The sound of Halloween

Shelby Lynne

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., October 30, 2003) – What is the sound of trick or treat? Judging by the bands performing around the region tonight and tomorrow night for Halloween-themed events, it is an eclectic sound, and often one with ethnic roots and an edge.

The concert by the Tiger Lillies at Mass MoCA (413-662-2111) in North Adams tonight at 8 is being billed with the equivalent of those ubiquitous parental advisory stickers found on so many rap and hard-rock CDs. “The performance contains adult themes and content, and is not appropriate for children,” reads the Mass MoCA press release.

Just looking down the titles of the songs on the group’s album, “Bad Blood Blasphemy,” it’s not hard to see why: “Rapist,” “Start a Fire,” “Killer,” “Bad,” “Dead Souls.” (Other CDs by the group are “Brothel to the Cemetery” and “Gorey End.”)

Listening to the London trio’s songs reveals them to be as evil as their titles suggest – songs about misfits, criminals, perverts and murderers. The group’s carnivalesque, rock-influenced cabaret is fronted by singer/accordionist Martin Jacques, who sings in an ear-piercing “criminal castrato” above the group’s bass and drums, provided by Adrian Stout and Adrian Huge, respectively. The group recently completed a recording project with the Kronos Quartet.

Halloween coincides with the Mexican Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – and IS183 Art School of the Berkshires (413-298-5252) annually marks the day with a Latin- themed gala fund-raiser, transforming the school’s already gothic exterior in the Interlaken section of Stockbridge into a shrine to the memory of the departed, with sugar skulls, altars, garlands and ofrendas – tables laden with offerings for visitors from the spirit world. Among the array of live musical offerings at IS183’s masquerade ball, which takes place on Saturday night at 8, are Mambo Kikongo, a Latin jazz band based in the Hudson Valley specializing in rumba, mambo, cha-cha and meringue, and Gaia Roots, a Berkshire-based, all-female, percussion and dance ensemble. The party will also include tunes spun by DJ Leo, a traveling drum corps and a bevy of dancers.

At Club Helsinki (528-3394) in Great Barrington, New York City’s Dub Is a Weapon performs its spacey, airy reggae mix tonight at 9. Featuring members of the Gil Scott-Heron Band and the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, which has performed at Helsinki and at BerkFest, Dub is a Weapon plays echo-laden reggae grooves led by guitarist/mixologist Dave Hahn and Jamaican percussion legend Larry McDonald, who has performed with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

Other Halloween-oriented events tonight include the second- and third-generation folk musicians of old-timey, new-timey group The Mammals and Wakarusa at the Dream Away Lodge (413-623-8725) in Becket, the aptly-named Spookie Daly Pride and the Reverend Tor Band at Bucksteep Manor (413-623-5535) in Washington, and Enerjazzed, a Berkshire-based modern jazz quintet, at the Cyberian Café (413-445-8825) in Pittsfield.

Many of these events feature costume parties and require reservations, so be sure to call in advance.

Critic’s picks

Badly Drawn Boy, a.k.a. British singer-songwriter Damon Gough, kicks off a three-week tour of the Eastern U.S. with a show tomorrow night at the Iron Horse in Northampton. He also performs at the Egg (518-473-1845) in Albany on Tuesday night. Gough’s most recent disc was 2002’s “Have You Fed The Fish?” (ArtistDirect), an album’s worth of quirky, psychedelic pop-folk in a dizzying array of styles which earned a four-star review from Rolling Stone and a feature in Newsweek. His previous albums are 2000’s Mercury Music Prize-winning “The Hour of Bewilderbeast” and 2002’s soundtrack to the Hugh Grant film “About a Boy.” Call him England’s answer to Beck or Ray Davies’ bastard spawn. Gough is working on his fourth album in Manchester, England.

It’s the monthly folk face-off on Saturday night, with dueling church-based coffeehouses in North and Central Berkshire. Up at the Railway Café (413-664-6393) at St. John’s Parish Hall in North Adams, comic singer-songwriter Billy Jonas entertains, after Berkshire singer-songwriter JoAnne Spies warms up the crowd at 8. At the same time, the Common Grounds Coffee House (413-499-0866) at First United Methodist Church in Pittsfield presents Berkshire folk supergroup Redding, Mandeville and Sweet, featuring
JoAnne Redding, Fran Mandeville and Bobby Sweet, singer-songwriters, recording artists and solo performers in their own right.

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne bookends our region with shows at the Egg in Albany (518-473-1845) on Saturday at 8 and at Pearl Street (413-586-8686) in Northampton on November 9. Lynne won the Grammy for Best New Artist following the release of her soulful album, “I Am Shelby Lynne,” and followed it up with the more pop-oriented, “Love, Shelby.” She has just released “Identity Crisis,” one of the year’s best, a more stripped-down, intimate, rootsy effort. Her most personal recording, it realizes the promise hinted at on “I Am Shelby Lynne” and confirms the occasional wisdom of the Grammy voters. The album’s quieter, jazzy numbers, including “I Will Stay,” will particularly appeal to fans of Norah Jones, while more expansive tunes, such as “Lonesome,” will grab Patsy Cline devotees.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on October 31, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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