Berkshires After Dark: Mohawk mystery resolved

Thursday May 17, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- It's been a month, folks.

Due to some car trouble, I had to cancel plans to drive to my friend Mandy's concert in Greenfield last Friday night.

So, when an invitation came from another friend to check out Rebel Beat Sound System at The Mohawk Tavern on Marshall Street here, I happily seized the opportunity.

The Mohawk has also long been a mystery to me. I've only been inside once a few years back. A friend and I made the mistake of stopping in on a weeknight to check on the final two innings of a Boston Red Sox game, only to walk in and see a large New York Yankees logo hanging on the wall and also in the window.

I think the Yankees were off that night, but for some reason, the Red Sox game was still on. I can't remember who they were playing. But we sat at the bar along with six older guys and a woman, ordered a pair of Bud Lights and spent just shy of an hour with our eyes bouncing between the game on a small wall-mounted screen, our bar mates and the two college-age looking guys shooting pool. We made a little small talk, but kept our Boston fandom to ourselves.

This time around, I arrived about 9:30 p.m., and easily found parking near the front of the bar. Inside, I found a whole different scene from the one a few years back.

As far as I know, the place is still owned by Ronald Franzoni. I called afterwards to check, but the phone kept ringing and I didn't leave a message.

When I walked in, I found about 20 people: a cluster looking to be in their late 40s and older at the far corner of the bar, and others who seemed college age to early 30s filling the rest of the place, from the pool table in the back to the tables in the middle to the entrance area cleared as a dance floor. By 10 p.m., the number grew to nearly 60, with another dozen smoking outside.

Rebel Beat Sound System, according to their Facebook page, is North Adams-based DJ Gabe Besaw and Jason Wilcox, who have been doing their thing since 2002.

They definitely seemed to have a following. Jason told me they play The Mohawk about once a month, and have played a few other places between here and Albany, N.Y. as well.

In my opinion, they should play more. They offered up a "Let's Rock Steady" reggae, soul dance party last Friday. What I heard was a mix of this, and kind of retro/mod rock, from the likes of Alton Ellis to Dexys Midnight Runners.

The crowd had a hipster-hippie flavor. Prevalent fashions included thick glasses, skinny jeans, funky hair, Goodwill duds mixed with designer shoes.

Also, everyone seemed to know each other, arriving with at least one friend, if not a horde.

As a recent North County transplant, I was just lucky enough to recognize a few faces and have people to chat with. Since the friend who invited me ended up bailing, it would have been awkward trying to make friends at a bar alone. (Yes, even nightlife writers have these moments.)

Speaking of the bar, it's pretty well stocked, with mostly domestic beer on tap. Cash only. I got a bottle of Sam Adams Boston Lager for $4 from a friendly, prompt bartender lady.

At its core, The Mohawk is a casual, well lit place, warmed by a rich wood interior, from the floor to the bar to the walls. There's a lot of sports and North Adams memorabilia on the walls.

Though it looks small from the outside, it's long with fairly high ceilings. I felt pretty comfortable.

Feeling tired though, and having to take a phone call, I left around 11:15 or so. While the crowd was a bit tipsier than before, it was still lively and rolling with a good time vibe.

Having once been a mystery to me, The Mohawk is definitely a place I'd be willing to go back to.


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