Pop Music: Big names in the Berkshires

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Nothing epitomizes summertime in the Berkshires and southern Vermont like the incredible cornucopia of great music we enjoy during that span.

The popular music scene here is epic and eclectic. Here are some of the highlights:

Moving south to north, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Mass., has grown into a major performing arts venue in the past decade, and now offers an array of musical, theatrical and cinematic events this year.

The Fab Faux, perhaps the best Beatles tribute band in the country, will be there June 30. Local folk icon David Grover will be onstage Aug. 12 and Buckwheat Zydeco and his amazing accordion makes his appearance Aug. 20.

About a mile up the road, at Butternut Ski Area, the transplanted SummerSound Festival will entertain on May 28-29. The featured acts will be the Gin Blossoms and the Deer Ticks, with a number of other high-energy jam and rock bands also performing.

In Lenox (or Stockbridge, if you come in the Hawthorne gate), Mass., the folks at Tanglewood have a pretty high-octane pop season planned.

Country music's most prolific songwriter, Dolly Parton, will be onstage for the first time in 22 years on June 17. Parton estimates she wrote 3,000 songs for herself and other artists.

That show kicks off a potentially memorable pop weekend at the 'Wood, as locals call it. The next night, June 18, Earth, Wind and Fire will hit the stage and the night after that, Brian Wilson will perform "Pet Sounds," his signature effort from the 1960s, in its entirety. Two nights later, on June 21, Jackson Browne comes back the The Shed.

A few weeks later, Tanglewood will feature another four-night powerhouse bill with a distinct 1960s flavor.

On July 1, uber-guitarist Warren Haynes will perform songs from the Jerry Garcia catalog with the Boston Pops. The next night, the legendary Bob Dylan will be onstage, with opening act Mavis Stapes. July 3-4 will see James Taylor in his usual mid-summer Tanglewood slot.

The pop season ends in this part of the county with a visit on Aug. 21 by Train and a first-time appearance by the B-52s on Sept. 2.

The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass., will feature several pop concerts of note. On May 26, it's folkies Le Vent du Nord, and two days later, on May 28, the aptly-named Skivvies bring their stripped-down covers of popular songs to the Colonial.

Hotel California, one of the better Eagles tribute bands, will be onstage June 2.

The Mass MoCA lineup in North Adams, Mass., will have a little bit of everything this summer. Indie pop stylists Luna kick of the season on May 28, with indie rock titans The National in town on June 11. On June 18, the Dan Zanes Leadbelly Project performs songs by the late, great Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter.

The Ghost Train Orchestra will feature its blend of stylish jazz and instrumentals on July 2 and funkster Charles Bradley will be in town on Aug. 13. On Aug. 27, psychedelic dance band Rubblebucket is in town. Reggae star Everton Blender is on stage on Sept. 3.

Top picks

Choosing the five potentially best popular music shows in the Berkshires this summer is a daunting task. There are a lot of talented people performing this year. Here are a few suggestions.

June 11, The National at Mass MoCA. A local indie favorite, The National brings their sinuous catalog to North Adams.

June 19, Brian Wilson, Tanglewood. Is "Pet Sounds" the greatest pop album ever? Well, it's a good bet that it will be fun to hear Wilson perform it in it's entirety.

July 1, Warren Haynes and the Boston Pops, Tangelwood. Hayne and the Pops play selections from the Jerry Garcia songbook. Lordy, what a concept!

July 2, Bob Dylan, Tanglewood. Maybe I'll camp out. A legendary performer who should never be missed.

August 20, Buckwheat Zydeco, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Cajun music at its finest. There is no better accordion player in the world.


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