Saturday, September 5, 2009


Helsinki was one of my favorite places in the Berkshires. It consisted of an L shaped restaurant with mismatched chairs and tables and other boho touches that made it feel homey and my kind of place.

And in an entirely other area, another L shaped space, bigger than the restaurant, this one being the club. I heard a lot of great music there, did some dancing to it too. Sometimes I brought my little guy and his nephew and they let us (much like CBGB's).

Most of the music was great jazz, but they featured all kinds of sounds, like my friend the songwriter and great guitar player and singer Peter Case a few years ago unfortunately on a weekend I wasn't in Great Barrington where the club was located.

One time when I was digging some young jazz musicians I hadn't heard before and started shouting my approval, before I got my shouts out somebody beat me to the punch. My experience is that in recent decades audiences don't voice their opinions as much or as loudly as they used to, so I like to uphold the tradition. Something I appreciated when I was playing in clubs.

The bandstand at the Helsinki is situated at the elbow of the L shape and I was sitting with my kids and others on one end of the L and the shouting was coming from the other end. So I stood up to see if I could see who was my compatriot of enthusiasm. I spotted another old guy with glasses, and then realized it was poet and friend (and gallery owner) Geoff Young, another jazz aficionado (read his poems and you'll find some of the smartest and most original takes on various jazz music experiences ever written).

Like CBGB's and many other clubs around the country that I've encountered in my lifetime, and even performed in some of them (read my poetry at CBGB's and other legendary clubs, as well as many years before played music in some), it's sad to see them go. (I think Helsinki is actually relocating to the more populous Hudson, New York, where I hear it has a larger space so they can get bigger crowds and afford to pay the musicians etc. (the original club in Great Barrington was often sold out if you tried to just drop by to dig the sounds any given night, especially on weekends).)

But the good news, or some good news in the demise of the GB club, is that my older son, Miles, was asked to back a local and popular singer/songwriter (Miles plays bass mostly) for the last show [one of] of the last day [actually weekend, see comments] of the club's existence. Miles has played with a lot of different groups over the years in a lot of legendary clubs himself (CBGB's included). But to play the last notes heard in such a classic music club is pretty cool. Wish I had been there.


Miles said...


I was the last act on the last night that featured local music, they had a national act the next night. It will be missed.

Lally said...

Thanks for correcting me son. I added some bracketed words to reflect that. Either way, I'm glad you were a part of its farewell weekend and still wish I had been there.