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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 Brings Heavy Traffic To The City

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
Wilco plays at Joe's Field on Saturday night. Solid Sound wraps up on Sunday afternoon. See more photos here.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot more cars driving through North Adams this weekend.

With more than 7,000 people visiting North Adams for Solid Sound there has been noticeable influx in traffic.

Basic commutes to downtown have easily extended a few minutes and at some of the more precarious intersections, North Adams Police officers are needed to guide visitors and protect those making their way down to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on foot.

The downtown was a parking lot, with vehicles lining East, West and Main streets, Ashland, Church, Lincoln, River Houghton and Eagle.

Earlier on Saturday, the Farmers Market, with local crafters, took over Center Street between Holden and Marshall. While relocated to open up parking in the St. Anthony's Municipal Parking Lot, the response was extremely positive, with dozens of Facebook posts after the event calling for a permanent move.

"Today's atmosphere was almost street-fair like, with much interaction among vendors, customers and shoppers chatting and laughing...and most importantly BUYING LOCAL!!" wrote Lisa Jarisch on North Adams Everything Good.

While the traffic is welcome, it has been an unusual annoyance to local residents who want the clear path to downtown they are used to.

Some said the city looks like it did in the past when the factories were in business, others said that it was reminiscent of its glory days after World War II.

Resident Donald George said this weekend the city looks like it did when the race track in Pownal, Vt., was in full swing.

“It looks like the days of Green [Mountain], you couldn’t get anywhere,” George said. “It was difficult to get around but good for the city.”

Resident Steve Nichols said having this many people in the city is nothing new to North Adams.

"When I was younger and Sprague Electric was in full swing, you were used to all the traffic and people downtown," Nichols said. "If you didn’t want to deal with it you stayed home at certain times. It's not a big deal."

Local Greg Meaney welcomed the Solid Sound concertgoers after jokingly saying the city should leave out a "tip jar" so Wilco fans could help subsidize any tax increases from salt and sand this winter. He said the music festival truly benefits the city.

"It's nothing new, and there has always been negativity around people coming in," Meaney said. "People are worried more about getting over the bridge than the actual future of the city. We need this."


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 Success Leaves Impression

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
Joe's Field was packed for Saturday night's Wilco performance. Left, Natalie Barnes was one of 15 'talk to a townie' volunteers. She didn't have too many people walking up to her asking questions, but rather found herself 'spilling information' while waiting in lines.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — They came, they rocked, they ate, they shopped.

Some 7,500 to 8,100 music fans descended on the city at the height of the Solid Sound Festival at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts this weekend.

The visitors filled parking lots, campgrounds and restaurants in the downtown area over the three-day weekend.

That economic impact in the city was important, but not as much as the impression they'll be leaving with.

"The message they bring back home is priceless," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Sunday morning, as residents and visitors strolled the street market on Main Street. "They're bringing that message home to Montana, Newfoundland .. New Brunswick ... they came from all over the country."

The mayor said he'd spent some two hours at the Solid Ground campground at Noel Field Athletic Complex talking with festivalgoers who'd expressed their appreciation of the city and the welcome they'd received from residents.

"I think it gets better each and every time," he said, pointing to the increase in attendance. "From the last one, there's a noticeable difference."

The beautiful weather may had much to do with the higher traffic volume after the last festival's wet weekend. On Saturday night, a Wilco fans packed onto a dry Joe's Field, sprawling on blankets setting up lawn chairs or just swaying to the beat.

They happily hooted in return to the whistle of a train heading into the Little Tunnel and then roared as Wilco took the stage.

Far in the back was Wilco Command, headquartered in Pittsfield's mobile police command center. Police, fire and ambulance personnel were operating out of the center and ambulances were stationed nearby for the exit onto West Main Street.

Closer to the action was a first aid station run by North Adams Ambulance Service with four-wheelers borrowed from the North Adams and Florida fire departments — a way to get patients from the crowded venue to the ambulances.

General Manager John Meaney Jr. said they'd been treating mostly scrapes and bumps but several concertgoers had been taken out Friday night (and a number on Saturday night) for a variety of reasons, including a little too much festival fun.

"We're prepared and ready," said Meaney on Saturday night.

North Adams Rotary ran through 5,000 hot dogs by Saturday evening.

Despite the thousands of people over the past three concerts, Alcombright said by Sunday morning, no arrests had been made.

"This speaks volumes to everyone one who is involved in this weekend," said the mayor.

Concertgoers tried to express their appreciation with their wallets. "We had people trying to give us $20 for a Band-Aid," said Meaney. "We told them no, that's not necessary."

That generosity made an impression on City Councilor David Bond, who had volunteered at the North Adams Rotary tent selling hot dogs and soda.

"Within the first hour, we made $150 in tips," said Bond, who was gratified that "everybody's wallet was flowing" to help the causes the Rotary supports.

