Watch past Watermelon Wednesdays shows online

  • A screenshot of Tim O'Brien's 2013 performance at the West Whately Chapel with Watermelon Wednesdays. The video can be readily found on YouTube and by visiting watermelonwednesdays.com. Contributed photo/FCAT Media

Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2020 3:03:43 PM
Modified: 4/10/2020 3:03:27 PM

There’s a distinct feeling of nostalgia that seems to follow musician Tim O’Brien’s unwavering voice, as if the lyrics have a shadow. It’s an expansive emotion that’s at once immediate and distant — as if O’Brien is a longing for another time and place.

If the effect is tangible in person, it’s equally powerful when watched on video.

“Here’s a song, an old ballad from the folk music bag. In a lot of these old ballads, a guy goes away, says ‘goodbye’ to his sweetheart and then seven years later returns and wants her to remember him,” O’Brien says to a boisterous crowd packed into the West Whately Chapel during a Watermelon Wednesdays concert recorded in 2013, before launching into another folksy tune.

While social isolation policies intended to stem the spread of the coronavirus have shuttered venues across the region, that doesn’t mean local music fans can’t tune in remotely and enjoy local shows like O’Brien’s.

His and more than 30 other full-length shows hosted by Watermelon Wednesdays, an ongoing music series held in the quaint 1896 West Whately Chapel, are available to stream on the organization’s website, watermelonwednesdays.com. Among them are concerts by The Sweetback Sisters, Peter Blanchette and Friends, Martin Hayes, Yellow Barn Ensemble, and many others.

“Take a break from the news and relive, or experience for the first time, many of Watermelon Wednesdays concerts, professionally recorded by FCATMedia,” says a press statement from Paul Newlin, co-founder of Watermelon Wednesdays. Newlin started the program with Rani Arbo in 2000 as an outgrowth of occasional West Whately community cultural events, according to the organization’s website.

Even though O’Brien’s show happened years ago, its intimacy translates well through video. Moving guitar parts provide backing for O’Brien’s bright and melodic voice. Lingering lyrics float over quick strumming patterns. The crowd’s response can be heard reverberating through the West Whately Chapel’s small interior, adding texture and excitement.

“Last night, I was in New York City playing on the concrete, and it was nice. But it’s nicer in here,” O’Brien says in the video, before exchanging his guitar for a banjo and launching into another tune: “This is a song I made up myself called ‘Red Dog in the Morning.’”

While the venue is closed until the ongoing coronavirus pandemic passes, future in-person shows scheduled later this year have been posted and tickets can be purchased. Meanwhile, fans of Watermelon Wednesdays can donate to the organization. Proceeds will go to any artists whose shows need to be canceled because of the pandemic, according to Newlin. Donations can either be made online via watermelonwednesdays.com or by sending a check to Watermelon Wednesdays, care of Paul Newlin, 148 Conway Road, West Whately, Massachusetts 01039.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.


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