FreshGrass at MassMoCA – 9/16-18, 2016

FreshGrass  is a mostly-bluegrass music festival held during the middle weekend of September at MassMoCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in N. Adams, MA. It’s a great excuse to spend a weekend in the northwest corner of the state, and even hit a little of southern Vermont, like this Mile-Around-Woods in North Bennington. We took the open fields trail, but there’s some nice hiking in the woods, too. Those are some rolling Green Mountains.

FreshGrass has 3-4 stages, with performances staggered so you don’t miss too much of any band – and there are 50+ performers, food vendors (carb-heavy), workshops for banjo-players, fiddlers, and folks just pulling up a chair in a corner for some acoustic jamming. And if that’s not enough, you can wander the galleries of the Museum at no additional cost.

Friday opened with FreshScores – a real treat. They have bands compose an original score for a silent film, and then the band plays their composition while the movie plays behind them. We saw Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902) with Stephane Wrembel’s score.


Darol Anger, Berklee College of Music’s Fiddle Professor, did the score for a crazy Max Fleischer cartoon.

Then out to the field for Old Salt Union on the main stage in the field – img_8668

They were last year’s FreshGrass up-and-coming Award winner. Great energy, voices, harmonies. Caught a 2nd set of theirs on the smaller stage in Courtyard C on Sunday (I think) – jam-packed dance party!

Followed by Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen:


Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen – first heard at a Sharon House Concert

Friday’s headliner was Glen Hansard, the Irish singer/songwriter who was the center of the movie Once, and he of course performed Falling Slowly from it:

On to Saturday. Planted our chairs on the field and went inside MoCA for some art:


These are business-card-sized cards folded and treated as a construction set:img_8672 img_8673

Love this bowl made of matchsticks:


Sketches on curved canvases – here’s Chicago’s bean & skyline:


And here’s “contemporary art” – sculpture with elongated arms reaching through a window over tennis balls.img_8676

Out of the museum for music – something I can understand, like Mr. Sun!


Alison Brown on Banjo with Darol Anger and Mr. Sun

Rana Santacruz in the Courtyard:

Joe’s Field with the main stage, a view to the hills, and the crowd (doubleclick any photo for full-size):

Fortunately, the UK band Lau on the main stage was so painfully out of place and ear-hurting that I had time to save 2nd row Courtyard for Ruthie Foster – powerful voice and stories, “inspired blend of blues, folks, and gospel.” She was one of the acts we were most looking forward to, and did not disappoint.

Back out in the field, a whole lotta performers came on stage for The Grass’d Waltz: Alison Brown and Friends Play the Music of The Band, bluegrass style:


Old Crow Medicine Show closed the field Saturday night – playing to the crowd with shtick full of all kinds of local references – a girl from Lee, Mt. Monadnock, and he just kept doing it, and playing their fingers off.


Caught a little of the Infamous Stringdusters party set latenight, too.

Alright, Sunday. Here we’ve got ducks in the Hoosic River that’s diverted via canal through the middle of the MoCA (old Sprague Electric factory) buildings:


Inside, musicians are jamming:

And there’s more art:

Outside, Parsonsfield in the Courtyard was great –


we caught their score to Nanook of the North, too!

Plus Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver:

And the amazing skills of Stephane Wrembel:

Followed by Roseanne Cash:


And the Festival closed with Ricky Skaggs:

So much music, so little time – but FreshGrass and similar festivals give you the chance to hear lots of bands that could become your new favorites. We didn’t Hear Them All, but we sure got our fill.


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