Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival Returns To North Adams In 2019

Oct 19, 2018

One of the biggest musical events in our region is returning next year. 

Solid Sound — a biennial music and arts festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts —  is the brainchild of Chicago-based rock band Wilco. Inaugurated in 2010, the latest edition will take place from June 28th to the 30th.

“They take over our campus with their music and arts festival that encompasses two nights of headline shows by Wilco," said Jodi Joseph. "The band members each have side projects that all typically play. There’s a comedy festival inside this festival. We’ve had falconry. There are kids shows. We get out and go hiking with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.”

Joseph is the director of communications for the museum.

“It’s a great way to introduce what ends up being about 9,000 fans of the band to our little corner of New England,” she told WAMC.

That’s a big number in Massachusetts’ smallest city. North Adams has just under 13,000 residents, which means a festival of this size has an outsized impact on the community.

“You talk to business owners in North Adams, and no matter what the business is, Solid Sound weekend is certainly one of the most significant economic events in North Adams every two years," said Ben Svenson, one of the owners of TOURISTS — which describes itself as “a hotel and riverside retreat.” The 48-room property opened this summer roughly three miles west of MASS MoCA on Route 2, and has deep ties to both the museum and the band behind Solid Sound.

“MASS MoCA was certainly the magnet that drew me to North Adams and sparked initial interest, probably about 10 years ago," Svenson told WAMC. "And four years ago, [I] came to town inspired by John Stirratt of Wilco at the prospect of building a hotel. And it took about half a year to find a location, which wound up being the former Redwood Motel.”

The hotel underscores the close connection between business and art in North Adams. Wilco bassist Stirratt is one of TOURISTS’s owners, along with Eric Kerns, co-founder of Bright Ideas Brewing — a brewery and bar on the campus of MASS MoCA. Svenson sees those 9,000 visiting festival attendees as a recurring opportunity for both his business and the city at large.

“They come back, other times. They form a relationship with North Adams," he said. "And often times I think Solid Sound is the beginning of that relationship.”

It was certainly the beginning of TOURISTS as it exists today.

“Solid Sound two years ago was the first iteration of TOURISTS. We took the Redwood Motel, and trying to on a shoestring budget get 10 rooms ready for friends and family we used plywood and white paint to just clean the place up and sort of have a fun pop-up hotel, and in the end that wound up becoming inspiration for the rooms as they are now,” said Svenson.

Joseph says MASS MoCA has an all hands on deck policy around providing accommodations for Solid Sound.

“TOURISTS is an ally, everyone is an ally — we need every room in Northern Berkshire county, so, yeah, we’ll happily partner with anyone who has space for artists, for festival goers — ‘get thee to Airbnb’ is sort of our rallying cry right now,” she said.

The full festival lineup is still being developed. Joseph says the museum will again partner with the city on camping and parking. Early bird tickets are on sale now, while supplies last.

“Until they sell through," warned Joseph. "And then ticket prices rise to $179.”