Two celebrations of area agriculture and audio sprout up on the local landscape this week.
The first, Watermelon Wednesdays in Whately (watermelonwednesdays.com), began its 16th season May 28 with singer/songwriters Pat Alger, Jim Rooney, and Chris Brashear. Watermelon Wednesdays guests are treated to an intimate evening of music and melons at West Whately’s historic chapel. Peter Blanchette, inventor of the 11-string “arch guitar,” among other accomplishments, carries the Watermelon Wednesday torch this week, June 3. Series creator Paul Newlin notes that all shows begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. and that the facility is fully air-conditioned this year.
While Newlin continues to make Whately a seedy place, Gary Czelusniak and his colleagues at WGBY Public Television in Springfield have spearheaded an Asparagus Festival on the Hadley Town Green June 6. They’ve laced it with a healthy dose of folk rock, gypsy swing, and bluegrass, to pick a choice few genres.
“Yes, this will be our third Asparagus Festival, and music is a very big part of it,” Czelusniak says. “We’re certain last year’s entertainers helped us draw more than 4,000 attendees. With the likes of Session Americana, Caravan of Thieves, Twisted Pine, and more, we’re hoping to top 5,000 this year.”
Also new this year at Asparagus Fest is the Rise Up Singing Sing-Along, in which musicians are invited to bring their instruments and join the festivities. Admission to the festival is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.
Last, but not least, while the Nightcrawler always finds fertile ground unearthing up-and-comers, Sunday, May 24 proved that sometimes, one just has to stop and smell the rock ’n’ roll roses. Or in this case, the “Crimson and Clover,” as freshly installed Hall of Famer Joan Jett kicked off an historic evening of arena rock at The Mohegan Sun. Between Jett and headliners The Who, this twin bill had a combined catalogue that was nearly a century deep (with Jett’s 40 years in the biz only slightly topped by The Who’s 50). Jett’s set clocked in around the 45-minute mark and saw her growling and sneering her way through anthemic fist-pumpers like “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” The title track from the major motion picture Light of Day (which features the area’s own Jimi Bell as the guitarist in her movie band) proved another standout. Punked up numbers like “Cherry Bomb” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me” had Jett and her Blackhearts just oozing New York City all over the stage.
Enter The Who — after some precautionary warnings from Pete Townshend, that is.
“You know, a lot of you shouldn’t even be here,” he declared early into the set. “According to my doctor, I shouldn’t be here, either. But I happen to believe I still have a little pep left in my pencil, and I’m going to give it a go.”
Windmilling his way through a ferocious greatest hits set that included everything from opener “Can’t Explain” to “The Seeker,” “Bargain,” and other classic rock radio staples, the iconic guitarist certainly secured a clean bill of health as far as the sell-out audience was concerned. Singer Roger Daltrey, 71, proved equally up to the task at hand, thrusting a fountain of water from his mouth before loosing a rafter-shaking howl during a climatic passage in “Love, Reign O’er Me” and faithfully delivering his patented battle cry in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
“You know, all over the world, people stop me and say thank you for doing what you do … it really got me through,” Daltrey said. “And I say, you know what, thank you for allowing me to do what I do. And we’re going to keep on doing what we do until it sounds bad, then we won’t do it anymore. Who knows, maybe I’ll sing Johnny Cash tunes.”
Based on the two-hour 20-minute set he had just turned in, it doesn’t appear that Daltrey or his bandmates are in danger of entering that ring of fire anytime soon.•
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