The Beat Goes On: The Valley Music Showcase removes, J Mascis goes to the movies and the DJ turntable, and more

  • Indie-folk duo High Tea is part of the Valley Music Showcase on May 28, which is returning for the first time in person since December 2019. CONTRIBUTED/New Music Showcase

  • Love Crumbs bring their mix of folk and Americana to the Valley Music Showcase May 28, at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton.  Image courtesy New Music Showcase

  • Connecticut pop rockers Hawkins play the Valley Music Showcase May 28. Image courtesy New Music Showcase

  • You can watch vintage footage of seminal alternative rockers Dinosaur Jr. in the new documentary “Freakscene” at Amherst Cinema on May 29, then listen to J Mascis play DJ at the nearby Drake right afterward. Gazette file photo

  • Valley singer-songwriter Seth Glier brings his piano- and guitar-based tunes to Race Street Live May 27. Gazette file photo

  • Boston-based Barnstar! will bring high-energy bluegrass to Black Birch Vineyard in Hatfield on May 29. Barnstar! website

  • Folk troubador Charlie Diamond, whose day job is being a firefighter in Hartford, Connecticut, plays New City Brewery in Easthampton on May 29.  New City Brewery website

  • The Head and the Heart bring the songs from their just-released new album, “Every Shade of Blue,” to the Pines Theater in Look Park June 1. Image from Wikipedia/Vince Aung

  • Soirée, a new Valley dance band that plays Motown, pop, rock, swing and more, plays The Blue Room in Easthampton June 4.  Image courtesy 

Staff Writer
Monday, May 30, 2022

Started several years ago, the Valley Music Showcase has served as a regular forum to introduce new bands and musicians to the area, drawing on performers from a region roughly defined as the Connecticut River Valley from southern Vermont to central Connecticut, as well as central Massachusetts.

Until the pandemic hit, about five annual shows featuring several acts were staged (mostly) at New City Brewery in Easthampton, with a rotating panel of judges selecting a winner each time. Those “Battle of the Bands” winners would then face off in a year-end concert, with the ultimate champion and the runner-ups receiving prizes such as free recording time in a local studio.

Mark Sherry, founder and producer of the Showcase, says the pandemic threw a wrench into the event, limiting the past couple of years to a few online shows. But now it’s set to return, and in person, on Saturday, May 28, when five groups will perform from 3 to 7 p.m. at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton.

Sherry says it’s great to be back live, and he’s pulled together his usual eclectic mix of bands playing folk, rock, pop and various sounds in between. One is High Tea, an indie folk duo that splits time between Greenfield and Boston, has released an album and an EP, and gotten notice from the Boston Globe, which praised the duo for “deftly weaving plot lines, narrative, and dialogue into their music.”

High Tea consists of vocalist/percussionist Isaac Elliot and guitarist/vocalist Isabella DeHerdt; the latter name is likely familiar to local music followers, as DeHerdt was one of the three members of the Valley pop/rock band Kalliope Jones, which formed about a decade ago when she and her two bandmates, Amelia Chalfant and Alouette Batteau, were still in middle school.

Love Crumbs, another western Mass. group specializing in folk and Americana, has won acclaim for its first two singles, “Cavalcades” and “Ellipses,” especially the work of lead vocalist Alison McTavish. They’ll be joined at the Showcase by Hawkins, a rock/pop band from Connecticut; Sadish Radish, a Northampton band that plays “funky rock acoustic fashion”; and some Hadley rockers with a great name: Stoner Will & the Narks.

There’s no fee to attend, but a $10-12 donation is strongly encouraged.


On Sunday, May 29, you’ll have an opportunity to see and hear from a local music hero, one who’s long since won his place in the alternative rock/grunge pantheon but is still pretty taciturn about it all: J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.

