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Beachwood Sparks

Even within specific musical genres, there are cycles of hip influence and of popular names that bands—and critics—like to drop as antecedents: For example, it’s currently de rigueur for neo-proto-punk acts to be described in comparison to New York City bands like the Velvet Underground and Television; whereas among the No Depression/neo-country crowd, it seems there’s a bumper crop of Sons of Gram Parsons. (Just recently, in fact, a slew of Capital Region players turned out for an evening-length tribute to the country-rock pioneer, testament to his currency). Beachwood Sparks, the L.A.-based “cosmic country-pop combo” playing Pearl Street in Northampton, Mass., on Saturday, are no exception: When they’re not compared to Parsons explicitly, it comes in roundabout references to the Flying Burrito Brothers or the Byrds, outfits who both once boasted the talents of a certain Floridian with a prodigious hankering for morphine and tequila (hint: it’s Gram Parsons).

Not that there’s anything wrong with that: A band could do far worse than earn comparison to Parsons, whose blend of traditional country with psychedelic rock established a template later picked up on by everyone from the Stones to Wilco. But, as their sophomore album makes clear, Beachwood Sparks aren’t a Parsonsmania act. Once We Were Trees, released on Sub Pop, is graced with ample high harmony, true, but the band’s simple, heartwarming songcraft—not to mention its obvious penchant for indie rock—places them somewhere in the camp of the Elephant 6 collective. It’s sweet and melancholy, rural-sounding and, well, peculiar—and all in an honest and thoroughly affecting way. And as if to call attention to the fact that they have listened to and absorbed music recorded post-1973, they cover “By Your Side” by Sade, the artist voted least likely to O.D. in an American national park. And we think that’s pretty cool.

Beachwood Sparks will play Pearl Street (10 Pearl St., Northampton, Mass.) on Wednesday (July 24). The Shins and Treasure State will open. Tickets for the 8:30 show are $9. For tickets, (800) THE-TICK.

Sound in the Landscape

The Art Omi International Artists’ Colony is a happening that returns to our area like the swallows return to Capistrano, albeit a bit scaled down. Thirty sculptors, painters, photographers, and video and installation artists from 17 countries have been doing their thing there for about three weeks.

On Sunday, the studios will open for public viewing, and a new exhibition will open at the Fields Sculpture Park at Art Omi. Sound in the Landscape is seven installations that intend to “shape sound as though it were a physical object, use sound to change our perception of space, play with our experience of time while viewing art, and challenge the very notion of what a sculpture is.” So you can check out the neat cultural stew happening just a skip down the Thruway by viewing the artists as they work, and experience an aural and visual environment created by Mary and Bill Buchen, Jeffrey Lependorf, Mathew McCaslin, Jeff Talman, Paulo Vivacqua and Joshua Selman.

Sound in the Landscape will open Sunday (July 21) and run through October at the Fields Sculpture Park at the Art Omi International Arts Center. Also on Sunday, the Art Omi International Artists’ Colony will display their methods, art and studios to the curious public. A $5 donation is requested. Art Omi is located on County Route 22 and Letter S. Road in Omi (near Ghent), off Route 9H. Call 392-7656 for information.New York City Ballet

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s annual benefit, the Action Council Gala, will be held on Saturday; the festivities begin with a champagne reception at 5:30 PM in the Hall of Springs restaurant, followed by dinner and a performance by the New York City Ballet. On tap for the evening’s performance are five pieces: Hallelujah Junction, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Vespro, Bach Concerto V and Vienna Waltzes.

Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux was choreographed by George Balanchine and premiered in 1960. The music is an excerpt from Swan Lake that was created after the original score and not published with the rest of Swan Lake. It disappeared for more than a half century and was discovered in the Bolshoi Theater archives in 1953. At that time, Balanchine sought—and was granted—permission to use it for his own choreography. Vienna Waltzes, an homage to the pleasures and delights of an age of imperial grandeur, also by Balanchine, originally was performed in 1977.

The three remaining pieces on the program all are part of the ballet’s Diamond Project. Conceived by Peter Martins, NYCB’s ballet master-in-chief, the Diamond Project is an opportunity for choreographers to create fresh works within the parameters of classical ballet. Now in its 10th year, the Diamond Project has contributed 40 works by 23 choreographers to the NYCB repertory. Hallelujah Junction, choreographed by Martins, was created for the Royal Danish Ballet and features 11 dancers set to a score composed by John Adams. Bach Concerto V also was choreographed by Martins and showcases six women and four men.

The last Diamond Project offering is Vespro (pictured), choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, artistic director of the Aterballetto company in Reggio, Italy. The piece is set to music by Bruno Moretti, and was commissioned specifically for this project. In a review by Anna Kisselgoff after its debut at Lincoln Center, Vespro was noted for “a distinctive originality.” Kisselgoff raved, “Never have bodies looked more elastic.”

The Action Council Gala takes place Saturday (July 20), beginning at 5:30 PM with a champagne reception. A black-tie dinner (6:30 PM) and New York City Ballet performance (8:15 PM) follow. A fireworks display will follow the dance, and another champagne reception, with the Joey Thomas Big Band, takes place at 10:30 PM. Tickets are $250, $150 age 35 and under, and include the dinner and amphitheater ticket. Tickets for the performance only are $35-$85. For more information, call 587-3330.


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