Follow what the press has to say about Billstock…
The Williams Record, re. Billstock 5
and some notes on previous Billstocks…
Billstock III to coincide with release of ‘Exile on Spring Street’
By ALEX ELVINThe Advocate
Posted: 02/28/2013 12:44:21 PM EST
Thursday February 28, 2013
WILLIAMSTOWN — This year’s Billstock festival, taking place at Hops and Vines on Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2, will coincide with the release of “Exile on Spring Street,” a 16-track compilation of Williamstown-based bands and musicians, produced by Karl Mullen of the Wandering Rocks.
New to the festival this year are Jen Crowell, the newly-configured Trophy Husbands, and two Williams College student bands: the 10-piece funk and R&B group Homage, and an unnamed alternative rock band led by Paul de Konkloly Thege, Billstock’s intern since 2012.
“Exile on Spring Street” will be available at Hops and Vines during the festival and also online at iTunes andAmazon.com. The title is a nod to the 1972 Rolling Stones album “Exile on Main Street,” and to the older musicians on the compilation who are part of that generation.
Michael Williams, Assistant Director of the Williamstown Youth Center, and Rolling Stones fan, founded Billstock in 2011 in response to a burgeoning local music scene and the shortage of a dedicated music venue in Williamstown where bands could gain live experience.
“We have so many people creating really interesting music here,” Williams said, “and in each successive year Š it’s just gotten even crazier with the number of people making music.”
All of the Billstock performers are either from Williamstown,
or closely affiliated with the community, Williams said. “So this is something that really distinguishes Billstock from, say, the Billsville House Concert Series, which was started after Billstock, and does not have the local focus that Billstock does.”In 2011, during the original Billstock, acts were distributed among different buildings in town – a big mistake, Williams said, due to the logistical problems that arose. The following year, Billstock II took place entirely in the building on the corner of Main Street and Water Street, which is now the New Hope Methodist Church.
Things went more smoothly the second time around, but the space was not without its drawbacks, said de Konkoly Thege, who joined the efforts in 2012 after returning to campus following a marketing internship at CBS Interactive Music Group.
“The room we were in, it was really cool, it was a really nice social atmosphere, but there was also all kinds of crazy reverberation because one half of the room was entirely a glass window and one half was thin plaster,” he said. The move to Hops and Vines, he said, will definitely be an upgrade in terms of sound quality.
The festival has made a welcome contribution to the town’s assortment of performance opportunities, but one of its goals, Williams said, is to help bridge the gap between the college-age people and older members of the community who share a passion for music.
While Williams College has long been instrumental (no pun) in reaching out to the local community, he said, “I think for the actual student population it’s somewhat difficult, just given the nature of being in college. It’s a self-contained campus and they’re all very much into their own things and they’re busy and whatever else,” he said.
“But over the past couple of years it’s been really nice that there’s been a growing pool of students who are becoming aware of people in the community who share their interests and are interested in things they want to create,” Williams said. “It’s hard to quantify that involvement, but it’s been a real vital part of the spirit of Billstock.”
The Billsville House Concerts, started by Doug Hacker in 2012, attract artists from around the country and offer intimate musical experiences outside of the college. They began as informal living room gatherings and have recently relocated to The Log, a multi-use event space on Spring Street.
For performers, the local opportunities can seem elusive. Besides the handful of local bars, which do not always offer the most intimate live experiences, there is Songwriters Night at the Water Street Grill every second Wednesday of the month, where musicians of all ages, including a number of Williams students, gather and share music.
In some ways, Williamstown is becoming home to very low-key music culture that recalls the time of early folk and jazz performances.
For the Wandering Rocks, the lack of a dedicated music venue is an opportunity for a more intimate do-it-yourself approach to performing.
“We find our own places to play and make our own situations happen,” said Mullen, producer of the new compilation and founder of the group – “whether it’s playing in somebody’s living room, somebody’s backyard, at a restaurant, at an art gallery. I’m not waiting for someone to open a fabulous venue that we could all play in. I think you need to jump on board with a DIY ethos and create your own scene.”
