Mike + Ruthy, Will Moshein and Carling Berkhout to conclude Basement Music Series in Bennington


BENNINGTON >> Since 1998, Mike + Ruthy have been playing acoustic roots music and touring the U.S. and Europe with their family. To finish off the Basement Music Series, they'll bring their folk sounds to the Masonic Hall on Saturday.

The couple is no stranger to the series and perform 100 shows each year otherwise, and this summer they'll take on 12 festivals.

Mike Merenda Jr., Ruth Ungar and their two children reside in the Hudson Valley of New York when they're not traveling. In the winter, they rely on their duo performances to steal the stage, but in the warmer months, their rotating band comes alive again. Other than performing with them in February, they haven't gotten together since before winter.

"I'm a New Englander," Mike Merenda said. "There's a spirit and vibe to New England - but I love where we live It's not too far and we spend a lot of time in New England."

Material that was arranged at the new year is something Merenda plans to play for folks on Saturday.

"We got back in the studio in January and we were hesitant because I didn't think we had the bulk of songs, but Ruthy came through with great new songs and dusted off old ideas," Merenda said. "They came together great. The alchemy of just having a five piece band that enabled things that I would have cast aside that have evolved and grew to great pieces is wonderful."

The complete band's instruments consist of a guitar, fiddle, banjo and ukulele in addition to singing harmony amplified by drums, electric bass, steel guitar and piano. Such instruments belong to Mike (guitar & banjo), Ruthy (guitar & fiddle), Charlie Rose, Konrad Meissner, Jacob Silver, and Adam Armstrong.

Opening for Mike + Ruthy is Will Moshein and Carling Berkhout, also an American folk music duo.

With the ever changing venues between festivals and more intimates shows like the BMS, Merenda said both are preferable.

"It just depends on the tour. We like the intimate tours so we can really connect with the audience and focus on the story telling and natural acoustics of the space and also like the big festivals," he said.

The charm behind family touring and working with a romantic partner poses only positivity, Merenda explained.

"It's just sort of what we do - what our relationship is - all collaborative in every sense," he said. "The beautiful part of it is that we're always together as a family in a profession you're always leaving family behind. Generally we're always together and it presents its own challenges, but they're the preferable challenges."

Mike and Ruthy's new journey is a result of Americana and The Mammals.

PopMatters considers them a revival of today's vibrant folk and "honoring the great musical traditions of the past" while at the same time keeping and open mind of the future of music, according to Folk Alley.

The couple even hosts their own festival called Home of the Hoot in Olivebridge, N.Y. during a weekend in August featuring volunteer built outdoor stages with world-class music, camping, hiking, food and craft vendors.

Berkhout is currently studying creative writing at Bennington College, interning with the Smithsonian Folkways Records and just recently picked up the banjo, according to a release. Moshein starting playing at age 11 and used to be a part of the Vermont based Bluegrass/Americana band Gold Town.

Tickets for the April 30 show is $10 in advance and $12 for students at the door, and for adults, $18 in advance and $22 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the performance starts at 8 p.m.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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