Those attending this year’s fest will hear something that you can’t hear on any of Wilco’s CDs. For their Friday night performance, the bandmembers plan to unplug their instruments to perform a full set of Wilco tunes acoustically. While not totally unheard of – on their recent tour Wilco performed brief, intimate acoustic sets within the concert’s encores – but this will be the first time the band has unplugged for an extended performance.
“Right now we’re thinking about playing somewhat mirrored sets on Friday and Saturday nights – on Friday, the main set will be stripped down and acoustic, and the encores will be electric,” Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy said. “On Saturday we’ll flip it. Start big and loud and finish acoustically. We’ll see how it goes. It’ll be a bit of an experiment, but the Solid Sound audience is usually game for whatever we throw at them.
“It’s been a great experience for the six of us to perform our songs this way. It’s a bit of a re-discovery of the songs and a way for us to reconnect musically with one another. I found myself really looking forward to this part of the set every night on the most recent tour.”
Five years ago, when Bob Dylan last graced the stage of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, he was the headliner of the one-time-only Saratoga Music Festival that featured a cavalcade of Americana acts, including the likes of Levon Helm, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle, the Swell Season and Raul Malo.
Last week, Dylan returned to SPAC as the top-bill on the touring Americanarama Festival of Music – which also featured Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham – and at the end of the night I was left with the same thought that I had back in 2008 – Dylan’s performance was disappointingly anti-climactic.
Sounds like the premise for some half-baked “Saturday Night Live” routine, doesn’t it?
But it was for real, in front of thousands of fans at MASS MoCA’s Joe’s Field. Wilco was onstage bopping their way through “Waterloo,” in all its ’70s-pop glory, Jeff Tweedy just smiling at the absurdity of it all.
“This is all your fault,” Tweedy proclaimed. “You asked for it – all requests…”
Back to host their third Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Wilco obviously wanted to do something different, something unique. So they decided to cap off the festival’s opening night with something they’d never done before – an all-request concert. Via social media, fans had been invited to submit requests for songs that they’d like to hear Wilco play. Some fans simply submitted a request for their fave Wilco song or some Wilco rarity. But most went straight for the concept of cover songs.
And Wilco got plenty of responses – 76 pages of requests, according to Tweedy. In the weeks prior to the fest the band whittled down the suggestions, learned a batch of the songs and on Friday night (June 21) they played more than two dozen of them in a what-the-hell-are-they-gonna-play-next performance that’s not likely to ever be duplicated. By anyone…
“I want to thank you all for bidding on these tickets to support one of our favorite places: MASS MoCA. I would like to call out the person who got a ticket for one dollar,” said a fedora-wearing Jeff Tweedy from the stage, as I felt somewhat relieved that the complete cheapskate in the crowd wasn’t me.
In an unusual twist, Wilco – unable or too worn-out to stage their annual three-day Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA this year – offered to play a benefit for the contemporary art museum instead. (Solid Sound is slated to return next year on the weekend of June 21-23.)
The Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams has been one of the undeniable musical highlights of the past two summers, but Wilco has announced that they will not present the fest this year.
Wilco will however be making a tour stop at MASS MoCA this summer, to play a benefit concert for the museum. The date of the North Adams show will be announced soon.
After going on hiatus this year, the three-day festival will return to MASS MoCA next year however, taking place June 21-23, 2013. The line-up of performers and ticket info for Solid Sound 2013 are expected to be announced in the coming months.
“The Festival is dearly loved by all of us – from the band to the staff who organize and execute it – so the decision to take 2012 off was not an easy one,” said festival co-organizer and Wilco manager Tony Margherita. “However, with the release of Wilco’s latest album ‘The Whole Love’ on their own newly launched label, followed by a lot of touring both home and away – well, we‘ve had a pretty crazy year. All that factored in to deciding that the best thing for us and for the festival would be to give ourselves enough time and energy to really focus on making Solid Sound 2013 the best one yet.
“We also understand the financial impact that taking the year off will have on MASS MoCA, our incredible host and not-for-profit partner in the festival,” continues Margherita. “It is our hope and intention that this summer’s benefit concert will lessen that impact and present Wilco with another opportunity to bring our fans to a place that is very dear to us.”
Glenn Kotche of Wilco at last year's Solid Sound Festival
“A lot of times I just have it on shuffle. That could be everything and anything from indigenous field recordings from the ’30s and ’40s in Africa to Stevie Wonder, Coltrane, Miles, Deerhoof, the Band, Dylan, Neil Young. A lot of classical music, John Luther Adams, Steve Reich. It’s kind of all over the place.”
Drummer Glenn Kotche and his bandmates in Wilco are back at MASS MoCA in North Adams this weekend, presenting the second annual Solid Sound Festival. Wilco is slated to perform at 9:15pm on Friday and 8:45pm on Saturday. Kotche is also scheduled for a solo performance at 12:15pm on Sunday.
Wilco's Jeff Tweedy performing at the Solid Sound Festival in 2010 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)
When Wilco returns to MASS MoCA this summer to headline their second annual Solid Sound festival, they’ll have something that they didn’t have when they led last year’s festival – their own record company.
The adventurous band Wilco rolled into MASS MoCA in North Adams for three days back in August, headlining, curating and making art for the fabulous Solid Sound Festival.
The fest – which will surely end up on quite a few Best of the Year lists (including ours) – featured a wide array of bands, solo musicians, comedians, films, theater and art exhibitions.
Now MASS MoCA has confirmed that Wilco will be coming back again in 2011. (Read about it in Jennifer Huberdeau’s story in The North Adams Transcript.) The dates have not yet been revealed, but an announced may be coming as early as later this week.
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