The Strange Ones’ Ball with Bella’s Bartok, And The Kids – Gateway City Arts

Photos and Review by Eric Pennell

Show photos HERE

Scene I – A forest in Gateway City Arts, Holyoke Massachusetts, New Years Eve, 2018

The Strange Ones, 500 strong, slowly emerged from the rain and cold and gathered under the protection of the mystical forest that had appeared over the past few days. To hide or enhance their true being they dressed in colorful costumes with elaborate makeup, masks, hats and head-dress. They ate, drank, conversed and shared a selfie or two. Bella’s Bartok, with the wisdom gained from previous such gatherings on this same night in years past, ensured protection and good fortune for The Strange Ones by summoning many fairies, nymphs and demons to walk and dance among the revelers.

Scene II – Bella’s Bartok and the Music

Bella’s Bartok had been busy preparing the sonic feast; equal parts: punk rock, Vaudeville act and Hungarian folk music, honing the recipe over many years and many recordings (Please listen to and purchase their albums on Bandcamp.com). Their journey to the forest was short, as they call western Massachusetts home, so they dined and prepared in a secret chamber while their guests arrived.

The music of Bella’s Bartok is bright, heavy, flamboyant and fun. Songs of modern greed, politics, love and our current human condition are woven into folk tales. A tell-tale eastern European resonance is adorned with bouts of shouting, laughter and carefully constructed harmonies. Honestly, their music defies classification (Reference: Circus Punk, Klezmer Punk ).

Scene III – The Ball

As show time approached The Strange Ones slowly congregated at the large raised clearing within the forest. There was much rejoicing as Bella’s Bartok appeared and took their places under the sweltering multi-colored lights.

Asher Putnam (frontman) is tall and agile with dark curly hair, a handlebar mustache and well attired in suit vest and hat. He has a captivating presence on stage; part master of ceremonies and part court jester, he can shift from balladic crooner to punk rock monster in the blink of an eye. Dan Niederhauser and Lucas Solorzano comprise the strings section of the band, on bass and guitar, respectively. Dan’s striking presence and occasional comedic play with Asher is countered by the focus and methodical nature of Lucas. Both are masters of their instruments and provide the core rhythm for the songs.

The lighting is changing rapidly from intense bright white to sinister red forcing Bella’s Bartok to shed their traveling clothes for a respite from the heat. As the ball continues The Strange Ones chant, sing and dance in an uproarious nature. Dance is as much a part of Bella’s Bartoks’ signature as the music itself. This is best displayed by the hyperkinetic brass section of Amory Drennan and Gershon Rosen. They are never not moving (I mean like never). They are both incessantly transferring from providing ferocious horns to bobbing, weaving and jumping in syncopation to the music.

Permeating the sounds in the forest are the accordion and keyboard handled deftly by Alex Kogut. Alex and the accordion are a crucial element to the alloy that is Bella’s Bartok, fusing the modern age to the old world. Crisco is on drums that thunder through the forest and crowd, tapping into the primal nature in all of us; that unmistakable vibration that compels us to ceremony.

Scene IV – Happy New Year, Goodnight and Thank You

The Strange Ones and Bella’s Bartok were so lost in music and dance they almost missed the midnight hour only realizing with seconds to spare to pause and acknowledge another trip around our good sun (a few seconds too late by my watch! haha). We toasted and celebrated with balloons, confetti and glitter until the music overtook once more. The fairies and nymphs congregated at the front of the crowd and shared the stage with ogre like creatures, giants and snake dancers. A gracious encore brought the night to a close and Bella’s Bartok wished The Strange Ones happiness and good fortune in the new year, to be kind to one another and to find their way homes safely without too much trouble from the patrols of the legion of the 5-0.

I’d like to express my personal thanks to the following people for such an amazing show:

  • Bella’s Bartok
  • And The Kids
  • Gateway City Arts
  • Kara Karmah of PRIA Music Marketing
  • Lynne Bertrand of Signature Sounds
  • One World Puppetry and Performance Art
  • The lighting crew who explicitly told me their job was to provide such a dynamic light show that I had to become a better photographer to get good shots! Cheers to that!
  • The sound crew for producing a well-balanced, crushing sound that rendered my ear plugs to dust.

Bella’s Bartok

  • Asher Putnam – Fontman, Vocals
  • Dan Niederhauser – Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Amory Drennan – Trombone, Backing Vocals
  • Crisco – Drums, Backing Vocals
  • Gershon Rosen – Trumpet, Backing Vocals
  • Alex Kogut – Accordian, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
  • Lucas Solorzano – Guitar, Backing Vocals

And The Kids

  • Hannah Mohan – Guitar, Vocals
  • Rebecca Lassponaro – Drums, Samples, Vo

For the story of And The Kids, please stay tuned to NECR and Eric Pennell Photography.

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