First, a quick look back at one of the highlights of the past week before looking ahead to the coming weekend: In my time, I’ve seen literally hundreds if not thousands – probably thousands – of concerts. And the truth is, beginning about 15 years ago, and especially in the past decade, the times are few and far between that I am really blown away by anything I see. You can chalk that up to my having seen so many of the all-time greats, or maybe just because I’m almost all concert-ed out. Whatever it is, the fact is I rarely see something or someone new who makes my jaw drop, makes me say WOW, or makes me excited enough to think that I may have discovered someone on the way up who is going to make it, big time.
While I don’t know if Simi Stone is ever going to make it big-time – the rules of the music business have changed, after all, and pure talent doesn’t count nearly for as much as it did once upon a time – I haven’t been as excited about anyone as I am about Simi Stone in a long, long time. She’s a singer, songwriter, and incredibly talented musician from Woodstock, and she put on a show at Club Helsinki Hudson last Saturday night, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years. Performing all original material with her band of Woodstock-based rock n’ roll superstars, including Sara Lee, Gail Ann Dorsey, and Zack Alford, Simi made me think, aha, this must be what it felt like to see Diana Ross performing in 1962. She was that good. And her music, while totally original and contemporary, does harken back to that great old Motown and Memphis soul sound of the 1960s.
More than anything, however, Simi Stone is a tremendous entertainer – she gives her all and then some, and her profound enthusiasm is infectious. You could see it in the faces of her bandmates -- who have seen it all, having played with the likes of David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, the B-52s and Gang of Four, among others – but mostly you could feel it in the air in the intimate confines of Helsinki Hudson – where Simi’s enthusiasm was palpable and contagious. Count me as a huge new fan of Simi Stone, and I hope when she breaks big next year when her new album is released, she’ll still come back and play her smaller hometown venues.
Now, onto this weekend: While we’re still talking about Helsinki Hudson, another rising star of R&B appears there tonight, when vocalist Judith Hill, a former star of TV’s The Voice, one-time backup singer for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and star of the film, 20 Feet from Stardom, brings her unique, jazzy soul-pop to the Helsinki stage, front and center.
Up in North Adams on Saturday night, Sonic Youth cofounder Kim Gordon brings her newest musical project, Body/Head, to the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA at 8 p.m. Joining singer-guitarist Gordon in this experimental improvisational duo will be Northampton-based free-noise guitarist Bill Nace.
You know it’s the heart of the holiday season when Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol gets its eighth annual staging by Berkshire Theatre Group, at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. The timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, has fast become a Berkshire holiday tradition, mixing theater professionals with community members, including 28 Berkshire County children. The show runs through Sunday, December 29
Author Ruth Reichl and chef Zak Pelaccio will discuss trends in locavorism and farm-to-table in “Beyond Local: Taking Local Food to a New Level”, as part of the Conversations with Neighbors series at Spencertown Academy Arts Center on Saturday at 4p.m. A reception featuring tasty illustrations of the subject matter will follow the discussion.