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MASS MoCA, North Adams say eighth Solid Sound festival went off without a hitch

Ratboys performs at the 2024 installation of Solid Sound on the campus of MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Douglas Mason
Ratboys performs at the 2024 installation of Solid Sound on the campus of MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Thousands flocked to North Adams, Massachusetts for the eighth installation of the Solid Sound festival at MASS MoCA over the weekend.

Around 7,600 attendees were in town for the sold-out biennial celebration of music, comedy, food, and art thrown by Chicago indie rockers Wilco on the sprawling museum campus.

“We started seeing entertaining guests late Wednesday night into Thursday. Traffic patterns were great. We had a fantastic weekend with Wilco. I always get excited when we see the streets of North Adams filled and the businesses bustling. So overall, it was a fantastic weekend- A little bit of rain, but the Wilco followers didn't really care. They just went on with the show," Mayor Jennifer Macksey told WAMC. “I spoke to many business people over the weekend, and they used comments like, oh, we're out straight, this is the best weekend we've had in a long time, this is the best Wilco festival we've had in a long time, and speaking from the city's perspective, we netted about $17,000 in new revenue from event parking. So that always helps us, and that goes towards police cruisers. So, when I talk about profitability, it's not only from the dollars and cents in our businesses, but it's also just showcasing the city.”

It was the city’s first Solid Sound following the implementation of a $40 event parking fee in 2022.

Macksey says the festival was blessedly free of public safety incidents.

“The normal- you know, people getting dehydrated, too much sun, a couple falls here and there, but overall, we are business as usual for us," she said. "We were fortunate this year with our increased staffing levels that we were able to put enough people in the complex of MASS MoCA and then have five to six officers in the field with a full shift on the fire department as well, so it was a comfortable staffing level for us.”

The mayor says the city does still need to fine tune aspects of its festival planning.

“I think we'll do better with communicating out a little bit earlier, maybe on that Wednesday, about parking," said Macksey. "We didn't start shutting down our parking until Thursday evening and marking things off, and again, it's really just engaging with the community to make them aware, so maybe improving some of our communication patterns.”

The festivities weren’t limited to the museum grounds.

“We really try to bring Wilco into the community. I thought it was really incredible that Jeff Tweedy did a pop up at the local library on the Thursday before, and about over 100 people attended, and that was just really great. I think Jeff told me that he sang 80 songs while in North Adams this year throughout his whole time," MASS MoCA Director of Performing Arts & Film Sue Killam told WAMC. “We bring in local vendors, we use local restaurants for catering, the hotels are sold out, we use a local bus company, we have least 100 community volunteers, and some that actually come from other places, but most are community volunteers that just love this festival and want to join us in any way they can. We also have to augment some of our staffing in all different directions, so we hire local people for that as well. And then even just silly logistics, like renting tables and chairs and tents and all the stuff we have to purchase for, whether it's hospitality or tents and getting the site grounds ready, it really does have such a wide-ranging impact on the region, which is just so great.”

Among the weekend’s highlights, Killam noted Wilco’s surprise decision to perform its 2004 masterpiece “A Ghost Is Born” in its entirety Saturday and the battery of pop-up performances that dotted the MASS MoCA campus.

“Spencer and Sammy Tweedy did a great pop up, and people loved performing in front of the Chris Doyle in our large Building 5," said Killam. "So that was really fun to see as well. For me, it's just seeing all of the people just explore and open their minds and really enjoy everything. The Young@Heart group was a surprise add to the lineup that the producers did, and they just brought down the house. They were incredible, and then they joined Mark Mulcahy and Miracle Legion for a quick number. And just to sort of see that sort of intersections and Jeff Tweedy popping up at some of the other sets, was also just really surprising and kept people on their toes.”

According to organizers, Solid Sound brought in attendees from 47 states and 16 countries.

“It's been really fun to see some of the responses on social media and things like that, just really everyone understanding that this is a community lift and a community spirit," Killam told WAMC. "There was just one post that thanked everyone, from the city, from the community members who have their population of their city nearly doubled, and it's really a nice audience. They understand that what it takes to make this festival unique and rare and special does have an impact, and they're really grateful and share their gratitude about that. And that's so lovely, that's a world I want to live in.”

The next Solid Sound is expected to take place in 2026.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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