Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy referred to North Adams as the band's "home away from home" Sunday and Wilco's Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA appears to be solidly entrenched in the North Berkshire city. While not every Berkshire community is going to strike up such a fortuitous relationship with a popular act, the festival does show the advantages Berkshire County, with its natural beauty and name brand, has over many regions when it comes to exploring new ways to grow.
The first Solid Sound festival undoubtedly triggered images for many locals of a mini-Woodstock -- or worse a mini-Altamont -- with nudity, violence, drugs and rock ‘n' roll devastating the town. Wilco fans, however, quickly established themselves as solid citizens, laid back and good-natured, reflecting the persona of the popular alt-rock band. During the course of the three-day festival, city taverns, restaurants, hotels and other businesses got a significant boost in business and in return sang the praises of their friendly visitors from around the nation and world. The businesses reached out to the visitors by extending the hours they were open, and the city did the same by extending liquor license hours for the weekend.
Mass MoCA combined with the band to provide a wide variety of weekend activities that also offered Wilco fans an opportunity to explore the museum. Volunteers pitched in and police and EMTs were ready to help but enjoyed a trouble-free three days.
It's impossible to predict when an opportunity will come but North Adams was ready for its opportunity when Wilco, fresh off a successful concert at Tanglewood, went looking for a place to establish a festival. The city grabbed its opportunity and Wilco now has a home away from home. The Berkshires are a good place for opportunities to arrive on the arts and culture front and communities should be poised to take advantage of them.