Taking it to the stage: Pines Theater will feature several shows this summer

  • Lyle Lovett and his large band come to the Pines Theater in Northampton’s Look Park Aug. 2. Photo courtesy DSP Shows

  • Progressive rockers Moe. play the Pines Theater July 17. Photo by Jay Blakesberg/ Courtesy DSP Shows

  • Australia’s John Butler Trio comes to the Pines Theater Aug. 3.  Photo courtesy DSP Shows

  • Blues Traveler comes to the Pines July 17. Photo by Michael Weintrob/ Courtesy DSP Shows

  • Indie rocker and songwriter Kurt Vile and his band, The Violators, will play the Pines Theater July 28. Photo courtesy DSP Shows

  • Dinosaur Jr., the seminal grunge rock band led by Amherst’s J Mascis, will share the stage July 28 with Kurt Vile. Photo courtesy DSP Shows

  • Norah Jones plays June 29, but tickets sold out within hours. Photo courtesy DSP Shows

Staff Writer 
Thursday, May 09, 2019

If you think summer concerts at the Pines Theater at Look Park are mostly about the annual Transperformance show, think again: This year the Northampton venue will host half a dozen shows, featuring big-name acts such as Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile and multi-Grammy Award winner Norah Jones. 

John Sanders, partner and talent buyer with DSP Shows of Ithaca, N.Y., which books concerts throughout New England, including at the Pines Theater, says the venue is near and dear to his heart. 

“It’s kind of a difficult place to do shows, production-wise, but every artist who’s ever [played] there has appreciated being there and really just appreciated the audience,” said Sanders, a former booking agent for the Iron Horse Music Hall. “It’s just a magical place to see a show.” 

In fact, Sanders, who got his start in music entertainment in summer 1999 as an Iron Horse intern, says the first show he ever saw at the Pines was by veteran blues singer and songwriter Bonnie Raitt. 

Now, two decades into his career, Sanders books acts for the Pines. A few years ago, DSP shows sought to revive the summer concert series at the grassy arena, which in previous years had attracted legendary musicians and bands such as Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and alternative rockers Wilco and Modest Mouse.

Last year, there was only one show at the Pines Theater, featuring Grammy Award-winning virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. However, more than half a dozen bands are on the roster this summer.

The first show in the summer concert series, on June 29, is by pop/jazz/folk artist Norah Jones. Unfortunately for fans, tickets, made available online, sold out two hours after the event was announced.

“I don’t think people realized that there were 10,000 people that wanted to go to that show and there’s only 2,000 tickets available,” Sanders said. “More people than not were going to get shut out.

“We do everything we can to prevent scalpers,” Sanders added, “and we were able to identify some scalpers … and take their tickets and open them up again to the general public. But that was a really great show to land and give us the momentum to go after some [additional] big shows.”

The next show on the lineup, Wednesday, July 17, features modern progressive rock band Moe. alongside the bluesy, harmonica-driven jam rockers Blues Traveler. G. Love, a three-member alternative, blues, and hip-hop band from Philadelphia, will open the concert.

“It just seemed like a really great package of jam rock,” Sanders explained. “All three of those acts have a long history in Northampton of doing really well. It just seems like a great show to see outside in the summertime on the lawn.”

On Sunday, July 28, Dinosaur Jr. and Kurt Vile and the Violators take to the Pines Theater stage. Dinosaur Jr. is the grungy alternative rock band started by Amherst native and resident J Mascis; Kurt Vile, the indie rocker and multi-instrumentalist, was described last fall by Rolling Stone as “an honest-to-god guitar hero and a disarmingly funny lyricist, especially when he’s narrating his own ever-present existential panic.”

“[Vile and his band] are doing Central Park the week before our show, and I was talking to Kurt Vile’s agent about doing some shows at some places,” said Sanders. “They said, ‘What if we do this with Dinosaur Jr. at the Pines?’ I just loved the idea and the fact that Dinosaur Jr. hasn’t played in town for [awhile].”

In early August, the Pines will stage three shows back to back. First up, on Friday, Aug. 2, is an outdoor evening with Americana/country artist Lyle Lovett and his large band, consisting of backing singers, wind instruments, strings, or sometimes pedal steel guitar.

The John Butler Trio plays the Pines Saturday, Aug. 3, bringing Australian roots rock to the outdoor venue along with the show’s opener, alternative folk/reggae-influenced acoustic guitarist and singer Trevor Hall. And on Sunday, Aug. 4, indie dream-pop duo Beach House will take to the stage.

And ahead of the summer concert series, the theater is getting some renovations and maintenance as well, which includes reinforcement of the stage and landscaping improvements, all of which allows the space to be more open, Sanders said.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com. 

For more information about the Pines Theater shows, visit dspshows.com/event/the-pines-theater.