The weekend highlights in our region include music festivals; multimedia performances; literary readings; folk music; theater; and a whole lot more.
Two big music festivals bookend our region this weekend. For those who favor acoustic roots music, there’s the annual FreshGrass Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass., running today through Sunday. And for those whose tastes tend toward the avant-garde and the literary, there’s the annual Basilica Soundscape at Basilica Hudson in Hudson, N.Y., also today through Sunday. Both festivals offer attendees with a well-curated, alternative mix of creative artists working at the top of their field, and both encourage the sort of artist-to-artist and artist-to-audience interaction that you don’t normally get at more commercially minded festivals.
FreshGrass at MASS MoCA offers another insane lineup of superstars of Americana, bluegrass, and progressive roots music, this year featuring Brandi Carlile, Railroad Earth, the Del McCoury Band with special guest David Grisman, Del & Dawg, the Wood Brothers, Bill Frisell, Alison Brown, Carrie Rodriguez, Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings, and dozens of others over the course of the three-day event held on four stages and in every nook and cranny of MASS MoCA sprawling 16-acre campus.
The sixth annual Basilica SoundScape features three days and nights of music, readings, and art, with featured guests including performance artist Zola Jesus, Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi, punk-journalist Vivian Goldman, and author Eileen Myles, at Basilica Hudson, today through Sunday. Other performers include Bing & Ruth, Blanck Mass , John Maus, Moor Mother, Priests, Protomartyr, serpentwithfeet, Thou, Yellow Eyes, Yves Tumor, and Yvette. You may not have heard of many of them – or of any of them – but that’s the point – you surrender yourself to the selections of the festival’s curators and introduce yourselves to some of today’s most creative artists in music, literature, and the visual arts to whom you otherwise may not ever be exposed.
But festivals aren’t the only things going on this weekend. If you like your culture a little more contained and compact, there’s plenty for you to do.
Due to rave reviews and box office success, Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass, has brought back “Kunstler,” the Jeffrey Sweet-penned play about the iconic radical lawyer, to the St. Germain Stage for 12 performances running now through Sept 24. Jeff McCarthy returns in the title role of William Kunstler, in a play that was one of this past summer’s greatest hits.
Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, one of the best-known roots music duos of our time and longtime favorites of WAMC audiences, bring their blend of Appalachian, Cajun, Celtic, country, swing, and waltzes to the Music & More series at the Historic Meeting House in New Marlborough, Mass., on Saturday at 4:30pm. Between the two of them, Jay and Molly pack the punch of a three-day roots-music festival into the concise format of a single concert.
At Hudson Hall, contemporary string quartet ETHEL previews “Circus – Wandering City,” a multimedia work inspired by the American circus and its people, in three performances over the course of the weekend. The work combines stunning film and imagery from the Ringling Museum’s vast archive with original music composed and performed live by ETHEL. I saw an early workshop version of this program, and it is truly spectacular.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of Berkishire Daily and the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com
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