Meet All-Star Tribute Band The Loser’s Lounge

Ever wanted to hear a cover of one of your favorite songs by another artist just as famous? The Loser’s Lounge is a New York nightlife institution that pays homage to great pop music. Since their debut in 1993 (a tribute to Burt Bacharach), the tribute band has covered over 50 beloved bands and artists. ABBA. Carole King. Dolly Parton. The Bee Gees. George Harrison. Michael Jackson. Rod Stewart. The Smiths. Prince. The Mamas and Papas. David Bowie. Neil Diamond. The list goes on and on.

The group visited MASS MoCA in 2003 with the original Off-Broadway rock opera People Are Wrong! and again in 2004 with a sold-out concert with music from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s masterpiece Jesus Christ Superstar.

The Loser’s Lounge returns Saturday, October 20 at 3 PM with a family-friendly tribute to the Muppets musical oeuvre. What inspired a tribute to the Muppets? As founder Joe McGinty told The Brooklyn Paper, “I think if you’re in a certain age group, you definitely grew up loving them. I consider myself a fan, the original movie is still a classic.”

A talented, star-studded cast has made The Loser’s Lounge a tribute band that is famous in its own right. The show is like karaoke night…but the singers are actually good. Let’s meet a few of the members.


Instrument: Keyboard.

Performed with: The Psychedelic Furs, Ryan Adams, The Ramones, Nada Surf, Martha Wainwright, Die Monster Die, Devendra Banhart, Ronnie Spector.

Other projects: Musical director for a variety of New York theaters, including the Vineyard Theatre and the New York Theatre Workshop.

Fun fact: Founded The Loser’s Lounge in 1993 and currently serves as Musical Director.


Instrument: Vocals, ukulele, cello, drums.

Performed with: They Might Be Giants, Mono Puff, The Last Car.

Other projects: Co-wrote rock musical People Are Wrong!.

Fun fact: Robin is a talented knitter and crafter and is the founder of the Deeply Felt Puppet Theatre.


Instrument: Vocals.

Performed with: David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Perry Farrell, Moby, Joan Jett, Ian Hunter, Ronnie Spector, Sarah Brightman.

Other projects: Lead singer for her own band The Tall Pines (NPR’s Top Ten Best CDs of 2007).

Fun fact: Her voice has been featured on many TV shows including “The Daily Show,” “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain,” and “Bored To Death.”

The Loser’s Lounge will perform a Muppet Music Extravaganza in the Hunter Center on Saturday, October 20 at 3 PM. Buy tickets online here.

Posted October 15, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Music

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Up in the Club: on-the-rise performers take the stage


This is our Club B-10 theatre. It’s got a small stage, a full bar, and room for just 200 seats. When a band’s onstage, the lead singer’s just inches away from the audience. That is to say: Club B-10 is a cozy, casual space for you and 199 of your closest, coolest friends to see some mega talent up-close and personal.

This fall, we’re hosting some of the sweetest, smartest, standout performing arts concerts up in the club. Club B-10, located on the third floor of MASS MoCA (hence “up” in the club), will be home to several artists from different genres, all of whom promise a performance that packs power and punch for audiences in this intimate space.

Whether they’re still new to the scene and about to make it big (you can say you “knew them when”), or they’re already well-loved, these musical, comedy, and theatre groups are sure to make your night up in the club well worth while (and under $20!):

The Bandana Splits

Saturday, October 6, 8 PM – Buy tix

This charming trio of singers (Dawn Landes, Lauren Balthrop, and Annie Nero) combines bubblegum and doo-wop for a sweet sound reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters and The Ronettes.


Nerd Nite

Saturday, October 13, 8 PM – Buy tix

This smart comedy group will have you laughing within seconds, as they give hilarious presentations about mumblecore, sex, and technology.


Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra (featuring TK Wonder)

Saturday, November 3, 8 PM – Buy tix

Drummer Ben and his Moodswing Orchestra float between jazz, rock, and even experimental tunes to create deliciously hypnotic grooves. The group’s also got MC TK Wonder in tow, who’s supported the likes of Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu.