The Wandering Rocks’ first performance was at the Browns, a clothing store on Water Street that closed last year, and the group has appropriated various other spaces for musical gatherings – including MASS MoCA’s Building 5, Mezze Bistro, and the Elks Lodge in North Adams.
So there are options, Mullen said. But he also acknowledged the lack of dedicated performance space in town, which has been a growing concern among local musicians for years.
“When you don’t play, I think the air goes out of the bubble or the balloon,” he said. “You can rehearse all you like but until you have an audience to some extent, it doesn’t go anywhere. I think you need an audience and an audience feedback in which to develop stuff.”
Mullen’s barn, where he records and performs music, has become a gathering place for local and out-of-town musicians, and a sort of underground concert venue in itself. “Exile on Spring Street” was produced there and will be released on Mullen’s independent Barntone Records label.
Playing in barns, living rooms and other everyday spaces, Mullen said, harkens back to the original idea of live performance, which was a communal event, and to early folk and jazz recordings, “where you just set up microphones in a room and people played.
“And to some extent, we’ve gone back to that because of affordability, but also intimacy. I think when you listen to the top commercial radio hits these days it doesn’t sound like somebody’s playing in a living room or somebody singing up the street at the bar,” he said.
The over-production of popular music, he said, “removes us from everyday life, to some extent. I think playing in barns and living rooms brings music back as the central point of people’s lives.”
The idea behind “Exile on Spring Street” was to reflect the range of styles represented in the local music scene by opening the door to different recording techniques. Contributors used a variety of digital devices, ranging from iPhones to laptops to basement studios.That factor allowed more people to be involved, Mullen said, since not everyone has access to professional recording equipment.
While the tracks were produced at Mullen’s barn, most of them were recorded elsewhere.
Nine of the 16 bands or musicians on the album will also be performing at Billstock III – including Williams (who will DJ), The Wandering Rocks, De Konkoly Thege and many of the groups who performed last year.
Despite not getting official college credit for his internships, de Konkoly Thege has been researching artists, promoting the festival online and helping to spread the word among his classmates and the wider community, in addition to rehearsing with his band.
“I don’t need credit,” he said. “I did it last year because I had just had experience in marketing and it seemed interesting to me, and I do it this year because it was a really awesome experience and I know that it’s a community that I care about.”
Billstock III will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2 at Hops and Vines on Water Street. For more info: billstock.wordpress.com.
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Wanna read more?
and The Transcript
And from last year…
Monday February 27, 2012, North Adams Transcript
By Meghan Foley
North Adams Transcript
WILLIAMSTOWN — A two-day festival celebrating the local music scene will return for a second year beginning Friday.
Billstock, whose name derives from Woodstock and “Billsville,” the nickname for Williamstown, will take place from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. on March 2 and 3 at the former Williamstown Realty building, 4 Water St.
Organizer Michael Williams said Friday that this year’s festival will be hosted by Hops and Vines and feature seven acts performing music ranging from folk-inflected pop to acoustic to electronica, and everything in between.
“It’s really going to be an eclectic collection of musicians. There will be something for everyone,” Williams said.
Performing Friday night will be high-school bands After the Monsoon, Skylab and Space Bar.
Disc Jockeys Bakez and Dixon will provide the tunes in between sets and following Spacebar, Williams said.
Saturday’s line up will feature Wandering Rocks, Good Good, Trophy Husbands and DJ Jason Wilcox.
“This is really going to be a celebration of what has become a thriving local music scene,” he said.
In Williamstown, North Adams and the Northern Berkshires in general, there seems to be a group of people who have a background in making music being augmented by people who have been fans of music up to this point and are now making their own music, he said.
“This area is a magnet
for creative people,” he said.
Williams said one thing that was learned from Billstock last year was the importance of having everything at one location.
