LIVE: Glenn Kotche @ MASS MoCA’s Bang On a Can Summer Music Festival, 8/1/14

August 13th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg
Glenn Kotche

Glenn Kotche

Review and photograph by Joel Reed

In addition to his thirteen years as Wilco’s drummer, Glenn Kotche has composed music for Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, eighth blackbird and other groups, and so joins the National’s Bryce Dessner and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood in the small group of composer-musicians with solid credibility in both rock and new music worlds. He’s a natural then for the summer Bang on a Can residency at MASS MoCA in North Adams. In the days before his solo performance on Friday, August 1 he had been teaching the fellows of the summer institute, and three of his compositions were on the program for the festival’s concluding marathon concert on Saturday, August 2.

The last time I saw Kotche perform solo was at one of the Solid Sound festivals, where he played to a standing crowd in MASS MoCA’s 1000-people capacity Hunter Center, and before that, at the Morgan Library’s formal theater. It was a treat then to sit at a cafe table among the 200 people on the deck behind the museum, and Kotche, nodding to friends and students in the audience during his set, seemed to enjoy the setting as well.

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LIVE: Bang On a Can Music Festival @ MASS MoCA, 7/26/14

July 30th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg

Bang on a Can

Review and photographs by Joel Reed

Long before MASS MoCA began hosting Wilco’s Solid Sound and the FreshGrass music festivals, the sprawling North Adams museum and performance space offered the Berkshires and the Capital Region unmatched opportunities for extended exposure to alternative music. In 2002, the NYC-based new music ensemble Bang On a Can began taking up an annual summer residency there with two weeks of concerts and recitals coupled with instruction for a small group of “fellows” eager to study extended technique and composition from the All Stars who launched a genre.

Though Bang On a Can’s founding composers and musicians are classically trained and mostly work with traditional instrumentation, their work refers more to late twentieth-century experimental or avant garde composition and rock than it does the orchestral and chamber music of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. As with all art, theirs is based in a set of conventions that become more familiar and accessible over time, but its relevance is less in doubt, and so their annual presence at MASS MoCA fills a unique niche in our region for those who are looking for world-class live music but aren’t turned on by SPAC’s classical season or rock reunion acts.

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LIVE: The Gaslight Anthem / White Denim @ Upstate Concert Hall, 6/19/14

July 14th, 2014, 2:00 pm by Greg
Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem

Review by Joel Reed
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

All this time I’ve been trying to figure out how White Denim and the Gaslight Anthem ended up on Upstate Concert Hall’s stage on the same night. Sure, they’re both hard-rocking bands with growing followings (with the Gaslight Anthem’s growing larger, faster), but you could say that about lots of bands. I just typed in the right combination of words to find my answer: they have the same booking agent. No doubt he was filling holes in schedules, perhaps hoping to turn followers of one into new fans of the other.

That might be hard to pull off though, as the band’s differences far outshined their common business arrangements. In the evening’s opening set White Denim challenged the audience to keep up with their fast playing, dense lyrics and rapid time-signature shifts, while they demonstrated a broad sweep of influences from southern rock to prog, the Grateful Dead to Led Zeppelin, with some quirky regional underground and punk thrown in.

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LIVE: Many Arms / Century Plants @ the Spotty Dog, 6/10/14

June 20th, 2014, 2:00 pm by Greg
Century Plants

Century Plants

Review and photograph by Joel Reed

Just before Many Arms crashed into “Surface of Last Standing,” the first song of their set at the Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, someone who’d been enjoying the evening too much had a request: “Play Jimi! I love Jimi Hendrix! I know you can do it – ‘The Wind Cried Mary!'”

He was right – of course they could. Nick Millevoi (guitar), Johnny DeBlase (bass) and Ricardo Lagomasino (drums) have the chops to play anything, but in their own way. Saxophonist Colin Fisher, joining the group for this tour and on Suspended Definition, Many Arms’ latest release from John Zorn’s Tzadik label, responded that they’ll play all of Hendrix mashed-up, condensed and backwards.

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