Sounds Local: Northern Routes New Music Festival, unafraid to test the limits
Among the headliners Friday is Marissa Nadler of Boston, whose music has been described as “dream folk.” It blends experimental and black-metal music, which is an extreme sub-genre of heavy metal, into a traditional folk sound. There are kick-off shows Thursday at the Brick House and The Rendezvous, both in Turners Falls. The festival is Friday and Saturday at the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem.
Ruby Froom, the daughter of singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega and producer Mitchell Froom, will make her debut at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls, on Saturday, Aug. 2, at 8 p.m., when she opens for singer-songwriter Alan Williams.
We are fortunate to live in an area where we can enjoy all types of music, even music that is considered unconventional and far removed from the mainstream. This weekend, listeners will have the opportunity to experience a variety of adventurous and experimental sounds when the Northern Routes New Music Festival touches down at the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem on Friday, Aug. 1, at 4 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 2, at 2 p.m. The festival will kick off tonight with special shows in Turners Falls. The music will begin at the Brick House Community Resource Center at 24 Third St. at 7 p.m. and later at The Rendezvous, 78 Third St., at 9:30 p.m.
The Northern Routes New Music Series was launched in 2012 by Patrick Borezo and Adam Frost, who both live in the Quabbin area. They saw that this area was a fertile ground for artists who go their own way creatively, unafraid to test the limits. They also believed the audience here was open to hearing the music that these free-thinking musicians were creating.
“We started Northern Routes in 2012 as a special series of four concerts of avant-garde music following the normal Summer Series at 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem,” wrote Frost in an email exchange. “It was a chance to bring musicians to the North Quabbin who might not normally fit in to the meetinghouse’s programming. We were very glad that the organization was so open to our experiment.”
The Northern Routes new music series continued last year, both at the meetinghouse and in the off season at The Rendezvous in Turners Falls. This year, the series will expand into a three-day festival.
“This is the first year for the festival, a more ambitious undertaking and we hope just the first of many,” said Frost.
“Having so many acts together really makes Northern Routes an event not to be missed and it has broadened our audience beyond the Pioneer Valley,” said Frost. “I know of a number of people who are planning to come from Boston or New York.”
He noted that both he and Borezo are also eager to promote the physical and cultural riches of the North Quabbin and that a three-day festival encourages people to stay and explore the area.
“Having so many acts together also gives our audience the chance to discover music they might otherwise not hear,” he added. “They may come to hear one of the headliners, but will discover something new and exciting among the other performers.”
The festival lineup includes a diverse roster of musicians performing ambient, free improvisatory, folk, rock and even early music. Performers from the Pioneer Valley will be joined by artists from Boston, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maine and Virginia.
Expect to hear music made by unconventional artists striving to chart new aural territories and break down old musical boundaries. This might mean, for instance, adding electronic sounds to an established musical genre like folk. This isn’t the music you hear on your radio every day, but it is the kind of music that is challenging and original and a refreshing break from the norm.
On Friday night, listeners will experience the music of guitarist Glenn Jones of Boston, who is best known for his work with the experimental band Cul De Sac, in which he merged his guitar work with electronic and trance music. Jones is now working as a solo artist creating evocative pieces for guitar and banjo. Former valley resident Matt Weston, who blends percussion and electronic sounds, will also be on hand as will longtime valley band The Bunwinkies, which is known for its ethereal brand of folk.
Marissa Nadler of Boston is also one of the headliners for Friday night. Her music has been described as “dream folk.” It blends experimental and black-metal music into a traditional folk sound. Her latest album, “July,” received praise from sources like Pitchfork and National Public Radio. On this album, she sings lines like “July 4th of last year we spilled all the blood/How’d you spend your summer days?/ I know better now I don’t call you up at night/’Cause baby I’m a ghost and I have changed” (from the song “Firecrackers”). Nadler’s music has a beautiful atmospheric quality to it and should appeal to fans of musicians like Father John Misty.
Nadler has played the series for the past two summers and looks forward to the festival.
“It’s nice that this is evolving into a larger festival,” she said. “My experience was very positive and, last year, there was such a varied audience. I’m very excited about playing with Glenn Jones, who’s a good friend of mine and also a master of his craft.”
Rounding out Friday’s lineup are Glitter Pen, Trevor Healy, Twilight Tipi, Passerine and Matt Krefting.
The headliner for Saturday is Peter Stampfel, a longtime fiddler, guitarist and singer-songwriter who is best known for his work in the early 1960s with Holy Modal Rounders, a band that added touches of psychedelia to old American folk music. He has worked on many projects and shared the stage with a number of artists, from Bob Dylan to They Might Be Giants and Yo La Tengo. Others artists lined up for Saturday are Juan Wauters, Metal Mountains, Crystalline Roses Band, Samara Lubelski, Tarp, Willie Lane, Tongue Oven, Hallock Hill and Holy Vex.
Tonight’s show at the Brick House Community Resource Center will feature MV & EE, Head of Wantastiquet and Village of Spaces. Appearing at the Rendezvous will be Zzones, Doug Tuttle and Kohoutek.
The 1794 Meetinghouse is located at the town common in New Salem. Advance tickets are available at 1794meetinghouse.org. One-day tickets are $20 and a two-day pass is $35. Two-day ticket holders also get admission to Thursday’s opening-night event at the Brick House Community Resource Center and The Rendezvous in Turners Falls. Tickets to these shows will be $5 at the door.
More information on the artists and the festival is available at www.facebook.com/northernroutes
Ruby Froom at Mocha Maya’s
Ruby Froom, the daughter of singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega and producer Mitchell Froom, will make her debut at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls, on Saturday, Aug. 2, at 8 p.m., when she opens for singer-songwriter Alan Williams. Froom, a student at Williams College, released a four-song collection of jazzy pop tunes called “Snow” in the spring. For this show, she will play a set of original songs accompanying herself on piano. She will also be joined by a trumpet player and cellist.
This show is free but tips are always appreciated.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org