Sounds Local: WRSI throws a 40th anniversary party with Rubblebucket, Winterpills and And The Kids

  • Winterpills is set to perform at 2:30 p.m. at WRSI’s free 40th anniversary concert at Unity Park in Turners Falls Sunday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/JOANNA CHATTMAN

  • And The Kids is set to perform at 3:30 p.m. at WRSI’s free 40th anniversary concert in Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Rubblebucket is one of three acts that will perform at WRSI’s free 40th anniversary concert at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. The show starts at 2:30 p.m. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SHERVIN LAINEZ

For The Recorder
Published: 7/29/2021 3:40:57 PM

Radio station WRSI 93.9 the River knows how to throw a party. Over the years it has hosted a variety of celebrations including their historic fifth birthday party that grew into what is now the Green River Festival.

July 26 marked the Northampton-based radio station’s 40th year in business and it is not about to let such a milestone go unnoticed. On Sunday, Aug. 1, WRSI, in conjunction with Signature Sounds Presents, The Shea Theater Arts Center and C&S Wholesale Grocers, are hosting a free concert at Unity Park in Turners Falls that promises to be one to remember. The music, which begins at 2:30 p.m., will be provided by indie pop-dance band Rubblebucket along with local faves And the Kids and Winterpills.

We are lucky to have a radio station like WRSI in our midst and they deserve a day of celebration. They first went on the air in 1981 and back then they were a small, locally owned station based in Greenfield that, from the start, was committed to playing all types of music and introducing listeners to musicians we otherwise would might have never heard. Additionally, the station was always open to playing the work of local musicians.

“The station always supported local music. I had a live in the studio local music show called ‘Homegrown’ for years that became a simulcast on GCTV and then it was called ‘Up the Creek’ on the River,” said Johnny Memphis who was a DJ on the station from 1986-2006. “We put out ‘Homegrown’ compilation CDs that raised money for the Food Bank and were the first releases on Signature Sounds.

The station has experienced many changes over the years, including the move to Northampton in 2001, and becoming a corporately owned station (it is currently owned by Saga Communications). But through it all has lived up to the current slogan: “different is good.”

Whether it’s Monte Belmonte’s annual march to beat hunger or playing the latest release from a local artist, WRSI’s commitment to enriching our community is unrivaled.

This support of independent artists, be it local or otherwise, is incredibly important and is a big part of what makes this station so special.

No one knows this better than the three bands that are playing this weekend. Turn the dial to 93.9 and you might hear the sparkling pop music of indie pop-rock band And the Kids or the harmonies of Philip Price and Flora Reed of chamber-pop band Winterpills floating through the airwaves.

“I can’t think of a radio station that’s more supportive of local bands than WRSI,” wrote Flora Reed in a recent email. “They’ve played us from the very beginning and we love them for it!”

“I have memories from many many years ago of rolling up to the WRSI studio to do interviews with Monty and meet everybody,” added Kalmia Traver the vocalist/ sax player of Rubblebucket. “They’ve been totally instrumental in spreading awareness about what we’re doing. ... It’s just a mutual love!”

And then there’s the headliners of the show, Rubblebucket. If there was ever a band to set the tone for a birthday party, it’s Rubblebucket. The New York-based band led by Traver and trumpet player/vocalist Alex Toth are favorites of the station.

The band’s energetic live shows are filled with funky rhythms, blaring horns and a whole lot of dancing. They have won over crowds during their multiple visits to the Green River Festival and other venues in the Valley and have established themselves as a first-rate party band.

But the airplay they’ve received on WRSI has also played a huge role in growing the band’s large fan base here in Western Mass. From their synth sounds of “Carousel Ride” or the instantly recognizable bleating horns that introduce “Came Out of a Lady,” the music of Rubblebucket is a favorite with listeners.

According to WRSI DJ Monte Belmonte, who is also President of the Shea Theater and a huge Rubblebucket fan, “When we found out that Rubblebucket was available August 1st, We all here thought it was a perfect opportunity for WRSI’s 40th.”

In addition, this show on Sunday marks Rubblebucket’s return to the stage for the first time since early 2020.

“I am so excited that our first show back in the real world for fans to attend is a free outdoor show, celebrating an awesome radio station that I love! I grew up listening to The River — it broadcasted in my part of Vermont,” said Traver.

“It feels very appropriate that after a year of so much hardship, our first show can be about pure celebration and community. Talk about gratitude.... that’s what I’m talking about!”

It will also be a special occasion for Northampton-based bands And the Kids and Winterpills.

Winterpills will not just be playing their first post-pandemic full-band show, but also be playing their first full-band show since December 2018. And that show was a small-house concert. During this break, Reed and Price have played duo shows and Price even released a solo album “Ocean Hiding in Oceans” during the lockdown, but the entire band, which also includes bassist Max Germer, drummer Dave Hower and guitarist Dennis Crommett, hasn’t shared a stage together in almost three years.

This is also a great chance to once again see And the Kids, which is vocalist/guitarist Hannah Mohan and drummer Rebecca Lasaponaro, so there’s a lot to celebrate on this day. So come on down to Unity Park for some serious booty shaking, wild singing, and birthday partying. The music begins at 2:30 p.m. with Winterpills, followed by And the Kids at 3:30 p.m then Rubblebucket at 5 p.m.

There will be food trucks and beer sold. Free parking is available throughout town.

Honoring the Land Rally at the Energy Park

The Energy Park in Greenfield will be the site of Honoring the Land, a rally that is scheduled for Saturday, July 31, at 1 p.m. This event is about protecting our forests and water from large-scale solar projects that are in the works that would involve clear cutting of forests and farm land.

There will be speakers and music at the rally. One of the musicians performing will be Greenfield resident Tom Neilson, a folk musician who has a long history of political activism dating back to the anti-war movement of the ’60s. Neilson has been involved in many different social and political causes over the years and has always kept this work closely tied to his music. He’s released many albums over the years.

Neal Vitallo of Neal and the Vipers, joined by Steve Bigelow on bass and Liviu Pop on drums, will also bring their hot blues music to this event as well as folk rocker Henry Geddes. And it’s all free.

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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