The third annual FreshGrass festival took place at MASS MoCA last weekend, and it was the first time that the fest bestowed the FreshGrass Award upon an up-and-coming bluegrass band. The final round of competition was held at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Sunday morning (September 22) as Deadly Venoms, the Vickie Vaughn Band, Cricket Tell the Weather, Molly Tuttle, John Mailander & Ethan Jodziewicz, the Lonely Heartstring Band and Chasing Blue faced off for top honors.
When it was all over, the Brooklyn-based Cricket Tell the Weather walked off with the first FreshGrass Award, which includes $5000, a Nashville recording session at Compass Records and a slot at next year’s FreshGrass Festival.
MASS MoCA in North Adams wrapped up its summer performance season over the weekend, and they’re gearing up for their big fall event, the previously announced three-day FreshGrass festival, which takes over the old factory campus from Friday-Sunday, September 20-21.
But that’s not all that MASS MoCA has up its collective sleeve. Now they’ve unveiled their autumnal season of shows – concerts, dance, theater, film, children’s events and more. And to no one’s surprise, they’re cutting a wide swath across the arts – from the hip-hop of Talib Kweli to the campfire cowboy songs and stories of Don Edwards to the guitar-squall of Kim Gordon’s latest project, Body/Head.
Here’s what’s on tap at MASS MoCA through the end of the year:
The third annual FreshGrass festival takes place at MASS MoCA in North Adams from Friday-Sunday, September 20-22, and it’s bigger and better than ever this year. The fest has expanded to include three different performance areas (including the grasssy Joe’s Field) and will feature over 25 bands, almost double the performance slate from last year.
The line-up includes veteran bluegrass greats (Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, the Del McCoury Band), adventurous newcomers (the Lone Bellow, Greensky Bluegrass), homegrown Nippertown talent (reigning International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year the Gibson Brothers) and even children’s music (Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell).
Festival passes are available for $78; $68 students; $38 kids ages 7-16; free children age 6 and under. Friday-only tickets are $28; $18 students; $8 kids ages 7-16. Saturday-only and Sunday-only tickets are $38; $28 students; $18 kids ages 7-16.
The FreshGrass folks have now announced the schedule of performances for the fest, as well as a number of free workshops that will also take place during the fest. Here’s the current performance and workshop schedule:
North Adams, MA: When these thirty (30!) ex-band geeks joined forces in 2004, Mucca Pazza began a trip to the outrageous. Adorned with rainbow-colored pom-poms, riding mutant bicycles, and protected by hockey helmet-amplifiers, they torment and delight every community bold enough to welcome them in. Combining the spirit of punk rock with the fun of a fireman’s parade, Mucca Pazza’s impressive musical troupe takes over MASS MoCA’s campus, if not the whole town, for five performances throughout the weekend of August 16-18.
The members of Mucca Pazza (Italian for “crazy cow”) came together in Chicago, bound by the common goal of finding a musical outlet and having some fun. They got started by playing in factory parking lots on Sundays. “We figured no one would bother us in an industrial area,” explains sousaphone player Mark Messing. “It was also weirdly inspiring to be there, by ourselves, on the Chicago River, among all these big scrap yards. We felt like we were putting together something from scrap.” Crowds began to show up every week to listen, coffee and donuts in hand, drawn in by the troupe’s infectious excitement.
For the three-day fest at MASS MoCA on September 20-22, the Del McCoury Band, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, the Infamous Stringdusters, the Wood Brothers, Leftover Salmon, the Lone Bellow, the Gibson Brothers and others were among the previously announced bands.
Bang on a Can is everywhere when in residence at Mass MoCA. Here, rapping up a lunchtime recital with ‘in a landscape’
Review by Larry Murray
For a dozen years, Mass MoCA in North Adams has shed its light on contemporary music as well as contemporary art, making the musicians and fellows of the musical organization Bang on a Can its mid-summer resident company. For three weeks there are not only performances, but master classes, pop up sessions in the galleries and more. Musicians are renowned for soaking up new ideas, collaborating on old ones and finding new ways to delight their listeners.
After working together each year, Bang on a Can presents its “class” project, the Musical Marathon which kicked off at 4pm last Saturday (August 3) and ran, nonstop, to 11pm when it ended with a champagne toast shared with fans in the courtyard of Mass MoCA. The bittersweet event also marked the time in which participants would head back to their lodgings and head home. But what memories they take with them.
The marathon is always rewarding since it features more than 30 musicians and composers from around the world for six hours of non-stop, boundary-smashing music – a feast of sound including classical, contemporary, minimalism, ambient, jazz, experimental and more. Here are some of the highlights:
If you have been following the ever-changing and expanding progressive-indie genre, you may be familiar with the quirky, innovative musician Gabriel Kahane. With one foot in pop and the other in classical, this unique voice will be given the stage at Mass MoCA on Saturday, July 20, at 8pm. Kahane will be joined by Rob Moose of Bon Iver in Mass MoCA’s multi-colored Pavilion, an outdoor sculpture of overlapping canopies located at the center of the museum’s renovated 19th-century factory campus, for a set of airy pop that hints at his classical roots.
Yes, it seems that music under the stars is becoming a regular North Adams tradition, doesn’t it?
Kahane’s compositions, recordings and performances reflect a different sort of esthetic deeply enmeshed in New York’s downtown new-music scene. In 2006, he found a personal ad on Craigslist that read: “Neurotic and Lonely: slightly hunched, occasionally employed anthropologist, chain-smoking Jew, currently living with parents.” Inspired by the words of this lonely and self-aware stranger, Kahane wrote the first of a cycle of songs called “Craigslistlieder,” delicately balancing humor with sadness. These poppy, classical, ironic and humorous pieces soon became a model for other artists. “Craigslistlieder” is played everywhere from seedy dive bars to the prolific Carnegie Hall. Singer-actress Audra McDonald opened her recent show at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield with two of Kahane’s “Craigslistlieder” songs, one of which begins, “You looked sexy even though you were having a seizure (in Walgreens).”
- a clip from “The Black Pirate,” sadly without the music of the Alloy Orchestra…
Review by J Hunter
I used to love going to the movies, but I don’t do it very much any more: Too many blockbusters, too little plot, too much CGI… and, if I really get down to it, I think MASS MoCA has ruined me for modern films. I mean, why watch a snail race around Indianapolis when the animations Bill Frisell accompanied in the singular gallery’s courtyard were more original and more bizarre? Why watch Adam Sandler try to be funny (let alone relevant) when I’ve seen Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy do their best work to the music of Marc Ribot and Steven Bernstein’s Millenial Territory Orchestra? And, most importantly, why should I watch Liam Neesen and a cast of nobodies ruin a perfectly good board game when I can watch Douglas Fairbanks ride the high seas in “The Black Pirate,” all to the music of MASS MoCA faves Alloy Orchestra?
Alloy’s become a beloved tradition at MASS MoCA, thanks mostly to their multiple appearances backing Fritz Lang’s iconic silent film “Metropolis.” (Alloy’s 2011 show was the eighth time they’d brought Fritz Lang’s twisted sci-fi masterpiece to North Adams.) Both “Metropolis” and “The Black Pirate” are two of many films Alloy has helped regenerate, including Lon Chaney’s “Phantom of the Opera” and the vampire movie equivalent of Genesis, F.W. Murneau’s “Nosferatu.”