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Upper Valley Music Festival in Turners Falls

  • Beth Reynolds photo

    Beth Reynolds photo

  • Beth Reynolds photo

    Beth Reynolds photo

  • Beth Reynolds photo

    Beth Reynolds photo

  • Beth Reynolds photo
  • Beth Reynolds photo
  • Beth Reynolds photo

A s a mother of two in her mid-20s, and with her relationship with their father ending shortly, the songs on Sandy Bailey’s first album were a response to what was going on in her life and in her head at the time.

“A lot of my songs are processing a lot of that intensity,” said Bailey, who lives in Turners Falls.

“It’s sort of my way of reaching out to people; I’m going through this and it’s comforting to think that I’m probably not the only one.”

Now 32, she waits tables, does bookkeeping on the side, raises two children — itself a full-time job — finds time to play a couple of shows a month and has recorded two albums, the second to be released this fall.

“My new record is based on different experiences. Understanding, and permanence and how to deal with that,” she said. “Dealing with the fact that I had a nervous breakdown, and meeting people who have had similar experiences, and recognizing that we’re all crazy in our own way. Being a human being is basically what I write about, and just exposing my own fragility, cutting through the bullshit.”

Bailey has been singing and writing her owns songs since early childhood.

She began singing gospel music in church around the age of 5 and grew up with gospel music — which she still occasionally sings with her family — piano lessons and blue grass.

Creating music of her own goes back just as far.

“I’ve been working at song-writing as long as I can remember,” Bailey said. “I used to force my sister to help me sing vocal harmonies as a kid into a little Fisher-Price tape recorder. I’ve been working up a stockpile and kind of doing it for myself for a long time.”

The birth of her two children, now 4 and 6, prompted her to prioritize and begin concentrating more seriously on creating and sharing her own music.

On July 27, Bailey will be among the new and established Pioneer Valley talent performing throughout downtown Turners Falls for the Upper Valley Music Festival. Accompanying her will be Gray Maynard on bass and Zach Holmes on guitar.

Now in it’s third year, the festival brings together dozens of bands and performers from as many disciplines and backgrounds for a single afternoon and night of back-to-back performances at five venues.

The lineup is inclusive.

There are singer-songwriters of indefinable genre, rock, reggae, ambient electronica and Eugene Friesen, a world-renowned a cellist. Most, but not all, are from the area.

Folk guitarist Bill Shute of Connecticut, Byrnes’ own guitar mentor, and Lisa Null, of the Washington, D.C., area, will perform together for the first time in years during the festival.

Bailey lists gospel, bluegrass, Nina Simone, Gillian Welch and almost anything else she’s ever heard among her musical influences. She also gets inspiration from her children, Julian and Adeline.

“It’s awesome having children around because they are the most creative humans,” Bailey said.

Julian, her eldest, came up with the name Bad Guys Disguise for an occasional side act. Another name contribution is Kid Made the Movie, which still needs a band.

Bailey accompanies herself on the piano or keyboard, often with guitar and drum backing, and fills her songs with lyrics; her voice and poetry are a consistent presence, although her second album includes brief instrumental overtures.

“I take my last good look at you

the way I did before I knew,

yesterday’s a golden haze,

light on a picture in an empty space,

the haunting song that just can’t be sung,

love was perfect when we were young.”

—“Golden Haze,” from Bailey’s 2010 release “Raven’s Flesh.”

“Take me to your dream tonight

and I’ll find you where you lie

to yourself and where you try to hide,

I’ll be your dream tonight.”

— “I’ll Be Your Dream,” off the un-released “Running, Chasing.”

The music behind her words ranges from the relatively spare to the surprisingly apocalyptic strains of “Shadow,” the final track on her un-released album, in which the piano, drums and other instruments appropriately overshadow her voice at times.

“Bailey recorded her first album in The Pushkin, a former bank in downtown Greenfield, and the second in her Turners Falls home, with herself and a piano in one room, and a friend with drums in another. Bailey funded the second album through a campaign on the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter, and brought in a recording engineer from New York for the project.

She travels to perform in Maine, New York and Connecticut, and performs as an opening act at the Iron Horse in Northampton.

Bailey won’t have to travel far for this month’s gigs: her first is at the Montague Book Mill July 26 and the Upper Valley Music Festival is just downhill from her home.

The diffuse festival spreads out across the downtown area all day, with five indoor venues, all for one ticket and all for charity.

What became the first Upper Valley Music Festival in 2011 began as a 50th birthday party for Tommy Byrnes of Bernardston in 2010, with a few bands. Byrnes owns and runs Sovereignty Music Services with his wife, and the couple have more than the average number of band connections. A fall birthday party became an all-day spring music festival with 18 acts performing in two Greenfield venues.

Two years later, 18 acts have swelled to 36, two stages to five, and the festival has settled into summertime and the Montague village of Turners Falls.

“It’s sort of our yearly karma boost, everybody volunteers, nobody gets paid, every penny we make goes to charity and we just have a really great time,” Byrnes said.

In addition to raising money for the American Cancer Society, Byrnes hopes the festival helps foster the local music scene by giving area artists a chance to meet, network, gig-swap and maybe sell some CDs and merchandise.

Festival-goers get to share in the karmic boost and their $15 toward cancer research buys admission to all five venues and all 36 acts.

All venues are within easy walking distance of one another and each is different: The main stage is in the Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A; The Great Hall of the Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A, is the designated acoustic stage; The Rendezvous, 78 Third St., is the bar stage; Between the Uprights,
23 Avenue A, and its attached dance space are the club stage, for ages 21 and over only.

The emerging artists stage will return to what is now the former Burrito Rojo on Third Street, soon to return to the restaurant business as Great Falls Harvest.

Wristbands are $15 and may be purchased at the door at any of the venues or bought online in advance and collected at The Shea Theater. Children 12 and under are free.

www.uppervalleymusicfest.com/schedule.html for advance tickets and information, including a full list of scheduled artists and links to their websites.

Staff reporter Chris Curtis started at The Recorder in 2011. He covers Montague, Gill, Erving and Wendell. He can be reached at ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257.

Beth Reynolds is a photographer and educator. She runs Base Camp Photo Community Center in Greenfield. She can be reached at

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