Alsarah and the Nubatones

Saturday, November 10, 8 PM – Buy tix

Sudanese-American singer Alsarah blends vintage Sudanese pop, Western soul, and traditional Nubian songs in what becomes as much a concert as a musical journey through diaspora.


Tim Crouch’s My Arm, presented by Sundance Institute Theatre Lab

Saturday, December 1, 8 PM – Buy tix

Sundance Lab Fellow, Tim Crouch, performs a reading of his piece My Arm, a story about a man who has become a celebrated medical specimen and an icon of the New York art scene. My Arm is told through live performance and the animation of everyday objects supplied by the audience.

Posted September 26, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Comedy, Dance, Music, Theater
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Bang on a Can Super-Fans Arrive from Belgium

Today, we spoke briefly to two contemporary music-loving patrons at a Bang on a Can recital. They have traveled to MASS MoCA from Belgium to soak up every part of the Summer Music Festival.


What are your names?

Ariane and Rorbert. (Ariane speaking) I am a musician and an artist. I use cello and singing for healing – art therapy. Robert is not an artist, but we both enjoy music very much. Music is so important to us.


Where are you from?

We came from Belgium to the United States (to North Adams) for the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. We are spending 1 month here. 1 week of this time we spent in NYC.


How did you hear about Bang on a Can?

We have known Bang on a Can for 5 or 6 years. We first saw Michael Gordon’s Timber years ago in Denmark. We also attended a performance of Steve Reich and Bang on a Can’s music in Toronto, Canada. We love music. We especially like to hear minimalist music.


What has been your favorite performance from Bang on a Can so far?

We loved Ken Thomson’s recital in the galleries. We discovered him at this concert; we did not know his music before. We also very much enjoyed Todd Reynold’s performance on violin. His harmonies are so beautiful.


What are you most looking forward to at Bang on a Can?

We are very excited for the concert at Windsor Lake, on Wednesday, July 25. That will be interesting.


Posted July 23, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Bang on a Can, BLOG, Patron Blog
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Bang on a Can takes MASS MoCA by Storm

Get ready for our 11th annual Bang on a Can summer music festival! FREE (with gallery admission) concerts every day except Sundays take place in the galleries at 1:30 PM and 4:30 PM. Plus, a few of the Bang on a Can All-Stars will perform Field Recordings on Saturday, July 21, at 8:00PM. (Buy tickets here.) Then, brace yourself for endless hours of new music at the Bang on a Can Marathon on Saturday, July 28, at 4:00 PM. (Buy tickets here.)

Want to know more about our Bang on a Can friends? Here are some quick stats.

THE ALL-STARS (Photo copyright John Edwin Mason, 2011)


From: Saratoga Springs, NY

Instrument: Cello

Other projects: Member of Metropolis Ensemble, TwoSense, and Typical Music.

Performed with: American Symphony Orchestra, Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Windham Chamber Players.

Fun fact: Yale University master’s grad Ashley has appeared everywhere from Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall to NPR’s Performance Today.

Ashley Bathgate, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 February 2011.



From: Vancouver, Canada

Instrument: Piano

Other projects: Member of Wordless Music Orchestra, Opera Cabal, Wet Ink Ensemble, ai ensemble, and AXIOM.

Performed with: Bryce Dessner of The National, Glenn Kotche of Wilco, David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, and Philip Glass.

Fun fact: Prior to producing the contemporary music series Contagious Sounds, Vicky made her orchestral debut at age 10 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Vicky Chow, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 February 2011.



From: Queens, NY

Instrument: Percussion (plus he invents instruments)

Other projects: Percussionist for Sting, member of Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Orchestra Radio France, and Hong Kong Symphony.

Performed with: Steve Reich & Musicians, Philip Glass, Yo-Yo Ma, and Meredith Monk.

Fun fact: When he’s not acting as the percussionist for Blue Man Group, David’s curating Italy’s experimental music festival, Sound Res.

David Cossin, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 February 2011.





