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.
Solid Sound Solid Success
By: Tammy Daniels On: 10:46AM / Tuesday June 28, 2011
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.