The battle returns: Valley Music Showcase competition will be filmed outdoors but screened online

  • Gracie Day, right, and The Phantom Limbs will bring their country-pop sound to the Valley Music Showcase May 28. Photos courtesy Mark Sherry

  • The western Massachusetts band Driving Wheel pitches itself as a “funk and soul band devoted to keeping those great American musical traditions alive.”

  • Johnny Cab, a “psycho-punk rock” band from Hartford, Connecticut, plays the Valley Music Showcase May 28. Photo courtesy Mark Sherry

  • No Lens, out of Greenfield, plays a mix of reggae and rock.

  • GoldFlame, a pop-punk/alternative rock quartet from Belchertown, plays the VMS May 28.

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2021 1:05:01 PM

The Valley Music Showcase, the popular “Battle of the Bands” competition that began five years ago, is ready to open a new season.

But for the time being, the shows will remain online — with the possibility that should overall conditions improve significantly, some shows later this year could be offered in person.

This month, five bands, playing a range of music from pop rock to reggae and funk, will be filmed gigging live at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. The sets, of about 30 minutes, will then air on Facebook, YouTube and a few other sites on Friday, May 28, for free. As in past VMS shows, a panel of judges will then select a winning band that will receive various awards, including gift certificates from area businesses.

Last spring, Mark Sherry, founder and producer of the Valley Music Showcase, found himself in the same position other music promoters were in when all live music events, both inside and outdoors, were canceled because of the pandemic and no real sense of when they might resume.

One show was eventually screened online in early October after the artists were filmed live at Glendale Ridge. 

In a recent phone call, Sherry says he’s planning to use the same model this year unless there’s compelling evidence that it will be completely safe to stage something indoors, perhaps in the fall.

“That’s kind of a moving target,” he said, referring to the questions that remain concerning reopening indoor sites for music, from audience confidence to how well vaccinations progress, to how soon the state and community heath departments might lift all restrictions on indoor gatherings.

“And the bottom line is, when you’re running events like this on a shoestring budget like we are, with volunteer help, you don’t have a lot of flexibility to switch gears that quickly,” he said. “We want this event to be safe for everyone involved, and the pandemic has introduced a real complexity [for indoor shows] that’s difficult for us to deal with.”

Sherry started the Valley Music Showcase to provide a forum for bands and musicians from a region roughly defined as the Connecticut River Valley from southern Vermont to central Connecticut, as well as central Massachusetts. Until the pandemic hit, most shows were staged at New City Brewery in Easthampton; a rotating panel of judges, including local politicians, media figures and other musicians, would select a winning artist or band from each show.

“We really do this to help promote the bands, to promote the area as a source of good music, and to generate as much fun as we can for the audience,”  Sherry said.

The online show last October worked quite well, he said. “I think everyone, from the audience to the bands, was just happy to have an opportunity to hear and make music,” he said — so he’s confident that set-up can be duplicated for the May 28 show and for two other Showcase shows this year, in July and September.

One performer on tap for May 28 has already made some waves. Gracie Day and The Phantom Limbs, a pop-country group from Southbridge, is fronted by Day, who was voted Best New Artist at the New England Music Awards in 2017 and a “Person to Watch” by Pulse magazine in Worcester in 2020. (She’s also a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.)

The lineup is rounded out by No Lens, a reggae-rock group from Greenfield; Johnny Cab, a “psycho-punk rock” band from Hartford, Connecticut.; Driving Wheel, a seven-member, western Massachusetts funk and soul band; and GoldFlame, a Belchertown quartet that offers pop-punk and alternative rock.

Sherry said all the bands will be filmed one at a time on small, separate stages arranged in a semicircle at Glendale Ridge Vineyard, and filming will be done by Holyoke Media. Sherry will be the MC, introducing each band in turn.

He’s modeled these shows a bit after “Later … with Jools Holland,” a long-running British music TV series that presents different artists and bands playing before a studio audience, with Holland introducing the bands and interviewing selected members from them.

“I want to be able to bring a sense that you’re watching a live show, not just something being streamed from different locations,” he said.

The judges, who will include Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, will also be at the filming of the May 28 show and will make their decision after all the bands have performed. Interviews with the bands will take place after the awards ceremony.

Sherry says he approached a number of bands about playing May 28; some demurred for the time being because the pandemic had prevented them from being able to rehearse for long stretches. But the bands that will perform “appear to be practicing again and feel confident about playing,” he said.

To find out more about the show, check out, or visit and click on “Programs.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at


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