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Solid Sound Festival: A Wilco Lovefest at MASS MoCA

Rural Intelligence Community Cultural correspondent Bess Hochstein reports from North Adams: Even before the Solid Sound Festival began, love was in the air, as the local music media gathered for a press conference on the afternoon of Friday, August 13. Reporters peppered MASS MoCA’s Joe Thompson and Wilco band members Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Nels Cline, and Mikael Jorgenson with the same question: Will this happen again next year? (It has now been confirmed that discussions are underway to mount Solid Sound II next summer.) 

Certainly, Friday the 13th was not unlucky for the more than 5,000 ticket holders who enjoyed nearly perfect weather (but for a light rain at the end of Tweedy’s festival-ending acoustic solo-plus-friends set on Sunday evening) and a feel-good vibe throughout the three-day extravaganza of music, comedy, art, film, and more. MASS MoCA took a measured risk in handing its campus over to Wilco, confident that the band’s fans are not of the property-destroying variety; indeed, many concert-goers brought their kids, who amused themselves running and dancing late into the night on the newly created field in front of the main stage inaugurated by Mavis Staples and Wilco.

The whole event felt more like a relaxed country fair than a rock show with the performers setting an intimate tone, rubbing elbows with their fans as they strolled the galleries and even taking their place on the dunk tank platform to raise money for a local arts initiative. It looked like a win-win from every perspective: Wilco seemed to have as good a time as festival-goers; MASS MoCA gained great exposure to a young, hip audience as well as national publicity on NPR and the New York Times; and the host city of North Adams benefitted from an influx of visitors from across the country and around the world. Here’s a photo essay that captures the magic of the weekend.

Photographs © Charles Harris

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