July 31, 2008


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Hot air and hot music
12 bands set to play annual Balloon Rally
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

This weekend, those who make the drive out to Pittsfield for the yearly balloon festival will be treated to amazing colors of balloons as well as music that plays most of the day and night — all for free.

It’s the 27th Annual Pittsfield Rotary Balloon Rally, which in recent years has become a hot spot for live music.

“It’s turned into its own private music festival,” said Suzi Bard, secretary of the Rotary club and in charge of setting up the music for the event.

“We’ve always had a few local bands at night,” she said. But more and more bands contacted her about playing at the festival – which pays no money — as it became the place to play. “This was the first time we that we’re turning away bands. I can’t believe it,” Bard said.

One of the bands, Djatmaterra, a Boston-based pop-rock quartet, is taking a break from recording a new album at Rocking Horse Studio to play an hour-long set Friday evening before heading back to the studio to continue recording.

Twelve bands are scheduled to play for the three-day concert, though music is only on Friday and Saturday. And while the hot air balloons depend on good weather, the music is to play rain or shine.

On Friday night, Manchester-based SOAK will play a two-hour show. SOAK will be the opening act at Meadowbrook when Blues Traveler, Collective Soul and Live play the following weekend, Saturday, Aug. 9.

On Saturday night, the band Rockus plays a two-hour set before Forge takes over to headline for the night. Rockus has played at the festival for years, some say since its inception years ago, which started as a small party, though the members of Rockus say that’s not the case. They say they’ve played at most of the festivals, just not all of them. Rockus, a Pittsfield-based band, started with the Freeman brothers, John and Jimmy, who have played together for more than 40 years with various band mates.

On Saturday night, after Forge plays for an hour and half, there will be a night glow, where all the hot air balloons light up their burners to show their nighttime colors. Following the night glow, there will be a fireworks show.

Of course the reason for the fundraiser is to show off the hot air balloons, which, depending on weather, will lift off between 5 and 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday evening, and between 5:30 and 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. For those who get there early, the Rotary will host a breakfast starting at 5:45 a.m. There will be food available throughout the day provided by the Rotary, as the food is their main source of fundraising for the weekend.

Although you cannot sign up for a balloon ride, there are helicopter rides available for the general public between 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. And on Sunday, for those who want to run, there is a 5k road race starting at 10 p.m.

All the events are family-friendly. No alcohol or smoking is permitted on the grounds of Drake Field, off Carroll Street, Pittsfield.

Friday, Aug. 1
4 p.m. Stephanie Joyce
5 p.m. Jake Desmaris
6 p.m. Ghost Dinner Band
7 p.m. Djatmaterra
8 p.m. SOAK
10 p.m. Joe Mazzari Band

Saturday, Aug. 2
noon Stephanie Joyce
1 p.m. Dreamline
2 p.m. Chris James
3 p.m. Skama Sutra
4 p.m. Duty Free
5 p.m. Rockus
7 p.m. Forge
8:30 p.m. nightglow of balloons
9 p.m. fireworks