"Live From Laurel Canyon" rekindles a music revolution
PITTSFIELD — A born and bred New Englander, Brian Chartrand is "California Dreamin."
The South Hadley native and his seven-person band makes its Western Massachusetts debut on Saturday to rekindle a '60s/early '70s music revolution centered in the Hollywood Hills.
"Live from Laurel Canyon: Songs & Stories of American Folk Rock" pays homage to the musical legacy of a Los Angeles suburb where a Who's Who of music icons lived, worked and played — hard.
The concert set for The Colonial Theatre on South Street will feature songs from The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Carole King, James Taylor, The Mamas & the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Brown, Jim Morrison, Neil Young and others with a half-century influence on the pop and rock genre.
Based in Phoenix, Chartrand and his band mates — average age 35 — have spent the past four years researching and refining their two-set, 90-minute performance. Launched in 2013 as an Arizona act, the show hit the road last month for the first time, playing in Kentucky, continuing to push east to Rockport on Friday before stopping in the Berkshires.
This is your parents' music as seen by polished musicians a generation removed from the baby-boomers.
"We are not a tribute act," Chartrand made clear during a phone interview from Phoenix. "We interpret the songs, we stretch them out and make them our own."
Live from Laurel Canyon stays true to the original artists, performing their songs with a twist compared to what fans of yesterday and today have been conditioned to hearing on the radio or online.
"The same tunes lend themselves to reinterpretation, such as `California Dreamin,' (Mamas and the Papas)," Chartrand noted. "It's a bit jazzy and that's a testament to the talent of the band."
Chartrand and Kip Fox originally from Napa, Cal. each play acoustic guitar and vocals, with singer Phoenix's Holly Marshal; native Clevelander Lamar Gaines on keyboard; bassist Alex Kyhn via Denver; Adam Armijo on electric guitar courtesy of Albuquerque, N.M. and Detroit's Todd Chuba banging on the drums all show.
Chartrand's love for American folk rock began in 1987 when the then 11-year-old saw James Taylor play the Springfield Civic Center.
J-T's music has touched him ever since, reflected in his song selection during the show.
"I can't wait to sing `Sweet Baby Jane,' at the Colonial," he said.
Taylor, his 1970 "Sweet Baby Jane" album went triple-platinum, along with Carole King, Neil Young, Frank Zappa were among the paragons shaping their musical generation nearly 50 years ago.
Living in Laurel Canyon was inspiration for the likes of Joni Mitchell whose home there was immortalized in her 1970 song "Our House." The canyon also served as the backdrop to many of famed photographer Henry Ditz's historic shots of the rock musicians early years.
As Chartrand and his band were rejuvenating the Laurel Canyon-inspired music, the Grammy Museum in Los Angles three years ago devoted a several-month exhibited to the golden age of music, creativity and culture, according to the museum's website.
California Dreamin': The Sounds of Laurel Canyon, 1965 - 1977 showcased dozens of artifacts and photos representing the mindset of the canyon's music scene.
"The remarkably rich sounds of Laurel Canyon and the sheer number of songwriters, bands, producers, artists, engineers and record company people who have lived and worked out of Laurel Canyon prove that Los Angeles is and continues to be a vital rock scene," wrote museum director Bob Santelli.
A scene worthy of its own Hall of Fame.
"I can't believe all these artists lived together," Chartrand said. "I was surprised of the connectiveness of the artists."
Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233
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