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Sounds Local: Upper Valley Music Festival moves to Greenfield

  • Sundays in the Park<br/>The Greenfield Energy Park is hosting one of its special Sundays in the Park concerts this week and performing will be two up-and-coming young bands from our region: Belle Amie and The Snaz (pictured). See “Music” for more information

    Sundays in the Park
    The Greenfield Energy Park is hosting one of its special Sundays in the Park concerts this week and performing will be two up-and-coming young bands from our region: Belle Amie and The Snaz (pictured). See “Music” for more information

  • Sundays in the Park<br/>The Greenfield Energy Park is hosting one of its special Sundays in the Park concerts this week and performing will be two up-and-coming young bands from our region: Belle Amie and The Snaz (pictured). See “Music” for more information

Last week, Tommy Byrnes of Sovereignty Music Services made the surprise announcement that the 2014 Upper Valley Music Festival (UVMF), which will take place on Saturday, July 26, will be held in downtown Greenfield instead of downtown Turners Falls as originally planned.

Byrnes, the driving force behind the festival since its inception in 2011, held the first Upper Valley Music Festival at The Arts Block in Greenfield. The next year it was moved to Turners Falls, where musical performances were held at various venues throughout the downtown area. The festival, which is a benefit for the American Cancer Society, did well in Turners Falls and the plan was that it would remain there this year.

But a booking glitch has caused a major shift in plans as The Shea has a different event scheduled for Saturday, July 26. The Shea was the festival’s largest Turners Falls venue and also served as the festival’s headquarters, where concert-goers could purchase tickets and access other information.

With the festival a little over a month away, the news was a blow to the festival organizers, who then made the decision to relocate to Greenfield.

“We tried hard to stay in Turners Falls and we looked at every angle possible, but without the Shea as our hub, it didn’t make any sense,” said Byrnes, who lives in Bernardston.

While Byrnes said he is disappointed about the festival leaving Turners Falls, he is also excited about the move to Greenfield, which he said is going extremely well.

“The festival is looking to be twice as big and more successful,” he said.

Venues that are already confirmed to host shows are The Arts Block, including the club’s downstairs Wheel Room; Replay Gear at the Pushkin, which will present music in its main room, the annex and in an outdoor alley located next to the building; and the sanctuary at the Second Congregational Church, which will host acoustic performances. (The festival is divided between acoustic and electric events.)

Byrnes and his wife, Jessica, who co-organizes the festival, are currently working out details with the town and with some other area businesses to secure more venues. The two are meeting with Mayor Bill Martin this week.

“We want to get the town involved and behind what we are doing,” said Byrnes. “We will be connecting with local businesses and try and get them to be cooperative partners, such as giving discounts to festival-goers and things like that.”

Once all the plans are in place, Byrnes expects there will be 10 stages and over 40 performers this year.

In other festival news, the 2014 lineup has been announced and includes returning favorites like Carrie Ferguson, The Snaz, June and the Bee, the Gaslight Tinkers, Sandy Bailey, Una Jensen, Wildcat O’Halloran and more. There will also be a number of newcomers, including many from outside of the area.

One exciting aspect of this festival will be its wide range of genres. You will find folk, rock, jazz, funk, fusion, traditional, Americana, blues, singer-songwriters, roots, reggae, dance and traditional Celtic. And all of the performers are volunteering their time.

Byrnes is especially excited that the 2014 festival will feature musicians from Boston, Wisconsin, Canada, Washington D.C., Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Byrnes feels that Greenfield is ripe for change and he also plans to open a music education center out of Replay Gear, which is now housed inside the Pushkin Gallery at the corner of Main and Federal streets. The center will be located upstairs at the Pushkin and will offer music lessons, workshops on the music business, recording clinics and more. Byrnes will also serve as the head engineer for the Pushkin’s recording studio.

All his energy right now, however, is on firming up the details for this year’s Upper Valley Music Festival.

“We want to put on an event that is first class and really professional, something to bring a lot of business into town and raises a ton of money for cancer research,” Byrnes said. “This will be a real touchstone for our local music scene. Oh, and we want to pack the downtown with people.”

Admission is $15 and tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the door the day of the festival. All proceeds go to benefit the American Cancer Society and the festival opens at 12 p.m. and will run until 12 a.m.

The Snaz and Belle Amie at Mocha Maya’s Wednesday

Last month, we told you all about the Snaz, a group of teen rockers from Brattleboro, Vt., who are one of the best new bands to come along in awhile. I was fortunate to hear them perform a couple times in the past month and was impressed by their new material and the way in which the group’s sound has evolved. Simply put, they rock.

But the Snaz aren’t the only next generation of rockers coming up the ranks. There is also Belle Amie, a trio from the hill towns of Franklin County. The group consists of Amelia Chalfant, Alouette Batteau and Isabella DeHerdt. Their music is a pop and rock mix and the three young women met when they were attending one of the summer music camps for girls at The Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen.

Belle Amie first gained attention when its debut video, “Speak Up,” won both the Best Youth Video and the Audience Favorite Award at the 2012 Ashfield Film Festival. The song, which addresses the theme of being true to oneself, was written by Chalfant, whose parents are Katryna Nields and Dave Chalfant of the Nields.

All three members write and Belle Amie has played the Iron Horse Music Hall, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and many other local venues.

You can catch Belle Amie and the Snaz when the two groups perform at the Mocha Maya’s at 47 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday, June 18, at 8 p.m. They will team up again later in the summer when they take the stage at the Greenfield Energy Park on Sunday, July 27, at 6 p.m. The show at Mocha Maya’s is free with donations for the musicians encouraged. There is a suggested donation of $10 for the Energy Park show.

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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