Sounds Local: Making Turners Falls a destination for music

  • Lenny Zarcone, left, will perform at the Great Falls Coffeehouse in Turners Falls on Friday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Pat and Tex LaMountain will perform at the Rendezvous on Wednesday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Sunshine Brothers Inc. will perform at the Rendezvous on Friday, April 13, at 9:30 p.m. Contributed photo


  • Sheryl Hunter says the Rendezvous on Third Street is the “center for live music in Turners Falls.” Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

It’s amazing to see the incredible renaissance that is going on in Turners Falls. A quick trip through downtown reveals new restaurants, stores and a number of establishments that offer live music. If you are a fan of local music, you need to check out what is happening in Turners Falls!

Hubie’s Tavern, Between the Uprights, the Brick House and the Great Falls Discovery Center all routinely present live music. And then, of course, there’s the Shea Theater, right in the center of Avenue A. But if we really want to talk about the center for live music in Turners Falls, it all began and continues with the Rendezvous at 78 3rd Street.

A combination restaurant, bar and music venue, the Rendezvous offers a varied food menu and beverage offerings in addition to music and other entertainment options. When you walk into the ‘Voo, as it is more commonly called, you are immediately struck by the bright red walls, funky decor and period paintings of 1930s celebrities like Groucho Marx. It’s a warm and welcoming place that has a laid-back vibe to it. The Rendezvous celebrated its 10th anniversary in September, and during their lengthy run they have brought all types of music in from rock bands to folk singers to jazz and everything in between. They offer this wide range of music all for free, having discontinued their cover charges a couple of years ago.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the “Voo and sitting down with Mark Wisnewski, one of the owners, and James Sullivan, who recently took over the job of booking music at the establishment. Jamie Berger, a former co-owner of the business, previously handled this job.

“We feel that there is a little more emphasis on music now that James is on board,” said Wisnewski about adding Sullivan to the Rendezvous team.

Before taking on this position at the Rendezvous, Sullivan was booking the musical acts at the now closed Underdogs Lounge in Shelburne Falls.

“I’m just trying to get the Rendezvous well known again as a place for live music,” Sullivan said. “They have had music here for years, but this is kind of a new effort. I’m trying to bring in some new people that maybe haven’t been here before. Of course, there are some acts that have longstanding monthly gigs and we are continuing with these.”

These ongoing monthly gigs include longtime Rendezvous favorites like Drew Paton’s 1940s Hit Parade, Half Shaved Jazz, Uncle Hal’s Crabgrass Band and the Falltown String Band.

The Rendezvous also hosts karaoke every Sunday and an open mic night the second and fourth Monday of each month. Live music is presented two to five nights a week with the emphasis on the weekend shows.

The Rendezvous is known for having been a launching pad for local bands like Lake Street Dive, Heather Maloney, the Suitcase Junket, The Sweetback Sisters and others whose careers have taken off. Sullivan hopes to see this trend continue, and in looking at the upcoming schedule it’s packed with acts based here in the Pioneer Valley.

Friday night, they welcome Sunshine Brothers Inc., a trio from Amherst who play surf psychedelic pop rock. Then on Saturday, April 14, it’s BluGroove, an all instrumental group who go heavy on the improvising as they offer up their take on blues, jazz, funk and soul tunes.

Looking ahead, on Friday, April 20, they will host the band Sedagive, who play country, folk and rock. Then on Saturday, April 21, it’s a dance party with DJ Nikos. The last weekend in April will feature the jazz fusion sounds of Village Hill on Saturday, April 28. Also look for up-and-coming singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs on Wednesday, May 2, and the all-female rock band She Said on Saturday, May 4.

To view the Rendezvous’ full events schedule, visit www.rendezvoustfma.com.

When asked what the Rendezvous has to offer music fans that other venues in the area do not, Wisnewski instantly chimed in with “Food. You can eat a very good meal here and we serve until 11 p.m. on weekends. What we have here is a good place to see a good band and we don’t charge a cover.”

The times of the shows vary, with most weekend shows beginning at 9:30 p.m., and shows during the week starting earlier. For instance, when local favorites Pat and Tex LaMountain play at the Rendezvous on Wednesday, April 18, it will be at 6:30 p.m.

“If it’s an early show, we have to make sure that they complement dinner and not override the meal,” Wisnewski explained. “We won’t book a rock act during dinner time.”

Wisnewski is pleased to see the positive growth that is happening in town and said that the Rendezvous has always been about community. He feels that the new businesses share that same belief.

“There’s more of a sense of fun to the town, and that has happened in the past couple of years,” Wisnewski said. “It has taken a long time, and I’m not quite sure we are there yet. But Turners is becoming a destination town.”

“One of the great things about the Rendezvous is that it’s in Turners Falls,” added Sullivan. “People don’t have to drive to Easthampton or Northampton. They can hear great music here.”

For more information or if you are interested in performing at the Rendezvous, visit www.rendezvoustfma.com.

Lenny Zarcone at Great Falls Coffeehouse

While we are on the subject of Turners Falls, you might want to head over there Friday night to catch Lenny Zarcone at the Great Falls Coffeehouse at 7 p.m. The Coffeehouse, housed in the Great Falls Discovery Center’s Great Hall at 2 Avenue A, presents music the second Friday of every month. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Zarcone is an all-around entertainer, and this show will be an evening of music and comedy. He will perform songs from the Great American Songbook, jazz standards, pop music from the ’60s and ’70s, and more. He will accompany himself with guitar, piano, accordion and digital pre-recorded orchestral accompaniment.

Zarcone, who has a background in mime and is a member of the Wright Brothers, likes to add a touch of humor and maybe even some juggling in his acts.

“I love to make people laugh and enjoy a song,” he said.

The suggested sliding scale donation is $6 to $12. Children will be admitted for free. Donations help the Friends of the Discovery Center provide free nature programming for the public.

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.