Review and photographs by J Hunter
The little blonde girl was named Amelia, the same name as my virtual niece, although this one was two years old: She turned the cuteness meter up to 11, and liked to walk in circles around her close-to-thirty-something mom and aunts when she wasn’t running and jumping in joyful exuberance; her older sibling was, as her mom put it, “in the mosh pit.” The adults were in the Berkshires to celebrate the 70th birthday of their aunt, who was also at the show… though, presumably, not in the mosh pit. It was Solid Sound in Winter at the Hunter Center, with people from Amelia’s age to retirement age getting repeatedly knocked out by second-generation singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle.
The “mosh pit” in question was a vast open area MASS MoCA staff had left between two sets of seats, one on either side of the theatre. Presumably the arrangement was meant to resemble the “skanky-ass rock clubs” Richard Buckner referenced as he sat down to begin his opening solo-electric/acoustic set. (“I feel like an artist,” he laughed, gazing bemusedly at the Hunter Center’s skank-free environment.) But while the space was big enough and wide enough to get a good running start at your fellow concert-goer, Earle’s brand of straight-no-chaser alt-country wasn’t exactly conducive for that kind of kamikaze flying. About the only movement I saw beyond multiple head-bobbing was from couples swaying front-to-back – not because Earle’s brilliant lyrics were in any way romantic, but because the music itself drew you in without breaking a sweat.