North Adams, MA FreshGrass, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's (MASS MoCA) 3-day festival of bluegrass and progressive roots music, announces the first round of bands for its upcoming September fest, with Brandi Carlile, Railroad Earth, The Del McCoury Band with special guest David Grisman, Del & Dawg, The Wood Brothers, Bill Frisell: Harmony, Alison Brown, Son Little, The Brothers Comatose, Carrie Rodriguez, Darol Anger's Republic of Strings, Hackensaw Boys, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, The Suitcase Junket, Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally Band, and 2016 FreshGrass Award winners The Last Revel, Victor Furtado, Julian Pinelli, and The Page Turners. FreshGrass, to be held at MASS MoCA on September 15-17, 2017, features bluegrass traditionalists and innovators on four stages and in every nook and cranny of its 28-building, 16-acre campus. 2017's festival will be the first FreshGrass held since MASS MoCA's Building 6 — slated to open in May of this year — has been open, with an additional 120,000 sq. ft. of expanded galleries and performance space.
FreshGrass, a 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards nominee for "Event of the Year," is three days of concerts, pop-up performances, instrument and industry workshops, and a bounty of Berkshire harvest-season food and spirits. The event takes over the entire museum campus, including courtyards, galleries, grassy fields, bridges, and every place in between. Berklee College of Music's American Roots Music Program returns to lead workshops in which festival-goers fine-tune picking skills and learn from bluegrass veterans about the inner workings of songwriting, producing, and marketing music — events that often erupt in wild, rollicking jam sessions with festival-goers strumming alongside main-stage talent. FreshGrass-owned No Depression — the quarterly journal for roots music and online roots music authority — sets up an eponymous stage in the festival's inner courtyard, Compass Records brings its pop-up record store back to the center of the festival, and local luthiers demonstrate their craft.
"Brandi Carlile, Railroad Earth, two sets with Del & Dawg, and FreshGrass-favorites The Wood Brothers — and that's just for starters. FreshGrass consistently presents one of the liveliest and all-encompassing lineups of any music festival in the nation. Musical chops, songwriting innovation, community participation, great food and drink in a really beautiful arts complex... all that makes for a special weekend, and we are so proud to host this flagship event in North Adams," says MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson.
Brandi Carlile, Railroad Earth, The Del McCoury Band with special guest David Grisman, Del & Dawg, Bill Frisell, The Wood Brothers, and Alison Brown Lead First Wave of 2017 FreshGrass Festival Lineup
The festival continues to nurture fresh takes on the tradition of bluegrass music with the growth of its FreshGrass Award, a music contest for unsigned talent judged by industry professionals, featuring up to $25,000 in cash prizes and recording time at Compass Records' studio in Nashville for the winners. New this year, in addition to the annual categories of band, banjo, and fiddle, is the No Depression Singer-Songwriter Award. Recognizing and rewarding up-and-coming roots music singer-songwriters from across the country and beyond, five Singer-Songwriter Award finalists will join 15 other finalists as they travel to the festival to perform in front of a live audience and a panel comprised of No Depression editors and artist judges. All finalists will perform throughout the weekend on pop-up stages and in the galleries, and Award winners in each of the four categories will earn a mainstage slot at the 2018 FreshGrass festival. The FreshGrass Award prizes are funded by the FreshGrass Foundation, whose mission is to promote, produce, and create innovative grassroots music and support emerging artists.
"Great music, strong community, preservation, and advancement will always be the guiding lights of FreshGrass," says festival producer Chris Wadsworth. "With the success of the FreshGrass commissions, FreshScores, Awards, and the addition of the No Depression Singer-Songwriter Award, we offer our audience a singular festival experience and access to truly innovative ideas in grassroots music. The FreshGrass family has really grown over the last five years With No Depression and this festival at its heart; we have gathered one of the largest and most vibrant roots music communities out there. And we still have a few tricks up our sleeves."
FreshScores, a film and live music event commissioned by the FreshGrass Foundation to pair original music with enlivened silent films, returns in September with new screenings and performances during the festival, with the lineup to be announced this spring. In addition to the Award, films, workshops, and the festival's legendary jam sessions — during which professional musicians pick and play among the crowd, many of whom bring their own instruments —festival events include camping (located a short distance from MASS MoCA's campus) and children's programming. Art is on view all weekend, as admission to MASS MoCA's galleries is included with every festival pass, and festival-goers enjoy dozens of pop-up concerts set among dramatically scaled exhibitions of contemporary art.
Early bird 3-day adult tickets are now available for $105, with student tickets priced at $89, $46 for kids 6-16, and free admission for kids 5 and under. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount on festival ticket prices. Single-day tickets may be offered closer to the event, as space allows. FreshGround camping is on sale now for $90 and $120 for RV spots at Camp Aggie. FreshGrass details will be updated on the festival website, freshgrass.com. FreshGrass is held rain or shine.
FreshGrass is sponsored by The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA, Compass Records, American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music, and Circle Strings. Additional support is provided by Berkshire Gas as part of its ongoing music series at MASS MoCA.
FreshGrass is committed to preserving, supporting, and creating innovative grassroots music. The FreshGrass Foundation, which co-produces the festival with MASS MoCA, funds the FreshGrass Awards and FreshGrass Presents, creates new music through FreshScores and the FreshGrass Commission, and operates the No Depression Fellowship for writers. The foundation operates No Depression — the roots music authority both online and in print.
MASS MoCA is one of the world's liveliest (and largest) centers for making, displaying, and enjoying today's most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. MASS MoCA will nearly double its gallery space in spring 2017, with artist partnerships that include Laurie Anderson, the Louise Bourgeois Trust, Jenny Holzer, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and James Turrell.