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Sounds Local: Concert series return to Franklin County

  • The COOP concert series has kicked off another season Thursday evenings at the Energy Park in Greenfield, here with Brook Brown Saracino performing on stageROP09/7/9 MacDonald


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Summer comes early to Greenfield as the Coop concert summer series kicks off at the Energy Park at 6 p.m. tonight.

Now in its 12th year, this annual series runs every Thursday night through the end of August. The music begins at 6 p.m. and concludes at 8. And this all takes place at the Energy Park, 50 Miles St., in downtown Greenfield.

The shows are presented by the Franklin County Musicians Cooperative, a nonprofit group of musicians whose goal is to support each other’s musical endeavors and promote live music in Franklin County.

One of the ways they accomplish the later, is by hosting these weekly concerts in the warm weather months.

The Coop members are a talented group, who dabble in a variety of styles. You’ll hear folk, country, string band music, bluegrass, Americana, Celtic, rock, pop and even zydeco being played on the Station Pavilion stage at the Energy Park. (This is the site of original railroad station in Greenfield.)

Three different artists perform at each show and the lineup is usually a mix of genres. For instance, you might have a singer-songwriter, a Celtic musician and a rock band all playing on the same night.

Tonight’s show features accomplished singer and guitarist Joe Graveline of Northfield, Russ Thomas of Greenfield, a folk singer with a sharp sense of humor, and the Frost Heaves and Hales, an indie rock band fronted by singer/songwriter/poet Daniel Hales of Greenfield.

Graveline and Thomas were founding members of the Coop, while Hales, who joined with his band the Ambiguities (version 2.0), came on about 10 years ago.

In recent years, Hales has played the Coop concerts with his band, the Frost Heaves, but due to scheduling conflicts, tonight’s show will be either a solo show or an acoustic duo performance with lead guitarist Dan Mickus.

The Coop has slowly grown over the years. When the organization started there with 15 members — this year, more than 50 musicians will perform at the Energy Park.

Members have come and gone over the years, as life has taken them in various directions, explained musician Tex LaMountain, who is a founding Coop member and one of the organizers of concert series.   

“We are pretty loosely organized, but somehow we work together pretty well and many attend each others shows. One of our original members, Jeff Martell, recently passed away. I recall that it was his vision that we form a co-op that we cooperate as a community. So far, it seems to be working,” wrote LaMountain in an email exchange.

“By being a member, I’ve come to appreciate what’s possible when musicians band together and help each other, instead of just looking out for themselves,” added Hales.

But, it’s the listeners who reap the most benefits from the Coop. Not only are we treated to the great experience of listening to music in a beautiful, outdoor setting, but at a Coop show, you get a chance to hear music that you otherwise would never hear. Who knows, you might just discover a new favorite artist at one of these shows.  

Most of the Coop members are songwriters, so the majority of the material played is original. And, the best part is that these concerts are free! (Although donations are welcome and will go toward the operational costs of the concerts.)

The Energy Park is conveniently located to nearby parking and restaurants. There’s also plenty of space for kids to play. So, grab your lawn chair or blanket, pack a picnic and head to the Energy Pack tonight and every Thursday throughout the summer!

For the entire schedule and bios on the performers, visit: www.coopconcerts.org

For updates, including cancellations due to rain, follow the Coop’s Facebook page.

The Return of Watermelon Wednesdays

Another popular series that launches next week is the Watermelon Wednesdays summer concert series held at the historic West Whately Chapel in Whately.  

As the series name implies, the concerts are held on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (except Shel — this group of singing sisters will perform on Thursday, July 28) and as for the watermelon part, the popular summertime treat is served during intermission.  

Paul Newlin of Whately is the driving force behind Watermelon Wednesdays, and he does a great job of assembling a lineup of first rate local and nationally touring acts.

A quick glance at the 2016 schedule reveals quite a mix of talent: jazz pianist Osmany Paredes (June 8), classical cellist Astrid Schween (June 15), bluegrass band Twisted Pine (July 27), Irish songstress Maura O’Connell (Aug.10) and folk singer Bill Staines (Aug 17). And that’s only some of the many talented acts that will perform this series, which will run through the end of September.

Watermelon Wednesdays 2016 gets off to a strong start on Wednesday, June 1, with a show by Mr. Sun.

Now you may not be familiar with this band, because they are relatively new, but if you are a fan of string band music, you know the musicians that play in this group.

The group is led by fiddle player Darol Anger, who is one of the most iconic fiddle players working today. Anger was a founding member of the Dave Grisman Quintet and is also known for his groundbreaking work in other genres. Rounding out the band is renowned mandolin player Joe K. Walsh, who has worked with the Gibson Brothers, flat-picker extraordinaire Grant Gordy and up-and-coming bass player Ethan Jodziewicz. The group, which spans three generations, is yet another outlet for Anger’s adventurous approach to music making.  

I expect that this show will sell out, which brings us to the subject of purchasing tickets. The West Whately Chapel is a small venue that holds about 90 people and it’s located a bit off the beaten path, which means advance tickets are highly recommend. You don’t want to drive out there, only to be turned away because the venue is at capacity.

Tickets to all shows can be purchased at: www.watermelonwednesdays.com

The website also has the full calendar and description of each show and directions to the venue.

Zoe Darrow to close out Friendly Town Live series

It’s an exciting time of year, what with all these new series starting up, but we should mention that there is one, Friendly Town live in Orange, that is now winding down. The series will end tomorrow night, Friday, May 27, when fiddle player Zoe Darrow plays a free show at Butterfield Park in Orange at 7 p.m.

The series, which began on May 6 with a show by the Reprobate Blues Band, enjoyed a successful month- long run, and the series’ organizer looks forward to ending on a high note.

“It's been a great concert series here in Orange this year as we continue to try and build Friendly Town Live and we're going out with a bang this time,” Friendly Town Live crew chief Isaiah Stone says. “Zoë knows how to make everybody smile, I can't wait to hear her!”

Darrow, who is a native of Blanford, is a seasoned fiddle player who has been playing since the age of 4 and performing since she was 10.

Now in her 20s, Darrow has already made a strong mark on the local music scene with her own band, the Fiddleheads, and also with groups like The Gaslight Tinkers and Tim Eriksen’s Trio de Pumpkintown.

This show is being billed as Zoe Darrow and friends, and we do know that one of her friends is her father, guitarist Philip Darrow, who is also a member of the Fiddleheads.

Expect a night of delightful, high- energy music that will feature plenty of Scottish, Irish and Cape Bretton fiddle tunes from the always entertaining Zoe Darrow.

Music  begins at 7 p.m. and ends at 9 in Butterfield Park, 83 East River St. in Orange. In the event of rain, the concert will be moved from Butterfield Park and be held at the Orange Town Hall, 6 Prospect Street.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com