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Sounds Local

Sounds Local: Party time at The Arts Block

If you attended the Whiskey Treaty show that was held at The Arts Block in September, chances are you were blown away by the high-energy, no-holds-barred performance of Bright Lines. This quartet from Northampton plays a high-energy, rootsy rock mix that left the crowd wildly dancing away.

Bright Lines was such a hit that it will return to headline the Harvest Party, a kickoff party for the 18th annual Franklin County Cider Days at the Arts Block, 289 Main St., Greenfield, on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. (For more information on Cider Days visit www.ciderday.org)

Presented by Susie Agrillo, the organizer of the Whiskey Treaty, the Harvest Festival will feature continuous music on both floors of the Arts Block building. In addition to Bright Lines, performing on the main stage will be singer-songwriter Sandy Bailey of Greenfield; Haste! which is an up-tempo gypsy swing band whose members are from Turners Falls and Greenfield; and Rebel Base, a guitar and drum duo from Greenfield that performs spacey rock music. Both Haste! and Rebel Base are relatively new bands.

The downstairs of the Arts Block will be transformed into the Cider Saloon and will feature such local acts as Tory Hanna, Bryan Gillig, Bad Guise Disguise, C.J. Bednarski & Jacob Bassett and Hackles performing acoustic music.

And since this is a celebration of cider days, there will be eight different ciders, both local and from across the country, being served. The Brass Buckle from 204 Main St. will be also be on hand selling both meat and vegetarian tacos.

Headliner Bright Lines alone is worth the price of admission. The group is led by Abe Loomis of Conway, who is the songwriter, lead singer and banjo player of the group. He is joined by drummer Tom Leslie, bassist Gray Maynard and guitarist Scott Hoffman. Dave Chalfant joins the band when his schedule permits and the band’s mix of banjo with electric guitar combined with the driving rhythm section makes it unique and a sonic force to be reckoned with.

This show is an anniversary of sorts for the band, which first got together last year when West County Cider put together a party at the Wheelhouse to celebrate harvest days.

“We played a short set downstairs at the Harvest Party last year and then with Gray and Scott and some other folks in the grand finale at the end of the night,” said Loomis. “Dave and Scott and I had been collaborating for a while and so it all just kind of came together over the next few months. Basically we all just enjoy playing together, so it happened pretty naturally.”

In May, the group released a five-song EP that is available as a free download when you subscribe to Bright Lines’ newsletter at
www.brightlinesmusic.com . The five songs range from country sounds of Loomis’ original “Crow Crow,” to a rockabilly take on the traditional song “Long Gone.”

The EP serves as a great introduction to the band, but shows like the Whiskey Treaty proved it is a must-see live act. Admission is only $10 in advance at
www.theartsblock.com and $12 at the door.

Oh, if you can’t make it to the festival but have your dancing shoes shined and ready to go, Trailer Park will bring its rhythm-and-blues-influenced rock sound to the Arts Block on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. This show will be the band’s first headlining show in Greenfield since 2006. Advance tickets are $7, $10 at the door.

St. James ends 12-year run
with Bill Staines Nov. 11

e_SDLqSuch a long, long journey it seems we’ve traveled on

Show me the road that leads to my home

Such a short time here friends, and such a long time gone

Show me the road that leads to my home”

— Bill Staines

Bill Staines, Don White, Christine Lavin, Garnet Rogers, Seth Glier, Tracy Grammer, Pat and Tex LaMountain, The Boxcar Lilies: these are just a few of the many nationally known and local musicians who have graced the stage of the St. James Coffeehouse in Greenfield over the past 12 years. Held during the second Saturday of each month from September to May, the coffeehouse filled the church’s parish hall with strumming guitars and soaring voices and in the process became an integral part of the local music scene.

The coffeehouse came about thanks to the hard work of a team of volunteers led by Fred Momaney of Greenfield. But now due to demands on his time, Momaney cannot continue to run the coffeehouse and with no one to pick up the reins, the St. James Coffeehouse will hold its final show on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. Folk singer Bill Staines, a perennial St. James favorite, will headline and Tom Carroll will open.

Staines launched his career in the 1960s and has gone on to release 26 recordings and over 300 songs. His shows are a mix of traditional and original material and feature plenty of sing-alongs. Staines is also a master storyteller so his between-song banter is as engaging as the music. Guitar aficionados should also note that Staines has developed a unique picking style that came about because he is left handed and plays a right-handed guitar upside down, with the bass strings on the bottom.

I interviewed Staines in 2005 and he said his approach toward songwriting varies from that of today’s folk singer.

“These writers write about themselves rather than beyond themselves and that is what I am cognizant of when I am trying to write a song,” he said. “I want to bring something of value to people, to open their eyes and heart in some sort of way. To me, that to me is what folk music is all about.”

It’s fitting that his show be the final one at St. James because Staines shows have a strong communal feel to them, and the same could be said for the St. James Coffeehouse itself. The shows were always filled with concert-goers of all ages, including plenty of families who enjoyed the warm intimate setting of the room and the quality of the performances. And we would be amiss if we didn’t mention the fantastic homemade baked goods that were sold at each show.

So, mark Nov. 10 on your calendar and while you’re there, be sure and thank Fred and his staff for their years of work in bringing fine music to our area.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Carroll will start at 7:15 and Staines at 8. Tickets are $16 in advance and $18 at the door for adults, and $8 in advance and $9 at the door for children ages 5 to 12. Advance tickets are available at the World Eye Bookshop, 156 Main St. in Greenfield. For reservations, or more information, please call


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 soundslocal@yahoo.com

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