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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.

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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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Thousands Flock to North Adams for Solid Sound

By John Durkan
iBerkshires Staff
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy performs during the band's first set of the weekend.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Several thousand people poured into Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday for the Solid Sound Festival, headlined by the Chicago band Wilco.
Although familiar faces were abundant — such as Kathy Keeser conducting volunteers and David Bond, a city councilor, shouting, "Get your hot dogs here," from the Rotary Club vender tent — fans from all over the country turned up for the concert.
Jeffery Boykin traveled "non-stop, solo, 12 1/2 hours to Vermont" from Raleigh, N.C. for his second Solid Sound Festival. The first festival was also his first trip ever to New England and he bought tickets for the second round, but bailed on the stormy forecast, which he regretted — but a mistake he will never repeat.
"It's great, the people are lovely," Boykin said of his experiences in the city.
Repeat visitors were common. A young family from Tyngsborough enjoy their regular trip to Solid Sound Festival — this one being the third — and the surrounding artist community.
"North Adams is cool, this and Williamstown," said Warren Allgrove, who attended with his wife, Bethany, and son Warren "Ren" Allgove. "It's a good artist community like Lowell — old mills turned into artist lofts."
Local businesses saw some spill over from the festival. Desperados owner David Atwell saw a busy morning and a steady, busy day and night vending on site.
"The restaurant opened at 11, by 11:30 we had a full house, all out-of-town people," Atwell said, noting he saw really positive energy from the visitors and community.
Jonathan Del Sordo, an employee at Mass MoCA who helped check in campers at the H.A. George campsite, said he felt the same energy, both from festival-goers and residents  a like.
"Everybody is in the greatest mood," Del Sordo said.
Only a couple fans might have experienced some playful jabbing, like the fan who traveled from Wilco's stomping grounds in Illinois donning a Chicago Blackhawks shirt in Bruins territory.
Mark and Bruce Marino, two brothers living in Baltimore and Cleveland respectively, are spending the weekend together in the name of Wilco. After Bruce Marino took time planning and mostly "convincing his wife to go to the beach," he said jokingly, his brother jumped on board immediately.
And for good reason — the first day alone featured the energetic four-piece group White Denim before the Relatives brought a solid, gospel sound to Joe's Field. 
Then fittingly, when Wilco took the stage for its all-request set, the band opened with Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" to a sea of fans, marking the return of Solid Sound weekend.


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Wilco Arrives at Mass MoCA

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Solid Sound Festival doesn't start until Friday evening but the signs of its arrival are evident.

The Wilco letters were hoisted above one of the entrances to Joe's Field at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Wednesday afternoon. It's a good sign after 2011's rainy weather left the letters groundside — though they did provide a great backdrop for numerous fan photos.

The weather is finally looking good — cross your fingers — so we're hoping for nice days this weekend for visitors and residents alike.

The music had already started as a practice session could be heard coming from the old Sprague's shipping department. "Don't Fear the Reaper" seemed a downer for such sunny day.

There are still tickets available for the three-day festival here. If you're local, at least you've got a place to stay. The hotels are filled, and so is the Solid Ground camping site. Two other sites have been set for festivalgoers at Hoosac Vally High School in Cheshire (Hurricane Camping — the mascot not the weather!) and at Buxton School in Williamstown.

Area residents should be aware of shuttle buses making frequent trips between camping areas and parking sites, running about every 20 to 30 minutes. Parking is expected to be at a premium around the museum, with overflow at the old Walmart, behind Big Y, the airport and other sites.

The downtown will be open for business late on Saturday night and the crowd won't be leaving MoCA until after Wilco's performance so things shouldn't be too crowded until around 11.




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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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