Friday March 16, 2012

PITTSFIELD

One of the favorite parts of my
job happens around now.

No, it’s not forecasting who’s going to win the NCAA men’s or women’s basketball tournament. That’s OK, but I sometimes feel buffeted by basketball at this time of year.

No, I’m speaking of the annual music festival The Eagle sponsors and hosts at the Colonial Theatre. You know it as Guitar Jam.

There are a couple reasons I enjoy this, but the principal one is just seeing local musicians getting a chance to perform in a venue as welcoming as the Colonial.

It’s a heck of a theater and I’ve grown very fond of the venue and the people who work there. They are all consummate pros, and frankly, they make my job very simple.

In past years, I tried to get out to clubs and other events in an attempt to see as many local bands as I could, which, in theory, would help inform my decision. Last year, I had some medical problems, and Eagle Executive Editor Tim Farkas stepped in and did the lion’s share of the scouting work, for which I’m greatly appreciative.

This year, when we sat down to plan the event, we decided to see if we could incorporate social media, namely Facebook, into the process.

So we hit upon a two-tier process. The first asked our readers out there to vote for their favorite band, simply by emailing or "snail mailing" me (the address is below if you haven’t yet voted).

Right now, we have more than 40 local bands, and virtually all of them are still in contention for the top 10 spots.

The second portion of this process will entail people voting via Facebook to select the "Final Four" bands. Truthfully, I wish we could have all 10 bands on the show. But we only get the theater for one night, and I think the show, with 10 bands, would be just too long. So we kept the bill at four.

I feel bad about this, because, as I find out every year, there is a wealth of musical talent in Berkshire County. Every year I’ve emceed this show, I am terribly proud of the professionalism and talent we present.

This year’s show, regardless of who makes the cut, will be fascinating. We have country-and-western bands, blues bands, power trios, folk singers and bands that defy accurate descriptions. The diverse representation reflects, I believe, the diverse nature of local music.

Four of these bands will make the stage. And I literally cannot wait to see how they play together.

This was my dream when Guitar Jam started. Because the other thing that is absolutely awesome for me is to introduce the final set, which is a jam between all four bands for a couple numbers. Actually, the past two years, the bands have just done an extended jam, a decision with which I have no problem.

It was a thrill to watch David Grover, Tor Krautter, Steve Ide and Don McGrory trading guitar licks that first year. It has been a thrill to watch the collaborations between musicians like Justin Allen, Bobby Sweet, Adam Rothberg Jill Gallagher, Robin O’Herin and a host of others the past two. If one believes that the strata of local musical talent is thin, I invite you to this year’s show. You will be greatly surprised.

I believe Guitar Jam offers something few other Berkshire events can: An annual hootenanny of great local musicians collaborating, many for the first time.

So hey, don’t forget to vote and don’t forget to show up on May 19 at the theater. It’s going to be cool, no matter who takes the stage.

To vote for your favorite band,
e-mail dgentile@berkshireeagle.com.

Derek Gentile is an Eagle reporter.