Above: The Dust Bowl Faeries performed at The Foundry in West Stockbridge June 14; photo by Isabel Costa, modified by Jason Velázquez.
When Amy Brentano opened her doors at The Foundry she had one goal in mind. That goal was to bring under recognized artists to life in Berkshire County. Nestled in the intimate and quaint town of West Stockbridge, MA, The Foundry provides a small indoor and outdoor performance space perfect for small bands and performances to display their work.
“We look to create a diverse program, diverse from everything including voices being heard to the kind of work they wish to present including theatre, dance, and improve. We use our mission as a guide, which is to give voice to often unheard voices, and to give a platform to really hold up emerging new work, said Brentano.”
The Foundry, like many other artistic institutions, is coming back to life after a quiet year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We ultimately shut down after our “30 under 30” event voluntarily because I could see it coming,” she recalled.
“I thought, ‘let’s get ahead of this,’ so we shut down in April and opened a Patreon account, and my colleague Noah and myself safely worked together and developed different online content which we put out once a week, in place of live events,” said Brentano.
The Foundry also continued their “Emerging Artist Series” online gaining submissions from local artists around the Berkshires.
During the summer of 2020, The Foundry stayed open, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to give performers the chance to take the stage.
“We did open in 2020 in July, and we ran outdoor performances on our patio side through the end of October, with all the COVID restrictions in place. That was extraordinary, just amazing, because most of the artists would start the show and get very teary-eyed because they had not performed for so long, and they could with all safety measures in place, said Brentano.”
The Foundry has halted online programming for the summer of 2021, keeping a strong eye on the news and making sure all patrons are experiencing programming safely .
Staff at local venues all had the challenge of planning ahead post pandemic, going about it in a unique way as the future for live entertainment could change so quickly. The resurgence of live music has brought about a cathartic and joyous experience to both Brentano and the performers.
“The feedback during the start of our summers performances has been, ‘thank you, thank you for doing this.’ I think the performers really appreciate that we welcome them with open arms and let them know that they are valued,” said Brentano.”
In addition to the band, The Foundry also invited a food truck from BB’s restaurant on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield, MA to bring some Jamaican flavor along with a solid beer and liquor menu.
The Foundry had a great start to their summer season with a sold-out performance by Dayna Kurtz, a singer and songwriter blending blues, pop, and jazz. A large and engaged crowd came to see the Hudson Valley based, acclaimed group the Dust Bowl Faeries.
Lead by founder Ryder Cooley, they took to The Foundry’s stage to play their signature post punk folk music, connecting many of their pieces relating to this past year’s pandemic. Cooley addressed the audience by thanking them, as well as The Foundry, for having them there that night.
“This is a wonderful way to step into live embodied gatherings, and we can feel the wonderful energy surrounding us, so thank you,” stated Cooley.
The group performed a lot of old hits and new songs written during COVID- 19. Many of the songs talked about the band’s experiences during the quarantine.
They played their debut song “Cuckoo,” which described how social distancing brought out feelings of isolation and sadness during these trying times.
The rest of the summer season at The Foundry is filled with many different genres of music highlighting up-and-coming artists.
Alternative blues band, Daddy Long Legs, will be performing with Wild Weeeds (not be confused with Connecticut Rock legends, The Wildweeds), a rock and roll band based in Columbia County, NY., Friday, July 9 at 7:00 p.m.
Sxip Shirey will take the stage again on Friday, July 16 at 7:00 p.m.
As an internationally known circus music performer, he has toured the world performing at music venues such as the Kennedy Center and on the Broadway stage.
Anjimile, a queer trans song maker based in Boston, Mass. will be headlining on Friday, June 18 at 7:00 p.m.
On Saturday, June 19, internationally acclaimed Latin jazz vocalist Lauren Henderson will be the first to headline The West Stockbridge Historical Society’s 2021–2022 live jazz concert series.
Jake Blount will be performing on Friday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m.
Blount is widely known for reclaiming the roots of people of color through Bluegrass music.
“A qualification for me while picking artists is that they are generous in spirit, really loving human beings that want to share a special relationship with the audience, says Brentano.”
The Alexis P. Suter Band will be playing Friday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m.
Brooklyn native Alexis P. Suter is a well-known American soul blues singer, and along with her band, has been making music together for the past 20 years.
“We really want to curate acts that are not happening in the Berkshires and that are accessible to audiences that are not typically reached out to. We want to reach audiences that want to see people like them and host people who have had their experiences. We are just a small scrappy intimate venue, producing really high quality and unique work,” said Brentano.”
Brentano works hand-in-hand with Josh Bennett, the founder and head of the Berkshire Music Project, to carefully curate musicians that are not as well-known and to bring inclusivity to Berkshire County.
“There is always the generic, I grew up loving music, but I really did”, states Bennett. “I remember hanging out with the family and playing old 45’s on the record player — those were the best nights of the week. From a young age I was listening to off-the-beaten-path musicians from people around me,” said Bennett.
Bennett started his not-for-profit, The Berkshire Music Project, after returning to the Berkshires from California, by constructing a company that promotes all different kinds of performance opportunities for many different musicians.
“When I lived in Oakland, California, I had access to all these small towns to listen to live music and I just loved it. When I moved back to the Berkshires it seemed to be the same musicians playing at multiple venues. I really wanted to see more touring artists so I decided to take it into my own hands, and I worked to start utilizing local venues,” said Bennett.
The mission of the Berkshire Music Project is to raise funds for local music venues by allowing them to take risks on artists that otherwise wouldn’t be heard.
Bennett is attracted to artists who remain under the radar. He has a musician’s type of intuition which allows him to book the artists he feels will succeed with audiences.
“There are times I book musicians that are not my favorite type of genre, but there is just something that sticks out to me from within that genre,” says Bennett.
With the pandemic restrictions lifting, live music is now completely accessible. The Foundry is ready to welcome back patrons this summer with open arms.
To find more information about future events and to purchase tickets go to www.thefoundryws.com.