In addition to the Grand Band Slam winners, many of our editors' picks will also take the stage for the Grand Band Slam concert at Chicopee's Maximum Capacity on Oct. 9.
Danny Pease and the Regulators
A veritable army of energetic rockers who shined at last year's Grand Band Slam (to a packed room full of dancing freaks), DPR blends ska, reggae, rock and hip-hop into a whirlwind of whoop-ass. The Advocate hopes they opened up that can o' whoop-ass on whoever stole their equipment hours before they came to play the show, and props to them for showing up and rocking the house at Max Cap on borrowed gear in spite of their misfortune.
Tony Vacca has preached the rhythmic word for a long time, combining his playing experience—enhanced by many trips to Senegal, West Africa—with the stylings of compadres like Derrik Jordan, Joe Sallins, and Jim Matus, among others. Whether he performs solo or with groups World Rhythms or Impulse Ensemble, Vacca provides an engaging groove and a positivity that makes his shows riveting.
Northampton's Goldwater has defied all odds in continuing life as a "supergroup" (it features members of the Drunk Stuntmen, Ware River Club, School for the Dead, Aloha Steamtrain and The Figments) for more than a nanosecond, all with virtually no measurable egotism. Someone should immediately compose a "True Men of Genius" radio beer ad about them. In fact, now that we've said that, they'll probably write their own.
When it comes to blues in the Valley, no one provides the just-right feel like Ed Vadas, who's been delivering the goods for decades. With a full band, solo, or with his duo project with Sue Burkhardt, Ameri-MF-Cana, his wit and style make for a show that's got musicality and humor alike.
Friends of Yours
New kids on the block? For sure, but singer/guitarist Lynn Simonds and drummer Brian DiPippo nonetheless continue to churn out an exceptional repertoire of seriously charming original music. Bass or no bass, the sometimes rock-y, sometimes trance-y two-piece probably belongs in an even more rapidly flowing creative stream than our fair Valley; they're like White Stripes you can relax to.
Big Bad Bollocks
If you need the right soundtrack for finding the bottom of a glass, Northampton's longtime purveyors of raucous pub music never fail to please. Frontman John Allen is known for his stories of massive underwear and northern English childhood, and he leads the proceedings with a steady sense of unsteadiness that will leave you crying for the glories of pints long past.
There ain't really nothin' that fancy about Fancy Trash—in fact, if anything, they're one of the more laid-back, unassuming acts to grace the area. That said, the last album we reviewed, For The Kids, approached (to steal a title from a popular book) a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Or at least a rare, honest look into the soul of primary songwriter Dave Houghton, and an excuse for jaded music reviewers to feel something again, at least between mouse clicks at the office.
Most jazz bands who feature horns add the brass to piano, guitar or drums. But these Leah Randazzo Band veterans keep it simple, adding three horns to nothing but bass. The result might seem unusual at first, but the cool grooves this band creates won't leave you questioning their bona fides for long.
At least one Advocate editor is convinced that Treefort's Paul Hansbury is the Valley's best songwriter. His lyrics are frank, funny glimpses of the ordinary lives of New Englanders, infused with twisted logic and biting commentary. His band translates his songs and tweaked sensibilities into kick-ass rock and roll with a Southern flair.
The Equalites have been making music since the '80s, and their sound incorporates several directions within reggae, all of it played with an uncommonly high degree of skill. Harmony vocals add a just-right feel to their shows, at which dancing seems impossible to avoid.