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MoCA Director: No Reason Not to Bring Wilco Back
Staff Reports,
02:50AM / Monday, August 16, 2010

iBerkshires caught up with Mass MoCA Executive Director Joseph Thompson on Sunday afternoon while he was watching Jeff Tweedy's solo performance at Joe's Field:

What were the final attendance totals?


We were just north of 5,000 for the peak [on Saturday], and there's about 3,500 here today [Sunday]. We had some strong crowds.

Did the festival meet your expectations?

It was a beautiful event, and it flowed. The music was lovely, and people moved with great ease through the museum, the galleries, the various outdoor venues. My sense overwhelmingly was that people had a great time. At least I did.

Were you at all surprised by the ages of audience members?

It's a great audience. This is a 30s to 50s crowd, and there were a lots of kids here. There were more strollers in the galleries this weekend than we've had in a long, long time.

Did you find time to enjoy the festival yourself?

I had a great time. I heard most of the music. Much of it was new to me, and I loved it. There were beautiful melodies, close harmonies, walls of sound. ...Great, great dynamic and range, which is what's at the very heart of Wilco.

Anything stand out as your favorite act(s) of the weekend?

I had never heard Mountain Man, and I thought they were lovely. The Books continue to just get more and more precise and beautiful. I had this great moment going from The Autumn Defense, which is kind of alt-country, roots type of music -- out to the Nels Cline Singers, who had these amazing, warped waves and waves of intensity, and just the way it sounded washing over those brick walls. To realize that those guys can somehow play in the same band is just startling and beautiful.

Although diverse in sound, what did the musical acts have in common?

You look for artists who share your mission, your dreams and fears.

Will Wilco and the Solid Sound Festival return next year?

Jeff [Tweedy] and I talked this morning, and we had a hard time coming up with any reasons not to do it.

What would you change or add, if anything, to next year's event?

The beauty of this is Mass MoCA is a great platform, and having a very strong point of view -- in this case, Wilco's point of view -- it's a hard formula to beat. It will be really fun to put together a program and what can go in the galleries.

You know, it's a valuable, expandable idea which is what I think is quite beautiful about it. I love its focus. I'm not a festival-goer because they sometimes they feel to me like a lot of work, just a barrage. They're kind of like variety shows, and I've never been one for variety shows. What I like about this one is that concordant hum that somehow flows through it. That comes from having very smart people and a passionate audience, and Wilco having their hand on the throttle. I'd be loath to mess around with that.

What did the festival bring to North Adams outside the confines of Mass MoCA?

I heard the stories that people were hanging out [Saturday] night. I heard that there was a full spectrum of activity, from The Mohawk to the Holiday Inn Bar, to the bands on the street at 1:30 in the morning. It was kind of a hum [throughout the city], and these things build over time.

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