Venue links live music with people at home in series honoring Black History Month

  • Ben Goldsher of Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield and Tobey SolLaRoche of Couch Music check audio and cameras in advance of Saturday night’s livestreamed concert with Blest Energy. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Cita Light of Blest Energy performs from Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Saturday as part of the ongoing livestreamed concert series, “Music Speaks: Amplifying Black Voices.” STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Manny of Blest Energy performs from Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Saturday as part of the ongoing livestreamed concert series, “Music Speaks: Amplifying Black Voices.” STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield, in partnership with Couch Music, is hosting a livestream concert series this month in honor of Black History Month. Blest Energy performed on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Nadia of Blest Energy performs from Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Saturday as part of the ongoing livestreamed concert series, “Music Speaks: Amplifying Black Voices.” STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2021 4:12:00 PM

GREENFIELD — For about an hour on Saturday night, the stage at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center recalled a time before a global pandemic shut the venue’s doors indefinitely.

“It feels good, it feels good,” Cita Light, a lead vocalist for the music group Blest Energy, said as she took to the stage Saturday night. “We haven’t done this in a while.”

But the audience she spoke to wasn’t in the room with her; rather, she spoke to an audience at home — viewing the concert from the comfort of their couches. Only a small tech and management crew occupied the music hall while Blest Energy performed.

That’s because Hawks & Reed teamed up this month with the new live concert streaming service, Couch Music, for “Music Speaks: Amplifying Black Voices,” a series of concerts honoring Black History Month.

“We’re just a platform, that’s the best thing we can do — give people a stage to speak the importance of what they have to say,” said Ben Goldsher, the venue’s manager.

Goldsher said organizing a live concert, streamed for the audience with Couch Music, felt like a “natural” thing for Hawks & Reed to explore.

“Right now, people can’t be together, so this is a way to connect people,” he said.

Kara Kharmah of Couch Music explained that the service started as a listing site for livestreams. From there, it developed into a virtual venue of its own, she said.

“We want to highlight all the artists who are losing their incomes,” she said. “We’re figuring out a new model.”

Blest Energy, a socially conscious hip hop band, was the second band to take to the stage for the series, which is happening over two weekends in February.

“This is our first (concert) since the pandemic, since everything got shut down in March,” said Tem Blessed, another vocalist for the band, before the show Saturday night. “It feels great. It’s a little nerve-racking, just because we haven’t done it for a while and it’s new technology. And being in front of a camera and not an audience — we had to mentally prepare for that.”

Still, it’s exciting to be back, Blessed said.

“What excited me about this opportunity was that we’d be back in the Hawks space,” he added.

Blessed said the band’s music has always been about social justice and sustainability. Saturday’s performance, which included messages of racial justice, love and equality, was no exception.

“It was only right that because they were looking to have a Black history, amplifying Black voices (event), that they reached out to us,” Blessed said. “I’m honored they thought about us. Our music is for the people, especially Black and brown people, but all people. (It’s about) putting a spotlight on the folks who often go unnoticed.”

Black voices being uplifted is important, he said. He added that amplifying the voices of women — women of color, in particular — is important to Blest Energy.

“If you can solve the racism, the Black issue, than you’re going to solve everyone’s issues. That’s how I look at it,” Blessed said.

The next concerts lined up for the “Music Speaks: Amplifying Black Voices” series will feature Samirah Evans with Franz on Friday at 7 p.m., and The Lost Tribe on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Tickets to the live show are pay-what-you-can and can be reserved at couchmusic.live.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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