The Solid Sound festival also featured rousing soul music by the Relatives; rootsy jamming by White Denim; harmonic pop by Lucius (who were most impressive when they guested with Wilco); Miracle Legion founder Mark Mulcahy doing solo music, with J. Mascis playing guitar in the back part of the stage; a nice set of solo singer-songwriter music by Sean Rowe; and singer-songwriter Sam Amidon playing quiet songs in the vein of Nick Drake as well as more traditional Appalachian folk, with Beth Orton (his wife) joining in for one song. Marc Ribot and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo played a terrific set of their “Border Music,” and Brazil’s Os Mutantes playing songs from its new album Foot Metal Jack (which I’m not so keen on) but also some of its classic psychedelic tunes. And as mentioned in Part 2, the fest closed with a strong set by Medeski Martin & Wood, supplemented by various guests.
Watching all of the music, I missed most of the comedy cabaret hosted by Hodgman, though the portion I caught — featuring Hodgman and Jen Kirkman — was hilarious and eccentric.
In between the concerts, I stopped into MASS MoCA’s galleries and saw a few of the most striking and memorable artworks I’ve experienced in a while. The Chinese artist Xu Bing’s Phoenix, a pair of hundred-foot-long mythical birds constructed out of debris, is hanging from the ceiling in a room the size of an airport hangar. (And Xu Bing’s remarkable super-wide-screen animated film The Character of Characters was screening in another room.) Another gallery displayed a thousand or so miniature paintings that Tom Phillips created on the pages of an obscure Victorian-era novel, W.H. Mallock’s A Human Document. I could have spent many more hours examining these fascinating pictures. And then there was an entire building devoted to the paintings of minimalist Sol LeWitt. Now, I must confess here that I am unenthusiastic and generally bored by most minimalist art. When I see a big canvas covered in one color of paint, my typical response is, “Big deal.” So I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of seeing all those LeWitt paintings. But there was something damn impressive about seeing all of them assembled in the three floors of this building. Taken as a whole, they became more like a weird piece of architecture.
All in all, Solid Sound lived up to its name. It’s an inspiring model for how to run an arts festival — although it’ll be hard to emulate elsewhere, because how many other places are there like MASS MoCA?