At 7 p.m., Amherst Cinema will show “Freakscene,” a documentary about the band that’s about to be released and has picked up good reviews so far for its look at the prickly relationship between guitarist/lead vocalist Mascis, a lifetime Amherst resident; bassist Lou Barlow; and drummer Murph. There’s also quite a bit of concert footage from the band’s formative years in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The film’s director, Philipp Reichenheim, Mascis’ brother-in-law, and Mascis himself will take part in a Q&A with audience members after the screening. Then anyone with a ticket is invited to head over to the nearby Drake, where beginning at 9 p.m., Mascis and his wife, Luisa Reichenheim, and Philipp Reichenheim will DJ a dance party with an “all-vinyl” set of “grunge classics” as well as some surprise choices (there’s a $15 fee to attend if you didn’t see the documentary).

Early reviews of “Freakscene” have noted that the famously laconic Mascis, now 56, isn’t a whole lot more talkative or animated in the documentary, despite it being created by his brother-in-law. “I don’t know where people got this idea that it’s supposed to be fun or something to play music,” he says at one point. “It never occurred to us that it’s supposed to be fun.”

Barlow and Murph left the band in 1989 and 1993, respectively, because of disagreements with Mascis but reunited with him in 2005; interviews with the band members testify to the tensions between the three as young dudes even as Dinosaur Jr. was winning legions of fans and touring worldwide. A still photo from the early days shows the three seated far apart in a room, all looking miserable.

“It was certainly more like family than friends,” Mascis admits.

What really carries “Freakscene,” critics say, are interviews with a host of other musicians and fans of the band: Bob Mould, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Frank Black, Henry Rollins and others. Rollins, for one, speaks to what Mascis, Barlow and Murph seem to have achieved as middle-age men: “I don’t know if they’ll be best buddies for life, but when they hit the stage, they have a great thing. I think they’ve found a respect for that now.”

More music on tap

Valley singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist Seth Glier, whose most recent album, “The Coronation,” examines themes of growth, separation and hope for a better world, plays Race Street Live in Holyoke on May 27 at 8 p.m. Americana singer and guitarist Alex Rohan of Springfield opens the show.

Bach at New Year’s Live! is a collaboration between the Berkshire Bach Society and New England Public Media featuring the Berkshire Bach Ensemble performing the six “Brandenburg” Concerti by J.S. Bach. The March 29 show, at Northampton’s Academy of Music at 3 p.m., is led by Bach Society Music Director and soloist Eugene Drucker, a multiple Grammy award-winner.

The concert was originally scheduled to take place Jan. 2 but was postponed due to COVID.

High-energy bluegrass band Barnstar! plays at the Black Birch Vineyard in Hatfield May 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Also on the 29th, from 4 to 6 p.m., folk troubadour Charlie Diamond will play at New City Brewery in Easthampton, while on June 4 from 4 to 6 p.m., the brewery will host the New City Bluegrass Sessions, an ensemble of Valley pickers on guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and bass.

The indie folk-rock band The Head and the Heart, which just released a new album, “Every Shade of Blue,” and whose music has been part of numerous TV shows such as “New Girl,” comes to the Pines Theater at Look Park on June 1 at 6:30 p.m. English folk-pop singer Jade Bird opens.

The Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence has rolled out a lot of diverse programming since opening last fall. The newest venture is the Bombyx Brass Collective, which hits the stage June 1 at 7 p.m. The 30 brass players and percussionists who make up the ensemble — college music majors, active and retired music teachers, professional and talented amateur musicians — play a mix of classical, jazz and pop.

Veteran singer/songwriter Jonathan Edwards plays Northampton’s Calvin Theatre on June 4 at 7 p.m.

Soirée, a new nine-member Valley dance band that plays pop, rock, Motown, swing and Latin, comes to The Blue Room in Easthampton on June 4 at 8 p.m. Free show!

The Young@Heart Chorus, forced to postpone an April 30 show at the Academy of Music because of some COVID exposures in the group, will give it another try June 9 at the Academy at 7:30 p.m.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.