NORTH ADAMS -- Perennial MASS MoCA favorite Alloy Orchestra returns Saturday at 8:30 p.m., with a signature live score to the 1924 classic "He Who Gets Slapped," the tragic tale of a brilliant scientist who loses his research -- and his wife -- to a dishonest man and becomes a circus clown with a very peculiar act.
The only thing more outrageous than leading man Lon Chaney is Alloy Orchestra’s soulful, grinding soundtrack.
Using a combination of obscure found objects, classical instruments and state-of-the-art electronics, the always-inventive Alloy Orchestra performs scores of original music with the most unlikely "instruments." The three-man ensemble engineers an orchestral assemblage of peculiar items such as horseshoes, truck springs, radiator pipes, sheet metal and vacuum cleaner canisters to produce its classic, cantankerous cinematic soundscapes.
From short reels by Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle to movies such as "Metropolis," "Lost World," "Phantom of the Opera" and Alfred Hitchcock’s "Blackmail," Alloy Orchestra has performed to packed crowds at MASS MoCA nearly every year since it opened in 1999. Comprised of Terry Donahue (percussion, accordion, vocals), Ken Winokur (percussion, clarinet) and Roger C. Miller (synthesizer), the trio from Cambridge has written and performed scores for 28 feature-length films in more than 1,000 shows on some of the biggest stages such as at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and the New York Film Festival.
Known for his leading role in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," among other films, Chaney stars in "He Who Gets Slapped" (critics called the performance one of the greatest of his accomplished career). The American drama, released in 1924, tells the hilariously sad story of Paul Beaumont, an inventor whose work is stolen. A discouraged Beaumont loses his wife and becomes a clown who routinely gets slapped by other clowns. (It’s funny, we promise.)
A full bar and dinner and snacks from Lickety Split before and during the show are available. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day of and $25 preferred seating. Members receive a 10-percent discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA box office, located on Marshall Street in North Adams, every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended evening hours to 7 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling (413) 662-2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at massmoca.org.
Also happening at Mass MoCA next weekend, composers Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow MASS MoCA veterans and NYC indie music stalwarts, will be weaving together dream pop and noir landscapes for 15 years and nine records. On Saturday, Aug. 16, at 8 p.m., they perform as the Brooklyn-based duo Elysian Fields at MASS MoCA.
Always keen collaborators, their past and present bandmates include Thomas "Doveman" Bartlett of The National and everyone in Jeff Buckley’s band. Pitchfork touts their "forbidding cocktail dress cool" while others detect a young Serge Gainsbourg in their sultry, hazy delivery. Elysian Fields performs on the heels of Charles’ stunning appearance with Ben Perowsky’s Moodwing Orchestra last fall at MASS MoCA. She knew right away that it would set the perfect stage for her avant, experiential duo.
Part of MASS MoCA’s summer concert series, Elysian Fields takes place outside under the Dré Wapenaar Pavilion (or inside Club B-10 if it rains). Fresh salads, hearty sandwiches and tasty burritos -- as well as thematic dinner specials -- will be available from Lickety Split before and during the show. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $20 reserved seating, $12 advance and $16 day of. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling (413) 662-2111 x1 or online at massmoca.org.