November 07, 2014

Positively Center Street - Jordi Herold

Snuck over to Real Art Ways last night (third time this week) for a book reading and Q&A with Jordi Herold, founder of and long time booking agent for the Iron Horse, up in Northampton, MA. Apparently, Jordi and Wil K. Wilkins (Executive Director of real Art Ways) are long time friends and it was sweet to recognize the "building an alternative space in the middle of a cultural desert" vibe with each place. The Iron Horse has certainly contributed to, and changed, Northampton.

Although it's not been a regular haunt of mine, I've certainly visited the Iron Horse often enough in pursuit of folkies - I've seen Dar Williams, Cry Cry Cry, Chris Smither, The Nields, Catie Curtis, Meg Huthinson over the years. Probably a few others as well, long before this blog began. And I've watched the ads for the Iron Horse over the years in the late Hartford Advocate. It's no wonder that Jordi's co-author is David Sokol, Music Editor of the Valley Advocate over many of the years that Jordi owned and booked the club. 

Jordi's book, Positively Center Street: My 25 Years at the Iron Horse Music Hall 1979-2004,  is a wonderful scrapbook of his years at the club - a collection of short pieces, vignettes, and anecdotes, generously illustrated with newspaper ads, posters, postcards, cancelled checks, and all matter of ephemera. Jordi confessed that "he saved everything" and we reap the benefits of his collecting.

Noting the large number of local / folk music royalty in the small crowd (Susan Forbes Hanson, Ed McKeown, Stan Sullivan, and Dan Hincks, Owner of the Infinity Music Hall were in the crowd), Jordi confessed that although the Iron Horse hosted many singer-songwriters over the years, those artists were generally well behaved, polite, and reliable. The most memorable stories often came from other genres: blues, jazz, world music. Nevertheless, a quick flip through the book revealed a section on The Nields (long time Northampton artists in residence) and I am sure I will find many familiar faces once I dig in a bit.

Jordi spoke briefly, pulling four pieces from the book, doing a short interview with Wil Wilkins, and then taking some questions from the floor. One thing he did note was the cost of running things - he supported himself, but just barely when he ran the club, the odd contrast between moving in such hallowed company (the national musicians) and struggling to make ends meet, and how the new owners brought a new sensibility (raising the price of beer and sandwiches) in a way that he was unable to, because he was everyone's friend. I'm really looking forward to those sections of the book.

To throw a little scratch at the still printing Valley Advocate, their review: In a new memoir, the founder of Northampton’s Iron Horse talks about his 25-year run.

And one question I thought of, but did not ask last evening, was if Jordi had read Tracy Kidder's book Hometown, which the NY Times review headlines: How Hamp Became Noho - Tracy Kidder's new book chronicles the tensions between locals and newcomers in Northampton, Mass.

Might be worth rereading Hometown as I start to dig in to Positively Center Street....

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