Billstock rocks Spring St.

The first annual Billstock Music Festival took place this past weekend, bringing together an eclectic group of local musicians. The brainchild of drummer Mike Williams, Billstock came about as a way to bring musical cheer to the grey, cold Berkshire winters. Williams is a member of the Vice Principals, who played at the Red Herring on Saturday night. He explained that the winter months are relatively quiet for the close-knit music community in Williamstown. This year, however, with the support of local musicians, Williams successfully brought together friends and family to shake off some of the midwinter blues.
There was a little something for everyone during this weekend of music. On Friday evening, local student bands rocked out in the Congregational Church. Later that night, the festivities moved to the Red Herring for some much louder and funkier shows. Unfortunately, the acoustics in the upstairs room of the Red Herring aren’t favorable to live music.
Saturday afternoon at the Log offered four sets of family-friendly acoustic folk. It seemed that about a third of the people in attendance were shorter than a standard acoustic guitar and, unfortunately, they spent much of their time playing fooseball in the back, occasionally interrupting the music with cheers and stomping feet. One baby even blew a fat, wet raspberry in response to one musician’s attempt at humor. Although the environment was warm and kid-friendly, the Saturday afternoon show felt more like a family recital taking place in a living room than a concert. While the friends and family in attendance appreciated the atmosphere, it wasn’t accommodating to paying attendees. It must be noted, however, that on Friday and Saturday nights there were 21+ shows at the Red Herring and Purple Pub.
Bernice Lewis started the show on Saturday afternoon. She played acoustic guitar for the first set to an audience composed mostly of friends and family. Her songs revolved around quaint themes, and for her one “risqué” tune, she jokingly asked all the kids in the room to cover their ears as she sang about boys meeting girls. Many of the songs started to sound the same after 20 minutes though.
Good Good, a guitar, bass and ukelele trio, came on next. More people showed up for their set, but the Log was still relatively empty. The band sounded tight and well rehearsed, but the bassist was the star of the show. He played with flowing and effortless rhythm while gazing into space. The guitarist and ukelele player, however, offered little musical excitement or variety in their playing.
Liz Rogers ’91 provided relief from the monotonous strumming and rhythm of the two previous acts. Since graduating from the College, Rogers has taken her solo show around the world. Her deft playing and beautiful voice were a welcome change to the afternoon.
The highlight of the afternoon was definitely the Flatbed Jazz Band. They played traditional American jazz with lazy elegance and finally gave the audience a reason to tap their feet. All the band members are Williamstown residents and the band line-up changes with each show. I will be keeping an eye out for their future shows in Williamstown.
In all, Saturday afternoon at the Billstock Music Festival provided a relaxing and warm environment to hear some of Williamstown’s own talent. It was not surprising, though, that there were only a couple students from the College in attendance. As it exists now, Billstock has little to offer the student community. There were few, if any, fliers for the festival in Paresky and signs advertising the festival outside of the Log on Saturday were handwritten and small. There were no College students performing over the weekend either, which also may have accounted for the low student attendance (in addition to the basketball games and 100 Days). Hopefully the second annual Billstock will reach out to students from the College in addition to the older, established music community in Williamstown.