The sign posted in the auto shop as we entered North Adams, Massachusetts was a telling symbol of the weekend ahead of us. It said, simply, “Welcome Wilco.”
For three days, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was overrun by fans of all ages, buzzing to get another chance to see the Chicago-based band at Solid Sound 2013.
We arrived on site early Friday to setup the HeadCount tent, where we would be supplementing our standard voter registration with our new #SoundOff campaign – taking pictures of fans and artists holding signs with their personalized messages, and tweeting them to their elected officials. An efficient setup gave us time to kill, and having Wilco soundchecking Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” as background music made the time pass pretty easily.
When the gates opened, our team got right to work—sending tweets to fans’ elected officials from Massachusetts to California. We asked fans what their favorite Wilco album was, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot predictably blew away the field, getting 154 of over 500 votes. As daylight began to wane, Wilco took the stage for their all-request set, playing covers from Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Pavement, Abba, Replacements, Daft Punk, Blue Oyster Cult, Grateful Dead, Thin Lizzy, and Yo La Tengo before closing the night with a touching tribute to the man who helped close the last Solid Sound—Levon Helm.
Saturday brought another day of beautiful weather and great music. We had people #soundingoff on a wide variety of issues ranging from tuition costs to environmental concerns. We decided to switch up our community question to have people vote on the Vice President of Solid Sound (Wilco being the obvious choice for president). Yo La Tengo led most of the day, but Neko Case performing on the stage right before Wilco was able to gain enough support to win by 8 votes.
Sunday seemed to bring a smaller crowd than the previous two days (Wilco was not scheduled to perform on Sunday), but that didn’t stop those who came from having a great time. Sunday’s community question taught us that most people had seen Wilco between 2-5 times, but also had 7 people claim to having seen more than 50 shows (“At least 150” was the highest I heard). A special congratulations to the man who told me Solid Sound 2013 was his 50th time seeing Wilco!
Solid Sound was one of the coolest festivals I’ve been to so far this summer. Mass MOCA provided a unique venue where music could mesh perfectly with art. All of the Solid Sound staff and volunteers were incredibly organized, and from our stand point the entire festival went off without a hitch. Most impressive to me were two things—first, the amount of families who brought their young kids; and second, the passion that those kids had for music. While I was walking around with the community questions, every kid I asked knew exactly what their favorite Wilco album was, or who their favorite artist was, and why.
As for fellow Festival Coordinator Pat Daley and me, we’re headed to Rothbury, Michigan for next week’s Electric Forest. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can get a couple more hundred people send messages to their Congressmen!