Wilco - Solid Sound Festival

Music and Art

Wilco, along with MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) curate a bi-yearly music and art festival at the museum in Western Massachusetts.

Smoke and Mirrors

I was asked to develop a production design to be debuted at the 2013 Solid Sound Festival. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy was interested in what could be done to conjure the illusions and visual trickery of performance theater; "Smoke and Mirrors" as he put it. 

A Dynamic Band

A Wilco show covers a broad musical spectrum throughout any given night. Their catalog holds introspective and dynamic material alongside feel good party rock and alt-country twang. At any moment any of these styles can be pushed off the rails into a chaotic cacophony with crashing drums, screeching guitars and strobe lights only to return abruptly to their previous meter and feel. The design evolved to have a variety of scenic elements that are revealed to morph and change throughout the night.

Wilco at the Opera

I wanted to have a visual element that was referenced to a classical theater environment. To me, the swagged opera drape is a very classic element that is common in theaters around the world. Using different projection and lighting tricks the drapes come to life in different ways. In one part of the show they may look a classic full red.  Another moment they may have moving images painted across them. A visual idea can start on a few panels of drape and move its way around to the other swags during a song. The sheerness of the fabric allows for the different layers of lighting and projection to interact with each other. 

Beyond the Opera

In finding other elements that would fit well with the drapes, I focused on things that were less literal and a bit more visually oblique. The backdrop has a craggy three dimensional look to it. Using severe lighting angles really pops it out. The mesh material, while simple, is dramatic and kind of hard to identify from the audience perspective.

The cloud-like spheres in these photos were art pieces that I made during my residency at MASS MoCA leading up to the festival. They were created by soaking different gauges of rope in a glue and flour mixture and then wrapping the rope around an array of balloons (the largest of which had a 5' diameter). Once the glue was dry the balloons were popped and a flame retardant spray was applied.

The process is shown in a video below.



The creation of the custom "String Cloud" art pieces for Wilco's 2013 Solid Sound Festival.