Summer wish list
Adrienne Young and Little Sadie perform at Club Helsinki on Sunday May 16
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., May 13, 2004) – What with three new Pittsfield sites -- including the Berkshire Music Glen at Bousquet, the First United Methodist Church, and perhaps the Berkshire Music Hall also ready soon to begin programming – added to Tanglewood, Mass MoCA and Club Helsinki, we’re headed into a summer with more concert venues in play than we have seen in a long time. Therefore it’s time once again for a music fan to click his heels three times and wish for the stars.
With a much-rumored, summer barnstorming tour of minor-league baseball parks by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson looking more like a reality every day, how about bringing the all-American duo to one of the nation’s top-rated ballparks, Wahconah Park, especially now that Pittsfield can lay claim to being the site of the earliest recorded ballgames?
The Sting/Annie Lennox double-bill headed to SPAC on July 4 is tailor-made for Tanglewood, as is Carole King’s “Living Room” tour, which visits SPAC on July 18. Norah Jones appeared with Marian McPartland at Ozawa Hall in last summer’s jazz festival at Tanglewood; she could probably easily attract a sellout crowd headlining the shed this summer. Otherwise, catch her at Meadows Music at Hartford on September 1.
Patti Smith is touring behind a terrific new album, “Trampin’,” and she’ll play Pearl Street in Northampton on June 3. She played one of the all-time great shows at Mass MoCA several years ago – she’d be perfect for another outdoor show or to inaugurate the Berkshire Music Hall. David Byrne is at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie this Sunday, May 16, and at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre on June 6, but he owes us a long-promised return to Mass MoCA, which featured an art installation by him several years ago.
Ani DiFranco played MoCA’s Night Shift Café back in the late-‘90s; she’s hitting the road on a rare solo tour this summer, and would be a terrific headliner for an outdoor venue. Maybe a promoter could pair her with LilithFair founder Sarah McLachlan, who will be in nearby Hartford and Worcester in August, or with New York City rockers Yo La Tengo.
Former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty, an alumnus of Simon’s Rock, will be hitting the road with a new band this summer, his first time performing with a group since the breakup of Soul Coughing. Perry Farrell is reviving the alternative rock festival Lollapalooza, which came as close as Pownal, Vt., last time around, when Metallica headlined. This summer’s version looks a lot more enticing than that one was with a bill including Sonic Youth, Morrissey, the Flaming Lips, the String Cheese Incident, Wheat, Modest Mouse, Danger Mouse, the Datsuns, the Polyphonic Spree, and the Walkmen, among others, including Wilco and PJ Harvey on selected dates.
The success of the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack a few years back has spawned several old-time-themed concert tours, including this summer’s “Great High Mountain Tour,” featuring Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss and Union Station, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Norman and Nancy Blake, Jerry Douglas, Tim Eriksen, Ollabelle, the Whites, Sierra and Cody Hull, and Reeltime Travelers. This would be a perfect festival for one of the area’s ski slopes – perhaps at the new Music Glen at Bousquet or at the sadly underutilized hillside at Butternut Ski Area, formerly home to BerkFest and the Berkshire Jazz Festival.
Similarly, Emmylou Harris is headlining the “Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue,” featuring Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller, another show with the Berkshires written all over it.
Speaking of sweet harmony, Adrienne Young has one foot in country and the other in rock. On “Plow to the End of the Row” she combines the traditional and the modern in an effortless, fresh and exciting new way. A collection of 14 songs, mostly originals with a handful of traditional numbers thrown in for good measure, the album showcases Young’s sweet voice, her rootsy banjo playing and very organic band arrangements by her group, Little Sadie, which will accompany Young at the Newport Folk Festival on August 7. But you can catch them this weekend at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington on Sunday, May 16, at 8.
Falcon Ridge Folk Preview tour
The annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Preview tour, featuring the emerging artists voted most popular by the previous year’s audience, always gives listeners a window on the state of contemporary folk. As in recent years, this year’s tour suggests that today’s folkies are veering away from the introspective, folk-pop songwriting epitomized by perennial headliners Patty Larkin and John Gorka in favor of a more musically promiscuous palette embracing jazz and calypso and a penchant for novelty numbers. Witness George Wurzbach’s CD, “(Not Pictured),” which owes more to Mose Allison than Allison Krauss, or the aptly-titled live CD, “Professional Smart Aleck” by Carla Ulbrich. That isn’t to say that folkies have totally forsaken the serious side of the street; the gruff vocals and rootsy ballads on Jeffrey Foucault’s “Miles from the Lightning” and Terence Martin’s “Sleeper” suggest more than a passing familiarity with Falcon Ridge icon Greg Brown. In all, it should make for a well-balanced mini-festival when the quartet stops at Club Helsinki on Tuesday, May 18, at 8.
Frank and Joe
Speaking of remarkably varied musical palettes, the music on “33 1/3” (Hyena), the new CD by The Frank and Joe Show, featuring guitarist Frank Vignola and percussionist Joe Ascione, ranges from Mozart to Rimsky-Korsakov to Cole Porter to the Doobie Brothers, from Gypsy swing to samba to bluegrass, all tied together by the musicians’ infectious, swinging grooves and virtuosic acoustic stylings. The CD chock full of surprises also includes guest vocals by Dr. John, Jane Monheit and Manhattan Transfer’s Janis Siegel. The Frank and Joe Show brings its six-piece band to the Egg in Albany on Friday, May 14. at 8:15.
[The Egg, 518-473-1845; Club Helsinki, 528-3394]
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 14, 2004. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]
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