Solid Sound Solid Success
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.
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Solid Ground Filling Up
Javier Higuera was one of the first to arrive at Noel Field for the Solid Sound Festival. Higuera drove from Arizona — stopping in major cities on the way — for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Solid Ground expects to be filled to the brim.
According to Police Sgt. David Sacco, a founder of the local ROPES program, 250 tent slots and all 10 recreational vehicle spots have been sold and the campers have been trickling in all morning. Each tent can have up to four people.
"Check in started at 11 a.m. and they've been filtering in consistently since then," Sacco said Friday afternoon. The ROPES organization, lead by local emergency responders, is coordinating the camping area at the municipal park.
The site at Noel Field is expected to be full by 8 p.m. and the ROPES volunteers of more than 200 will be helping concertgoers and keeping order. The team has been shuttling people to the site by using golf carts; the threat of stormy weather does not seem to be a deterrent.
"In case of severe weather we're suggesting they head to their cars," Sacco said. "The Eagles Club also called and said that if we needed to have a mass exodus, they'll open up for us."
Some 5,000 concertgoers are coming to the area from all over the country and beyond. Sacco said there are two reservations from Canada and one from South Africa. ROPES Program coordinator John LeClair said he has seen people from across the country including Ohio, Wisconsin and California.
Well-prepared camper Javier Higuera was all set up by 1 p.m. after driving from Arizona to attend the festival. Higuera left his home on Saturday and has been stopping at major cities along the way.
ROPES set up vendors that expect to be open until 1 a.m. or even later depending on business.
"I've never been east of Denver before," Higuera said. "This is a trip of a lifetime."
Higuera is meeting up with a friend on Sunday and will be driving back – hitting even more cities along the way. Higuera said he does not have to be back to work until July 5, so he is enjoying the vacation.
The campers are flowing in with cases of beer and wine, grills, Frisbees and Wiffle ball bats.
Police are not expecting any problems. LeClair said that last year police had "zero" incidents and he expects the same this year. Medical staff and security will be on site throughout the festival, he said.
"This isn't a mosh pit," LeClair said. "They are all very nice."
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'Solid Ground' Gets Greenlight
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A temporary downtown camping area for the Solid Sound Festival was given the greenlight by the Board of Health.
The "tent city" within walking distance of Main Street is being operated by the city through the emergency responders who volunteer with the ROPES program, a day camp for promoting teamwork and leadership in area youngsters.
The board did put some restrictions on the camp, reducing the proposed number of 300 down to 275 and eliminating farther-flung sites behind the ballfield as safety measures.
The ruling comes after several meetings, including a public hearing last week that focused on safety and sanitation.
The ROPES volunteers will provide security along with on-duty police. There will be portapotties, pay showers and a concession stand. Each tent site will be limited to four people and one tent.
Reservations for sites are being made through Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which is hosting the Wilco-curated festival.
As of last week, the number of tent sites reserved was about 140; nine of the 10 RV sites were taken. The cost is $80 for two nights. Check-in is 11 a.m. on Friday, June 24, and check-out is 3 p.m. on June 26. For more information, go to the Mass MoCA site here.
There are also a number of other campsites in the area, including the city's Historic Vally Park on Windsor Lake. The campground is currently full for the Solid Sound weekend but there is a waiting list. Call 413-662-3198 for more information. Other campgrounds can be found here, but be aware most are a half-hour or more from the city.
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Wilco Tickets Selling Quicker Than Last Year
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Tickets for Wilco's Solid Sound Festival are selling quicker than last year.
"We'll have at least as many as we had last year and probably more," said Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Director Joseph Thompson on Tuesday. "Ticket sales are tracking nicely above what they were at the t-minus 80 days, year-to-year count."
One of the big reasons tickets sales are up, Thompson told the Mass MoCA Cultural Development Commission, is because it is being held earlier in the summer and there are more available hotel rooms.
"It was the mayor's idea actually, to try and shift the program away from July, August into September, June or May when reservations were softer," Thompson said. "There were probably 1,000 or 1,500 more rooms available in a 30-mile radius."
The event could have been larger last year but lodging had been too difficult to find, Thompson said. Additionally, about half of the tent sites and 10 recreational vehicle sites at Noel Field Athletic Complex have been sold.
"Those are selling well. I think we are up to 165 tent slots," Thompson said. "People are excited that they can walk from the tent site to the event."
Also regarding housing, Thompson said that last year there were a lot of rooms and houses that were rented for the weekend.
"It did happen last year. There were a lot of Craigslist listings," Thompson said. "People were selling even access to their showers on a per-use basis."
The success of the festival has even led MoCA officials to begin planning another concert event for August. The event, which will be much smaller than Solid Sound, is still in the planning stages and officials have yet to decide on the band.
"It will be some for 1,000 or 2,000 people," Thompson said. "We need to find the right band for the right price."
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