Sounds Local: Christine Ohlman to rock 1794 Meetinghouse

  • Christine Olhman will play the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem at 7:30 p.m. Contributed photo

  • Dave Alvin and Jimmie Daile Gilmore will play the Shea Theater in Turners Falls at 7:30 p.m. on June 16. Contributed photo


For the Recorder
Wednesday, June 06, 2018

There couldn’t be a more quintessential New England spot to hear live music than the 1794 Meetinghouse. Nestled on the common of the tiny village of New Salem, the meetinghouse, at 26 South Main St., is a former church that was transformed into a performing arts center, hosting its first concert in 1994. Since then more than 600 performances have been held in the intimate room that has become a favorite with both audiences and performers.

Every summer the historic hall is home to a music series that presents all types of music — everything from classical to jazz to rock. The meetinghouse will present 18 concerts this summer with the majority of the acts being from the local area, but also including a few shows by artists from other parts of the country.

One of these nationally known artists is Christine Ohlman and her band Rebel Montez who will kick off the 2018 season with a show on Saturday night, June 9. The evening will start off at 6:45 p.m. with a champagne reception on the lawn (included with ticket price) and music will follow at 7:30 p.m.

Ohlman, who is the longtime vocalist for the Saturday Night Live band, has played the 1794 Meetinghouse so many times that she’s lost track of the actual number. But she agrees with me that it’s been at least six and that this is her second time serving as season opener. What she does remember from her many visits to New Salem is that she has made some wonderful friends and she can’t wait to get back there to see them.

Ohlman is known as the “Beehive Queen,” due to the high piled hairdo that she wears in honor of 1960’s rocker Ronnie Spector. You can count on Ohlman to bring plenty of sass and flash to New Salem; in addition to her trademark hairstyle she typically dons shades and a leopard-print outfit.

And she’s got the fiery sound to match the look. Ohlman’s resume is a long and impressive one that includes playing all types of major events like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Bob Dylan’s 30th anniversary bash at Madison Square Garden and the 40th anniversary show for Saturday Night Live, in which the B-52’s served as her backing band at a post-show party. She’s also shared the stage with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, Steve Miller — and I could go on. Her most recent accomplishment occurred last year when she was inducted into the National Blues Hall of Fame of American Heritage International.

Ohlman grew up listening to rock and soul music, and her love of these genres has carried over into her own music. She has released six albums, and expect her to play from a mix from her career at this show.

“I give it to an audience straight, which is the way I like it myself,” Ohlman has said of her performances. “Yes, I like to shout, and I like to croon, and I love to wail. I just need to get in the groove and rock — not think too much about it. Tear it up or soothe it over. I’ve loved rock ’n’ roll since I was a little girl, and I’ll love it forever. It’s my greatest kick and my greatest privilege to be able to get up on a stage and rip it apart. That’s rock ’n’ roll to me. I’m here to set your soul on fire.”

And set your soul on fire she will. There’s no dance floor at the 1794 Meetinghouse, but Ohlman will have attendees dancing in the aisles or boogying in their seats. The size of the room and the great acoustics make this a special room to enjoy live music.

“We just love the 1794 Meetinghouse,” Ohlman said. “It, and venues like it all across the country that I play, are keeping original music alive, free from corporate influence … and we love that.”

Next up at the meetinghouse is QuabbinValley Pro Musica, a choral group that will perform at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 10.

To view the entire meetinghouse schedule, purchase tickets online and to read more about the artists and the history of the meetinghouse visit www.1794meethinhouse.org.

Admission to the Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez show is $20 for adults/$15 students/children under 12 free.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Dave Alvin

Last year, longtime friends Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Dave Alvin decided that it might be fun to play a few shows together. As a fan of both I was originally taken by surprise by this announcement as it seemed like a rather odd musical pairing.

Alvin, who started out as a member of the roots punk band The Blasters before launching his solo career, is known for his deep baritone and his rowdy guitar powered roots sound. Gilmore, on the other hand, has a high, whiney voice and writes music that is deeply rooted in country.

But once they started playing together, it was clear that despite their differences as musicians, they complemented each other beautifully — and besides, they were having a great time. So they decided to not only do more shows, but to make an album together called “Downey to Lubbock,” which was released last week. Now the pair, who are being backed by Alvin’s longtime band The Guilty Ones, are on tour and will be at the Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A. in Turners Falls on Saturday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m.

The album is named after Alvin’s California hometown of Downey, and Gilmore’s birthplace of Lubbock, Texas. They share a love of American roots music and delve into this music on their album, primarily with covers by artists like Woody Guthrie, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Brownie McGhee, Woody Guthrie and Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

They have also included a couple of originals including “Billy the Kid and Geronimo,” about an imagined meeting between the two 19th century Western figures whose lives became the stuff of American legend. And the title track, a testament to their life as touring musicians on which Alvin sings “Forty years on the highway/Living off dreams and gasoline/Somehow still surviving on Advil, Nyquil and nicotine.”

“Downey to Lubbock” is available on all streaming services, but you’ll want to hear it played live. So purchase your tickets now. Advance tickets are $35, and are available at www.signaturesoundspresents.com or by calling 413-341-3317. Tickets are $40 at the door. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.