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Solid Sound Welcomes Newcomers & Festival Veterans

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
People from around the country navigated their way — including over the Hairpin Turn — to get to North Adams for Solid Sound.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — As Solid Sound winded down this weekend, people from throughout the country shared a similar experience of a family friendly and musically diverse music festival.

This was also the first Solid Sound Festival for Arielle Reindeau and Peter Kyller of Boston.

"I looked into going out to the museum and then from there I found they had this cool event going on," Kyller said. "I thought we could probably do some camping along with it, so it turned out to have a bunch of stuff we wanted to do."

Both Reindeau and Kyller said they were amazed by the beauty of the Berkshires.

"This is our first trip up, and the the drive was great. It's amazing, big open spaces," Reindeau said. "It is a mix of both music and art. You have the best of both worlds."

This was the second trip for Tom Schwartz of central Maine. He said the music festival is like no other.

"It's everybody kind of celebrating the music and the art. It's kind of cool when you are there and you see the people in the bands wondering around," Schwartz said. "It's like people in the bands are enjoying the music in the festival as much as the fans are."

Bill Reno and Elizabeth Earnhart are both Solid Sound veterans. Reno has been to all of them.

"That Hairpin Turn scares me but other than that, North Adams is a great little city," Reno said of the landmark turn overlooking the city on the Mohawk Trail. "And it is such a family friendly festival. By 11:30, 12, it's very respectful here, and it's not like one of those places where everyone is up going crazy."

This is Earnhart's second Solid Sound. It would have been her third, but she had to sit out on one after suffering from a mild heart attack.

"I was starting to get chest pains so I went to the hospital and it was a heart attack, a really little one," Earnhart said. "Since it was so mild, I told them to go to the concert. I didn't want them to come home. The doctor was a huge Wilco fan so he understood."

"I sent a note to Wilco's management," Reno said. "They sent to her and the doctor an autographed picture with everyone in the band."


Solid Sound Filling Up 'Pop-Up' Campgrounds

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
Campers set up their gear on Solid Ground at the Noel Field Athletic Complex.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — If you partition it, they will come.

The three main camp sites for Solid Sound Festivalgoers are just about filled up. Solid Ground, Hoosac Valley Campground, and Camp Aggie resemble giant grids ready to host a portion of the over 7,000 concert goers to visit the Berkshires this year for the event.

Throughout the day Friday, concertgoers have been filtering through Cheshire, Adams, and North Adams with tents, coolers, grills sleeping bags, and the occasional guitar for pre-concert serenading.

Solid Ground, located at Noel Field Athletic Complex is at capacity with 375 plots accommodating four people each having all been reserved. This is also the case for the Hoosac Valley Campground, which has room for 245 campsites.

The newcomer this year is Camp Aggie located on Bowe Field in Adams.

Camp organizer Chuck Felix said Camp Aggie was the designated overflow camp and it was only expected to hold 10 to 15 campers, however, this is quickly changing.

"We didn't except much but we are up to over 40 now and we expect more to come throughout the weekend," Felix said. "It's good for us, and it makes a lot of money.

Adams Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said although there is no official plan to bring people from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art campus to Adams, he is hopeful some will make the trek south — especially with camps now in both Cheshire and Adams.

"Anytime an event like Solid Sound occurs you always see an increase in foot traffic, and even though the event is in North Adams, we will see increased foot traffic this weekend," Mazzucco said. "Although it [Camp Aggie] won't be that large, it's still individuals choosing to stay in Adams for the weekend who will undoubtedly do some shopping, eating, and drinking here and take some time to see the Town."

Mazzucco said the creation of Camp Aggie shows the need for more outdoor recreational lodging in the area, which is something he hopes to accomplish with the Greylock Glen.

Mazzucco said next Solid Sound he would like to have a more formal effort to tap into the foot traffic North Adams will see.

"We may be two separate towns, but we really need to look at the whole of the northern Berkshires as one community," he said. "What's good for part is good for the whole."

However, the Camp Aggie workers are doing their own advertisement.

With a fist full of maps pointing out places to eat and visit in Adams, Felix is doing his part.

"I'm handing out these maps and telling people about some of the great places to eat in Adams," Felix said. "North Adams gets most of the action, and I think it is important to redistribute it a little."

Solid Sound opens at Mass MoCA on Friday night and runs through Sunday.


Solid Sound Opens Friday at Mass MoCA

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
The main stage at Joe's Field is getting the final touches for the performances beginning Friday night at Solid Sound.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was a hive of energy on Wednesday as staff and volunteers made ready for more than 7,000 concertgoers expected to descend on the city this weekend.

The three-day Solid Sound Festival — Wilco Weekend to the locals — opens Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Mass MoCA with music, comedy, art installations, vendors and more.

Saturday is sold out but three-day passes are still available, as are one-day tickets for Friday and Sunday.

Curated by the genre-bending alternative band Wilco, the festival has nearly doubled in size from its initial launch in 2010. The popularity of the biennial event in bringing concertgoers from across the country and the world has led to the museum's investment in outdoor performances, including the annual FreshGrass bluegrass festival that brings in more than 5,000. 

The very personal artistic endeavor was spearheaded by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Nels Cline, Pat Sansone, Mikael Jorgensen and Glenn Kotche.

"There are a lot of really, really big festivals in the world now. But the big festivals to me are ... I don't think they're very musical. I mean the only real desire was to make a festival we wouldn't be miserable at," says Tweedy in the just released documentary about Solid Sound, "Every Other Summer."

Wilco will play two sets, including an acoustic version on Friday night.

