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Record Crowd Turns Out For Solid Sound Festival In North Adams

Facebook: MASS MoCA
Solid Sound Festival 2015 at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass.

Over the weekend, the population of North Adams swelled by more than 7,000 as people packed hotels and pitched tents, in town for return of the Solid Sound Festival.MASS MoCA welcomed it’s largest-ever crowd for a Solid Sound Festival this past weekend, a three-day event created by the alternative rock band Wilco in 2010. This was the fourth Solid Sound.

“I think we experienced MASS MoCA nearing its capacity on Saturday for sure,” said Jodi Joseph, MoCA’s communications director. “I think the rain did drive a few visitors away. On Sunday there were sporadic rain showers throughout the day, but there were thousands of people here until Jeff Tweedy stood from the stage and thanked us and the city of North Adams.”

About 13,000 people call North Adams home. Despite some longer than usual waits at traffic lights, Mayor Richard Alcombright says the city absorbs the influx rather well.

“I think the merchants did well,” Alcombright said. “The thing with Wilco is because it’s so contained to the campus, once the concert starts it pretty much sucks everyone out of the downtown and puts them into the campus. But then as they leave…the Mohawk Tavern that’s just been redone, they were slammed Friday and Saturday nights after the concert. I know some of our restaurants on particularly on the west end had done really well.”

A study from Williams College found the first festival, which drew about 3,500 people, generated $1.2 million in local spending via lodging, restaurants and tickets. Since most of the permanent lodging options book up for the weekend, MASS MoCA and the city set up campsites able to accommodate thousands of concertgoers. Alcombright says the visitors clean up after themselves and to his knowledge there were no public safety issues or charges filed related to the concert. To welcome the thousands of people, restaurants extended hours to serve breakfast and late night dinners while retailers offered deals and entertainment. The city’s tourism director Suzy Helme says some of the efforts can be replicated for 4,000-plus visitors who show up for MASS MoCA’s Fresh Grass Festival in September.

“I think it’s something we would definitely roll out for Fresh Grass,” Helme said. “I think we need to tweak it because some of the feedback is that the busy part is in the morning before the music gets started, not so much in the late, late evenings. We just need to tweak what we are doing and figure out how to make the most of the times when it is busy downtown.”

Alcombright says the city will look at permanently moving Saturday’s farmers market to Center Street after a strong showing this weekend. He says locals are increasingly embracing the festivals.

“I actually had a guy get frustrated with me because we don’t do this more,” Alcombright said. “Which is cool because when you live in North  Adams sometimes for years you’d get the ‘Well we can’t do that’ and so you see a bit of a transformation here with these festivals now and the happiness that you see around the community because of it.”

Alcombright says he met people who came from as far away as Ottawa and Great Britain.

“The first thing thank say is ‘Thank you for having us. We love it here,’” Alcombright explained. “I think for them to come into a community that’s small, friendly, quaint, still has some of the urban amenities they might need, but where they can go to a concert and the backdrop to the stage are the beautiful mountains…I think to them is just very unique. So we try to do it up as well as we can because we understand the relevance and importance of having so many people in our community.”

If Wilco keeps to the current schedule, the festival would return to North Adams in 2017.

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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