The cultural highlights in our region this weekend include roots music, blues, cutting-edge rock, contemporary classical, and a whole lot more.
While still based upon a foundation of American roots music, this year’s three-day FreshGrass Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams – taking place today through Sunday – broadens its musical scope to embrace Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi’s fusion of traditional sounds and electronic beats; the politically infused Celtic punk-rock of Flogging Molly; and superstar folk duo Indigo Girls, alongside more traditional Americana fare including Bela Fleck, Trampled by Turtles, Ricky Skaggs, Yonder Mountain String Band, Rhiannon Giddens, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Alison Brown.
On Sunday night at 7, folk-blues singer and storyteller Guy Davis will pay tribute to his foremost influence, Sonny Terry, at the Egremont Barn in South Egremont, Mass. Sonny Terry basically codified blues harmonica as we know it, and on Guys’ new album, Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train – A Look Back at Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, he pays homage to these two hugely influential artists. As much of an actor, storyteller, writer, and activist as he is a musician, Guy Davis has never made a big deal of the fact that he is to the manner born as the son of the late great theater couple, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, who were themselves multifaceted, multitalented performers and civil rights activists.
The WAM Theatre Fresh Takes Play Reading Series concludes its 2018 season with “Escaped Alone” by Caryl Churchill, at the Old Town Hall in West Stockbridge, Mass., on Sunday at 3:30 pm. This is the first time the play, which premiered two years ago at London’s Royal Court Theatre, will be presented to Berkshire audiences. In “Escaped Alone,” the latest work by one of Britain’s greatest living playwrights, three old friends and a neighbor spend a series of summer afternoons in the backyard chatting over tea, while visions of apocalyptic horror play out inside their minds. Don’t I know that feeling.
Basilica Soundscape, the annual Hudson, N.Y.-based weekend of underground music and art, takes place today through Sunday, and features a diverse array of musical performers, visual artists, writers, poets, and other creative types. It’s the kind of curated event where few if any of the names will be familiar to most, but all boast unique, distinctive voices and approaches. The festival also takes distinct advantage of its setting at Basilica Hudson. Participating artists include pianist Grouper; Bard College's 76-piece Orchestra Now performing a new work by Stephen O'Malley; a one-time collaboration between The Haxan Cloak and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner; a site-specific dance project by FlucT; an old-school Prurient noise set; and a soundbath by Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori. Also featured are cellist Zeelie Brown, African soul singer/songwriter Lady Moon; poet Joey De Jesus; and Bibbe Hansen, a veteran of Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory and the mother of indie-rock star Beck.
Violinist Tim Fain, who can be heard on the soundtracks to Academy Award-winning films including Moonlight, Black Swan, and 12 Years a Slave, returns to Hudson Hall on Saturday at 7pm to perform works by Philip Glass, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, Lev Zhurbin, and some guy named J.S. Bach.
The Bard College Conservatory of Music celebrates Joan Tower’s 80th birthday with a concert featuring world premieres of Towers’ recent compositions including Small Plus, performed by Sō Percussion; Looking Back, performed by the Da Capo Chamber Players; and Thank You, with Dawn Upshaw conducting members of the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program, on Sunday at 3pm at the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com