Sometimes it can be daunting to chose from the wide variety of events going on in Western Mass.
Should you do the same thing you did last weekend or try something new? Maybe you’re curious about a new band or artist or restaurant but need a little extra convincing to take the leap.
Well, in the interest of highlighting some events that I think are particularly notable I will occasionally post a little blurb about the event here.
However, not everyone will dig the same things I do.
So I’ve reached out to some friends who are passionate about different things than I am to contribute as well.
These are not paid endorsements and all opinions are those of the writer. However, some of the folks posting may be hyping events they’re involved in.
Hopefully you will get a feel for each contributors taste and how they mirror your own.
Joe Pug at Parlor Room
Joe Pug is widely considered one of the preeminent “singer/songwriters” on the Americana spectrum. However, that term doesn’t really do his music justice. He doesn’t just write songs, he crafts them and is deserving of the term vocalist instead of being just another singer. His lyrics deftly explore the nexus of the personal and universal. They deal with sad topics without being maudlin, political without being preachy. His melodies draw from familiar sources of folk, country and the American songbook but constantly surprise. All that and he’s an engaging and entertaining performer.
RIYL: Bob Dylan, Ron Sexsmith, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Tim Hardin, good music
Matthew Wright opens
Northampton Record Fair
The Northeast’s best-run record fair is back at Union Station in Northampton with 40 tables of vinyl records and CDs and now also with a comics room!
Many of the best dealers in the region will be opening their boxes to treasure hunters. Find that elusive 45! Cop that Fleetwood Mac album! Get dusty on some rare psych!
Enter the raffle to win prize packs by the sponsors (Newbury Comics, Turn It Up!, Spin That! Records, Peace & Rhythm, World Music Collider, Electric Eye and Genuine Culture). DJs will be spinning a diverse selection of vinyl all day. $5 for the early birds, but free to all after 11am.
The Jayhawks at Academy of Music
It’s no exaggeration to say that most of the bands that play the Parlor Room wouldn’t exist without the Jayhawks. They, along with Wilco, Son Volt, Whiskeytown, Steve Earle, Old 97s and many other bands were at the forefront of the emergence of alt.country, whatever that is.
The twang of their music was a refreshing break from the dirge of grunge that ruled the charts in the early 90s. They weren’t the first band to sing poetic lyrics in harmony with jangly guitars but they did it better than most. Their pop sensibility and nods to familiar crowd pleasing classic rock reached people who liked “every kind of music but country.”
When Mark Olson left the band it seemed like the roots rock scare of the 90s was coming to an end. But soon after the new lineup with Gary Louris at the front released one of the most under-appreciated records of the 90s, “Sound of Lies.” There have been many twists and turns since then including the brief return of Olson.
Their most recent album Backroads and Abandoned Motels focused on songs written by Gary Louris for artists like The Dixie Chicks and Jakob Dylan.
This is the first time they have graced the stage at the Academy of Music and it couldn’t be a better venue for them.
Back To The Bay State
The Bay State Hotel was the hotbed of the Western Mass music scene between 1992 and 2002. The history of the Bay State and by extension the local music scene of the time are currently being archived by Dylan Gaffney and others at Forbes Library and Northampton Open Media. Music, photo and video clips are being digitized and oral histories collected. There are plans to eventually edit them into a full length documentary.
On February 23rd that work comes to life as some of those bands will share the stage at The Academy of Music in Northampton. Local legends like Aloha Steamtrain, The Maggies, The Figments, Steve Westfield and more will play short sets and clips from the archives will be shown. It’ll be a great way for some of us to relive those days at the Bay State and others to learn about the rich history of the local music scene.
On a personal note the Bay State also happened to be the first Western Mass bar I frequented. The unassuming dive bar hosted shows from a huge range of artists. Well known artists like J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr, Mark Mulcahy from Miracle Legion and Chris Collingswood from Fountains of Wayne played along side local punk, indie, and alt.country bands.
My first show there was Angry Johnny and the Killbillies on New Years Eve 1996. Just a few months after turning 17 an older friend snuck me in. I remember being scared I’d get kicked out and also that people jumping around to openers Tree Fort were going to knock down the collectible plates that hung from the wall above the band. I had been going to shows at the all ages venues regularly for a couple years already but never at a bar.
I also used to hang out in the parking lot by the bay window after all ages shows listening to bands while waiting for the bus or my dad to pick me up. I would return often once I was of age and my experiences there helped build my love for Western Mass.