The Beat Goes On: Ushering in the new year with Bach and bluegrass in Northampton, young performers in Amherst, and more

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 01-02-2023 11:26 AM

Live music typically takes something of a breather at this time of year: After all, musicians and club owners usually want to spend time with family and friends at the holidays.

But starting today and proceeding through the first few several days of 2023, there’s plenty of music on tap, especially this weekend, as we get ready to ring in the new year. If you haven’t already made plans for celebrating, there are a few options here to consider.

 The Drake in Amherst has maintained one of the busiest schedules of any venue in the area since opening this spring, filling a longstanding gap in Amherst’s music scene. And the downtown club has also made it a point to showcase a wide range of shows, including by younger performers.

The club is devoting the next several nights to that dynamic, starting tonight, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m. with performances by Lux Deluxe and Ruby Lou. The guys in Lux Deluxe have actually been playing in some form for over 10 years now — lead singer Ned King sports a pretty adult-looking mustache in some new photos of the band — but don’t forget that the Valley pop rockers got their start when the members were still in high school.

Lyrical rockers Ruby Lou, meanwhile, build their sound around the songs of Kasey Greene, the band’s piano player; the group includes guitar, bass and drums.

On Jan. 5, the Drake will host Kalliope Jones, the all-female rock trio that met while taking classes at the Institute For Musical Arts in Goshen. Now in their early 20s, members Alouette Batteau, Amelia Chalfant and Isabella DeHerdt have other musical projects — DeHerdt plays in the indie folk duo High Tea — but they still get together to play their unique pop-rock.

The Drake show, which begins at 8 p.m., will be opened by Lemon Street, a young area band that mixes rock, jazz and funk.

And on Jan. 6-7 at 7:30 p.m., the club will host two performances of ARHS: Cabaret, a mix of musical skits and presentations by students from Amherst Regional High School.

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Bach at New Year’s — The Berkshire Bach Society, which according to its website is the oldest, continuously operating, member-based nonprofit music organization in Berkshire County, has since 1993 marked the holiday season by playing concerts at the start of a brand-new year.

So if you don’t overdo it on the last day of 2022, consider going to Northampton’s Academy of Music on Jan. 2 at 3 p.m. to hear the Baroque group perform a range of single, double, and even triple concertos that are designed to showcase the work of the Bach Society’s individual musicians. One piece on the playlist for the Jan. 2 show is Bach’s double violin concerto, last performed by the group in 2012, according to program notes.

The ensemble, directed by Eugene Drucker, a nine-time Grammy Award winner, doesn’t just do Bach: They’ll also be covering the music of Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi, including works for viola, cello, flute, oboe, trumpet and harpsichord.

 

Grain Thief — The Parlor Room in Northampton will host several acoustic shows on New Year’s Eve as part of First Night Northampton. But to get an early start on the party, the Boston bluegrass band Grain Thief is in town tonight (Friday, Dec. 30) at 8 p.m. to play an energetic mix of rootsy stringband music and more progressive bluegrass.

The five-piece band, formed in 2015, has released four albums and toured across the country, with some interruptions caused by the pandemic.

They might be at their best live, playing grouped around a single microphone, with guitarist Patrick Mulroy handling the lead vocals, and they like to tackle unconventional material, such as a driving version of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue,” recorded live in the Berkshires a few years ago and at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival in Goshen, Connecticut.

The group’s newest album, “Something Sour, Something Sweet,” released earlier this year, finds Grain Thief exploring their roots with old-time fiddle tunes and jams. Yet on their 2018 album, “Stardust Lodge,” they experimented with a broader sound, including drums on some tracks, whereas for their 2020 album, “Gasoline,” members stuck largely to their instruments — guitar, fiddle, bass, mandolin, resonator guitar — around one mic.

The reviews have been good.  “‘Gasoline’ is a definitive statement of arrival and purpose for a band that is just beginning to flex their impressive musical muscles,” wrote Americana UK a few years ago.

“It is a statement that can be heard from the tops of the mountains all the way down to the hollers below and echoing through cities across the country,” the review added. “It is a modern take on a well-worn style that proves there is still much to be discovered in bluegrass and string-band music.”

King Margo, an alt-country/Americana duo based in Tennessee, opens The Parlor Room show.

More music on tap

There’s a lot to choose from on New Year’s Eve, beginning with performances at First Night Northampton. There are too many to list here, but some acts worth checking out are The Suitcase Junket, Peter Blanchette,Tracy Grammer & Jim Henry, Klezamir, and Khalif Neville.

Max Creek, which rings in 2023 at Race Street Live in Holyoke beginning at 8 p.m., originally formed in 1971 as a folk trio — and more than 50 years later, a different version of the group, still with one original member and a couple of others who joined in the mid-1970s, soldiers on as a veteran jam band that blends elements of rock, country, reggae, soul and jazz.

If you want some loud sounds to close the curtain on 2022, consider a trip to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield tonight, beginning at 9 p.m., for what’s billed as “Hardcore for the Holidays” with shows by Bag Lady, Always Manic and Power Trousers. And on New Year’s Eve, the vibe continues, starting at 7:30 p.m., with rockers Jimmy Just Quit, AfterGlo and the B-52.0’s.

In Easthampton, the Marigold Theater features the FAT Holiday Show on Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m., a concert that brings together members of the seminal Valley rock band from the 1970s and some special guests. Just down the street, you can visit Luthier’s Co-op on New Year’s Eve for three acts beginning at 7 p.m., including folksinger Helen Hummel and the acoustic duo Two Day Jeans.

The evening, though, will be closed out by roots rockers The Colony Motel, who just released a new album in October, “Anywhere, Montana,” that’s built around the songs of guitarist and lead vocalist Brian Brown.

Not happening on New Year’s Eve: Miles Okazaki's Trickster, the ensemble of Miles Okazaki (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano), Anthony Tidd (bass), and Sean Rickman (drums) plays Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Music School of Springfield as part of the Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares series.

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