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Return Of Solid Sound Festival Expected To Boost North Adams Economy

Facebook: Solid Sound Festival

The first full weekend of summer brings the return of Solid Sound Festival to MASS MoCA. Some 7,000 people from near and far are expected to take part in the three-day event in North Adams.Jeff Tweedy and other members of the alternative rock band Wilco created the Solid Sound Festival in 2010. The three-day event now comes to North Adams every other summer — also the name of a recently released documentary that follows the group during the 2013 festival.

“There are a lot of really, really, really big festivals in the world now,” Tweedy says in the documentary. “But the big festivals to me, I don’t think they’re very musical. The only real desire was to make a festival that we wouldn’t be miserable at.”

“Every nook and cranny of the campus is filled with music, comedy and art” said Joseph Thompson, director of MASS MoCA. “It’s a really interesting festival. Most of these big and large scale music festivals take place in a farmer’s field. You’re out with the elements and it can be incredibly beautiful. But at MASS MoCA there are galleries, bathrooms and a bit of civilization.”

Thompson says tickets for all three days have a good chance of selling out over the next couple days. He says the first Solid Sound Festival drew some 3,500 people and this year’s crowd is expected to double that. A study from Williams College found the first festival generated $1.2 million in local spending via lodging, restaurants and tickets. Thompson says if the model holds, this weekend could spur $2 to $3 million in spending.

“The Solid Sound campsite is on the baseball field in downtown North Adams and we have slightly more remote one at Hoosac Valley school in Adams…they’re full as well,” Thompson said. “That’s just a great idea. For one thing it offers affordable accommodations for those who are on a budget, but mainly it keeps people cheek by jowl with the downtown merchants. The downtown just hums during this weekend.”

With only a handful of hotel or motel rooms available within a 10-mile radius of North Adams for the weekend, MASS MoCA directs visitors to websites like airbnb where area residents can rent out a bed.

“It’s a way that locals can enjoy some of the dividends of having all these guests in town and it also provides a wide range of affordable options for concertgoers,” Thompson said. “So we’re fans.”

Area businesses are offering various deals, events and entertainment to capitalize on the influx of people to the city of 13,000. An artisan craft fair will combine with Saturday’s farmers market, which will move to Center Street between Marshall and Holden. V &V Steeple City Spirits is holding its first ever Hops & Sound Festival featuring wine and beer tastings along with a silent auction of display items. Proceeds will be donated to the North Adams After School Program. The Oh Crepe café is putting on an artist performance series throughout the weekend. The North Adams Movieplex is offering a free screening of the Goonies at 11 o’clock Saturday morning, while a local historian will give a downtown tour in the afternoon. North Adams’ director of community events Suzy Helme says restaurants are extending hours to serve breakfast and late night dinners for the concertgoers.

“We always appreciate our local residents and the business that they support us with throughout the year, but having 8,000 extra people in town doesn’t hurt,” Helme said. “It’s an exciting time. It’s a rollercoaster because it’s also a lot of work for everybody. They open for way more hours than they normally would.  They have to work a lot harder, but the payoff is hopefully there and everyone comes out and has a good time.”

Mayor Richard Alcombright says city workers will spend most of this week shining up the city. He adds police officers will be on hand for traffic control and safety, at a cost that’s billed to MASS MoCA.

“We just don’t seem to have any problems,” Alcombright said. “So there aren’t a lot of police within the facility, but when you are talking 6,000 to 7,000 people in a venue you need to have some sort of presence just to make sure that if anything does go wrong we’re ready.”

MASS MoCA’s gates open at 4:30 Friday to kick off the weekend festival. Click here for more information.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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