Nick Cave's 'Until' closes on Sept. 4 after nearly a year in Building 5.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — For the sixth year running, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art heads into the fall with the 7th annual FreshGrass Festival on Sept. 15-17, a weekend devoted to bluegrass and progressive roots music and wraps up the season in mid-December when Sundance Theatre Lab returns for its annual residency program.
In between, Gabriel Kahane is back with new music based on his recent two-week cross-country Amtrak journey; The Weepies take the stage for an unplugged performance; exhibiting artist Lonnie Holley dives into music; Sam Green & Kronos Quartet team up for a work-in-progress film-with-live-music event; Big Dance Theater returns for a staged performance co-presented with Jacob's Pillow Dance; and the Building 5 gallery transitions from "Nick Cave: Until" (on view through Sept. 4) to "Liz Glynn: The Archaeology of Another Possible Future" (opening Oct. 7), an exhibition that conceives of the space as a grid of spatial chapters about commerce in our de-materialized age, including some elevated high off the floor.
Thousands of bluegrass fans will arrive for the annual FreshGrass weekend. Headlined by Brandi Carlile, Railroad Earth, The Del McCoury Band, David Grisman, Shovels & Rope, The Wood Brothers, and Sarah Jarosz, the festival features more than 50 bands and four stages of music — and a rare reunion show by Crooked Still, its only 2017 performance.
Main stage gigs are rounded out with musician-led instrument-and-industry workshops, on-site luthiers, FreshScores (the festival's signature original music paired with classic silent film — this year featuring Carolina Chocolate Drops founder Dom Flemons, Red Baraat's Sunny Jain, and tap dynamo Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards), the FreshGrass Award (for which more than 20 musicians take the stage to compete for $30,000 in cash and prizes), camping, and more. If it's happening in bluegrass and roots music, you'll find it here — plus lots of farm-fresh fall harvest food and locally brewed beer.
Glynn's "The Archaeology of Another Possible Future" is a sprawling multi-sensory sculptural experience of sight, sensation, sound, and scent stretching nearly a football field in length. It expands on the artist's interest in the rise and fall of empires, consumer culture, and our uncertain future. The experience unfolds in five chapters, opening with primitive sensory experience — in which visitors will pass through a series of caves and pyramids formed of wooden pallets — and culminates in the glistening image of a dystopic, postindustrial economy inspired in part by Aldous Huxley's writing — observed from a system of catwalks suspended high in the air. The exhibition will open with a Members Reception on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Five events will be lead by exhibiting artists. Kidspace's Wes Sam-Bruce screens his film "The Wonder Sound" on Oct. 26, before discussing his artistic process and leading the audience through an art-making exercise. "Radical Small" artist Elizabeth King traces her deep research into the history of figurative sculpture — from automatons and puppets to her own meticulously crafted, moveable figures — in her artist talk on Nov. 2. On Nov. 30, watch "Are you really my friend? The Movie" with Tanja Hollander and filmmaker Robin Greenspun. On Dec. 2, Lonnie Holley leads the way through "Thumbs up for the Mothership" to discuss his deeply personal and affecting work, before taking the stage that night in Club B10, keyboard and guitar in tow. And on Dec. 16, Steffani Jemison and Justin Hicks make the U.S. debut of their performance piece "Mikrokosmos." The duo maps vocal pitches and gestures to the syllables of various pop songs. An artist talk follows.
Annie-B Parson's Big Dance Theater company returns with its latest staged performance, "17c," on Oct. 28. The New York Times praises Big Dance Theater for "consistently [making] contemporary magic from classical material." At the museum, the Obie Award-winning ensemble takes a spin through the diaries of Samuel Pepys, a famed 17th-century socialite. Co-presented with Jacob's Pillow Dance, expect to see music, dance, video, and text weaved into this special preview performance. Indie pop-folk duo The Weepies takes the stage on Nov. 4 for an unplugged performance that emphasizes the husband-wife group's lovely writing and singing styles.
Up in the Club
Cross-cultural percussionist Sameer Gupta comes with a band and a new album on Sept. 30. Ani Cordero and her Latin quartet bring a night of storytelling and music to Club B10 on Oct. 7. Bitter Game on Oct. 14 blends verse and prose for a solo theater piece about race relations in America. On Nov. 11, Irish immigrant and acclaimed comedian Maeve Higgins keeps these important conversations moving when she produces a live recording of her hit podcast Maeve in America. On Dec. 2, Lonnie Holley visits from Alabama for a deep dive into his art and music. Expect a one-of-a-kind show that starts with the screening of a short documentary about the artist. Preferred ticket-holders can come early for an artist-led gallery tour.
Visitors can get a glimpse into the inner workings of production with the four residency programs hosted this fall, which almost always conclude with a work-in-progress performance. On Oct. 20, Brooklyn composer Gabriel Kahane previews an intimate new song cycle based on his recent two-week Amtrak journey across the country. Lee Serle, who recently gained notoriety for choreographing a Kanye West music video, presents a hands-on theater-and-sculpture piece in tandem with visual artist Mateo López and theater director Maya Zbib on Nov. 18. On Dec. 8, documentarian Sam Green teams up with the legendary, 40-years-and-running Kronos Quartet. In this meeting of minds, Green tells the foursome's story as they provide a live score: "WOW." The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab returns to the campus for a two-week residency, during which a future round of Academy Award-nominated screen and stage plays are workshopped, presented, and polished on their way to the bright lights. The group arrives late this fall and presents on Dec. 9.
Writing and Architecture
From Sept. 1 through Oct. 30, the Mastheads' five mini writing studios, designed by architects Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson, will dot the Mass MoCA campus after spending the summer in Pittsfield. The units spatially reinterpret the Berkshire work and homes of American Renaissance writers — from Herman Melville to Henry David Thoreau. They're available for half-day writing studio appointments during weekday museum hours and open for public viewing on weekends.
The 13th annual Mass MoCA Benefit in New York City pops off on Nov. 7 on the Tribeca Rooftop. Expect the usual — dinner, drinks, music, and a live art auction — in Mass MoCA's inimitable style.
Mass MoCA discounts general admission tickets 25 percent for most fall 2017 shows if tickets are purchased on or before Sept. 1, 2017. Early-bird prices do not include festivals, preferred tickets, artist talks, or $5 member tickets. Discounts do not combine, and discounted tickets are nonrefundable and non-transferable.
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