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Solid Sound Solid Success

Tammy Daniels

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.

Tags: solid ground, festival      

Wilco Finds Berkshires Home Away From Home

Andy McKeever

Wilco met with the media in the Katharina Grosse exhibit inside the museum before the second Solid Sound Festival kicked off.

Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche said the Berkshires have become the other half of the band's base with their management opening shop in the next county over in Northampton.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshires is considered a second home to the band Wilco.

"A tentacle of our global operations has planted itself firmly in the Berkshires. Our management, our longtime manager, made a home here in Northampton so a lot of things have grown around that operation," band leader Jeff Tweedy said during a meeting with the press Friday prior to the kick off of the Solid Sound Festival. "Chicago is where we work and record the records and rehearse and this area is where all of the other types of decisions are made."

The band returned to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts on Friday for the three-day long festival. While the festival draws thousands of people, it is still minor in comparisons to other major festivals in the country — exactly the way Wilco wants it.

"I love the scale. I don't really have any aspirations to outgrow the [museum]. Last year, we could have obviously accommodated more people," bassist John Stirratt said. "This is the antidote of the big rock concert. All I aspire to is to keep going and get more of our friends here to play."

The band's even selected Mass MoCA and the festival for the release of its first single under its new self-label. The 7-inch vinyl is on sale for $8.

Museum Executive Director Joseph Thompson said the museum is very proud to continue being the host.

"We are really, really proud to be the host of Wilco. The band is very near the core of our DNA at Mass MoCA," Thompson said. "We just couldn't imagine a better group of people."

Instead of playing the larger festivals, the band is curating its own festival for the second year in a row. When asked to explain why, pianist Mikael Jorgensen responded, "Why not?" Guitarist Nels Cline said that by curating their own festival, they get a chance to direct the whole weekend.

"I think a lot of our bands wouldn't necessarily be invited to the big festivals so it's kind of nice to be able to invite ourselves to our own festival," Tweedy said. "It's all stuff that we have some connection to or if we haven't made contact with, it's bands we'd like to make contact with."

Stirratt said the band would love to invite every band they have known but they are not getting ahead of themselves. Tweedy said the band will not even begin to think about next year's festival until this year's is complete (and the "pain of planning" it has passed).

However, the festival has already shown growth with an additional Friday night set by the band and the Solid Ground tent set up at Noel Field. The festival is also being held earlier in the year.

"It rained a lot more this year than last year. It did rain last year but not as much," Glenn Kotche, drummer, said.

Thompson said the show will go on rain or shine. If the weather gets very bad the audience will be ushered inside temporarily but the show will continue on right after.

Tags: album      

Like Wilco's Album & Get Solid Sound Discount

Staff Reports

We caught this on the Mass MoCA Facebook page on Wedneday, May 11.

The early "worm" (not bird!) tickets were sold out weeks ago at $99.50 a pop.

A pretty good price considering the tickets give admission to all three days of the festival and the biggest contemporary art museum in the United States.

(You should see the stuff they have in there.)

Regular tickets are listed at $124.50 on the Mass MoCA website but if you follow the (way too many) links through to purchase the tickets, they're at $116. Not sure what that's all about.

Anyway, if you haven't got your tickets yet you can save a few more bucks if you get your friends and their friends, etc., to LIKE like crazy on the Wilco Spring 2011 Tour Photos. You've got until 5 p.m. on May 12 at 5 p.m. We were LIKE No. 349.

Tags: tickets      

Wilco To Debut New Single At MoCA

Staff Reports

Solid Sound and Wilco return to Mass MoCA on the weekend of June 24. According to the festival's website, all the early bird and return tickets have been sold out. All that's remaining is the $124.50 three-day pass.

The event is expected to bring upwards of 5,000 concertgoers to the city and surrounding area. We'll try to update with tidbits and whatnot that we come across as the date approaches.

That includes news that Wilco will release a single — on vinyl — at the festival.

Jambands reports the self-released 7-inch will have the new "I Might" on the A side and a cover of Nick Lowe's "I Love My Label" on the B side. The record premieres at Mass MoCA before it's released to the world.

Along with the musicians and comedians will be a micropower radio station, WTNG.  A post on Radio Survivor describes the station as "a laptop and microphone driving a mixer, PA and small transmitter." The microstation was part of a pop-up record store in Chicago's Wicker Park. The man who set up the station, Michael, told Radio Survivor he was planning to join the festival in June. 

Tags: premiere, radio      
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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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