John Stirratt: Why I fell in love with North Adams

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When I first played North Adams with Wilco — during our inaugural 2010 edition of the Solid Sound Festival — I was taken with the place: micro-urban, but tucked in the Berkshires mountains; raw, but boasting amazing features, like the tallest and most literary-rich mountain in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock; and a fantastic museum of cutting edge art, Mass MoCA, with whom we team up to host Solid Sound.

That festival was so much fun that Wilco has come back five times since, counting the upcoming 2017 edition, plus another benefit concert for Mass MoCA.

And my family has fallen in love with the place. So much so, that we've recently joined in the redevelopment of the old Redwood Motel — a quintessential but down-at-the-heels moto-lodge on Route 2 between North Adams and Williamstown — into Tourists, a new outdoor retreat and lodge on the banks of the Hoosic River in the West End of North Adams.

So, I've gotten to know North Adams a bit. And besides the obvious "must-sees" like Mass MoCA and Marble Quarry, here is my list of favorites:

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Bright Ideas Brewing: Just inside the granite gates of Mass MoCA campus off Marshall Street, this is the perfect place for a break between art shows or after a performance. The beautiful interior has a great continuity with the museum — but with beer! — and in its first year has already become a hangout for both North Adams residents, Mass MoCA visitors, and artists.

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Jarvis Rockwell Gallery: Yes, his name is iconic in the Berkshires and America (he's Norman's son), but Jarvis Rockwell has created his own completely individual and unique universe in a storefront gallery on Main Street that showcases his extensive miniature installations, fashioned from his collection of thousands of toy figures, as well as his drawings. Definitely a must see downtown.

Cascades hike: At the end of Marion Avenue near the cemetery, about a mile west on Route 2, there is one of the most delightful, beautiful hikes you can imagine, ending at a surprisingly large waterfall. And it's a short hike! In a region with lots of world-class hikes, this one is convenient to downtown, and kid-friendly.

Pedrin's Dairy Bar: This old-school outdoor fried clam, ice cream and picnic table lunch spot is great for kids, and the onion rings are first rate. It's on Route 8 south toward Adams.

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New sound art sculpture: Klass Huber and Andrew Schrock of the New Orleans collaborative Airlift have created an amazing, playable art sculpture downtown at the junction of Main and State streets, just under the Route 2 overpass. A humming, rotating metal tower that looks like a tree house gone amok, this is wonderful work of art that connects downtown with the Mass MoCA campus, and it's excellent collection of sound art installations, which is almost a museum within a museum.

Later in the summer, we'll be adding several more Airlift works of "musical architecture" at Tourists. We're looking forward to taking them for a spin. Drop in.

John Stirratt plays bass guitar in Wilco.


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