From: Schenectady, New York

Instrument: Bass

Other projects: Member of JD Allen Trio, assistant principal bass of Brooklyn Philharmonic, and assistant bassist with Ray Vega and his Latin Jazz Sextet.

Performed with: Lincoln Center’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance Group, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Composer’s Orchestra, Ray Barretto, Paquito D’Rivera, and James Moody.

Fun fact: Originally entering college as a drummer, Gregg went on to become a principal bassist at an orchestra in Barcelona, and then a freelancing jazz bassist in Paris.

Gregg August, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 February 2011.



From: Boulder, Colorado

Instrument: Electric Guitar

Other Projects: composer and educator, founding member in the virtuoso chamber ensemble BASILICA, assistant professor of Music Theory and Composition at the Ball State University School of Music.

Performed with: Iva Bittova, Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Glenn Kotche (Wilco), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Steve Reich, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and the goodhands team.

Fun fact: An avid transcriber, Derek is currently working in collaboration with the innovative Swedish band Meshuggah on a series of transcription books encompassing the band’s complete discography.

Derek Johnson, Bordeaux (Photo copyright Christine Southworth)



From: New York, NY

Instrument: Violin

Other projects: founder of Ethel, Typical Music, and Todd Reynolds String Quartet.

Performed with: Tony Braxton, Steve Reich & Musicians, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joe Jackson.

Fun fact: A master of electric guitar and the looping machine, Todd has created Nuove Uova [new eggs], new works for violin and electricity, a new-music cabaret that finds its home at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan.

Todd Reynolds



From: Andover, MA

Instrument: Multiple instruments

Other projects: founder of The Books and Zammuto.

Performed with: Tony Braxton, Steve Reich & Musicians, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joe Jackson.

Fun fact: After a stint in North Adams, MA, Nick and his wife Molly moved to Vermont, where they built their own house (heated entirely from firewood harvest on their own land), music studio (where the Zammuto albums were recorded), and root cellar (where they store all the veggies they grow themselves).

Nick Zammuto

Posted July 10, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Bang on a Can, BLOG, Music
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Raise Your Voice With Sweet Honey In The Rock

Sweet Honey In The Rock, an innovative presence in the music culture of Washington D.C. and communities of conscience across the globe, brings songs of hope, love, peace, and resistance to MASS MoCA on Saturday, July 7 at 8 PM.

Founded by Bernice Johnson Reagon, Mie, Carol Maillard, and Louise Robinson in 1973 at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company, Sweet Honey In The Rock captures the complex sounds of blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, hip hop, ancient lullabies, and jazz improvisation.  “With honey from the rock I will satisfy you” (Psalm 81:16), and Sweet Honey’s music does just that. These African American women are the perfect blend of sweet and strong. Each song reflects their passion for music, their dedication to the Black church, and their involvement in the civil rights movement and struggle for justice. Fort Worth Star Telegram calls Sweet Honey “the gold standard…their voices are all fabulous, and they unite to create a sound so pure, smooth and homogenous that it does not seem humanly possible.”

YouTube Preview Image

Sweet Honey’s Mission

Sweet Honey’s soulful harmonies and intricate rhythms encourage audiences of all ages to open their minds and hearts and think about how they treat each other and the environment in which they live. Harry Belafonte says “art is the conscience of the human soul and artists have the responsibility not only to show life as it is but to show life as it should be.” These women feel empowered to raise their voices against prejudice, and to encourage others to make the world a better place by fighting for equality.

Rosalyn Deshauteurs and Sweet Honey in “Go In Grace”

About the Members

Aisha Kahlil joined Sweet Honey in 1981, bringing to the group power and an unparalleled range in jazz, blues, traditional, and contemporary African vocal techniques. In 1994 she was awarded the title of “Best Soloist” from the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America after the release of See See Rider and Fulani Chant. In 2005, Kahlil was a finalist with her own band, MyKa and the whole World Band, in the annual Battle of the Bands contest, and was a winner in the International Songwriting Competition performance category with her original song, The Jewel Light. She is a co-director of First World Productions, a cultural and educational performance arts organization, and with Sweet Honey member Nitanju Bolade Casel, she wrote the production Bright Moments in Great Black Music. 

