Ponchos were the de rigeur fashion at Solid Sound Festival this weekend.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The second annual Solid Sound Festival started soggy but ended with sunshine as more than 6,000 music lovers descended on sleepy North Adams for three days of Wilco-selected fun.
There's no doubt the influx (nearly half the city's population) was a boon to business. There were lines to get into restaurants and the number of feet on the street was remarkable. They filled up hotels and motels throughout the area and some 230 campsites at "Solid Ground" at Noel Field.
The festival was a family affair for many.
The Hub did a record 514 covers (last we knew) by the wee hours of Sunday morning; more than 300 old '60s and '70s vinyl albums flew out of Empire Antiques. Inside the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, there were lines at the locally-operated food booths. The Rotary had sold more than half their 3,000 hot dogs by mid-Saturday afternoon. Despite the 150 kegs rolled into the campus, Public Safety Director E. John Morocco said there had been no incidents.
Fans of alt-rock Wilco came from near and far and ranged from the sharply dressed to those in casual shorts and T-shirts, from the stroller to the gray-haired. Children were ubiquitous - being pushed and carried, dancing and playing.
Amy Joyce of Albany, N.Y., was there on Saturday afternoon with her husband and three children ages 2,4 and 6. Both Wilco fans, the couple had driven in for two days. The constant rain hadn't deterred them; a lot of the activities for the kids were inside Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, she said
Classic vinyl was in demand.
We're more than happy to be here to see them," said Joyce, adding they'd come last year was well. "We made a weekend out of it."
The Joyces had opted for a motel over a campsite. "We're not that brave!" laughed Joyce.
Festivalgoers huddled under umbrellas and the numerous "skyways" dating from the complex's days as a mill, and sported the fashion of the day: ponchos in bright primary colors and mud boots (for the hardier, sandals and no protection). As the music moved through the several outdoor venues, the crowd flowed forward to surround each stage, stomping through puddles.
"This is awesome, everything is awesome," said Ken Williams, who'd driven from Somerville to spend a soggy weekend at Solid Ground. Williams, "a big Wilco fan," had missed last year's festival and had to hear about it secondhand from a friend. "So I had to come this year."
He had nothing but praise for the festival, the area and the people. "I've never been to North Adams before. It would have been better if the weather was nicer ... but it's a beautiful place."
The band thanked their fans for being so devoted.
Friend Liz Sussky of Amherst, who'd come to spend the day, chimed in it "was a beautiful drive up here." Both said they would definitely return.
On Saturday night, a brief thunderboomer had MoCA volunteers herding the crowd into the protection of the galleries, an emergency procedure worked out in case bad weather struck. But the thunder was the last gasp — the skies (almost) cleared and fans moved back into muddy Joe's Field to hear Wilco's second performance of the festival.
Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy nodded to their dedication, telling the sea of bobbing heads: "thank you for being so devoted and standing in the rain. ... Thank you, so much."
Afterwards — seven encores afterwards — the crowd spilled out onto Main Street as the city stayed up late to party.
Still, there were a few people wondering, like the elderly lady who spotted my photo press pass on Saturday night, "What's a Wilco?" After a second successful festival, no one should be left questioning the windfall that is Wilco.