See Mike Wren's photos from Solid Sound:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
In my experience‚ Wilco fans come in two breeds: Those who live and die by Jeff Tweedy's heart-on-sleeve tunesmithing‚ and those who worship at the altar of Nels Cline's robot guitar heroics. The former tend to prefer the band's older material (up until 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)‚ the world-weary‚ guitar-strumming‚ pain-pills-and-cigarettes alt-country that Tweedy (and Jay Bennett) made his (their) name(s) on. The latter‚ Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (an undisputed masterpiece) through Tweedy's psych-rock explorations on A Ghost is Born and the addition of Cline on the last couple records.
After someone in the crowd called for "Shake It Off" during Wilco's Saturday night set at Solid Sound‚ a festival the band was asked to curate last weekend at MASS MoCA‚ Jeff Tweedy quipped that there were no "casual Wilco fans" in attendance. Just which of those two groups constituted the "casual fans‚" however‚ remained unclear. Given full run of the galleries and grounds of the art center's warehouse complex‚ Wilco hosted a truly unique take on the music festival formula‚ catering to a wide range of its fans' tastes‚ and throwing an all-around killer weekend.
Bonnaroo this was not. Instead of dready kids selling crystals‚ there were 30-something dads pushing strollers. Instead of heady garlic grilled cheese‚ there were local-sourced salads and palak aloo. The biggest difference‚ however‚ was that‚ despite three days worth of music‚ the festival provided no camping‚ so show goers were on their own to find lodging. The result was a clean‚ mild-mannered affair that swapped the manic abandon of the average music fest for the comfort and control of a big gallery opening.

The price of admission allowed attendees access to MASS MoCA's incredible galleries‚ which were utilized by the band to great effect. In curating‚ Wilco not only allowed all of their side projects a place on the bill‚ but drummer Glenn Kotche assembled an interactive drum head installation in a building devoted to large-scale wall painter Sol LeWitt‚ and Cline contributed a hell-raising effects pedal display in another. As a whole‚ the galleries provided a cool way to wait out the day until a desired set.
Not that the music was lacking. True to the classic Americana/experimental fence that Wilco straddles‚ the bill was duly diverse. On the Americana end of things‚ Wilco bassist John Stirratt and guitarist Pat Sansone proved that Tweedy isn't the only game in town with their band The Autumn Defense‚ while Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen got the whole festival going Friday night with his project Pronto. This stuff was complemented by sets from Vetiver‚ the Baseball Project featuring R.E.M.'s Peter Buck‚ Portland‚ ME's Brenda‚ and Avi Buffalo‚ the 19-year-old indie wunderkind.
Best of the lot‚ though‚ was Mountain Man. A female trio who just finished at Bennington College‚ the group sings pristine three-part-harmonies in this stripped-back way that had both audience and performers in tears. Seriously‚ this is raw‚ intense stuff. The group likely sang every tune they know during their 45-minute set‚ but it rivaled anything soul legend Mavis Staples brought on the main stage later that night.
And then Nels Cline melted faces. Recently proclaimed a "postmodern guitar hero" on the cover of Jazz Times‚ Cline lived up to the title with his avant jazz trio the Nels Cline Singers‚ filling the courtyard of the MASS MoCA campus with angular riffs and demonically colorful feedback. Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche is one of the band's unsung heroes‚ but with his jazz duo On Fillmore‚ he took center stage Saturday afternoon. Accompanied by upright bassist and sound effects man Darin Gray‚ Kotche moved from his kit to mallet instruments and piano‚ even inviting Bjork Drummer Chris Corsano to join in. For the most part‚ the group remained meditative‚ until Kotche ventured into the crowd with rattles and a whirling bamboo noisemaker he swung on a string. All was well‚ until Kotche accidentally smashed the thing on the back of a woman's head and quickly retreated to the stage. During Wilco's set that night‚ Tweedy apologized for Kotche's "decapitation."
Once a somewhat-unstable and potentially volatile performer‚ Tweedy was king of his castle during his festival-closing solo slot Sunday afternoon. As the rain began to come down‚ Tweedy reminded everyone of why he's deserving of a place in that lineage of great guitar-strumming singer songwriters‚ performing solo renditions of Wilco tunes like "Spiders/Kidsmoke‚" solo material like the brilliant "Ruling Class‚" and a spot-on version of Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate." To boot‚ the set featured great collaborations with Cline‚ Buffalo‚ and the Books' Nick Zammuto.
But‚ this was really Wilco's weekend‚ and the band's Saturday night set was the moment the weekend hinged on. The range of performers the band invited to the bill made me wonder if Tweedy was right to suggest that only serious Wilco fans were in attendance--as there was plenty else to do--but still anyone who skipped Wilco's set was missing something. Backed by sky-like projections and bright incandescent lanterns‚ the band proved that they've grown into a larger-than-the-sum-of-its-parts rock act. Some might dub the band "dad rock" in their use of time-tested rock conventions‚ but Cline and Kotche push this group in climactic directions. Playing everything from the sentimental "Wishful Thinking" to the searing "Bull Black Nova‚" it was clear that Wilco was more than a big name pop act that the venue had hired to get people in its galleries; they're one of the few bands around deserving of the title big-A Art.