Barbès in the Woods, Montague Massachusetts, August 17th, 2019

Barbès in the Woods was a day to remember — a music festival spotlighting music from Barbès, a low key bar in Brooklyn’s South Slope neighborhood that’s been an incubator for live, independent music for almost 20 years.The festival, held in late August on a historic farm in western Massachusetts, featured   Big Lazy, Stephane Wrembel, Antibalas, Combo Chimbita, Underground System, Alsarah and the Nubatones, Slavic Soul Party, Anbessa Orchestra, locally based Klezperanto, Berkshire Bateria and Bossa Triba performed.

Antibalas

Antibalas

Feature 1

Driving north on Rt 47, past farmland and tobacco fields along the east bank of the Connecticut River, the landscape gave the feeling of timeless stability as if Main Street entering Montague may look pretty much the same in 50 years. Quite a contrast to the energy of the Borough of Kings, endlessly remaking itself at a frenetic pace.

Big Lazy, (Andrew Hall, bass;   Y  uval Lion, drums; and Stephen Ulrich guitar) performing on the Grove stage at Barbès in the Woods

Big Lazy, (Andrew Hall, bass; Yuval Lion, drums; and Stephen Ulrich guitar) performing on the Grove stage at Barbès in the Woods

Similarly the spectrum of music heard cast new light on time honed traditions and showcased voices shaping contemporary urban sounds. The idea began with Edo Mor of the Easthampton Massachusetts based Laudable Productions. He pitched the idea to Barbès co-founder/owner Olivier Conan as a way to bring together the many facets of Barbès music by presenting a number of the artists in a single day.

There were two stages, one a wooded grove where a soft incline created an intimate amphitheater. It was an ideal setting for two Barbès favorites, Big Lazy and Stephane Wrembel, both of whom have long running gigs at the club. Larger bands played the main stage.

Big Lazy guitarist Stephen Ulrich

Big Lazy guitarist Stephen Ulrich

Big Lazy, an instrumental trio drawing the listener in with the familiar, americana or surf tinged guitar riffs. the tension in the songs built as songs veered off in unexpected directions at any moment. By juxtaposing western twang with suspenseful crashing chords, Big Lazy’s songs unfolded like campfire stories, and kept the audience hanging on every spooky reverb drenched note.

“One person who was a blueprint is Elmer Bernstein, who composed the Marlboro cigarette theme and film noir soundtracks” leader Stephen Ulrich told us. The stark landscape painted in the music won the band fans and led to Ulrich composing soundtrack for the HBO series Bored to Death and the art forgery documentary film Art and Craft. Big Lazy releases a new album Dear Trouble this fall, (concert dates below).

A question about the origin of the bands name led to a story with as many ups and downs, twists and turns as the music itself. Stephen and Big Lazy play Barbès the last Friday of every month, ask him how it came about if you are feeling lucky.

Big Lazy records The Beatles song Girl. From the album Dear Trouble (Fall 2019). With guest Steven Bernstein - trumpet.

Big Lazy releases its 5th album ‘Dear Trouble’ Checkered Past records this fall. NYC album release show) at The Old American Can Factory. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/brooklyn-lutherie-presents-big-lazy-album-release-show-tickets-66275376435

Regional tour dates:Oct 3 Cambridge MA - Lizard Lounge
Oct 5 Clinton, NJ - Edna Mahan Womens Correctional Facility!
Oct 5 Lancaster PA - Modern Art Gallery
Oct 10 Brooklyn NY - Lunatico
Oct 11 East Hampton MA - New City Brewery
Oct 12 New Haven CT - Lyric Hall TheatreOct 19 Gretsch Guitars presents...Big Lazy + The Rectors

Philadelphia PA at The Barbary

Oct 25 Brooklyn - Barbes
Nov 8 Brooklyn Lutherie presents...Big Lazy (NYC album release show)

at The Old American Can Factory Tix HERE
Nov 16 Jersey City - Fox and Crow



Fans cooling off in the Saw Mill River behind the Grove stage

Fans cooling off in the Saw Mill River behind the Grove stage

 Combo Chimbita’s sound has a clarity to it, likely from playing together in various configurations for over ten years. The musicians drawn to the creative energy of New York from Colombia combine their collective experience into a vivid expression. Songs reference Caribbean and Afro Colombian origins, the cumbias and street soundsystems of Cartegena.

