Butternut Time Machine

January 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The new year is a time to start fresh. It’s a time to set aside the past and look forward to the future. And it’s a time for my boss, Matt, to clean out the piles of stuff that have accumulated in his office.

Like this amazing poster.

Sean was tasked with separating the ones we can reuse from the ones that no longer serve a purpose, but I just couldn’t let this one get discarded without first having a bit of a Hot Tub Time Machine moment.

So please step into a ski area time warp with me, as we flip the calendar back to 2001, a time so prehistoric that Butternut didn’t have magic carpets or a tubing hill yet, had a snowboard-only terrain park, and “The Facebook” had not yet even been invented. Gasp!

As you can see from the poster, Summer 2001 at Butternut was a rollicking fun time, and the air was saturated with music. From May through August we hosted 14 days of concerts, featuring dozens of artists from near and far, spanning a diverse array of styles.

In May, the legendary Max Creek opened up our summer music series, along with the Reverend Tor Band and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten. The emphasis is from the poster. For just $20, you could enjoy many hours of music and overnight camping. Mid-station Eric, who helped build the mountain with Channing Murdock in the 1960s, and never left the mountain (nor the 60’s) after that, was certainly smiling down from above and enjoying the tunes, including the late night jam in the Upper Lodge. (Neat aside: There is a snowman-shaped memorial at the intersection of Lucifer’s Leap, Crosstown, and Hob Nob honoring Eric, Butternut’s #1 Deadhead).

June was filled with a plethora of musical options, from the rootsy jam of the Derek Trucks Band (with Rev Tor again!), to the reggae of Jamaican group Third World, and Dredi and Tamboura, to the blues of Albert Cummings, James Montgomery, and Alex Maryol, and the “honky tonk country” of the Brooklyn Cowboys (they have cowboys in Brooklyn?), The Beartown Mountain Ramblers, and the Dooley Austin Band.

In July, we celebrated Independence Day with fireworks and live music provided by Advanced Phunk (incidentally, also a course offered at Berkshire Community College in Great Barrington. Prerequisite: Introductory Soul) and Big Blue Hollar. At just $10 a carload, I wonder how many “clown cars” pulled into the lot. Keeping things local, we showcased a bunch of Berkshire-area musicians the next week, including Eric Underwood (no relation to Carrie, I believe), Genepool featuring Robby Baier (who has gone on to make music for several beer commercials), Beartown Mountain Ramblers, Meg Hutchinson, DaVinchi and the Wrong Crowd, Suitcase, Belladonna, and Fred Schane. Then we “kicked it up a notch” (sayeth the poster) and took things south, with the southern rock stylings of the Marshall Tucker Band, and Albert Cummings came back with the JD Band.

We ended the summer in late August with the 1st Annual Berkshire Jazz Festival, which is kind of a presumptuous name for the first time you do something (how do you know that it will become an annual tradition?), but it seems to have lived on or been reborn, albeit in a different place. It featured jazz greats like Houston Person, Etta Jones (who died just a few months later), The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Roy Hargrove Quintet, Terence Blanchard featuring Cassandra Wilson (she is performing as I write this at the legendary Blue Note in NYC), Dianne Reeves, Gato Barbieri, and Paul Winter Consort & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

This is quite an impressive line-up. While Butternut was a place for undiscovered artists and local gems, it was also a mecca for established veterans and even well-known legends across several genres. Many of these artists had performed all around the world before coming to Butternut, and almost all of them continue to perform today.

BUT I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST. As awesome and noteworthy as the above schedule was, I’ve yet to mention our marquee event: The Berkshire Mountain Music Festival. In its fourth year in 2001, it had become so epic and out-of-this-world that it was voted THE BEST SMALL MUSIC FESTIVAL IN THE NATION by Relix Magazine (Bonnaroo was voted the best large one, just to give you a sense of the kind of greatness to which we were compared). Sadly, the company that produced the festival soon found that they could not afford to run it, and it ended in 2003 (oddly, they still pay for the domain, and the website — much like this poster — remains perfectly preserved in its 2003 state). But in 2001, it had reached its apex.

It started out with a special one-day concert on August 5th. Headlined by banjo master Bela Fleck (and the Flecktones), the day also included Keb’ Mo’ (who I saw perform just a few months ago) and Martin Sexton.

And this was just the warm-up, the practice run, the green-circle-to-start-the-season, if you will.

The next weekend, all awesomeness broke loose. The 3-day Berkshire Mountain Music Festival descended upon Butternut (and spilled out into Great Barrington, or so I’ve been told), featuring dozens of bands performing on 5 stages, thousands and thousands of overnight campers, an international food court, crafts vendors galore, and bands including: Strangefolk (who performed a terrific set on the steps of a frathouse at my college two years later), Olu Dara, Yonder Mountain String Band (great show at the Mahaiwe in 2009), Steve Kimock Band, Sector 9, moe. (Yes, lowercase. Yes, period. I once had a boss who called herself a “moe-ron.”), Leftover Salmon, Percy Hill, Soulive, Jamie Janover (my one-time camp counselor and hammered dulcimer virtuoso), and many many more.

Wow, that was some summer.

Commencing time warpification back to 2012.

These days, we keep things a little mellower at the ‘Nut in the off-season, with the summer’s highlight being the Berkshires Arts Festival, not to mention many a wedding.

Did you get a chance to experience any of our music during the 2001 summer season, or attend one of the famous Berkshire Mountain Music Festivals? If so, please share your recollections with us in the comments section.

-rj.

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2 Comments

  1. I played with Bella Donna at the Berks Music Showcase way back then. Trip out.

  2. Thanks for posting this and leaving it up! After clicking a few links away from the blog, I just learned that one time Berkfest act, Addison Groove Project is Reuniting in Burlington, VT this weekend!


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