Clubland: Florence Civic Center kicks off summer concert series tonight

  • The Nite Caps

Published: 6/21/2018 11:46:05 AM

The scent of fresh-popped popcorn in the air, a wave of lawn chair-lugging families and friends carrying coolers, pizzas and picnic baskets across the grass to find their early-bird spots … it’s time again for the Summer Music On the Porch series, every Thursday, starting tonight, at the Florence Civic Center from 6:30-8 p.m.

It’s a yearly tradition to gather around the hexagonal veranda at sundown with snacks and drinks and some local musical entertainment. Friends chat, kids run wild, dancers kick up dust clouds over on the side so they don’t block anyone’s view.

The 2018 seasons starts tonight with the Florence Community Band, a 35-strong orchestra of locals led by conductor Priscilla M. Ross. The band, founded in spring 2001, includes people of all ages and levels of musical expertise, and their purpose is to gather regularly to perform together for the community, and to “have fun doing so.”

The internationally known Young@Heart Chorus takes over the porch on June 28. The group of singers (ages 73 and older) recently returned from a tour of Belgium and the Netherlands, and they’ll fill the Florence air with their unique versions of popular songs (their set lists over the years have included favorites by Michael Jackson, Radiohead, Sam Cooke, David Bowie, Prince, Talking Heads and more).

Local guitarist Joe Belmont brings his ensemble The Joe Belmont Experience to the stage on July 5, playing jazz, rock standards, Chicago blues and original compositions too.

If you’re hoping for some classic roots country and western swing tunes, The Nite Caps’ appearance on July 12 should have a star on your calendar. Built around the nucleus of BetsyDawn Williams on vocals and rhythm guitar and Jeff Potter on drums, harmonica and vocals, the quintet prides itself on helping you kick up a joyful ruckus on the dance floor (or the Florence Civic Center lawn).

Galvanizer brings their “psychedublic funk” to the outdoor venue on July 19. Led by guitarist, composer, producer and teacher John Cabán, the groove-oriented band draws from R&B, blues, jazz fusion, rock, surf, dub and “other worldly influences” for its jams.

Singer/songwriter Annie Guthrie — daughter of Arlo and Jackie, sibling of Sarah Lee, Abe and Cathy — appears on July 26.

Northampton alt-country/classic rock quintet The Bum Steers performs on August 2.

There’s nothing like seeing a big band squeeze onto the porch, and the 18-piece Bad News Jazz & Blues Orchestra will do that on August 9. Their aim is to play an “original big band style of jazz and swing music, but with a twist,” and their repertoire includes Glenn Miller and Count Basie tunes as well as more modern rock songs (and they have a vocalist in the group for extra pizzazz).

The hashtag-happy #doubledoseofdave — a duo of David Picchi and Dave O’Brien — takes to the homey stage on August 16, playing piano, guitar and bass and singing well-known pop, soul and R&B songs. 

The Ludlow-based Heritage “Pops” Orchestra fills up the porch on August 23. With vocalists Ann Maggs and Ted Nowak and their can’t-miss-‘em logo-emblazoned bright red music stands, they hope to transport your eyes and ears back to the big band days.

And finally, as is the tradition, the Lonesome Brothers (singer/songwriters Jim Armenti and Ray Mason, with drummer Keith Levreault) play their twangy dance-friendly “hick rock” to close out the season on August 30. Their end-of-summer Music on the Porch appearance in 2015 was one of my favorite concerts of that year, with happy neighbors leaping off their blankets and chairs to dance all over the dusky lawn as the streetlights popped on.


New Band Alert! Local trio Easy Weasel — Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne, Look Park), Rick Murnane (Group DeVille) and Brad Thayer (The Glad Machine) — will make their debut, opening for Colorway at New City Brewery in Easthampton tonight at 7:30 p.m. What will they sound like? Their Twitter description is “throat rock”… hmmm. Celebrate the first day of summer with their first show!

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