Combo Chimbita vocalist Carolina Oliveros

Combo Chimbita vocalist Carolina Oliveros

Beginning with downtempo cumbia rhythms or a champeta like guitar line they build into swirling vortexes of sound, forming and reforming like clouds pieced by the otherworldly voice of Carolina Oliveros. Equal parts ethereally cathartic and solidly grounded, the songs can be heard on the recent release Ahomale on the Anti label. 

Lint to 2019 tour dates:  https://combochimbita.com/tour

Lint to 2019 tour dates: https://combochimbita.com/tour

Musician Camilo Martinez, says its the vocals of Oliveros, a Baranquilla native, that sets the music apart.  Martinez, of Bulla En el Barrio - another Barbes band - says “Carolina’s energy is amazing, the pitch of her voice is strong and constant while always keeping in mind the origins of the music”. Carolina met guitarist Camilo Rodriguez performing with Bulla en el Barrio, and that led them to form Combo Chimbita.

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Carolina Oliveros playing the guacharaca.

Carolina Oliveros playing the guacharaca.

Stephane Wrembel’s genius on the guitar is world renowned. When his busy touring schedule permits he can be found at Barbes on sunday nights at 9:30. Its an incredible experience sitting in the backroom watching the lightning quick interactions between the musicians from a few feet away. The grove stage offered a similar intimacy where the trio’s music paid tribute to the great Django Reinhardt.

 
Guitarist Stephane Wrembel

Guitarist Stephane Wrembel

His website bio says that after high school he immersed himself in the Roma culture of his native France. “When I first started going to the camps I learned that music is not only the notes,” he says. “There is an atmosphere to it. By going there I started learning the atmosphere of what it really means to play Sinti style guitar. In the camps you play all day long, nonstop. You don’t learn technical things. The culture doesn’t use names for things; they just practice melody. By playing and playing and playing you become entranced. The music just comes by itself.”

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Stephane Wrembel trio with Thor Jensen (guitar) and Ari Folman (bass) on the Grove stage, Barbès in the Woods, Montague Massachusetts

 
Alsarah and bassist Mawuena Kodjovi

Alsarah and bassist Mawuena Kodjovi

Alsarah and the Nubatones - Alsarah - vocals, Nahid - backing vocals, Brandon Terzic - oud, Rami ElAsser - percussion and Mawuena Kodjovi - Bass 

Alsarah introduced her music as East African Retro Pop, and most in the audience seemd familiar with the music of the Sudanese born singer. The Brooklyn based band grew out of conversations between Alsarah and percussionist Rami El Asser.  This modern genre of songs grew out of the displacement of Nubians from northern Sudan and southern Egyptian villages caused by the building of the Aswan dam in the early ‘60s. But Alsarah told the audience that subject was a conversation for another day.

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The vocals of Alsarah and her sister Nahid were supplemented by handclaps and a synthesiser intro that accompanied spoken word poetry on one of the two new songs. All were sung in Arabic except one, a Nubian song. Mawuena Kodjovi’s funky baselines remained constant in the languidly winding music. Rami on darbuka and Brandon on oud swapped solos inspiring the vocalists to dance in tandem.

Slavic Soul Party, Chris Stromquist right, snare drum; Matt Moran, center bass drum; and Don Godwin, tuba.

Slavic Soul Party, Chris Stromquist right, snare drum; Matt Moran, center bass drum; and Don Godwin, tuba.

