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IE #34: HiLo North Adams — a resurrection of space and sound

From the Crystal Hardhat to Museum of Dog, 55 Union Street has known it’s share of weirdness and wildness. Now, reanimated as the region’s premier mid-sized music and comedy venue, HiLo North Adams is already winning the hearts, minds, and ears of North County.

The newly revealed original exterior of 55 Union; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.

You are listening to INDIEcent Exposure, this is Episode #34 and I am your host, the mongrel, welcoming you to another great show. It’s packed some with amazing tracks, some brand new and some that just stand the test of time.

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Brian Miksic, standing on the balcony off the Green Room at HiLo North Adams, overlooking Union Street; photo and image effects by Jason Velázquez.
Brian Miksic, standing on the balcony off the Green Room at HiLo North Adams, overlooking Union Street; photo and image effects by Jason Velázquez.

We’ll be hearing from Larisa Santiago, A Permanent Shadow, Dylan in the Movies, and more. We’ll also be hearing from two individuals who came together to do something highly unusual in this day and age — Orion Howard and Brian Miksic talk about what went into the opening of the brand spanking new live music venue, HiLo North Adams. Crazy, right? Opening a club in the Netflix and chill era? Maybe not, since the space was at capacity for the private opening performance of Izzy Heltai this Thursday, 8/29. Tickets for shows in the near future are also sold out, so I guess people will get off the couch and out the house if you give them a primo entertainment in a cozy place to play.

Tracks Featured in this Episode

Izzy Heltai • “Stuck in Stone” • Only Yesterday, EP, 2019
Shokazoba • “Puppets” • Illusion of Choice
Larissa Santiago • “No Soy Tu Ninera” • single, 2019
A Permanent Shadow • “Empty” • Songs of Loss
Jimmy Layton • “Eruption”• Fortunes of a Misspent Youth, Aug 2019
Burne Holiday • “Royal Bones” • Memento, 2019
Cass Clayton Band • “Doesn’t Make Sense” • Play Nice, 2019
Tren Selva “People” Dizzy Blue Reflection, 2010
Dylan in the Movies • “August Moon” • Feel the Pull, 2005

The Izzy Heltai Band inaugurating the new stage at the newly launched HiLo, August 29, 2019; photo by Jason Velázquez
The Izzy Heltai Band inaugurating the new stage at the newly launched HiLo, August 29, 2019; photo by Jason Velázquez

We don’t have audio from opening night, but if you go to the shownotes for this episode, you can gaze at the photo of Izzy Heltai and his band breaking in the HiLo’s brand new stage. And if you do that while I spin you “Stuck in Stone” off his 2019 EP, Only Yesterday, you might even feel almost like you were there.

The performance stage at HiLo, still under construction just days before the soft opening; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.
The performance stage at HiLo, still under construction just days before the soft opening; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.

For Heltai’s show, the audience space was set up as a chill music cafe with small tables and chairs, which reduces the maximum capacity, but creates a very intimate mood. The band was amped, but I almost wonder if they had to be, the acoustics in the room are that good. Angles, a lot of wood to absorb sound, and of course, a well designed system permit sufficient volume without pain at the end of the night.

FEATURED EVENT

The crowd was appreciative, anyway — no one seemed uncomfortable with the level of sound. Mostly, people we’re enjoying a great choice for the inaugural band, sitting around and occasionally commenting some version of, “Holy shit. This is a real venue. North Adams has an actual music venue.” I mean, yeah, there are other places to hear music in town, some of them great, but everything about HiLo makes it clear that it’s got “Rock Club” mojo right down to the cellular level. Like it whispers “I have always been here — I’ve just been waiting for the right time to be reincarnated.”

The performers apartment / Green Room above the HiLo venue, which will provide welcome relief to touring artists; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.
The performers apartment / Green Room above the HiLo venue, which will provide welcome relief to touring artists; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.

Of course, it took a little more than Bippity Boppity Boo to cleanse 55 Union of the Crystal Museum of Hard Dog Hat juju it had built over recent years. Before it could become a soon-to-be-legendary music spot, it had to become a Very Good Property. We spoke with Brian Miksic and Orion Howard of Very Good Properties to find out just how this venue came to be and what special touches increase the likelihood of longterm success. Orion comes to club ownership by a circuitous route that put in a position where he could make it rain downtown.

After the butt-ugly façade was torn away, floor to ceiling windows were revealed that allow passersby to see the bands playing within; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.
After the butt-ugly façade was torn away, floor to ceiling windows were revealed that allow passersby to see the bands playing within; photo and effects by Jason Velázquez.
Izzy Heltai
Shokazoba
Larisa Santiago
A Permanent Shado
Jimmy Layton
Burne Holiday
The Cass Clayton Band
Tren Selva
Tren Selva
Dylan in the Movies
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