“The second thing is that we have all local bands this year, and third, we have a more professional presentation this year. Last year, we just wanted to see if it worked,” he said.
Tickets to Billstock are $15 for adults for both nights, $10 for either night, and $5 for students for one or both nights.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit billstock.wordpress.com.
Jeremy Goodwin, March 1, 2012
What’s a group of friends and musicians, gathered in one place for two evenings in the midst of winter to show off the musical happenings and developing bands of this town? Call it Billstock.
For the second year, this locally sprouted festival will grace Williamstown, providing a venue for area bands to come together and show off what’s happening on the music scene.
Billstock will rock a currently unused building adjacent to Hops and Vines at the intersection of Water and Main streets for two nights beginning Friday, March 2. Bands begin at 7 p.m. each night, and the music is scheduled to continue until 2 a.m.
Organizer Michael Williams, by day the assistant director of the Williamstown Youth Center, said he had twin goals in birthing the shindig last year. The idea was born from his recognition of the flourishing band scene in town, with friends and friends-of-friends frequently overlapping in different projects and always on the hunt for new ways to showcase their latest work.
“My wife and I had noticed that a lot of our friends are musicians of one kind of another, all with an interest in creating music together. So we tried asking around and thinking it would be a good idea for there to be some kind of celebration of all the music that’s being made in our community,” he said.
The other concept is based on the calendar.
“We wanted to have something
to look forward to in this time of year. Things get really quiet and really brutal. We’re all sick of winter by late February,” he continued. “That was the other thing, to have some sort of big event, some celebratory thing to look forward to this time of year.”
Williams performs with his project Skylab; his wife, Bernadine, contributes vocals and a bit of keytar to The Trophy Husbands. Also on the bill is Space Bar, a duo project featuring synth-pop pioneer Jeff Hudson and punk-steeped guitarist Karl Mullen; Good Good; Wandering Rocks; Rebel Beat Sound System; and Bakez and Dixon.
Most of the bands are based in Williamstown. An old nickname for the town — Billsville — inspired the festival’s cheeky name.
Although the music will happen in its own space, Hops and Vines next door is essentially Billstock central. The restaurant will conduct its regular business alongside the festival, and may offer some lighter options in the music room as well. The inaugural festival drew about 200 people over the course of its programming, Williams estimates; he’d like to see the event grow this year.
A particular priority is reaching out to the Williams College community.
“Last year it just sort of happened, in that the college kids found us without us really making any concerted effort. This year, I’m working very closely with (someone) who’s volunteering his time, and he’s been doing a lot of outreach, so we’re expecting a big portion of the college community to be involved this year,” Williams said.
Space Bar is Hudson’s latest project, which also made an appearance when he and his wife and musical partner, Jane Hudson, played at Mass MoCA in North Adams in January, their first show in years.
Before that show, he described the new duo as “laptop techno with fierce guitar over the top.”
“It’s different. I don’t know what to call it. Karl’s really jamming on top of it. It’s a combination of two distinct things,” he said at the time. “It’s visceral, loud and fast.”
This year’s incarnation of Billstock demonstrates a learning process from the inaugural event. The event was spread out over multiple venues on Spring Street last year and consisted of evening concerts as well as an afternoon program of music for children at Images Cinema. Williams said it was a good way to start things off and experiment with different performance spaces, but that the event would benefit from being concentrated at one venue — for both fans and bands.
“It worked the first time out, trying some different spaces, but this year it was really important for me to have everything at one spot. I think that also contributes to the communal aspect of the event in that we’re going to be in one spot this year,” Williams said. “All the musicians will be mingling. They’re going to be sharing the same space. I envision a real social event for the musicians as well as the audience.”
The mix of bands shares a geographic commonality, but will feature a variety of musical approaches. Williams described Skylab as a venue for his recently penned songs displaying influences from 1960s pop and 1980s college rock; Bernadine Williams said to expect an eclectic mix of upbeat rock covers from the Trophy Husbands.
