The Valley Music Showcase competition will be filmed outdoors but screened online
The Valley Music Showcase, the popular “Battle of the Bands” competition that began five years ago, is set to open a new season.
But for now, shows will remain live – with the possibility that if terms and conditions improve significantly, some shows later this year could be offered in person.
This month five bands, playing a range of music from pop rock to reggae and funk, will be filmed in concert at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. The sets, lasting about 30 minutes, will then be broadcast for free on Facebook, YouTube and a few other sites on Friday, May 28. As in previous VMS shows, a panel of judges will then select a winning group that will receive various prizes, including gift certificates from businesses in the region.
Last spring, Mark Sherry, founder and producer of the Valley Music Showcase, found himself in the same position as other music promoters when all live music events, inside and out, were canceled due to the pandemic and without really knowing when they might resume.
A show was finally screened online in early October after the artists filmed live at Glendale Ridge.
In a recent phone call, Sherry said he plans to use the same model this year, unless there is convincing evidence that it would be quite safe to stage something. indoors, maybe in the fall.
“It’s sort of a moving target,” he said, referring to the questions that remain about reopening indoor venues for music, from public trust to the progression of vaccinations to how quickly state and community health departments could lift all restrictions on indoor gatherings. .
“And at the end of the day, when you run events like this on a tight budget like us, with the help of volunteers, you don’t have a lot of flexibility to change gears that quickly,” he said. he declares. “We want this event to be safe for everyone involved, and the pandemic has introduced real complexity [for indoor shows] it’s difficult for us to manage.
Sherry launched the Valley Music Showcase to provide a forum for bands and musicians from an area defined roughly as the Connecticut River Valley, from southern Vermont to central Connecticut, as well as central Massachusetts. Until the pandemic hit, most of the shows took place at New City Brewery in Easthampton; a rotating panel of judges, including local politicians, media figures and other musicians, would select a winning artist or group from each show.
“We are really doing this to help promote the bands, to promote the area as a source of great music and to generate as much fun as possible for the audience,” Sherry said.
Last October’s online show performed quite well, he said. “I think everyone from the audience to the bands was just happy to have the opportunity to hear and make music,” he said – so he’s convinced the setup can be duplicated. for the May 28 show and for two other Showcase shows. this year, in July and September.
An artist on tap for May 28 has already made waves. Gracie Day and The Phantom Limbs, a pop-country group from Southbridge, is led by Day, who was voted Best New Artist at the New England Music Awards in 2017 and a ‘person to watch’ by Pulse magazine in Worcester in 2020. (She also graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.)
The lineup is completed by No Lens, a reggae-rock group from Greenfield; Johnny Cab, a psycho-punk rock band from Hartford, Connecticut .; Driving Wheel, a seven-member funk and soul band from western Massachusetts; and GoldFlame, a quartet from Belchertown that offers pop-punk and alternative rock.
Sherry said all groups will be filmed one at a time on separate, small stages arranged in a semicircle at Glendale Ridge Vineyard, and filming will be carried out by Holyoke Media. Sherry will be the MC, introducing each group in turn.
He modeled these shows a bit after ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, a long-running British music television series that features different artists and bands performing in front of a studio audience, with Holland introducing the bands and interviewing selected members from among them. .
“I want to be able to make it look like you’re watching a show live, not just something that’s being shown from different places,” he said.
The judges, who will include Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, will also be filming the May 28 show and will make their decision after all groups have performed. Interviews with the groups will take place after the awards ceremony.
Sherry says he approached a number of bands to perform on May 28; some hesitated for now because the pandemic had kept them from repeating for long periods of time. But the bands that will perform “seem to be practicing again and feeling confident about playing,” he said.
To learn more about the show, go to facebook.com/ValleyMusicShowcase, or visit newmusicalliance.org and click on “Programs”.
Steve Pfarrer can be reached at [email protected]