NORTH ADAMS >> From This spring and summer, the Berkshires and Southern Vermont shires will resound with live concerts and nationally and internationally recognized musicians.
Alex Crothers met the band Wilco when they first played Higher Ground in Burlington, Vt., 17 years ago. Crothers owns Higher Ground and started a relationship with the Chicago-based band, going on to organize shows at non-traditional spaces in the area like minor league baseball parks. He realized every member of Wilco had prolific ideas about music and art.
Years into this relationship, Wilco came to Crothers with an idea: to reinvent the modern American music festival.
"There was a growing proliferation of music festivals in 2008 and 2009 that were massive in scale," Crothers said. "Tens of thousands of people were coming together for important cultural events, but at a scale that the Wilco fan may not always connect with. The idea was to do something on a smaller, more human scale."
In 2008 they started a conversation with Mass MOCA in North Adams, Mass., planning a festival to bring together the musical side projects of Wilco's band members and a slew of internationally known musicians, as well as art installations to tie Mass MOCA's influence into the project.
Solid Sound Festival had its successful premiere in the summer of 2010 — and will return June 26 to 28.
The festival is "Wilco-curated," Crothers said. While Crothers and his team produce the festival, the band approves the musicians.
Though Wilco is famous for their Americana rock sound, they invite musicians from all across the musical spectrum to perform at Solid Sound. Jazz greats like tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd and guitarist Bill Frisell will play sets, as well as Springfield blues legend Taj Mahal and Northampton's Expandable Brass Band. King Sunny Ade and His African Beats will also grace the festival with their juju style of Nigerian popular music.
Singer-songwriters like the Australian indie-folk duo Luluc, Canada's trippy multi-instrumentalist Mac Demarco and L.A.'s Jessica Pratt will appear, along with Sam Amidon, a Brattleboro native whose haunting album "Lily-O" guest-starred Bill Frisell on guitar — they will play together at the festival. And Seattle-based duo Shabazz Palaces will bring hip-hop.
Along with the music, comedy will come from stars like former New York Times Magazine humor editor John Hodgman, veteran "Daily Show" correspondent Jessica Williams, and stand-up comic Tig Notaro.
Vermont's internationally known Circus Smirkus will appear on the grounds.
Wilco's drummer Glenn Kotche will premiere his "Make Drums/Play Drums" project, inviting all comers to join in a prepared drumhead-making session and then perform with Kotche in an original orchestral piece.
"Our special programming is a reflection of the venue we're using for the festival," he said. "Mass MOCA is the largest contemporary art gallery in the world. We want to honor where we are."
And for a Wilco fan, this is the band's pilgrimage site. Band leader Jeff Tweedy, drummer Glenn Kotche, bassist John Stirratt along with multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, piano player Mikael Jorgensen and guitarist Nels Cline — all of Wilco's current members — will perform separate sets.