They also emptied the Rotary of hot dogs on Saturday — all 5,000 they had.

Wild Oats Market was also running on empty by the time Wilco took the stage. Gregory Roach said he'd made sure to bring twice as much as last time but that still wasn't enough. "I don't know what I'm going to feed them tomorrow," he joked.

Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Maloney said the festival had been a positive for the city, including his wife, Nichole's, bakery Luma's Muffin & Mug, which had a line waiting for it to open.

"I've never sliced so many bagels in my life," he said.


Area Residents Encouraged Downtown for Solid Sound Weekend

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
Arrows and footprints point the way from Mass MoCA down Main Street.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The third Solid Sound Festival isn't just for music lovers.

Local officials stressed that the event, oft-dubbed "Wilco Weekend," is also an occasion for area residents to enjoy the many activities and late-night openings being planned in the downtown with the hope they will be dancing in the streets come Thursday night.

"Sometimes I think people in the community get lost in the sense that this isn't for us," said Mayor Richard Alcombright at a meeting Monday afternoon with some of the events coordinators. "I think we really have to send the message that it's for everyone."

Some 7,000 to 8,000 festivalgoers from 48 states and four countries will begin descending on Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — and the city — beginning Thursday through Sunday.

The number's on the increase from the band Wilco's first curated festival held in 2010, when more than 5,000 attended the three-day event that mixes musical performances, talks and art installations at Mass MoCA. The festival took a year off last year.

But while thousands are heading into Mass Moca, there'll be plenty of activities for both area residents and visitors off-campus, including the kickoff of Downstreet Art on Thursday night.

The opening of the summerlong gallery series is a week early to take advantage of the Solid Sound draw.

Jonathan Secor, director of Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, said he knew of a number of visitors coming a day early to include Downstreet Art into their festival weekend.

"One of the coolest things last time was the people who we saw a month or two later, who had originally come during the Solid Sound Festival, and they said they didn't have a chance to get downtown," said Secor of 2011's event. "How to do we capture them to come back on a regular basis?"

The answer lies in presenting the city's best foot forward, one that also encourages local residents to enjoy its attractions.

"We love the 7,000 visitors we're going to see but it isn't about just that," said Alcombright. "This is a community event ... to make a very enjoyable weekend not just visitors but for residents."

Thursday night includes a 45-part reading of Frederick Douglass' 4th of July address of 1852 by local officials — and anyone who like to sign up that night to participate. Nomadic Massive hosts a hip hop block party on Main Street to which everyone's invited. Both events are also part of Lift Ev'ry Voice.

"We're really trying to elevate the performance elements to really make sense with the art and what's happening," Secor said.

On the weekend, disc jockeys will be providing music on the main drag beginning at 11 p.m., about the same time the lights flick on, said Secor, adding that it will be some "fun stuff" with LEDs. Also look for a roving art installation in a pickup truck.

On the weekend, businesses and restaurants will be able to stay open until 2 a.m., and are being encouraged to provide attractions for residents and for the late-night crowd exiting Mass MoCA. Local residents were out in force in the downtown during the last festival.

"It was amazing how many locals were downtown just enjoying the night," said the mayor. "It's a great opportunity."

The new North Adams Chamber of Commerce has been coordinating with businesses, and helping those who may be new to Solid Sound to understand what it means for business. Restaurant maps and coupons through the chamber and BerkshireMenus will be distributed, along with the DownstreetArt Art Map.

"From beginning to end, it's going to be a busier day," said chamber President Glenn Maloney. "There are so many more choices than a year ago."

Above, Jonathan Secor expects Downstreet Art to attract not only area residents but festivalgoers; right, Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city's public safety is prepared for the influx of visitors.

Inside MoCA, there'll also be booth space with information about the city, and 15 volunteers will mingle with the crowd in "talk to a townie" shirts to answer any questions visitors might have and offer directions.

On Sunday, the Main Street Market opens from 9 to 2 on Main Street between Holden and Eagle streets with more than 40 vendors, ranging from produce to jewelry to handmade soaps.

"We heard so frequently that that was one of the highlights" of the last festival, said Veronica Bosley, the city's director of tourism and events.

The Holiday Inn was reportedly sold out by Thursday; Solid Ground, the campsite at Noel Field Athletic Complex, is also sold out with 340 sites (up 90 from 2011) and the overflow is being redirected to "Hurricane Camping" at Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire.

"We anticipate a hard and fast start [on Friday]," said Jodi Joseph, director of communications at Mass MoCA. The festival kicks off at 6:30 that night with the prime attraction being Wilco's "all request show" at Joe's Field on the museum campus. "... As a venue, we've really upped our game."

People are expected be trickling in during Friday afternoon, and Joseph expects the city to be "beyond bustling by about 4 or 5 o'clock."

Three-day passes are still available, as are Friday and Sunday single-day passes.

"It's just an exciting time for the community to kind of share North Adams with people who are coming from far away," said Bosley.

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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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