Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: The music scene takes a note from summer, and sizzles

Last modified: Thursday, September 04, 2014
It’s seriously summer, and the thermometer on the melting porch isn’t the only thing approaching triple digits — the concert calendar is as busy as it gets, with a dizzying number of shows happening, both indoor and outdoor. Here are some bright highlights.

∎ Saxophonist Grace Kelly was scheduled to perform in the Valley back in February, but a snowstorm canceled those plans. Now that it’s the complete opposite of winter out there, Kelly returns with her quintet to play a show at the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall at the University of Massachusetts Friday at 8 p.m.

The 22-year-old Kelly put out her first album at age 12 and began studying with Lee Konitz soon after. While still a teen, she performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Huey Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Questlove and countless others, most of whom have gone on record to loudly and proudly singer her praises.

After jamming with Kelly, Phil Woods reportedly told someone, “How did she sound? I gave her my hat! That’s how good she sounded!” The morning after playing with Kelly, Tonight Show/Roots drummer Questlove tweeted, “Lord Jesus Grace Kelly you KILLED that sax solo. Awesome night! Hope to play again.”

Kelly is a Berklee College of Music graduate and recent Los Angeles transplant who can effortlessly play high-quality straight-ahead jazz — her “Happy Theme Song” has a mid-1950s swing — but as one of her songs says, “Please Don’t Box Me In.” She also puts funky modern spins on standards like “Summertime,” and sings on pop-minded pieces like the groovy “Sweet Sweet Baby” and the cute and folky “Ready Set Stay.”

She was a guest at the Loft Lounge in Northampton earlier this week and you could hardly get in the door — people were seated at and against every possible surface, including the wall behind the speakers. A hot ticket for a sweltering season.

∎ The Florence Civic Center holds outdoor concerts every Thursday night during the summer months, the popular “Florence Music on the Porch Series.” If severe weather threatens, the shows move indoors across the street at the Florence VFW, which is what happened last week on an oppressively muggy night. As lightning shot sideways across the sky, turning the clouds purple, a large crowd was cozy inside the air-conditioned VFW, munching the saltiest fresh-popped popcorn known to man. Series coordinator Priscilla M. Ross took the microphone to excitedly tell everyone about a special show coming up, something she’d never put on the schedule before: a Beatles Tribute Night.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the UK premiere of the Fab Four’s huge first film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” so Dave Stern, who helped start a Beatles Open Mic long ago at the old Yellow Sofa in Northampton, put the Tribute Night together. It will feature a core group of players and singers, plus a few special guests, all performing Beatles songs — which remain as potent, poppy and perfect as ever, no matter what futuristic year it might be. At the Florence Civic Center (or the VFW) Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

∎ Dave Houghton, frontman of Fancy Trash, is incapable of “phoning it in.” Whether he’s performing a full show in front of hundreds or running through a song numerous times at a tiny rehearsal, Houghton usually ends up singing with hurricane force, lunging toward or away from the microphone like there’s electricity shooting through him.

Houghton is currently finishing up his first-ever solo album, “Leche Moon,” which he describes as “very sparse and psychedelic.” It was recorded with Norm DeMoura at Harmonium Studio in Haydenville and is due out in the fall.

Houghton has had a residency at Mocha Maya’s in Shelburne Falls, playing solo every month, sometimes turning it into a loose jam with friends. His regular Hootenanny spot returns Thursday at 8 p.m.

∎ Panther is the latest deejay night hosted by the hardest working turntable entertainer in the Valley, Studebaker Hawk. He often teams up with another deejay, and in this case, his co-pilot is in-demand DJ Just Joan, who spends almost as much time rocking clubs in this area as she does out in her current home of Boston. The duo will spin funk, soul, boogie, electro, disco “and other throwback dance-floor gems.” The dance party happens every second and fourth Thursday of each month — which means tonight — at The O’s in Sunderland at 9 p.m. Free.