While Wilco may be the main driver, the festival is offering an eclectic mix of activities, from playing catch with the North Adams SteepleCats to an immersive 12-screen video installation in the Courtyard D by exhibiting artist Clifford Ross. The main entrance features SuttonBeresCuller's telescoping "Big Top Grand Stand" and Jim Shaw's "Church Inflatable." The iconic Wilco letters are this year resting by the West Main Street Gate, bracketed by Franz West's "Les Pommes d'Adam," on loan from the Hall Art Foundation.

An army of volunteers were recruited months ago to staff the outdoor gathering, that covers two interior courtyards and the main stage at Joe's Field.

"We also call back everyone who worked at Mass MoCA in the last three to five years to help," said Jodi Joseph, director of communications.

More vendors will also be on hand to feed hungry festivalgoers, including local vendors such as Wild Oats, Desperados, The Hub Spice Root and the North Adams Rotary, which last festival sold more than 5,000 hot dogs.

Further out, three "pop-up" campgrounds have sprung up to service concertgoers. Solid Ground at Noel Field Athletic Complex was an experiment in 2010. It worked so well that the Hoosac Valley High School Cheshire was added in 2013 and the Aggie Campground at Bowe Field in Adams this year.

Both Solid Ground and Hoosac Valley, which benefit the Northern Berkshire ROPES Program and Hoosac athletic program, respectively, are filled up but there's still room at Bowe Field, said Keifer Gammell, box office manager.

Hoosac added a "concierge camping" this year to set up for campers, said Gammell. "You just put down your sleeping bag down and drop your backpack and you're ready to go."

Getting all those people in the downtowns is also the minds of local businesses. The festival is expected to have an economic impact of $2 million - from food and lodging to gas and merchandise.

The North Adams Chamber of Commerce will be handing out paper fans with information on local stores and restaurants to help keep concertgoers cool during the muggy weekend (showers are expected but will hopefully hold off).

Center Street will be closed on Saturday from 9 to 1 for the weekly Farmers' Market and an artisan/craft fair. More than 30 vendors will be on hand.  V&V Steeple City Spirits is holding a "Hops & Sound" tasting festival over Friday and Saturday, with a silent auction on Saturday to benefit the North Adams After-School Program.

Also on Saturday, local historian Paul Marino will offer a free walking tour of downtown starting at 2:30 p.m.; for residents and concertgoers with youngsters, the North Adams Cinema is offering a free screening of "The Goonies" at 11 a.m.

Joseph said visitors can expect a unique experience of art and music on the campus of Mass MoCA.

"Jeff Tweedy said this will be the best Solid Sound ever," she said.



Solid Sound Festival Skipping 2014, Will Return in 2015

Staff Reports
Jeff Tweedy performs during the first night of last year's Solid Sound Festival.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Solid Sound Festival won't roll through the city this year but it will be back in 2015.
On Thursday, Wilco announced that Solid Sound Festival will return to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2015 from June 26-28.
Last year, the festival attracted more than 7,500 people from all over the country to the city for the weekend.
This isn't the first year skipped — the band opted out of Solid Sound Festival in 2012 because of a heavy touring schedule for its album The Whole Love. The Chicago-based band did make a stop in the city that summer though for a benefit show for the museum.
The 2015 festival will be the fourth Solid Sound Festival in six years.
Wilco has no dates set for 2014, however guitarist and singer Jeff Tweedy will perform at Mountain Jam, a festival on the nearby Hunter Mountain in New York, from June 5 through June 8 this year.
Jodi Joseph, director of communications at the museum, said Mass MoCA will still be a "summer of music."
"We're working on a full slate of programming to take advantage of every stage and venue across our campus," Joseph said in an email Friday morning. "Summer will kick off with a not-to-be-missed 15th anniversary celebration concert and party on Memorial Day weekend, and we won't stop [until] FreshGrass in late September."

Stamping Contraption Brings Attention to Cause

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
The Stamp Machine at Mass MoCA; left, stamps you can mark your own bills with.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Finding a cause at Solid Sound Festival isn't hard.

Scattered amongst the music are biodegradable cardboard water boxes, booths to remind you to register to vote and write your congressman, containers for recylcing and table urging the return of passenger rail to New York.

The most unusual — dare we say magical — is the Rube Goldberg-like money stamping machine in the courtyard at Mass MoCA, accessible to anyone.

The brainchild of Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry fame, the machine stamps a message on any bill you put in it: "Stamp money out of politics" or "The system isn't broken it's fixed."

The target of the Stamp Mobile is the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that opened the floodgates to corporate and other election donations.

"The whole point is getting the message out," said Aaron Rubin of New York, who has been driving the contraption around since heading north from Miami in February. "You stamp the bill but you have to spend it."

One bill will circulate through 850 hands in about 2 1/2 years, said Rubin. "If people stamped 100 bills, that's 850,000 people."

The Stamp Machine takes the bill on a ride through hoops and loops — setting off a presumed politician to spew money from his mouth — before it finally arrives at the actual stamp. If you don't want to wait that long, you can buy your own stamp to take home at what Rubin says is cost, $10. More than 7,500 have been sold.

Rubin said the tide is turning. More than a dozen states have taken a stand against Citizens United and he's sure that New Hampshire will be next. In the meantime, he's off to Union Station in New York for a press rollout, then western Michigan, back to Vermont and then off to the West Coast.

MSNBC was scheduled to do an interview with Cohen (who's enjoying Solid Sound this weekend) on Sunday morning at MoCA for the "The Ed Show."

"We're going to keep doing it until works ... and it will work," Rubin said.

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Solid Sound Festival curated by Wilco at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art runs Friday through Sunday, June 26-28.

We're keeping this blog to let you know who's here, where to go, what's happening, the best places to eat and other things of interest to both residents and concertgoers.

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