NORTH ADAMS

What do you get when you let eight college students plan their own downtown block party?
Electronic dance music -- lots of it -- and even more food.

Rock the Block 2.0 on Sunday will bring live music, street art and activities for all ages to the streets of North Adams. From 2 to 8 p.m. the north side of Main Street, as well as a section of Holden Street, will be blocked off for attendees.

The event is a product of eight students in the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Performing Arts Management Class.

Jonathan Secor, the college's director of special programs and the students' instructor, said it's the fifth year students have taken part in the hands-on exercise of planning and hosting their own event.

Students are directed to curate the show on Main Street under the umbrella of the MCLA Presents! series. It's semi-related to the college's arts management major.

Rachael Nichols, a senior in the class, explained the electronic dance genre features music with sounds generated by computers. The genre has become popular throughout nightclubs and dorm rooms across the country, and the sensation has not missed the MCLA campus.

"A lot of people say that it isn't music," she said. "But you still need to make sure noises aren't clashing, and you still need a beat and a rhythm."

Hannah Sterrs, a senior, was in the class that curated the original Rock the Block in the spring of 2012.


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"We were all on the same page of wanting to do a festival-type scene," Nichols said. "A lot of us like going to festivals. ... Hannah worked Rock the Block the first time and brought up how successful it was."

Once they had the idea, they had to come up with a plan.

Some students worked with the city to get permission for the event and hammer out details. Others worked to reach out to artists, along with college and regional organizations.

Kyle Cantoni, a senior in the class, said he and others worked with Veronica Bosley, the city's tourism director. Bosley guided them while they communicated with public works and the police, fire and health departments. Everything from police details to food licenses were needed for the event to be allowed.

"It wasn't so much hard, but every time we figured one thing out, we found two more things to work on," he said.

The festival will feature acts on two different stages, Alexander Butfilowski, a junior who worked on technical aspects of the festival, said. A stage underneath the Mohawk Theater will host some musical acts as well as poets. Another stage on Holden Street will host the main acts.

Headlining the block party will be Berkshire-based dubstep duo Barely Alive, scheduled for the Holden Street stage at 7 p.m.

Nichols explained part of the duo's appeal is their relation to the Berkshires -- both members are from Great Barrington and Monument Mountain Regional High School graduates. In addition, they've received praise from critics for their first EP, "Lost in the Internet."

They also have a large following on Soundcloud -- an online audio hosting platform that allows users to share their original music.

Also appearing are The Mast, a DJ duo from Brooklyn, N.Y., Sterrs said.

"The Mast's single ‘Up Up Up' off of their recent album ‘Pleasure Island' is addicting, and I haven't stopped listening to them since I first heard it," she said.

There's no lack of local DJs, with scheduled performances by DJ IAmSam and DJ Elixir of North Adams and DJ Kyle Pike of Ludlow.

Other acts scheduled to perform are Rebel Alliance, a Berkshire-based reggae-influenced group, along with BIGZ, Triple Toe, Declarations and Down County.

Featured talent from MCLA include the Allegrettos, the student a cappella group; Dysfunk Crew, an MCLA alumni step team; and student performance group Harlequin.

Students were drawn to the idea of a street festival that included activities for all ages.

"One of our first goals was to connect the community with MCLA," Nichols said. "Some people in town don't know what MCLA has to offer, and some students at MCLA don't know what the city has."

Attendees will be able to roam Main Street and soak in various artistic talent as well as other activities. Zumba, poetry and flash mobs will be scattered throughout the afternoon.

Local organizations, as well as MCLA student groups, will occupy a number of tables on Main Street to connect with attendees.

One can also grab a bite from one of several local vendors, including The Parlor, I Got Goodies and Desperados Fresh Mexican Grille.

"There's a lot of everything," Nichols said. She added, "Sometimes I get nervous I'm going to lose track."

Students shared numerous tips and tricks they learned throughout the semester.

First, they tried contacting organizations and businesses through an email or letter.

"We didn't seem to get much response," Nichols said.

But by approaching people individually, they were able to garner much support, and while doing so learned electronic communication can't replace face-to-face contact.

They noted local businesses were ready and willing to help out with the festival.

"Even if they didn't have an idea themselves, if you give them an idea, they will likely do it," Nichols said.

Creating a tagline for the event proved to be one of the easiest parts, though students admit it took two months for them to miss a great opportunity for a pun.

"May the fourth be with you" plays on the event's date -- May 4 -- and a tagline from the Star Wars series.

How many hours did students spend planning the show?

"Take how many hours are in four months," Butfilowski said.

"Then add more," Nichols continued.

Work didn't just take place in the classroom. The semester was full of numerous late nights emailing acts and community groups. The students spent some Friday nights texting each other back and forth to make decisions, while their peers were out socializing.

"Every single day we are touching this project in some shape, way or form," sophomore Cecilia Wright said. "Even if it's just an email, it's something you're always involved in. You never know when the band is going to write back."

"Even when you're not working on it, if you're at class or at work, you're thinking about it," senior Cassandra Garcia said. "'Oh, I need to get this done.' Or, ‘Oh, I need to call them back.'"


If you go ...

What: Rock the Block 2.0

Where: Main Street, North Adams

When: Sunday, from 2-8 p.m.

Admission: Free

Information: www.mcla.edu/presents, Rock the Block 2.0 on Facebook, or (413) 664-8718