Brooklyn is inarguably the Seattle of the aughts and into the teens: the fertile delta of the new primitivism, dreampop dreams, eccentric retro, underground electro collectives and the cleverest conservatory-grade chamber-rock ever. But for my money (what there is of it), one of the liveliest, most productive and most habitable outlying scenes of contemporary indie rock centers on Northampton, Massachusetts and the Pioneer Valley: Amherst, U-Mass, Hampshire College. This indie scene has produced at least one breakout national group in Speedy Ortiz and numerous high profile up-and-comers including And the Kids, a band that I have stumped for tirelessly since they started rocking BSP regularly a few years ago.
The Pioneer Valley original music scene runs deep. Standards are strikingly high. It seems that every band I hear really has its act together, with a premium on originality: Wishbone Zoe, Bucket, Young Tricksters, Superbee, Homebody and on and on. Even in their Pavementesque sloth, they are tight as elastic. The scene also has a definite aesthetic, with numerous variations.
The Northampton sound is every bit as politically and culturally progressive, sister-school smart and musically adventurous as BK indie, but it has one significant point of differentiation: a classic rock earthiness, a taste for vestigial guitar solos and a willingness to (heaven forbid!) jam in the great tradition of New England pastoral rock. Anathema in the boroughs, a little bit of countryside jam seems almost universal in the Pioneer Valley.
No band embodies it more overtly than the Sun Parade, yet another Pioneer Valley export making waves locally and rising on the national radar as well. Pop smarts à la their obvious heroes Dr. Dog meet swome grooves right out of the jam lexicon; but the forms are tight, the dynamics razor-sharp and the production knowingly grunge-fi. Also, the songs tend toward the irresistible – something that could not always or often be said of the jam purists.
This all makes the Sun Parade a band perfectly positioned to bridge our own great divide here in the mid-Hudson Valley. They’ve already established themselves in the indie/alt milieu at BSP, where quizzical patrons might be overhead saying things like, “It’s a little jammy…but I like it!” Now they take their wares to the Bearsville Theater, whose own identity crisis of the last year (Bowery Presents bookings alternating with the house-standard reggae, folk, fusion and earthy rock shows) seems like a problem invented to be solved by the delightful genre transgressions of the Sun Parade.
The Sun Parade and the Congress perform at the Bearsville Theater on Saturday, February 13 at 8 p.m. This is a 16+ show. Admission costs $10. The Bearsville Theater is located at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock. For more information, visit www.bearsvilletheater.com. To hear the Sun Parade’s 2014 EP Heart’s Out (debut full-length due out next summer), visit https://thesunparade.bandcamp.com.
The Sun Parade & the Congress, Saturday, February 13, 16+, $10, Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street, Woodstock; www.bearsvilletheater.com.