Solid Sound

Wilco’s festival returns to Mass MoCA for a third time

Solid Sound summer concert at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Solid Sound summer concert at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.(RICK LEVINSON file PHOTO)

NORTH ADAMS — Summertime in the Berkshires has much to offer, especially for those looking to relax in the bucolic surroundings and take in some music or dance, enjoy a little theater, or visit a top museum. Indeed, these hills are alive with dozens of offerings for the arts-inclined traveler.

Since 2010 there’s been a new kid on the block. The Solid Sound Festival, curated and anchored by the band Wilco, returns to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art for a third time June 21-23 after a one-year hiatus. Roughly two dozen acts will take part this year. Meanwhile, the museum will be home to several exhibits.


Despite all that’s on tap, Solid Sound feels more intimate than most big-name music events, and that’s fine with Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy.

“The festivals that we’ve liked the most over the years have been sort of destination festivals,” he said. “It’s always been tougher for us to integrate ourselves into bigger festivals.”

That led to the band creating its own. A high priority was the right location.

“I can’t imagine a place more inspiring than Mass MoCA,” Tweedy said. “To me, it really became something other than your everyday festival when we got to use this space.”

Wilco is a Chicago-based band that plays a mix of Americana and alternative rock. Its management offices and record label are located in Easthampton. When the idea to host a festival first arose, the Berkshires seemed like a great choice, especially after the members of Wilco enjoyed playing Tanglewood in 2008.

“I had been to Mass MoCA a few times, and I thought it was someplace we should look at,” said Wilco manager Tony Margherita. “It’s visually appealing and [museum director] Joe Thompson was extremely open to the idea.”

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, home of the Solid Sound Festival.
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, home of the Solid Sound Festival. (Karen Callan)

Solid Sound spreads out across the industrial expanse of the museum’s ample space, with a mix of art, music, hands-on activities, and all sorts of creative fun. It’s a good mix, Thompson said.


“There’s something about being able to see new art and step outside and hear new music,” he said. “There’s a fluidity to the weekend, and a kind of permeability in the way people move” between the two.

He also said fans of contemporary art won’t be disappointed. “The galleries will be chockablock with lots of new art,” he said.

As with many festivals, the Solid Sound experience is about immersion. Fans spend anywhere from one to three days on site, moving from gallery to gallery, or bopping outside to hear one of the bands, which this year includes two sets by Wilco, as well as performances by Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, and The Dream Syndicate. Meanwhile, North Adams will make available part of its downtown area for camping, and $80 round-trip bus transportation is available to the festival from New York and Boston.

The mix of art and music in such a funky space makes Solid Sound a festival with a unique aesthetic. Tweedy said his band fits right in.

“I guess the guiding philosophy is the same as Wilco’s: to celebrate people making stuff, doing things, and being creative,” Tweedy said. “It’s nice to be able to present this three-dimensional picture of how we feel about making music and living.”

Tickets and information are at .

John Winters can be reached at