Courtney Barnett

Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival Bursts With Extraordinary Music, Art and Discovery

By Erik Philbrook, ASCAP Editor in Chief  •  July 3, 2019

Courtney Barnett, The Autumn Defense, Cate Le Bon, Jonathan Richman, The Feelies, Ohmme and more come together for one of the summer’s most unique fests


Nestled in the verdant hills of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, MASS MoCA in North Adams is home to some of the greatest works of modern art in the country. Since 2010 it has also been home to Wilco’s Solid Sound festival, an “every other year” celebration of music, art and discovery that is particularly unique among music festivals. Curated by Wilco (featuring ASCAP members Nels Cline, Mikael Jorgensen and Pat Sansone), the event brings together an extraordinary and eclectic lineup that presents Wilco’s musical side projects as well as artists from across the musical spectrum along with comedians, writers, circus performers and visual artists throughout MASS MoCA.

This year’s musical lineup featured established and emerging artists that offered a chance for Wilco fans to feel the satisfying rush of hearing their favorite bands as well as experience the exhilaration of discovering music they wouldn’t otherwise have encountered.

All weekend, ASCAP music resounded from Joe’s Field to courtyard stages and galleries. Performers included Aussie guitar goddess Courtney Barnett, '80s indie rock pioneers The Feelies, legendary troubadour Jonathan Richman from the Modern Lovers, Welsh musician and producer Cate Le Bon, Cup featuring Wilco guitar wizard Nels Cline, Buck Meek from Big Thief, Foxwarren featuring Canada’s Andy Shauf, Lithics, The Autumn Defense and Mellotron Variations featuring Wilco’s Pat Sansone, Quindar and Expandards featuring Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and Rough Francis, a hard-edged but musically adventurous rock band from Burlington Vermont.

Solid Sound has contributed greatly to the local community of North Adams, giving the region an economic boost as well as introducing music fans to the abundant art and nature to be experienced in this remote corner of Massachusetts. It has also expanded the definition of what a music festival can be. With yoga, nature hikes, film, interactive sound installation and creative food trucks, Solid Sound contains multitudes. It can be soulful, cerebral, civilized, celebratory, mindful and meaningful, depending on what you want to take away from it. Even the intense thunderstorms which periodically sweep through the area add some exciting drama to the experience.

See below for some of our favorite moments from this year's Solid Sound festival.

Mellotron Variations featuring Pat Sansone (right)

The Feelies accompanied by Jeff Tweedy

Annie Lennox’s “Now I Let You Go” exhibit

Ohmme

Ohmme in MASS MoCA' Courtyard C

Jonathan Richman warms the crowd up with some operatic singing

The Autumn Defense with a string section

Nels Cline

CUP featuring Nels Cline and Yuka Honda in MASS MoCA's Building 5

Cate Le Bon

Paintings by Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders

Rough Francis

Buck Meek of Big Thief