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.

  • Melanie-thanks for taking the time to visit Billstock, and for writing a generous article about same. I do feel compelled, however, to offer a couple of corrections. The first is that Seal Team 6, a Williams College band, played on Friday night. I should also point out that other Williams groups were invited to participate, but declined for whatever reason. The second is that Saturday night featured two bands, Good Good and Wandering Rocks, who could be considered folk, or acoustic, acts, not four as you state in your article. Indeed their sets were family-friendly, but wrapped up before ten, at which point the night became decidedly grown-up and energetic.

    Finally, none of the people you listed as members of The Trophy Husbands have anything to do with the group. I’m not sure where you got these names from, but clearly you got the wrong information.

    Anyway, thanks for coming, and please let me know of any Williams College acts you think would be good to include in Billstock 2013.

    Mike

  • Marc McDermott

    Dear Ms. Idler,

    Thanks for the great article. It was a really cool festival and, I think really drew quite a crowd from across the populations that make up Williamstown. There were people rocking out from age 5 to 75, with every decade represented.. True all ages affairs are hard to find and but they happen here and they are one of the things that make Williamstown a fun place to live. I agree, its too bad there weren’t more Williams students there, but we can all try next year to get that going on a little better..

    For what its worth, there was a Williams angle that you didn’t mention (in your defense, no one really advertised it, I’m sure): The Trophy Husbands actually are a local band (I think those other guys you mentioned are from Pennsylvania). We actually have two Williams Alumns (Myself, class of 1989 on bass and Rebecca Mattson class of ’90 on vocals and percussion) and Bernadine Williams (vocals and Keytar) works in development. Dave Edge (guitar and vocals from Good Good) is the graphic designer for Williams.

    And yes, its straight out of “School of Rock” or “(This is) Spinal Tap,” but the (Williamstown) Trophy Husbands have taken a band vote and we will be challenging those Pennsylvania Trophy Husbands to a “Rock Off” at some point in the future. The losers have to change their band name to either the “Second Trophy Husbands” , the “Manthers” the “Pool Boys” or whatever other gag name they choose.

    Yours in Rock,

    Marc McDermott ’89