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Gary Clark, Jr. and Fiona Silver at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

Celebrate Brooklyn Gary Clark  Jr. - 8In an age where almost any sound can be manufactured - or altered - in the production studio, it was a breath of fresh air to witness a true guitar virtuoso on Thursday night, when blues master Gary Clark, Jr. lit up BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! to kick off the final weekend of free shows at the Bandshell. (The Decemberists are playing the final benefit show tonight, weather permitting.) The packed house ate up his nearly two-hour set, along with sultry opener Fiona Silver

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Sarah Kohrs and Wanda Houston at The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington

Wanda Houston Sarah Kohrs Mahaiwe - 67Great Barrington, MA - When it comes to music in the Berkshires, there's more to life than just Tanglewood. Case in point: the 113 year old Mahaiwe theater, where last night I heard a stunning show by local singer-songwriter Sarah Kohrs and former Broadway star Wanda Houston, backed by a full band of brass, guitars, and drums. Part jazz, part alt-country, Kohrs' songs lay bare the trials and tribulations - and ecstasies and joys - of falling in and out of love. Switching between piano and guitar, Kohrs sounded like the best of Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor, and Carol King, with a bit of Loretta Lynn for good measure. Not a bad way to spend a rainy night in the Berkshires. 

Next time you're up this way, check out Kohrs with her musical partner, Mark Tuomenoksa, who regularly perform as Tumo-Kohrs. Schedule here.

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BRIC Celebrate! Brooklyn: Aimee Mann/ Robert Glasper's R+R = NOW / Branford Marsalis and Roger Guenveur Smith

Branford marsalis  - 1I've been in and out of town a bunch over the past few weeks, but when I'm home, I always make a point of stopping by the Prospect Park Bandshell, where BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn is holding its 40th(!) annual season of free concerts. (See our thoughts on the opening night with Common here.) Pretty much any night you stop by, odds are you'll see something worthwhile: in the past week alone, I've seen singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, and some intense, politically tinged jazz with Robert Glasper's R+R=NOW project (incl. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Terrace Martin, Derrick Hodge, Justin Tyson, and Taylor McFerrin).

Last night's show featured a monster double bill including two sets by the incredibly tight and powerful Branford Marsalis Quartet, which bracketed  Roger Guenveur Smith's Frederick Douglass Now, which is hands down the most brilliant, urgent work of theater I've seen in recent memory. Blending several of Douglass' most famous letters and speeches with his own freestyle mashup of socio-political rant, it was a wake up call right on time for the 4th of July - marked by a huge American flag hanging droopily onstage and Marsalis' emotional playing of the National Anthem, twice. One of the best nights I've had at the bandshell, period. 

If you're in the area and want to beat the heat with a little country and bluegrass, stop by tonight for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, with Sierra Hull, Justin Moses and Mamie Minch opening. Doors at 6pm, show at 7.

Pics (with links to full albums) below.

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