N.Y.) Academy presents singer-songwriter Mindy Jostyn, who has performed with John Mellencamp, Billy Joel and Carly Simon, on October 11, and internationally-renowned klezmer fiddler Alicia Svigals on December 20. Spencertown teams up with Webnash Acoustic Music Workshops to present guitarist Tim Sparks on October 25.

Highlights of the schedule at the Egg in Albany include concerts by the Pat Metheny Trio (Oct. 9), David Bromberg (Oct. 24), Shelby Lynne (Nov. 1) and Cassandra Wilson (Nov. 22). Over at the Palace Theater, rock band Guster performs on September 24, followed by a quartet of female singer-songwriters including Dar Williams, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter on October 1 (they’ll be at Symphony Hall in Springfield the next night), String Cheese Incident (Oct. 9) and Emmylou Harris (Oct. 26). Shania Twain headlines at the Pepsi Arena on October 11, followed by Good Charlotte (Oct. 19) and the group still performing as Lynyrd Skynyrd (Nov. 20).

Over at the Troy (N.Y.) Savings Bank Music Hall, Randy Newman makes his first appearance in the region in many years on October 1. Ralph Stanley shares a bill with Iris Dement on October 26, and pianist Christopher O’Riley performs his Radiohead transcriptions and variations on November 7.

Looking toward the east, the Pioneer Valley tantalizes with concerts at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre by Train (Oct. 4), Jason Mraz (Oct. 9), Joan Baez (Oct. 19) and Bruce Cockburn (Oct. 22). Emmylou Harris is at the Calvin with Buddy Miller on October 23, followed by rock band Ween (Oct. 28), Arlo Guthrie (Nov. 1), Yonder Mountain String Band (Nov. 13), Susan Tedeschi (Nov. 18) and Martin Sexton (Dec. 13).

Highlights of the Iron Horse’s schedule include jazz pianist Brad Mehldau (Sept. 20), Erin McKeown and Andrew Bird (Sept. 22), Patty Larkin and April Verch (Sept. 26), Susan Werner (Oct. 4), The Nields (Oct. 10), Marc Cohn (Oct. 15), Dan Bern (Oct. 22), Steve Forbert (Nov. 14), Jane Siberry (Nov. 20), and Tom Rush (Nov. 30). Also in Northampton, Pearl Street features Rev Horton Heat (Sept. 24), Built to Spill (Sept. 28), The Jayhawks (Oct. 5), North Mississippi Allstars (Oct. 7), Mike Doughty (Oct. 11), Michael Franti and Spearhead (Oct. 14), Jay Farrar (Oct. 18), Burning Spear (Oct. 21) and Shelby Lynne (Nov. 9).

Over in Amherst at the University of Massachusetts, Good Charlotte is at the Mullins Center on October 10, and Ani DiFranco headlines on November 15.

[This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 19, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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