Last night (Saturday) my little guy and me and my daughter and one of my oldest best friends, along with my daughter-in-law and grandson and a friend of his named "Zephyr" (I love the Berkshires) drove up from Great Barrington, Mass (after I drove up from Jersey) to Pittsfield and the Colonial Theater there (a great old style 19th Century or early 20th style theater, meaning all seats are great except for the third balcony (highest) which over a half century ago or so was reserved for "Negroes" and seemed deliberately designed (the theater has been restored to its original glory but with updated sound system etc.) to be uncomfortable (straight back wooden seats, etc.)—the theaters then being higher than deep so that the balcony seats (even up to the third tier despite the uncomfortable seats) seem intimately close to the action on stage and the orchestra seats are all raked so anyone on the ground floor can see the stage etc. (there were box seats up on the sides too, though those weren't being used).
The place was packed with an enthusiastic crowd willing to pay twenty-five dollars to see some of the top guitarists in the Berkshires. The county-wide newspaper—The Berkshire Eagle—had polled readers to see who they thought was the greatest guitar player in the Berkshires and four of those who came in the top five or six (James Taylor couldn't make it!), came with their bands to demonstrate their skills last night.
I could tell you more about who was on stage but somebody messed up and there was no program! But the first band I know, because my oldest son plays bass in it. The guitar player is Don McGrory (and the band is known as Don McGrory and the Delta Soul Trio, Miles Lally on bass and "Jonesy" on drums). They started the show and had everyone moving in their seats after the first few notes. They are so tight, and so good, they could appear in any venue with the best musicians out there and hold their own.
The crowd loved them, cheered every song and every guitar solo, and some yelled for more (including me) when they finished their four song set. And I have to say, my son Miles not only kept the groove but added to the performance level with his moving to it and his skinny brim hat and soul patch, etc.)
They were followed by a Berkshires favorite with the kids, David Grover, only this time playing for adults. He started his set playing a miced (miked?) acoustic guitar, showing off his Merle Travis two fingered picking style with virtuoso displays that culminated in his playing a solo guitar arrangement of one of John Phillip Sousa's most famous marches (the one we used to sing the made up lyrics "be kind to your web footed friends, for a duck may be some-body's moth-er" to) sounding like a marching band with only a guitar! with beautiful invented flourishes that obviously impressed the audience whether it's their kind of music or not.
He ended his set by calling out a drummer (mostly playing mostly by hand a percussion stand-up set up that included a snare, a conga, a small set of bongos, a cowbell, a cymbal, etc.) and a bass player to do a couple of songs that culminated in the classic Crosby Stills and Nash masterpiece suite "Judy Blue Eyes" ("doodoodoodoodoo-doot-doot-doodoodoodoo")
and had everyone in the theater on their feet screaming with excited gratitude as they left the stage.
My friend, who had heard Crosby, Stills and Nash sing it not that long ago said Grover and these two guys (who unfortunately I cannot name because of the program screw up) nailed it better than CS&N did when she heard them (my older boy told me later that backstage the music writer who organized the poll and the event was saying the exact same thing, that he too not long ago had heard CS&N attempt this most musically complicated song in the history of rock, or certainly one of them, and they hadn't done it anywhere near as good as these guys did (all middle-aged men themselves).
After intermission, a local hero and his jam band took the stage, I think his name was "Thorn" or "Thor" or "Tore" (again the nonexistent program) [I looked it up and he's Tor Krautter] amid shouts of "Tor for president!" and cheers from one section of the audience. This was the only group with a roadie and a tour bus, so obviously they work a lot. They had the jam band de rigour look of just having gotten out of bed and not sure they were interested in noticing anyone watching as they played their separate instruments in what initially seemed like a bubble.
On their first song, "How Sweet it is to be Loved by You"—an interesting choice for a jam band I thought—the guitarist just picked and the instrumental solo and riffs were taken by the organ player (or electric keyboard with the organ button pushed, I couldn't tell from my vantage point). The guitarist was also using a music stand to read either lyrics to the songs they played or the music or both, which seemed equally strange for a jam band. But by their last song, it was finally demonstrate what he was doing on this stage with these other guitar virtuosos as he played some riffs and complicated flourishes that were impressive and the bass player, who looked so grim (from concentrating?) that he seemed almost "depressed" as my friend Karen said, playing on only three strings (the bottom one having come loose and drooping down) equally impressed (at least me) with some solid work.
Then came the last band led by the winner of the poll, whose first name I think was David, but whose last name I haven't forgotten because it's so unusual—"Ide"—[again, I looked it up and it's actually Steve Ide]—a modest man who made the audience comfortable immediately saying they'd never played in this kind of venue before, that they were used to clubs where people dance to their music so please feel free to get up in the aisles, and then he and (another modest and generous gesture from the winner, he had another guitar player in the band, a giant of a man, with long brown locks and beard—I was later told by my daughter that he teaches either pre-school or kindergarten!—whose first name is all I remember—"Bob"—who deserved to have been close to the top of this poll himself, and may be next year after his work last night) his band started and once again, as with the trio my son plays bass in, you couldn't help but move to the groove and I felt a tap on my arm and turned to see my youngest, Flynn, dancing in the aisle beside me, gesturing for me to join him, but not wanting to block anyone's view I hesitated and the women behind me jumped out of her seat and started getting down with Flynn and then I got up and my friend Karen and my daughter Caitlin and my grandson Donovan and his little friend Zephyr and eventually my daughter-in-law Jennifer and we pretty much stayed in the aisle dancing until the night was over.
The highlight of which was a finale with all the guitarists joining Ide's band on stage and playing several songs with each one taking solos and each one starting each song (and I assume picking them) and man was it glorious! Again, I can't help but marvel at the amazing amount of talented people in the world now. Maybe there always was but the population was so much smaller you could know who most of them were, but now, you can turn around anywhere it seems and be knocked out by as-good-as-it-gets talent in almost every art, especially music.
We left Pittsfield elated and exhausted. Another great musical experience in the Berkshires. I bet there's just as amazing musical creation going on in your neck of the woods. All you have to do is just turn around and dig it.