|Series of Unexpected Moments: Making of The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow.|
|By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff |
04:39PM / Friday, November 25, 2022
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Life has a lot of winding roads that lead to the unexpected. Sometimes little moments all come together to make a future that even you did not see coming. This is the case with the creation of The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow.
The folk rock band is made up of Western Massachusetts songwriters Tory Hanna, Billy Keane, Chris Merenda, and Greg Daniel Smith and David Tanklefsky of Cambridge.
The collaborative singer-songwriter band is founded on mutual appreciation and expression of gratitude for each other's leadership, say the band.
Each member has their own independent project but come together to make music from various genres which in turn influences their own style of music, said Keane, a guitarist and vocalist.
Although it can be challenging at times, having all these perspectives allows them to have a diverse portfolio and gives them an opportunity to learn from each other's experiences.
The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow is a product of little coincidental moments that all added up to create something that you wouldn't expect to work but did and made something entirely unique, Keane said.
It all started at the 2011 Whiskey Treaty Festival in Greenfield that was created by a founding member's wife.
During the festival they were invited to perform as individual songwriters at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn. Although Tanklefsky was not present at the festival he did perform at Pete's Candy Store.
A short time later they discussed the notion of all going on the road together, as individual artists to do an old style almost vaudevillian roadshow.
"[The roadshow] wasn't intended to be like a full project. The idea was to do four or five stops, which we did," Keane said.
The story continued to intertwine when filmmaker Tim Bradley requested to come along for the ride and make a documentary chronicling the journey. The documentary "The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow – Short Documentary" went on to win multiple awards.
Film festivals requested to have the "band" come and perform despite there not being an official band. After seeing the growing audience, a band was born from a group of individual artists having fun on a roadshow.
The band will be returning to the place that started it all tonight, Friday, at 8 p.m. where they will perform alongside Sandy Bailey in Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center's Ballroom in Greenfield. More information here.
They will also be performing at The Barn in South Egremont, where earlier this year they wrote, filmed, and performed new material, on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7:30
featuring a comedy set by Jenny Rubin.
These last two performances of the year acts as a way to thank the communities that have meant so much to them since the start of their journey and influenced them and their work, said Tanklefsky, band's lead guitarist and vocalist.
Berkshire County's landscape, venues, and social activism is a big part of the band and the writing process,
One of the things that attracted Keane to the Berkshires, and why he continues to stay, is its attitude toward issues whether it be environment, social, socio economic and it being on the forefront of change
"There's an undercurrent of social activism in the Berkshires that's always just below the surface. And it's such an inspiring admirable thing about this community," Keane said
They have released several social justice anthems that were inspired by this Berkshires attitude.
The band has worked with local organizations that are on the forefront of improving the community, including working with the Berkshire Community Action Council.
"We're not on the forefront. The BCAC is a great example, they are on the ground, they are doing the research, they're literally putting food in people's hands, they're literally putting jackets on kid's shoulders," Keane said.
Although they are not working on the ground, the band has a microphone that gives them an opportunity to spread the word.
"We have these massive audiences that come out to the shows for which we're very grateful but I think we do feel a certain responsibility goes along with that," Keane said
"And because we have the ability to speak to groups of people, we try and use that opportunity to spread the message about those folks who are quite literally doing the Lord's work as they say."
The collaborative nature that is ingrained in the foundation of the band influences how they interact with the community. Forming alliances and working in a communal setting is how they can make the most impact as a band, he said
"What we don't do is pretend like we have answers and solutions to problems that we don't understand. That's not our role," Keane said. "We play music, we perform it, we write music, and we're inspired by those who know what they're talking about, frankly, who are living it day to day. By working together, I think we can make the greatest impact."
The sense of community is one of the things that drives audiences to their concerts. The band is bigger than one person and having this relationship with local organizations they believe in helps keep the members motivated and allowed them to develop an audience.
Their efforts have not gone unrecognized. Recently, they won the New England Music Award for Roots Act of the Year. The band felt honored to not only win but to have another opportunity of extending the bands message to a larger audience
"The fact is when one creates art, you should be doing it as a vessel. We're expressing things in a way that is walking its own path," Keane said.
"There's no competition here. When awards are given, I like to think that they're given because of unique acts and less in a comparative sense."