BEING THERE: Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival @ MassMOCA


EDITOR’S NOTE: Heading up to Solid Sound Festival (aka Wilco-Con) tomorrow — throwing this up to get in the mood. FYI, that immaculate recording of Wilco’s set at 2017’s Solid Sound that I link to below is full-on Band of Tweedy godhead, if you’re into that kind of thing.

“A few years ago timed slowed down, we got a diagnosis [wife Sue Miller was diagnosed with Lymphoma] that derailed things so we played songs to each other, me and [my son] Spencer, to speed up the time. Killing time without hurting anyone else. That’s what [the band] Tweedy is all about…Jonathan Richman tells this story about seeing a sign at a truck stop that says: Everyone you meet is battling something you know nothing about, so be kind. I did some research and turns out Plato said that first. So many things going on right now that bother me. My response is to be kinder to people…I hate Trump. [audience cheers] Forget it. He’s not even worth mentioning, just a sick old man. But remember, everyone you meet is battling something you know nothing about, so be kind.” — JEFF TWEEDY, Solid Sound Festival, North Adams, Massachusetts, June 25th, 2017

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 12.47.13 AM

LISTEN: Wilco set @ Solid Sound Festival June 24 2017 [AUDIO]

RELATED: The Shaggs were three sisters from rural New Hampshire who were just this side of collapse when they strapped on their instruments and sang like the pre-massacre Manson Family tripping their brains out Spahn Ranch under a bad moon rising. The Wiggin family was, by all accounts, a study in Pepperidge Farm country gothic. Daddy Austin Wiggin Jr. worked in the cotton mill and applied every coffee can-ful of cash he could earn toward his dream: that his three eldest daughters–Betty, Helen and Dot–would one day become international pop stars. Just one problem: Despite years of music lessons, none of the Wiggin girls could play or sing in a way that you would call “good.” But to Austin, and succeeding generations of astute listeners, it was beeyootiful music when his daughters picked up their guitars and beat on the Shaggs-Jaimie-Hernandez-e1429127552631drums, together in the same room, if not always the same song. Named after the girls’ thick, horsetail-length hairstyle, the Shaggs were born in 1967, taking miscues from the Monkees and Herman’s Hermits songs they heard on the radio. They pretty much had to make it up as they went along, as their father would not allow them to attend rock concerts and insisted on home-schooling to allow more time to work on their music. Recorded in 1969, Philosophy of the World is as much an intriguing anthropological find as it is a timeless, albeit unintentional, statement of outsider art – Frank Zappa hailed it as his third favorite recording of all time. Everyone should hear it once before they die. – JONATHAN VALANIA

RELATED: As a New Hampshire resident and an outsider music geek, one of the acts I was most looking forward to seeing at Solid Sound was The Shaggs. For those who don’t know, the Wiggins sisters were a trio from Fremont, New Hampshire who were encouraged by their father to form a band and cut a record. The Wiggins girls’ amateurish sound and lack of musical ability didn’t win them any fans with radio stations. It wasn’t until long after The Shaggs’ lone 1968 LP, Philosophy of the World, began to be discovered, shared, and enjoyed amongst notable fans, including Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain, that the band began to enjoy a cult following amongst collectors of outsider music. The reunion of the surviving Wiggins girls at Solid Sound was exactly what anyone familiar with the group would hope for. The ladies performed alongside a supporting band and sounded as perfectly imperfect as they did fifty years ago. Some folks in the Solid Sound audience got it, others didn’t. Regardless, everyone in attendance was respectful and supportive. I cried tears of joy and applauded until my hands hurt. MORE