Aisha Kahlil

Shirley Childress Saxton is a professional Sign Language interpreter who has become an exemplar for interpreting music through Sign. In honor of her deaf parents, Saxton founded the Herbert and Thomasina Childress Scholarship Fund to reach out to other children of deaf adults. She interpreted with the Mental Health Program for the Deaf at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and with Project Access of Deafpride, Inc. She founded the organization BRIDGES to connect with Black deaf consumers and interpreters, and she was a founding member of Black Deaf Advocates. Saxton has received awards from deaf advocacy organizations, Deafpride, Inc., Women Unlimited, and National R.I.D Interpreters of Color.

Shirley Childress Saxton

Ysaye M. Barnwell is a Speech Pathologist with a Ph.D. from University of Pittsburgh. She taught at the College of Dentistry for over 10 years, and in 1981 she earned a Master of Science in Public Health. Barnell joined Sweet Honey as a singer and Sign Language interpreter, and over the past two decades she has earned a significant reputation as a commissioned composer and arranger, author, master teacher, and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. She founded the workshop Building a Vocal Community – Singing In the African American Tradition, which employs an African world view, and African American history, values, cultural, and vocal traditions to work with and build community among singers and non-singers alike.

Ysaye M. Barnwell

Sweet Honey NOW

Creative in their methods of fusing activism with music, Sweet Honey was honored to accept an invitation from President and Mrs. Barack Obama to give a concert at the White House on February 18, 2009, and in 2010 Sweet Honey released a single CD and video in response to Arizona Law SB-1070 and create a tribute concert called Remembering Nina, Odetta and Miriam Makeba (Our friend Nora Chipaumire will present a work-in-progress dance/theatre piece inspired by Miriam Makeba on August 25.)

Sweet Honey In The Rock performing at the White House

Sweet Honey’s 20th CD release, Experience…101, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2008, and the women were asked to compose new material in celebration of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s 50th anniversary. Most recently, Sweet Honey received Honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from the Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago. They are the most prestigious recognition by the CTS, and are presented to those whom the CTS believe have, in their work and in their lives, embodied the seminary’s core value of “transformative leadership toward greater justice and mercy in church and society.”

By Hannah Schiff


Posted July 3, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Music, Sweet Honey In The Rock
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Artist Spotlight: Here Lies Love Director Alex Timbers

MASS MoCA Marketing Coordinator Emily Evans sat down with Here Lies Love Director Alex Timbers to find out what it’s like being a director, working with artists like David Byrne, and making theatre at MASS MoCA.

Director Alex Timbers

I was a dance major at Conn College, my mentor being that wonderful dance maker David Dorfman, and I know you’ve co-directed some of his work. How is directing dance different than directing theatre or musicals?

David’s great – I’ve been a dramaturg for a couple of his pieces. I think dance works in a more abstract, less narrative way. There’s a sense of pacing and scale and variety that I think is also true to directing a musical. [With dance] you’re working much more with a sort of principal nature of the elements, because you’re serving a story and emotional palette that is much more visceral and abstract. In a musical, you’re trying to get that richness, but you ultimately have to serve a prescribed script and set of songs.

Do you have a preference, a favorite thing to direct?

I love to direct theatre, and I’ve really enjoyed working on shows like Peter and the Starcatcher and The Pee Wee Herman Show, that are kind of what I like to call “plays plus.” They have all the attributes of a play, a sort of naturalism and an emotional hook, and yet they also have song elements and dance and movement and a certain heightened design. They feel inherently and richly theatrical, instead of the type of play that could take place in a living room or a kitchen. They are sort of epic in scale and yet emotionally more grounded than more traditional or conventional musical theatre.

How did you get into directing? How did you discover you had this passion?

I was in college and I was doing a lot of improv and sketch comedy. I had acted a little bit (just sort of in the way that everyone acts in college or high school) and I got very interested in the mechanics of comedy, so I decided to direct a farce, and then another farce, and I got really into directing. I started running the college theatre company, and then I snuck into graduate school classes at Yale School of Drama and started learning about the management side.

