New concert series to debut at Bousquet Ski Area

Gene Fein and Lissa Willey-Fein, founders of Berkshire Music Glen at Bousquet Ski Area (photo by Seth Rogovoy)

by Seth Rogovoy

(PITTSFIELD, Mass., May 4, 2004) -- Disco pioneers KC and the Sunshine Band will inaugurate the Berkshire Music Glen, a new, outdoor pop-rock concert series at Bousquet Ski Area, on July 11. Classic-rock group the Doobie Brothers are scheduled to perform on July 19, and New Orleans funk stars the Neville Brothers will play on August 1, thus launching the initial season with a triumvirate of Grammy Award-winning acts.

The promoters hope to announce an additional two concerts in coming weeks.

When Lissa Willey-Fein moved from Los Angeles back to Lenox four years ago with her husband and their two children, she was disappointed not to find any outdoor summer concert venues like the ones she remembered from the 1970s. Willey-Fein had fond memories of attending rock and pop concerts at Tanglewood and the Music Inn by such luminaries as the Eagles, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Bob Marley.

But instead of waiting around for someone to fill the vacuum left by the long-lamented Music Inn, which closed in 1979, and Tanglewood’s near-total abandonment of the pop market, Willey-Fein and her husband, Gene Fein, drew on their combined 25 years of experience in the entertainment business to create the Berkshire Music Glen, a mom-and-pop-run operation that the couple hopes to build into a major summer attraction for Berkshire audiences over the course of the next few years.

The couple chose Bousquet for its familiar appeal and its infrastructure, but primarily for its central Berkshire location. The series is targeted to a countywide audience, with marketing efforts, including print and radio advertising, planned to end at the Berkshire county borders.

“These concerts are for people who live here, and those who wish they did,” said Willey-Fein, 43, in a conversation with her husband and a reporter seated around the dining room table of their home on East Street in Lenox.

The promoters are looking to attract about 5,000 concertgoers per show. “We’re not pinning our hopes on that number, but we can accommodate it,” said Fein, 39, a native of Brookline.

According to Bousquet owner George Jervas, there are 500 parking spaces on site. Arrangements have been made for offsite parking nearby, including at the Pittsfield airport and in an adjacent field. Shuttle buses will run between offsite parking lots and the concert grounds.

“The neighbors have to be happy, the city has to be happy, the people who come here have to be happy, and my employees have to be happy,” said Jervas, speaking by phone about the new venture. “As long as everybody’s happy, that’s the secret. If we can accomplish all that, I think it’s a home run. But ask me again the day after the first show”

“We really get the sense that Pittsfield is reinventing itself,” said Willey-Fein, who grew up in Lee and North Adams, where she graduated from Drury High. “This seemed to fit as another piece of the puzzle.”

The couples’ ties to the music industry give them a leg up in a competitive field. According to his resume, Fein has produced and directed over 250 episodes of network music TV, including the ABC-TV “In Concert” series, staging concerts throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. He currently runs MICS, a digital information distribution system. Willey-Fein’s professional experience includes managing production travel for MGM and Warner Brothers studios.

Fein said he hopes that in two years Berkshire Music Glen will be presenting over a dozen shows per summer. “A lot depends on how the first summer works,” he said.

Willey-Fein stressed that the performers they choose will be artists with positive messages. They also intend to listen closely to how patrons respond to the overall concertgoing experience at Bousquet.

The rain-or-shine concerts will take place during sunlight hours, generally on Saturdays and Sundays, on a covered stage at the foot of the ski slope at Bousquet. Seating will be on the slope by general admission; concertgoers are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs and umbrellas. Gates will open around 1 so concertgoers can arrive early and claim their place on the hillside.

K.C. and the Sunshine Band ruled the pop charts for the better part of a year in 1975-76 with dance hits including “That’s the Way (I Like It)” and “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” becoming the first act to score four number-one singles in one 12-month period since the Beatles in 1964.

The Doobie Brothers, founded and still led by singer/guitarists Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, began the 1970s playing California country-boogie, scoring hits including “China Grove” and “Black Water.” By the late-1970s, under the influence of new singer Michael McDonald and guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – neither of whom are with the band today -- the group’s sound morphed into the white funk of “What a Fool Believes” and “Takin’ It to the Streets.” The current group also includes guitarist John McFee and drummers Keith Knudson and Michael Hossack, all of whom date back to the band’s heyday in the 1970s.

Alone and together, Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril Neville have been popularizing New Orleans-style soul, gospel and funk for 40 years. As a solo artist, Aaron Neville has enjoyed hit singles on the pop, country and gospel charts over the last decade. A retrospective album of the group’s songs is due out next month as part of A&M Records’ “Millennium Collection: 20th Century Masters” series.

Tickets for K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s opening concert are $25 and will go on sale on May 21 at Bousquet and the Lenox Country Store and on the web at Tickets for the remaining shows, which will be priced between $25 and $35, will go on sale on May 28. A toll-free phone number will be set up for ticket purchases, and other local businesses are expected to sell tickets. Children under five will be admitted free.

Food and drinks cannot be brought onto the concert grounds. Food, beverage and merchandise will be available at concession stands. Alcoholic beverages will be limited to three per person through a wristband hole-punch system.

[This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 5, 2004. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]

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