A week after hitting up the first annual Saddleback Mountain Bluegrass Festival, I hit up another inaugural event: The SolidSound festival curated by Wilco at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA). The festival combined MassMoCA's typical array of visual arts displays with comedy and musical performances. I spent much of the day perusing the interesting artwork, watching hilarious comedy, and generally just wandering around. In the evening, I moseyed over to the main stage (on a field within the museum grounds) for Mavis Staples and Wilco.
Mavis Staples: legendary from her work with The Staple Singers, Staples has teamed up with some high profile producers on her last two albums, 2007's We'll Never Turn Back, produced by Ry Cooder, and the forthcoming You Are Not Alone, produced by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. Staples teamed up with Tweedy for the title track on that album (which he wrote) and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Wrote a Song for Everyone." She largely stuck to gospel standards, though she did throw in The Band classic "The Weight." At one point, Staples left the stage for ten minutes while her capable band played on. It was a little scary and didn't seem planned, but Staples came back to close with The Staple Singers' big hit "I'll Take You There."
Wilco: Wilco has gone from an iffy live band to a terrific one, and their now-stable lineup keeps pushing them to new heights. The sextet started off with a lot of material off their new album and no between-songs patter, but after a few tunes Tweedy and the rest of the group loosened up. Highlights included the crowd sing-along for almost the entire song "Jesus, Etc.," the extended feedback at the intro of "I'm the Man Who Loves You" (including Glenn Kotche standing on his drum kit like he was in K.I.S.S.), and a nod to hardcore fans by playing unreleased B-Sides "Not For the Season," "Cars Can't Escape," and "A Magazine Called Sunset" as well as debut-album relic "I Must Be High." After playing for two hours, the band came on for an encore consisting of "California Stars," "Heavy Metal Drummer," and Woody Guthrie-co-written "Hoodoo Voodoo," which featured guitarists Nels Cline and Pat Sansome trading blistering guitar riffs. A great performance to serve as the keystone for the festival.
SolidSound Festival official site
MassMoCA official site
Wilco official site
Mavis Staples official site