When I graduated, I worked as an intern at Manhattan Theatre Club, and I realized no one ever tells you that in the real world, people don’t hire young directors – it just doesn’t happen. [If you’re young,] no one’s gonna hire you to direct Thornton Wilder or Shakespeare because they’re entrusting you with a lot of money, and they don’t trust you. In film and TV, you’re trying to appeal to young people as often as older people, so it makes sense to let [a young director] be the voice. But in theatre, you’re not going after really young audiences, so why would you ask a young director or playwright? So what I did was create my own opportunities. I created a company – that’s where Les Freres Corbusier started.

How did you get involved with Here Lies Love?

I had done a show for The Public Theater called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, that was sort of a classic example of the shows I was doing with LFC – sort of about historical figures but done in an irreverent, post modern way. It combined pop and rock music and big visuals. The Public Theatre was also developing Here Lies Love, and the artistic director Oskar Eustis put me in contact with David [Byrne]. I think there were a couple of directors that interviewed for it, but David and I hit it off pretty immediately, and I think the impression I had of what the piece should be in 3 dimensions, more than just an album, was similar to what David always had in mind for it.

Can you tell me what Here Lies Love is about in 4 sentences or less?

Sure. Here Lies Love is a fully immersive club musical that tells the story of Imelda Marcos’ rise and infamous fall. It’s told entirely through song, without dialogue and without seating. It takes place all around you – it’s what I call a sort of 360 degree theatre piece. It refuses to glorify Imelda and is examining the politics of power and the psychology or pathology behind a person that so desperately wanted to be loved and yet was thrown out by her own citizens.

What’s it like working with this particular cast and crew, and with David Byrne and Annie-B Parson?

In terms of the cast (David and the choreographer and the crew), it’s really fantastic, because these are people who I’ve for years looked up to! I had seen Annie-B Parson’s Big Dance Theatre shows for many years.  I’ve been listening to David’s music and reading his writing for years. So to collaborate with these people is phenomenal. And the design team is this great mix of downtown and uptown people – they are downtown theatre artists but they have Broadway experience. There’s a really exciting mix (just as the show is) between a kind of left of center sensibility and a delivery of the great pleasure principles of musical theatre.

How has MASS MoCA and this particular space impacted the development of the piece? Is it different from where you guys have been before?

Absolutely. I’ve been coming to MASS MoCA for about 7 years now, and I’ve always been mesmerized as much by the art at MASS MoCA as by the architectural surroundings of this place. When the idea came up to develop the show outside of New York, one of the questions I had was, “Can we not do it at a place where it will feel like a musical?” (Which it’s not.) So this idea came up to do it at a museum as a sort of art installation. I think that sets up your expectations for the piece better.

I have a long history with Williamstown Theatre Festival, and [artistic director] Jenny Gersten has been an incredible friend and advisor, so the idea of triangulating The Public Theater and WTF and MASS MoCA started to feel like a really exciting convergence of great arts institutions. The thought with the residency at MASS MoCA was that we could really build the piece – it wasn’t that we’d be delivering some sort of finished product, but we would have the space and staff and collaborators here to create a 360 degree art environment.

Every day there have been new songs coming in, we’re changing staging on the fly, and just today before we started talking I saw new choreography for the opening number! We’re assembling it here in a way you couldn’t do with the pressure of New York or you’d go crazy. The space here is unbelievable –  it’s huge! – and there are 2 things we’re examining: how can we make the best possible performance here at MASS MoCA, and how can we honor the spatial limitations Here Lies Love will confront when it eventually moves to New York?

What’s next for Here Lies Love?

After this it will go to The Public Theater in New York, and it starts performances in March 2013 at the Luesther, one of the five theatres of The Public – it’s a downtown space.

That’s exciting.

Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool.

Alex Timbers and David Byrne at opening night of Timbers’ Peter and the Starcatcher

Posted June 18, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Dance, Music, Theater, Uncategorized, Work-in-progress
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