Sounds Local: Summer kicks off with new fests and blues legends

By SHERYL HUNTER

For the Recorder

Published: 05-24-2023 4:04 PM

As Memorial Day approaches, so does the arrival of summer. The summer of 2023 will make up for the previous three years when COVID heavily impacted the music scene. There are many concerts and festivals on tap with something to fit every budget and musical taste. The best part is that most of these shows are outside, and there’s nothing like enjoying music in the outdoors.

The fun starts tonight with the launch of the 2023 season of the Coop Concerts. Now in its 19th year, the Coop Concerts are an integral part of summer in Franklin County. They are held at the Energy Park in Greenfield every Thursday night from 6 to 8 p.m. Each concert hosts three separate acts, and they welcome all types of music, everything from folk to zydeco to country and more. The artists performing are all members of the Franklin County Coop, a group that, among its other goals, promotes live music in our area. You probably know the routine by now – bring a blanket or chair, kids are very welcome, and pack a picnic if you are so inclined. The shows are free, but tips that go toward the expense of running the series are always welcome.

The series will kick off tonight. Rob Adams, Joe Graveline, Nina Gross, Katie Clarke and Larry LeBlanc will perform. Expect this to be an evening of folk, old-time, bluegrass and more.

The full schedule for the summer is available to view on the website at coopconcerts.org. You can also follow them on Facebook at Coop Concerts, where they post any weather-related cancelations.

The first big festival of the season will take place this weekend when the StrangeCreek Campout arrives at Camp Kee-Wanee in Greenfield. The three-day festival – May 26 through 29 – will host over 50 bands playing on three stages. Camping is included with the price of admission. StrangeCreek welcomes all types of music, but is heavy on jammy rock bands, reggae and tribute acts. Some the headliners include bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters, Pink Floyd tribute band the Machine, Bluesman James Montgomery, and jam band Max Creek, for whom the festival takes its name. Wormtown Inc., who presents StrangeCreek, always welcomes local bands and will have reggae-rap group the Alchemystics and folk gypsy punk band Bella’s Bartok in headlining slots. Area groups like Mamma’s Marmalade, Rebel Alliance, and Rice: An American Band are alsoincluded in the lineup. You can purchaseweekend and day passes at Strangecreekcampout.com.

A new festival called Field Day will showcase emerging talent from the Valley, Vermont, and beyond and will take place at the Guilford fairgrounds in nearby Guilford, Vermont on Saturday, June 3. Presented by Urgent Message Music and the Stone Church in Brattleboro, this one day festival will feature 14 bands playing on two stages and run from noon to 10 p.m.

Field Day will welcome groups like the psych-pop, synth wave band Inner Wave from Los Angeles, and indie folk-rocker Lady Lamb from Portland, Maine, but it’s really about celebrating the music scene here in western Mass and Vermont. If you are into indie rock, you won’t want to miss this festival. all of the bands are worthy of your attention but you especially want to check out Thus Love, a post-punk trio from Brattleboro that has gained national attention and even received coverage in Rolling Stone magazine in the spring of 2022.

The band’s three members, who are all trans, came together because they each felt like outsiders. They formed the band right before COVID, holed up together during the lockdown, and focussed on making music during this time. They describe their sound as “queer post-punk,” but that doesn’t capture the fact that they create great pop melodies. Thus Love released their debut album, “Memorial,” on the Captured Tracks record label last fall. Do catch them at this show, because after this gig they are off for a tour in Britain.

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Topsy (Hannah Mohan of And the Kids), Carinae, and Prune are some other Valley-based bands that will take the stages at Field Day. Local brews and food will be on hand, and since this is a field day festival, an assortment of field games will be available.

Tickets are available at fielddayvt.com.

Duke Robillard at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center and more blues are coming to the area

We’ve been talking about shows that take place outdoors, but there are a couple of indoor shows coming up that blues fans will want to put on their calendars.

It starts this weekend when the Duke Robillard Band plays Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Friday at 7 p.m. This show will be held upstairs in the Perch. And for this show, Robillard will be joined by former Roomful of Blues member, vocalist/harmonica player Sugar RayNorcia of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones.

Robillard co-founded Roomful of Blues, a band that showcased his phenomenal guitar work for over ten years. He left that Rhode Island-based group in 1979, but not before landing a solid fan base here in western Mass. Since then, he’s worked as a songwriter, band leader and guitarist. He’s shared the stage with Muddy Waters, briefly was a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and has toured with Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. His talent as a guitarist includes not only his mastery of the blues, but of many other styles as well.

Tickets a available at hawksandreed.com,

Award-winning blues and soul singer Shemekia Copeland will perform at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls on Thursday, June 8 at 8 p.m. Copeland, the daughter of the great Johnny Clyde Copeland, is blessed with a fantastic voice. She won the 2021 Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year – and is known for the deep connection she forges with her audience. Misty Blues from North Adams will open the show.

Tickets can be purchased at sheatheather.org.

Since we are talking about the blues, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that blues legend, Buddy Guy, will appear at the Pines Theater at Look Park on Tuesday, June 13, at 7 p.m. Guy, 86, is ready to bid farewell to the road and he’s calling this tour the “Darn Right Farewell” tour. Guy is an eight-time Grammy winner who, among his many other accomplishments, is a 2015 Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award winner and has won 38 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received). He also received a Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. In addition, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #23 in its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Samantha Fish proved that she is a guitar player to reckon with when she played at the Green River Festival in 2019 and now she’s back. Fish has recently teamed up with country musicians Jesse Dayton and released an album called “Death Wish Blues.” The duo will open this show for Buddy Guy. Move fast to purchase tickets for this show. Reserved seating tickets are sold out, but there are still some general admission lawn seats available at DSPshows.com

We are just scratching the surface here. There is so much more music to come, both lives shows and new recordings. We’ll do our best here at Sounds Local to keep you informed of all this great music. Next week, we’ll look at the exciting new summer music series that Tree House Brewing Company in South Deerfield is launching.

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be reached at Soundslocal@yahoo.com.

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