The very best option for free outdoor music lovers is The Clark Art Institute, which provides free events on the South Lawn every Tuesday evening during the month of July. This summer you can drag your blankets and chairs to 225 South Street in “Village Beautiful” (Williamstown) for bluegrass, soul, folk, and even a Beatles tribute band. Go to www.clarkart.edu for details. Arrive earlier than the 6pm start and you can tour the galleries and the spectacular grounds.
Pittsfield offers two free concert series each summer. For upbeat modern sounds, try “Live at the Lake” Wednesday nights at 7 at Burbank Park off Valentine Road on the west side of Pittsfield. Parking can be difficult at these well-attended events, but some people solve that by cruising to the bandstand in their Lake Onota boats. Springside Park on upper North Street has quieter fare with The Eagles Band, folk groups, and Dixieland Tuesday nights at 7. The web site www.discoverpittsfield.com will have details for both when they are announced.
Great Barrington offers three free summer concert series. Friday evenings at 5:30 in the bandstand behind Town Hall at Main and Castle Streets you can hear selected local performers with acoustic, folk, and jazz in a low-key setting. Children’s concerts are offered at the same location on Saturday mornings. The “Sounds of Summer” series is held on Tuesday nights at the VFW grounds on South Main Street (Route 7). Information is usually on the town site www.townofgb.org when available.
With a very pleasant drive down the Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway (Route 20) to the City of Westfield you can stretch your weekend entertainment into Sunday nights at the Stanley Park Concert Series. It’s a 30-year tradition at the Beveridge Pavilion near Westfield State University. The 6pm offerings will include traditional band concert fare, country-western, and even a polka party. Go early and try one of the easy walking trails. You can see the full 2013 season’s schedule at www.stanleypark.org.
One tip for finding free music is to watch the local listings (as opposed to tourist events) in the area newspapers. Other venues that invite the public for concerts include the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, the scenic Mount Greylock Visitor Center in Lanesborough, Heron Cove in Cheshire, North Adams’ Windsor Lake, the Adams downtown bandstand, Laurel Lake Nursing Home in Lee, and the North Adams Public Library. Watch local listings every day for updates as these events are not usually advertised or publicized as well as commercial concerts.
A few Frisbees will fly through the air, kids will dance by the bandstand, and neighbors will greet neighbors at these informal events. Bolstered by an excellent local talent pool, the music is often surprisingly good. There is an incomparable joy to a picnic with some fine music in the invigorating early chill of a Berkshire summer evening.
~ Phil Smith is the former Executive Director and a current volunteer for the Lee Chamber of Commerce. He is a Trustee of Housatonic Heritage.