The Northampton Arts Council is a city board and a non-profit organization whose goal is to support and promote the arts in Northampton. Originally created as a Local Arts Lottery Council, it began its work by administering a grants program in which proceeds from a state lottery are distributed to local artists, arts groups, and public schools.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Positively Center Street

When retired music impresario Jordi Herold contacted longtime music writer and national magazine editor David Sokol to help chronicle the Iron Horse’s first 25 years, little did he think that seven years later, the project would finally take shape in the form of a full-color 164-page book. In Positively Center Street, a richly illustrated memoir, Herold—who owned the beloved, still-thriving club from 1979 through 1993 and then programmed it from 1995 to 2004—details some of his most memorable experiences at the Northampton, MA club that played a vital role in the booming cultural expansion and renaissance of this once-quiet college town.



Positively Center Street chronicles Herold’s early love of music—growing up in a home where the words “Flood The House with Music,” in block capital letters, hung over the kitchen sink—and his initial vision for a coffeehouse, inspired by a trip to London shortly after graduating college. From its backstory detailing the origins of the club’s name to the inauspicious “grand opening” on February 24, 1979, the book begins by taking readers behind the scenes, inside the room that would grow from a 60-seat coffeehouse into a 170-seat music hall, all the while presenting some of the best-known musicians and comedians in the world. During Herold’s tenure, first as club owner and then programmer, more than 8,500 shows graced the Iron Horse stage.

Positively Center Street is packed full of stories recalling the joys and tribulations of running a club that doubled as a restaurant. And along the way, there are growing pains and countless evenings of on-stage magic and off-stage craziness. Beginning with the club’s first big-name act (Dave Van Ronk) and growing with shows by future stars (Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, to name but a few), the club quickly took on a life of its own. Herold colorfully tells of appearances by blues legends Willie Dixon and Albert Collins, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, British folk-rockers Fairport Convention, and jazz greats Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Archie Shepp, and Frank Morgan as if they happened yesterday. And the list is endless.

Positively Center Street tells the story of youthful dream that became a cultural institution. Although the cozy, living-room atmosphere of the Iron Horse has changed a bit over the years, the musical magic that flourished inside 20 Center Street in Northampton will forever be remembered and cherished by concertgoers, from far and near, who visited the club. And many of those memories are indelibly etched into the pages of Positively Center Street.  - David Sokol

There will be three readings locally for the new book:

9/14 Iron Horse 7 PM $25
9/20 Broadside Books 7:30 PM Free 
9/27 World Eye (Greenfield ) 4 PM Free