Wilco’s One Band Festival
Published August 16, 2010
JEFF TWEEDY; PHOTO BY AUSTIN NELSON
In what was probably the most laid-back takeover in modern history, Wilco descended on the MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams this weekend. Over 5,000 fans made pilgrimage for the first Solid Sound Festival, a music and art festival organized and curated by the indie favorites. In addition to the headliners–Wilco, Mavis Staples, and “Jeff Tweedy Solo +”–the weekend’s lineup was a showcase for Wilco members’ side projects and some choice, if lesser known, groups. Really, what better way to publicize your side projects?
The venue itself was installed with works from museum-curated, commissioned artists, and featured visual and aural installations from Wilco members. Multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone showed a series of austere, composed Polaroids; drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline each created his own interactive audio installations. Kotche’s The Possibilities of Preparation was a sprawling interactive exhibit of prepared drumheads, altered with springs, sandpaper, bells, and wires, all connected to amplifiers via contact microphones and cables that snaked through the MASS MoCA’s brilliantly-colored Sol Lewitt Gallery. Someone in one part of the gallery could be all but anonymously collaborating musically with an unseen stranger in a separate area of the gallery. Cline’s Ostensible Taming of the Untamable was an interactive installation of guitar pedals and loop stations offering infinite creative possibilities for curious museum-goers.
At 8:30 on Saturday night, it was time for Wilco to take the stage, only this time it didn’t feel like watching a regular Wilco concert. This time it felt like watching a supergroup or a consortium of enormously talented musicians and artists and photographers coming together to make something that transcended the rest of the festival altogether. They opened with the self-referential “Wilco (the song),” which has comforted fans since it was released on their last album with the reassuring chorus “Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you, baby.”
The next afternoon, lead singer Jeff Tweedy played a solo show, at one point asking the crowd if they thought they should do the festival again next year. He told everyone to tell their friends.