Notes on the Solid Sound Festival at Mass MOCA on Sunday

Flower power couple at Mass MOCA on Saturday.
Flower power couple at Mass MOCA on Saturday.

WILCO’s Solid Sound Festival at Mass MOCA in North Adams was a  great day of music, arts and comedy. It was also so popular it felt like all of New York City had jumped on a bus and headed north.  It was  bumper to bumper people, lines snaking out far and long for vegetarian burritos (sorry! we just ran out of all of the salads and avocado!).  The festival was sold out, so such lines were to be expected, but there was a friendly vibe among the people who stood patiently with me in line.

There I met a woman who said her friend is in charge of all of these vendors. I suggested they might want to invite about ten more, since every place was so packed. She said that this festival at the beginning was a pretty big money loser, because there were so many things that had to be built and modified by MOCA to accommodate the huge crowds.  Infrastructure like the stages, the electrical, and the water, to name a few. There were some innovations here that I thought were pretty great.  One was “Joe’s Hose,” where a two narrow gauge faucets were hooked up to a garden hose and people could refill their water bottles.  Since the message of the day was hydration, this was a great idea that perhaps Eric Suher might want to consider for Mountain Park.  The line never stopped with people filling and refilling.

There were also solar powered cellphone charging stations set up at picnic tables. The problem was that four of the six plugs were for phones that nobody uses any more, funny looking fork-like ones, and tiny ultra-micro USBs that might work on an Ericsson or an old Blackberry. The iPhone  plugs were used constantly, they could have had six of them at each station and not have enough.

Al Madrigal and John Hodgman.
Al Madrigal and John Hodgman.

Up on stage during the finale, with WILCO playing to their adoring fans, Jeff Tweedy talked about one of the invited bands at the WILCO-curated show, Foxygen. “I met some of the members of the band backstage and went over to introduce myself,” Tweedy said. “I’m Jeff.”

The band member asked ,”What’s your last name?”  I gotta give Tweedy credit for sharing that story and for later commending Foxygen’s performance.

Lines snaking out from the Wild Oats booth.

The festival was rife with porkpie hats and tatts. Though we were not the oldest members of the audience, it felt like we were in a very hip Brooklyn bar.

People were sort of friendly, but not the way they are at our own Green River Festival.  At the comedy show, Al Madrigal’s bit had lots of f-bombs and silly banter, Daily Show Style, and I wondered what would make a parent want to bring their 11-year-old kids into the show, which was clearly marked as “not kid friendly.”   We cracked up at some of his stories, though, and I  liked the way he and Hodgman both were so comfortable doing stand-up in front of 800 people. A

At one point comedian Jen Kirkman lambasted a man in the audience who yelled something out. She made him come up on stage and then she called his father on her cell. It was a little bit funny, but I guess filling three and a half hours with comedy is harder than it looks.

I am glad that Solid Sound will come back next year, after they took the year 2012 off because of WILCO’s tour. It’s a solid bunch of performances with a whole lot of fun things to see and enjoy and though the drive home down windy Rte 2 wasn’t fun, it was sure worth showing up for.