Since 2010 Jeff Tweedy and Wilco have been hosting one of the finest under-the-radar music festivals in the country, Solid Sound. Held every other year, in the beautiful Berkshire mountains at the Mass Moca Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Massachusetts, Solid Sound is the ultimate live Wilco experience.
Several key elements come together to make the festival a unique treasure for both Wilco fans and music lovers. Wilco hand picks all the performers, which always includes the unfamiliar, the original and the extraordinary. This year, for instance, saw the reunion of two legendary musical acts, Television and The Shaggs.
In addition to the tremendous talent, the setting at Mass Moca makes for what has to be one of the most humane and adult festival experiences around. Festival goers have full access to the large art galleries that enclose the festival grounds. This means clean indoor bathrooms and air conditioning to escape the heat. There are also comfortable lounges adorned with stunning art installations and plenty of electrical outlets. The area surrounding Mass Moca is some of the most picturesque in the country and there are lots of places to camp, hike and swim. All of this makes for a kinder, gentler festival experience that leaves attendees only more inspired and energized by the time the music is over.
Playing at Solid Sound, Wilco is clearly in their element and enjoying themselves a little more than usual. The band always manages to do something special to mark the occasion. One year it was a wonderful all acoustic set, while in 2013 they played a show entirely of cover songs, randomly selected from a long list of recommendations submitted by fans. This year, Wilco asked fans to vote for one of their albums to be played in its entirety, and the record with the most votes was the band’s 1996 sophomore release, Being There.
Then, as if hearing that entire double album from start to finish wasn’t treat enough, for their encore the band came out and played their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It was one of those truly special concert experiences, with the band going from song to song and not saying a word, as fans realized they were getting a second album run through after Being There.
In addition to two wonderful performances from Wilco on Friday and Saturday night, there were other huge highlights from this weekend. Guitarist Adrian Belew sat in as a special guest on legendary alt-punk band Television’s reunion, on the main stage Saturday afternoon. Cult icons The Shaggs gave an odd but endearing performance on Saturday as well, playing live together for the second time since 1975. Peter Wolf showed once again why he is still the consummate front man, playing with his powerhouse backup band the Midnight Travelers. One of the festivals notable non-musical acts was author, real food crusader and former NY Times columnist Mark Bittman, who gave a wonderful talk to a packed room on Sunday afternoon.
Other acts included soul, jazz and hip-hop keyboardist Robert Glasper, legendary roots rockers Dave & Phil Alvin, rising indie superstars such as Kurt Vile, Deep Sea Divers, Kevin Morby and Andy Shauf.
Article and Photographs by JD Cohen