To most, the name the Berkshires brings up ideas of classical music by way of our most famous music venue, Tanglewood. While this beautiful seasonal festival hosts a variety of music throughout the summer and is a great group destination, the Berkshires is home to a number of smaller venues where you and your group will find music in unexpected places!
In North Adams, one of the country’s largest contemporary museums MASS MoCA, is now home to two, three day long music festivals, five-year old Solid Sound, curated by the indie rock group Wilco and FreshGrass, a fourth year bluegrass festival that last year headlined with Emmylou Harris. Both three day festivals offer a broad range of musical performers, all set amidst the sprawling campus of MoCA.
On top of hosting these yearly festivals, MASS MoCA offers a variety of funk, indie-rock, punk and hip-hop shows each month, year round in their Hunter Center with the likes of Beck, Josh Ritter, Jeff Magnum, Steve Earle, and Burning Spear performing.
Just down the road from MoCA, in Williamstown, you’d be able to hear great bands as the Tavern at the Williams Inn. The Inn is now catching onto the national house concert trend, recruiting and hosting touring bands like Sean Rowe and Caridid Harmon to play intimate stop-over show between their booked venues.
Head south to downtown Pittsfield where live rock and alternative bands can be heard each weekend at the Pub at Crown Plaza, conveniently located in the basement of the hotel. Mixed in with open mic, karaoke and DJs, this bar has entertainment every night of the week. And just around the corner is another favorite venue that offers the great combination of live music and frothy cappuccinos. The Marketplace Café offers a wide variety of food and coffee and free, live music on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Their music acts consist of some great local folk and soft-rock musicians. And of recently one of their steady acts, musician Katherine Winston is a contestant on American Idol.
South county also has some great venues to hear some live music. the Lion’s Den, in Stockbridge, hosts free, live music every night. A casual and comfortable tavern environment located under the Red Lion Inn, this local spot serves food and drink and hosts a lot of local bands and has been known to occasionally host the actress Lauren Ambrose and her jazz ensemble to a sold out crowd.
Probably the best kept secret music spot is found in Sheffield, at the Down County Social Club, also known as DCSC. Located in the basement Race Brook Lodge’s, Stage Coach Tavern, the DCSC features a selection of world, folk, rock groups as well as performance and dance all in an intimate speakeasy style atmosphere. This venue is so popular with the locals, that there are plans for an expansion of a lounge in the Stagecoach restaurant, named Shay’s Lounge in March. Shay’s will also provide live music on a regular basis to diners and bar patrons alike.
So next time you are crafting a Berkshire itinerary be sure to add in a little music, it might not be what everyone in the group wants but it is certainly unique to offer as an option or a night out. Maybe it could even be the theme of your next niche tour?