North Adams A ‘richer, deeper' summer at MoCA Music is the centerpiece of multi-arts venue's 15th season


NORTH ADAMS -- Beck in his only New England appearance, June 24 at Joe's Field; FreshGrass Festival of Bluegrass and Roots Music with, among others, Carolina Chocolate Drops, David Grisman Sextet, and Béla Fleck, Sept.19-21.

Between those two events is a summer season of popular music -- rock, folk, bluegrass, funk, modern, dream pop -- that will be "richer and deeper" than ever, says Mass MoCA executive director Joseph C. Thompson

There will be art:

n In "Stasis Horror," more than 80 of Christopher Chiappa's paintings -- executed on three-legged stools -- will be installed in Mass MoCA's Hunter Center hallway beginning June 21;

n "Teresita Fernández: As Above So Below," opening May 24, combines, Mass MoCA says in a news release, "graphite and gold to create a series of immersive, interconnected installations";

n Franz West's "Les Pommes d'Adam," described by Mass MoCA as a "25', Pepto-pink outdoor sculptural ensemble," on extended loan from the Hall Art Foundation, opens on May 3 in its first presentation in the United States and in its second-ever showing since its premiere in Paris at Place Vendôme;

n The Hall Art Foundation's Anselm Kiefer exhibition, also opens May 3, marking the first full season of the Kiefer exhibition at the museum.

There will be special events for kids and families at Mass MoCA's Kids Space and movies at North Adams' Harriman-West airport and at the museum itself.

But music, Thompson said in a telephone interview from his office at the sprawling Marshall Street facility, has long been a key component of Mass MoCA's programming.

"Performing artists are marvelous for drawing audiences" and drawing audiences, Thompson said, holds the promise of bringing more visitors to Mass MoCA's galleries, especially in the hours before a performance begins.

The performing arts provide a link to the visual arts, Thompson says -- "One connects to the other."

Moreover, Thompson said, "we want to do what we can to crank up the Berkshires summer season; shine a light on the Berkshires.

"With so many great events in the Berkshires in the summer, we're trying to stake out the edges of the summer cultural season more aggressively."

With that in mind, as it has from its beginning 15 years ago, Mass MoCA is kicking things off on Memorial Day weekend with a day-long party on May 24 that will include food and drink; the opening of the Teresita Fernández exhibit at 4 p.m.; a dance party at 7 p.m. with DJ Rehka and live music with Red Baraat at 8; a Champagne toast at 9; and an all-night auction and pop-up performances.

"The party this year is more beer-and-barbecue than Champagne-and-tuxedos," Thompson said. "We wanted something that would be more affordable and inclusive."

Mid-September's FreshGrass festival will bring more than 20 bands to Mass MoCA's campus. It's an ideal time for this festival, Thompson says. "The weather is still good, the students are back and it's a way of extending the summer cultural season."

Mass MoCA's summer concert series actually begins June 7 with Fredericks Brown, the blues and soul duo featuring the daughter of Taj Mahal.

Also scheduled:

n Grammy Award winners Roomful of Teeth, who last performed at Mass MoCA on March 1, returns to perform music of Sam Amidon, Aug. 29;

n Zimbabwean contemporary folk artist Netsayi, July 19;

n Elysian Fields and its dream pop sound, Aug. 16;

n Cajun rockers The Lost Bayou Ramblers, Aug. 23;

n the 10-piece Brooklyn-based Afro-funk collective EMEFE, Aug. 30.

Bang on a Can returns to Mass MoCA this summer for a three-week festival,July 16-Aug. 2, that this year includes an expanded eight-day residency, July 26-Aug. 2, that will feature concerts by Steve Reich, Wilco's Glenn Kotche, and Sahra Eurden of My Brightest Diamond. There also will be daily pop-up recitals in MoCA's galleries and hallways throughout the festival.

The featured work at the annual Bang on a Can All-Stars concert on July 26 will be David Lang's "Death Speaks."

"Bang on a Can is more than a festival for us; it's an institution" Thompson said. "It's particularly strong this year, especially with Reich and Kotche and the pop-up concerts.

"It should be quite intense."


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