The cultural highlights in our region this weekend include an all-day museum celebration, a folk-rock jam band; a quirky alternative rock band; a vintage rockabilly band; and a whole lot more.
The big story of the weekend is undoubtedly up in North Adams, Mass., where MASS MoCA launches its summer season with a full-metal reboot of the cultural laboratory on Sunday, May 28, with the opening of Building 6, the third phase of campus development that encompasses 130,000 square feet of interior renovations to the museum’s 19th-century mill buildings. The day’s events include unveiling of works by Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson, and Gunnar Schonbeck, among others. Also on tap are Nick Cave’s Soundsuit Parade; a marching band; live DJ music; welcoming remarks; and the whole day culminates with a nighttime concert under the stars at Joe’s Field by indie-rock band Cake. For a quarter-century the California-based, quirky alternative-rockers have been entertaining fans with its horn-fueled, deadpan, eclectic style that draws equally from 1960s garage rock, mariachi music, hip-hop, country, jazz, funk, and world music.
In a taste of what’s to come next weekend, the Berkshire International Film Festival, or the BIFF, will screen “The Happy Film,” a feature-length documentary about a designer who turns himself into an art project, at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, Mass., tonight at 6:30pm. The festival itself takes place at venues in Great Barrington and Pittsfield from June 1 through June 4. “The Happy Film” is a feature-length documentary in which graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister undergoes a series of self-experiments outlined by popular psychology to test once and for all if it’s possible for a person to have a meaningful impact on his own happiness.
Folk-rock jam band Rusted Root kicks off the summer season at the Mahaiwe with a Memorial Day concert on Monday at 7pm. The Pittsburgh-based group is known for its sincere, spiritual fusion of acoustic, rock, world, and other styles of music, with a strong percussion section that draws from African, Latin American, and Native American influences.
Over in Hudson, N.Y., a free staged reading of “A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower Eastside to the Jewish Daily Forward,” takes place at Hudson Hall on Sunday at 3pm. The event will feature live musical accompaniment and a diverse cast of actors who will bring to life the history, the humor, and the struggle of the Jewish immigrant experience. The Bintel Brief, an advice column directed at new immigrants in the early 20th century in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts, became such a great cultural touchstone that is has been the subject of books, essays, a graphic novel, a Yiddish play, and now this staged reading. It is widely believed that the Bintel Brief was the direct forerunner of mainstream American newspaper advice columns including “Dear Abby” and “Ask Ann Landers.” The “Abigail Van Buren” and “Ann Landers” behind those two columns were actually twin sisters Pauline Esther Friedman and Esther Pauline Friedman, American-born daughters of Yiddish-speaking Russian-Jewish immigrants.
And finally, winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Rockabilly Female and named the “Best Up-and-Coming Band” by Hudson Valley Magazine, Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones turn back the clock 60 years to the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll – the days of Bill Haley and “Rock Around the Clock” - with a joyful immediacy that makes them seem like only yesterday, as they will do once again when they entertain the crowd at Club Helsinki Hudson tonight at 9pm, when they will be celebrating the release of their brand-new album, “Love You to Life.”
Seth Rogovoy is editor of Berkishire Daily and the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com