Slavic Soul Party’s entrance cued fans to get up and kick off their footwear anticipating of the Balkan Brass, Macedonian folk, and Roma Jazz (and includimg a  new piece “Truth”)  that soon poured from the stage. Slavic Soul Party’s music is a pulsating link to the Eastern European immigrant cultures that populated the lower east side in Manhattan in the mid 18th and early 19th centuries but their fan base included many in this audience. The traditional brass band music still found in Serbia and Romania is an energetic blend of Ottoman military marching music and local folk rhythms. Over the past 15 years Slavic Soul party has released 7 albums and performed weekly, Tuesday night sessions at Barbès when not touring. Percussionist and bandleader Matt Moran says they have cultivated a broad following drawn from the ethnic Balkan brass, Greek and Macedonian music communities as well as from the folk music scene. Their set included traditional material and originals  — including a new piece, “Truth”. Their thumping marches anchored by Don Godwin’s tuba and Matt Moran’s strapped on bass drum brought to mind New Orleans street music and transitioned to an attention grabbing Roma traditional that featured Peter Stan’s accordion.

Slavic Soul Party plays Barbès every tueday night, 9pm to Midnight.

Slavic Soul Party plays Barbès every tueday night, 9pm to Midnight.

Slavic Soul Party Fall 2019 tour dates:

Sept 26, 2019 - Keene State College, Keene NH

Oct 27, 2019 - National Gallery, Washington DC

Nov 21-24, 2019 - Wyoming and Colorado

Edo Mor recollects how the seeds for Barbès in the Woods were sown on a 2004 trip to the city to visit his brother. It led him to Barbes where the first band he heard was Slavic Soul Party. He recalls it as rainy stormy Tuesday evening, still the band played a set for the handful that braved the weather. It was the first of many visits during the holiday market season where he sold his art. Matt Moran leader of Slavic Soul party says of Barbes “When we lose someone we gather there, when there is a reason to celebrate we celebrate there, its more than a club” 

Anbessa Orchestra Bandleader, composer and arranger Nadav Peled on Guitar; with Eden Bareket Baritone Sax; Eran Fink Drums; Wayne Tucker Trumpet; Eyal Vilner Alto Sax; Dor Heled Keyboards;and Tamir Shmerling Bass.

Anbessa Orchestra Bandleader, composer and arranger Nadav Peled on Guitar; with Eden Bareket Baritone Sax; Eran Fink Drums; Wayne Tucker Trumpet; Eyal Vilner Alto Sax; Dor Heled Keyboards;and Tamir Shmerling Bass.

Anbessa Orchestra brought their swaying organ laced funk and Ethiopian jazz - reduced to its danceable essence - to an early set on the main stage. The baritone led brass section cooks. ‘Lion’ was a standout featuring solos from Wayne Tucker on Trumpet and Nadav Peled on guitar. Stay tuned for new music from the Brooklyn based group.

 
Underground System led by Domenica Fossati, vocals, percussion and flute

Underground System led by Domenica Fossati, vocals, percussion and flute

Underground System was a revelation, pounding dancefloor beats and an expanding universe of sounds. Bandmembers included Keytaro Yasutake, trumpet and synthesizer, PeterMatson, guitar; Domenica Fossati, lead vocals, flute, and percussion; Jon Granoff on bass.

Underground System led by Domenica Fossati, vocals, flute, percussion, center with Peter Matson, left,guitar; and Jon Granoff, bass; performing at Barbes in theWoods, Montague Massachusetts. (L

Underground System led by Domenica Fossati, vocals, flute, percussion, center with Peter Matson, left,guitar; and Jon Granoff, bass; performing at Barbes in theWoods, Montague Massachusetts. (L

Olivier Conan thanked all, musicians and organizers alikealong with this reaction posted online : “Well, Barbes in the Woods did happen, and was better than anything I could have imagined. Amazing lineup, amazing surroundings. Great vibe. I think it reconciled me with the very idea of a music festival…..”

Laudable Productions produces events at venues including New City Brewery and Millpond Park in Easthampton and the Historic Northampton museum. Often pairing local artists with international touring bands, including Tal National, BKO, SESSA, Rio Mira, Vox Sambou, BCUC and Cimafunk among others this year.

Antibalas

Antibalas