TURNERS FALLS, Mass.
Aside from being a benefit for cancer research filled with established national acts, one of the best things about the Upper Valley Music Festival is that it serves as a showcase for young, up-and-coming talent for which this region is so richly blessed.
The burgeoning Pioneer Valley Music scene has become a go-to place for established stars, such as the Pixies’ Frank Black, Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth fame, singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne and Chris Collingwood from Fountains of Wayne. And thanks to musical incubators such as The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School and the Institute for Musical Arts, the region is developing a cadre of rising young artists, many of whom have the ability to go national.
One to keep an eye on is the band Paint. The soulful foursome, (three from PVPA, one from Belchertown High) has been together merely a year, but has begun to take off after a prestigious gig opening for Donna The Buffalo followed by a headlining show at The Iron Horse.
I hosted Paint at a recent school event where several audience members approached me after their performance, and all pretty much said the same thing: "These guys are great -- where did you find them?"
The band is fronted by the silky-voiced and subtly charismatic Odyssey Newport, with an approach that mixes soul, rock, reggae and funk. In an e-mail, bassist Eli Heath discussed Paint’s eclectic musical inspirations. "We really like and are influenced by Rubblebucket, tUnE-yArDs, Esperanza Spalding, Hiatus Kaiyote and The Grateful Dead."
The ensemble’s aspirations are modest at this point in their young career. "Right now we are sort of playing things by ear, grabbing all of the opportunities that we can and seeing where it takes us," said Heath. "We do have some long-term plans including recording a full-length album this winter and a possible spring tour for 2014. But for now we are just playing as much as we are able and working on new material. We are honored and very excited to be joining the incredible lineup at UVMF. We really support the cause and are thrilled to be playing at our first music festival."
IMA graduate Wishbone Zoe (aka Saera Kochanski) is another young act poised to take her inventive music to the next level. Whether flying solo (often accompanied by a power drill, trashcans and a bullhorn) or with her band, Kochanski generates an unpredictable, difficult-to-describe racket.
I asked her to explain Wishbone Zoe’s approach. "I’ve become very interested by collaging sound recently and have been paying attention to how different artists compose music that mixes organic sounds with electronically-generated sounds -- Bjork, Fever Ray, Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim and Beck come fondly to mind. These ... have fueled my interest in building looped tracks on stage and collecting pieces of junk to add into the mix. Yet I find I can’t go long without loud electric guitar and bass, having being brought up in that circle, and constantly find immense inspiration in the Breeders, the Pixies, Veruca Salt and David Bowie."
Like Paint, Wishbone Zoe is working on her first full-length recording.
As for her future, Kochanski’s aspirations are as unusual as her sound. "I’m extremely excited to see where Wishbone Zoe goes once this album is finished. Perhaps to Australia, perhaps I’ll write a book of short stories and record a mandolin-and-melodica based soundtrack to it, maybe I’ll wear a large animal costume every time I play a show. Who knows?"
The third annual Upper Valley Music Festival takes place this Saturday in Turners Falls. Paint appears at 1:40 p.m., at The Rendezvous. Wishbone Zoe plays The Extra Point Night Club at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $15 (children under 12 free). All proceeds go to cancer research. For the entire schedule go to: www.uppervalleymusicfest.com.
Dave Madeloni writes a music column for Ovation He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.