“It’s a great gathering of some different types of music — a nice gathering of friends but it also brings in, hopefully, lots of other local people who may not have heard us or some of the other bands before,” she said. “One of the things that’s really nice about being part of this is that all the bands around are pretty supportive of each other. We have a lot of fun.”
…and finally from the Williams Record (March 7 2012). A nice piece, despite some glaring factual errors.
Local flavor infuses Billstock festival
On Friday and Saturday, local musicians from Williamstown and the surrounding area congregated on Water Street for the second annual Billstock Music Festival. The event featured an eclectic mix of bands whose music ranged from folk-pop to psychedelic electronica. The audience consisted mostly of locals, some of whom brought their young children, and select students from the College. It was definitely a family-friendly affair, with an easygoing audience composed of friends and relatives and lighthearted tunes playing throughout the night.
Organized by musician Michael Williams, Billstock brought the friends and family of the tight-knit music community in Williamstown together to support local artists at a time of the year when the area is somewhat lacking in other festivities. Williams is a member of the band Skylab, whose songs incorporate elements of psychedelica, ’80s indie rock and electronica, creating refreshingly-mixed tunes. Skylab’s members include Beth Gray (bass and vocals), Steve Simo (guitar), newbie Zach Troupe (drums) and Williams (guitar and vocals).
According to Paul de Konkoly Thege ’14, who is interning under Williams and helped him put the festival together, “Billstock was a really rewarding and interesting way to meet a bunch of musicians from the community, some of whom I got some excellent advice from.” His interactions with the members of the various bands were often quite valuable. He described how “a singer-songwriter for Wandering Rocks told me that he gets guitarists together to play feedback loops in his barn … which sounds incredible.”
There was a little something for everyone during this weekend of music. On Friday evening, a high school band took the stage to play several rock covers. As the night progressed, Skylab rocked its original psychedelic music. Space Bar members and synth-pop pioneers Jeff Hudson and Karl Mullen, based in Williamstown, joined forces to create surprisingly danceable layers of electronic sound.
Bakez & Dixon, an electronic group native to the Berkshires, captivated Billstock late into the night on Friday, providing a dance party as well as spinning before and between live sets. Members Garrit Baker from Lanesborough and Nicholas Dixon from Lee formed Bakez & Dixon shortly after discovering they shared a common love for electronic music and hip-hop. Together they use synthesizers, samplers and laptops to create electronic music and produce a sound heavily influenced by early-’90s hip-hop and electronic music.
Saturday night offered four sets of acoustic folk. The members of The Wandering Rocks, formed by Jackie Sedlock, Karl Mullen and Sarah McNair, write original, folksy material and rehearse in a barn by the Green River. They opened with original folksy melodies complemented by a ukulele that slowly picked up to a fast-paced, lively folk rock. They closed with an intimate melody; the guitarist even sat down on the stage with a local child happily sitting in his lap.
Good Good, a guitar, bass and ukelele trio, came on next. Good Good is composed of David Edge (guitar, vocals), Sarah McNair (ukulele, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass). Also a fast-paced folk band, they played a flowing and effortless mix of originals and covers, including an alternative version of Coldplay’s “Rush of Blood to the Head.” The group’s self-described “bittersweet gloom pop” delivers cathartic, indie anthems; Good Good also braided vocal harmonies with emotional peaks, musical chemistry and a sense of humor.
During the festival finale on Saturday night, The Trophy Husbands brought a quirky sensibility and energetic rhythm to songs you thought you knew. Members Dave Evans (lead guitar, vocals), Mark Buschi (bass guitar, vocals), Joe Sparta (lead vocals, harp) and Sam Savoca (drums, vocals) have been rocking the Berkshires at an assortment of venues since forming seven years ago.
The lack of student performances coupled with the occurrence of 100 Days may explain the low student turnout. Hopefully the next annual Billstock will reach out to students from the College in addition to the older, established music community in Williamstown. However, the Billstock Music Festival provided a relaxing and warm showcase for some of the talent native to the Berkshires.