A Rock Show at an art gallery: The Whitney Center
Pittsfield — My band, Polysonic Joy, is playing in Pittsfield tonight, November 22, at the Whitney Center for the Arts on Wendell Avenue, and I’m excited, even though informal surveys get the same results, every time: the Pittsfield music scene stinks.
Even though Andy Poncherello, whose Pittsfield record store folded four years ago, quit booking bands. This means no more CJ Ramone, no more Greg Ginn, no more Toasters, and no more other bands you’ve probably never heard of.
More bad news: Pittsfield’s only nightclub, Chameleon’s, shut down this past spring. Sure, they didn’t pay bands – I can attest to that first hand – but they were the only venue in town.
Daniel Seward, who fronts the long-running noise band Bunny Brains, told me he would “never play Pittsfield. It’s dead up there.”
It’s not hard to be a band in Pittsfield, but it’s hard to play in Pittsfield. Albany and Northampton are both an hour away; Boston and New York are just over two hours; there are plenty of other great cities within reach. With all these options, it’s hard to justify playing in Pittsfield, for free, to nobody except a few stalwart supporters. As Scott Marks of Leap the Dips wrote in a song last spring, “there is no scene.”
People want a great music venue; even if the band is bad, they can still enjoy themselves. Some of the best shows we’ve played were at the Gypsy Joynt in Great Barrington – with an enjoyable atmosphere and food, a great band is a plus.
This is why the loss of Chameleon’s doesn’t faze me. It was dark, dingy, and sparse; we wouldn’t play there again if it was still open. Their DJ dance parties were popular, but the crowd wasn’t interested in live bands.
So why am I optimistic about playing in Pittsfield this weekend?
Our concert will mark the first rock show at a new venue in Pittsfield, The Whitney Center for the Arts. It has hosted successful opera, drama, and music; the walls are lined with art, drinks and food are served, the staff is friendly. In other words, this is a place people enjoy going to.
This will be a landmark show for the band, too. We’re premiering three music videos along with a multimedia presentation, which will feature cameos by friends and local celebrities like Great Barrington’s “poet laureate,” Michael Houlihan.
The city has seen somewhat of a revival in local music, with the Pitts House Concert Series spearheading the movement (more on that series soon). I’m excited because I think the stars are starting to align.
The show will be on Saturday, November 22, at 8 p.m. at the Whitney Center for the Arts, on 42 Wendell Avenue in Pittsfield. There will be a $5 cover; food and drinks will be available.
For a preview, here’s a video of Polysonic Joy: