The Ladles and Clara Stokes at The Parlor Room

  • June 28, 2023 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
  • The Parlor Room

    32 Masonic Street
    Northampton, Massachusetts 01060
Ticket Price $13.00-$20.00 This event is now over
Description

The Ladles and Clara Stokes
at The Parlor Room
Wednesday, June 28th
SHOW 7:30pm / Doors 7:00pm


ADV Tickets: $15 GA / $13 Members 
DOS Tickets: $20 GA / $18 Members

 

The Ladles

It would have been easy for The Ladles to write 2020 off as a lost year. Forced to scrap a calendar full of tour dates and stuck quarantining on opposite coasts, the trio watched helplessly as cancellation after cancellation rolled in and the prospects of making music together grew dimmer with each passing day. Everything the band had planned was up in smoke, it seemed, everything except for a three-week summer residency in the quaint little town of Springville, New York. 

“That residency at the Springville Center for the Arts was pretty much the only thing that stayed on the books for us,” says fiddler/singer Lucia Pontoniere. “We decided we’d just go ahead and treat it as an opportunity to develop some new material, but it ended up being so much more than that.”

Indeed, those three weeks in rural Eerie County proved to be transformative for the band, yielding breakthroughs both personal and artistic, as well as the group’s stunning and spontaneous new album, ‘Springville Sessions.’ Recorded over the course of four days in an historic former Baptist church, the collection is pure Ladles, mixing timeless folk, pop, jazz, choral, and chamber music into an addictive blend fueled by spare, acoustic instrumentation and lush, three-part harmonies. While The Ladles—Pontoniere, guitarist/singer Katie Martucci, and banjoist/singer Caroline Kuhn—have always managed to walk the line between technical virtuosity and emotional intuition, ‘Springville Sessions’ finds the trio reaching new heights with a less-is-more approach, embracing their environment and recording the entire album with the stripped-down intimacy of a live performance. The result is an entrancing chronicle of a singular moment in time, a raw, organic record that hints at everything from I’m With Her and The Wailin’ Jennys to Mountain Man and The Staves as it finds connection and hope in the face of isolation and overwhelming uncertainty.

“We never planned on making an album like this,” says Pontoniere. “It was more like a happy accident, and only in hindsight did we realize how special it was.”

Those sorts of happy accidents seem to follow The Ladles wherever they go. Founded roughly five years ago, the trio first came together by chance, when they realized they were the only three women in the New England Conservatory of Music’s Contemporary Improvisation program. While coincidence may have introduced them, it was chemistry that bound them, and from their earliest performances together, it was clear that The Ladles had something special on their hands. 

“When you’re at music school, you play with a lot of different people,” says Martucci, “but something about our mixture just clicked right away. Certainly there was a shared feminine perspective at work there, but Lucia and Caroline are two musicians I’d want to play with in any capacity.”

Taking their name from another happy accident—a mislabeled campus bathroom sign that transformed “Ladies” into “Ladles”—the trio began recording and performing around New England before they’d even graduated, releasing an early self-titled EP in 2016 and following it up with their acclaimed full-length debut, ‘The Line, in 2019. The band supported both releases with extensive touring, playing festivals as far afield as Louisiana and Maine and selling out shows in Boston, New York City, and the Hudson Valley along the way. With things heating up, they set their sights on an ambitious 2020, only to watch it all disappear as the pandemic put a halt to live music everywhere. Rather than press pause, though, the trio pivoted to focus their efforts on writing, treating their suddenly empty schedule as an opportunity to pen a slew of new songs from their respective homes on the East and West Coasts. By the time summer rolled around, they were sitting on a treasure trove of fresh material, and the opportunity to share it with each other in Springville was too sweet to pass up, pandemic or not.

“We all quarantined beforehand and took tests to make sure everything was completely safe,” says Kuhn, “and then we entered this little bubble in Springville where nobody really came in or out. Having spent most of the year in cities with concentrated case numbers, it was surreal to be together again, making music in a place where we could feel relaxed and comfortable.”

The joy that came with performing together again was overwhelming at times, and it led to a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures of collaboration.

“It was the first experience we’d had playing with other human beings in months,” recalls Martucci. “Not only was it this emotional release from the stress and anxiety of the outside world, but it was also an artistic release, a chance to reconnect with this core part of our identities that we’d had to neglect for so long.”

Rehearsing for hours on end each day, the trio fell in love with the acoustics at the SCA, which was located in a former church building originally constructed in the 1800s. With its high ceilings and dark wood paneling lending the perfect amount of natural reverb, the space itself became another instrument in the band’s repertoire, and it was quickly apparent to all involved that something magical was happening there. The clock was ticking on their residency, though, so the band invited their friend Dylan McKinstry from Brooklyn to join them as an engineer, and, over the course of their final four days in the space, captured the entire ‘Springville Sessions’ album from scratch.

“With only the three of us and an engineer in the room, we were free to just be ourselves,” says Pontoniere. “In the past, we’d tried to craft more highly-produced recordings with bigger arrangements and other musicians, but this time around, everything was as intimate as it could possibly be.” 

That intimacy is at the heart of ‘Springville Sessions,’ which opens with the dreamy “Sunset Pink.” Like so much of the album, it’s a spare and hypnotic tune, one which grapples with the difficulty of communication when barriers—be they physical, like distance, or emotional, like anxiety and depression—cut us off from the ones we love. The lilting “Baltimore” reckons with self-doubt and negativity, while the meditative “Pages” finds solace in the growth and evolution that can come from our mistakes, and the airy “Sugarcoat” longs for the understanding of an open dialogue.

“Sometimes it feels like there’s this third thing in the room getting in the way when you’re trying to talk to someone,” says Martucci. “Maybe they don’t know how to express what they’re feeling or maybe you’re both going through something you don’t know how to articulate, but it’s important to push through whatever’s fogging up the surface and reach that place of true connection.” 

Weighty as the subject matter can get, there’s a perpetual lightness about The Ladles’ music that insists on silver linings. The buoyant “TOBS,” for instance, finds optimism in a breakup as it lets go of the past to make room for the future, while the warm and captivating “Thank You” transforms loneliness into gratitude, recognizing that even when we feel most isolated, love and support are never too far away. Perhaps no track, though, embodies the spirit of ‘Springville Sessions’ better than “Nobody Knew,” which promises that a better tomorrow will come from all the pain and confusion of today. “If I could be with you,” all three sing in charming, breathy harmony, “then I wouldn’t waste a minute.”

“That song came out of the early days of COVID lockdowns, when nobody really knew how to handle the situation at hand and there was so much uncertainty about the future,” explains Kuhn. “It’s a pledge that when we get through this and can see the people we love again, we won’t take any of it for granted.”

If there’s anything the trio learned from their days in Springville, it’s that time is precious, and every moment we share—with friends, with family, with lovers—is a gift worth celebrating. Far from lost, 2020 may prove to be the band’s most important year yet. For The Ladles, that’s just another happy accident. 

 

Clara Stokes 

Clara Stokes is a singer/songwriter from Western Massachusetts. She began creating music in high school, learning the acoustic guitar, and experimenting with rough cuts of original songs. Eventually, she oriented her sound within the indie folk genre, writing intricate fingerpicking patterns, melodic vocals, and imagery-driven lyrics. Her work explores the themes of love, loss, home, and the natural world, set against the backdrop of the Western Massachusetts landscape. Her songs are influenced by the likes of Adrianne Lenker, Laura Marling, and Simon and Garfunkel. Clara hopes to release music in the coming year, but you can find her demos on Bandcamp in the meantime. 

 

The Parlor Room is a BYOB venue.  Tickets are non-refundable. 

The Parlor Room is located at 32 Masonic Street Northampton, MA 01060

Date & Time

Wed, Jun 28, 2023 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Venue Details

The Parlor Room

32 Masonic Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01060 The Parlor Room
The Parlor Room

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