Fifth annual Blues and Funk Fest to feature sounds of the Balkans and New Orleans


NORTH ADAMS, MA -Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) once again will turn the heat up in North Adams when MCLA Presents! brings an all-new Blues and Funk Festival to town with two nights of blues, funk and soul from around the world. 

The Fifth Annual MCLA Blues and Funk Festival takes place Thursday, Feb. 4, and Friday, Feb. 5, with both shows beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the campus's Venable Gym to allow lots of room for dancing.

Kicking off the festival on Thursday will be the Brooklyn-based and Eastern European-flavored Slavic Soul Party. Then, on Friday, Big Sam's Funky Nation will take the stage. Both evenings will feature MCLA students performing, with Friday evening showcasing local favorites and MCLA alumni billy G and the BlueZone.

Consisting of some of New York City's finest jazz, funk and blues musicians, the nine-piece Slavic Soul Party mixes the "messed-up" rhythms of the Balkans with gypsy music, funk, soul, rock and jazz for a sound that brings both young and old together for a dance party.

"The band embraces a wild variety of music - including Indian and Klezmer," according to Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA. "The sound is worldly, yet familiar. No matter what language they sing in, it is hard to keep your feet still".

All Things Considered described Slavic Soul Party as having "madcap rhythms, hyperactive horns, a sense of the absurd, and just a hint of abstract jazz ... everything you could want." And Barnes and Noble Online wrote, "Prepare to be transported ... a soulful, adventurously improvised blast from Party Central."

Paving the way nicely for Friday night's New Orleans funk, "Slavic Soul Party takes much of its inspiration from New Orleans party traditions, playing non-stop with a punk-rock energy that has won them fans all across the country," Secor said.

Opening on Thursday night will be Hawa Umarova, an MCLA sophomore originally from Chechnya, in the former Soviet Union, as well as a festival favorite - the MCLA Jazz Band, under the direction of Jamie Choquette.

The party will continue on Friday night when New Orleans band Big Sam's Funky Nation headlines.  A driving force of urban funk in New Orleans and around the world, the band is led by Dirty Dozen Brass Band trombonist Big Sam Williams, whom the San Francisco Chronicle called "the top man on the slide trombone in the birthplace of jazz."

"For the past five years we have had a home for New Orleans's best musicians here on stage at MCLA," said Secor. "Big Sam and his Funky Nation will continue the MCLA tradition of a Mardi Gras party in the Berkshires, started by the likes of Papa Grows Funk, Charlie Neville, Charmaine Neville and Jon Cleary. And, with the New Orleans Saints so close to the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras a week away, there are truly reasons for New Orleaneans and Berkshirites alike to party."

Opening for Big Sam will be local favorites and MCLA alumni, billy G and the BlueZone with their version of hard-hitting old school blues, and MCLA's high-stepping Step Team - NEXXUS.

General Admission is $12 per evening or $20 for both evenings.

For additional information and a complete listing of the season, visit presents.  Tickets may be reserved over the phone at 413.662.5204.  For information about the artists presented in this series, call 413.664.8718.  To become a member of MCLA Presents! and receive free tickets to all of our shows, call 413.662.5229.

MCLA Presents! brings to North Adams and the MCLA campus some of the world's finest performers in music, dance, theatre, and spoken word.  From large musical festivals held in the school gym and on the grounds, to intimate one-person theatrical events and evenings of poetry held in the College's art galleries downtown, MCLA Presents! shares a unique performance series with the Northern Berkshire community.  In addition to showcasing world-renowned artists, MCLA Presents! is committed to showcasing the talent of its own community, as well as the work of MCLA students.

MCLA Presents! is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center ( bcrc).