Sounds Local: Shea Theater teams up with Simon Says on new concert series 

  • The Adam Ezra Group CONTRIBUTED PHOTO


  • From left, Phil Simon, Kelly Drew of Simon Says Booking and Publicity, and Monte Belmonte outside The Shea Turner Arts Center in Turners Falls. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 3/9/2022 3:13:36 PM
Modified: 3/9/2022 3:13:02 PM

We have some good news to report from the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls. It was recently announced that Phil Simon and Kelly Drew of the Warwick based booking and publicity agency Simon Says, have joined the Shea Theater team as programming and marketing directors for the Shea Presents concert series.

Simon Says will launch the Shea Presents concert series this month with a show by the Adam Ezra Group, who will appear on March 24. Other shows scheduled are the Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense on April 9, Pink Floyd tribute Echoes of Floyd on April 22, and Professor Louie and the Crowmatix playing the music of The Band on April 30. And just announced April Cushman will perform on May 21.

Simons Says Booking and Publicity has operated locally since 2002 when Phil Simon moved the business from Oregon where he started it in the 90s to western Massachusetts. The agency, which is currently based in Warwick, works with clients from all over the country. There is a good chance that you have attended a show that Simon Says has booked as they have worked with a wide range of artists including Max Creek, Start Making Sense, The Big Takeover, The Alchemystics, FareedHaque, The Skatalites and so, so many more artists. Simon Says has booked tens of thousands of shows since its inception.

The publicity branch of the agency has also worked with many artists from all over.

Kelly Drew of Greenfield, who is the marketing director of Shea Presents, came on board as a publicist at Simon Says Publicity about five years ago and has promoted the work of many artists including Erin Harpe, Max Creek and The Englishtown Project.

In addition to artist booking and publicity Simon Says produces the online music magazine They have also hosted the annual Old 78 Farm Fall Music Festival that has been held for the past ten years at Simon’s farm in Warwick. And if that is not enough, Phil Simon, programming irector of Shea Presents, also leads the band Rice: An American Band, who have frequently played in the area and are in the process of recording their first album.

“The Shea is thrilled to welcome Simon Says Booking and Publicity who will add many more Shea-produced events to what our other community partners will be bringing to our theater, in what we hope will be a vibrant return to live, in-person performances at the Shea,” wrote Monte Belmonte, president of the board of the Shea in a statement about the new venture.

Let’s take a look at the shows that are scheduled so far.

First up is the The Adam Ezra Group who hail from the Boston area. No strangers to western Mass. music fans, the group has a devoted legion of followers who are drawn to the band’s brand of rootsy acoustic rock and their high energy live shows. The Adam Ezra Group are devoted road warriors who operate on a grassroots level, winning over fans through their commitment to give their all whenever they take to the stage. When the pandemic hit and their busy touring schedule was put on hold, Ezra took to streaming performances every single night. And we do mean every night, no matter where he was — be it spending time at the desert, on his wedding day and even through his own battle with COVID-19, Ezra didn’t let his viewers down. His audience dubbed these concerts, of which there are over five hundred, “The Gathering Series.” If that isn’t enough the group released a series of singles in 2021 that have now become favorites of their live show.

Simon Says works with some of the finest tribute acts working in the country, and a couple of these are heading to the Shea Theater. Start Making Sense is a 7-10 piece band that plays the music of art-rock band Talking Heads. Lead singer Jon Braun, performs a spot-on take of David Byrne while his band perfectly nails the unique sound of Talking Heads. During the month of April the band are touring with a horn section known as the Immaculate Horns, and they will be covering some Byrne solo songs as well as Talking Heads. We are lucky that Turners Falls is one of the few stops they are making with the horns in tow.

Also scheduled is Echoes of Floyd, a band that covers the music of the classic British band Pink Floyd. They not only capture the band’s sound but utilize an elaborate light show to duplicate the look of an actual Floyd show.

Professor Louie and the Crowmatix hail from Woodstock, New York and play a mix of rock, blues and American roots music. They are a Grammy nominated band with 15 studio albums to their credit, but for this show they’ll be focusing on another group from Woodstock — The Band. Professor Louie (he was given his nickname by Rick Danko) knows this music firsthand having worked for the Band for over 15 years including producing their last three albums.

April Cushman is a country singer from New Hampshire whose show was just announced this week and her inclusion in the lineup is part of Simon Says goal to include genres of music that are not often represented here in the Valley.

“There’s a dearth of local venues hosting country music acts and the Shea seems like a natural fit seeing as Bear Country 95.3 is located nearby in Greenfield, ” Kelly Drew told the Recorder.

“We’re also seeking opportunities for Latinx-oriented acts, too.”

“We are not trying to recreate the same nightclub experience that people can get at so many great clubs in the Valley. We are trying to create the music hall experience, where artists and audience can connect on a higher level,” Phil Simon explained.

The vast network of bands that Simon Says work with has them poised to accomplish this goal by bringing some excellent music to the Shea Theater. This joint venture comes at a time when both Simon Says Booking and Publicity and the Shea Theater has both endured a difficult past couple of years what with the postponement and canceling of shows. This partnership should not only get the Shea back to where it was pre-pandemic, but also help to move them forward and live up to the theater’s potential as a major entertainment venue in western Massachusetts.

“Our goal is eventually to fill the Shea calendar with both the community-driven shows and theater that have always had a home at the Shea, along with Shea Presents concerts,” said Simon. “It may take a year to build back up, but we’re hoping that eventually the calendar showcases five or ten concerts per month, alongside another five to ten nights a month of the existing community-hosted events.”

Tickets for all shows are on sale now at

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


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