Solid Soundcheck: Mass MoCA, North Adams prepares for one big 'house party'

Jordan Sommer, right, sets up audio for the stage in Courtyard D on Thursday, as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art prepares the campus for Solid Sound weekend featuring Wilco. The show is sold out.

NORTH ADAMS — Solid Sound returns to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art this weekend, bringing with it throngs of music lovers — and a jolt to the local economy.

"We're co-hosting a house party with more than 8,000 of our closest friends," said North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard. "And as they're coming through, hopefully they'll take some time and go downtown for some coffee or a bite to eat, or visit some of our other businesses."

Beginning Friday, music fans from across the country will descend on the area for the three-day music festival. Curated and headlined by alt-rock band Wilco, the festival began in 2010 and has since become a biennial staple at the museum. It features a variety of music, comedy and other acts on a number of stages and locations across the campus.

Many visitors will be camping at sites around the area, including the Noel Field area, Bernard noted, adding that most of them will be walking to the festival or taking shuttles.

He recalled that, at the last Solid Sound a couple of years ago, he and his wife were having a cup of coffee, sitting on some chairs that were set out on the sidewalk in front of the Berkshire Emporium when a festivalgoer bought the chairs, literally right out from under them. They shared a laugh with the buyer, who then headed out to see the concert.

"The influx can be hard on folks, but the hope is that everyone is a respectful visitor and that the city is as welcoming as it can be," Bernard said. "It may require walking a couple of extra blocks or getting creative in finding a parking space, but going out to do some people-watching this weekend could be fun."

He said city staff has been preparing for the Solid Sound weekend for a few weeks now.

"Everybody knows their assignments and they're ready," Bernard said. "We don't expect any issues."

Some folks even make a little money from the traffic by charging for parking spots on private property.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, just across the street from the museum, has decided to to shift its Saturday Mass to Saint Stanislaus Church in Adams this weekend to make it easier for their parishioners to get to and from the service.

And so why not make a few dollars renting church parking places to festivalgoers.

"It's always such a nice crowd," said church secretary Alice Racette, who noted she's a regular at the festival. "I enjoy it myself."

Jodi Joseph, director of communications at Mass MoCA, said all shows are sold out for the weekend, although there are still tickets available at Lyte.com from folks who couldn't make it to the show.

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As such, she said, there are more than 8,000 attendees expected to begin arriving in the city beginning Friday morning.

And the museum is ready.

"We've been doing this for nine years, and we have been working closely with the city of North Adams to get everybody in and out as efficiently and safely as possible," Joseph said, "and so local folks can get wherever they need to go."

She noted that analysts have shown that the festival weekend generates upward of $2 million in local economic activity.

North Adams Police Chief Jason Wood offered a few tips for locals:

- Expect the downtown area to be congested with vehicle and pedestrian traffic from Friday through Sunday.

- Friday and Saturday are typically the most active of the three days, with Saturday being the busiest.

- Saturday's numbers are anticipated to exceed 10,000 visitors to North Adams, mainly in the downtown region.

"For North Adams residents, I would encourage them to come out and experience the atmosphere the Solid Sound Festival brings," Wood said. "However, if anyone prefers to avoid the festival, I suggest avoiding Main Street and State Street/Curran Highway, as these roads see the most traffic. Using Church Street as an alternative to Route 8 may be a better option as a workaround."

- Residents living in the immediate area of Mass MoCA can expect loud music and crowds for the duration of the festival. Usually the bands end around 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday's ending is much earlier in the evening.

Gates will open at 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Mass MoCA galleries will be open starting at 10 a.m. all weekend.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.