You’re tapping your foot to some wicked banjo riff next to a giant pink roller coaster. Or making art from a pop-up truck while drinking a Hazy IPA. Or playing fiddle with your new best friend you met yesterday wandering next to Natalie Jeremijenko’s inverted trees. Sounds like a quirky boho fantasy, I know, but I promise—this is IRL. This is FreshGrass.
Held at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), FreshGrass attracts top-tier and up-and-coming folk groups. Shovels & Rope played in 2017; Gary Clark, Jr., Old Crow Medicine Show, and Trampled by Turtles all performed last fall.
This year, make sure to catch Dolly-Parton-esqe hippy grunge princess Sierra Ferrell and finger-picking virtuoso Sunny War, her raw, truth-pushing lyrics scratch that bittersweet itch right where it hurts. Another standout is Beijing-based Hanggai, whose fusion of traditional Inner Mongolian music with punk and psychedelic rock brings a much-needed non-western perspective to the contemporary American folk festival circuit.
Other musical draws include FreshScores, where artists prepare and play their own compositions alongside short silent films, and the FreshGrass Award Contest, where banjo, fiddle, and guitar finalists and bands perform for cash prizes, recording sessions, and a coveted performance slot in next year’s festival.
The FreshGrass Foundation hosts two festivals every year. If you can’t make it to North Adams this fall, check out the spring Bentonville festival held in the Arkansas Ozarks.
- In 2016, 4,500 bluegrass lovers attended.
- VIP tix are sold out. 3-day GA are $184 (students can attend for $129, and children 6-16 for $64).
- While you’re there, consider road tripping across state lines to nearby southern Vermont.
What is the closest airport to North Adams, MA and FreshGrass 2023?
Fly into Albany, NY (ALB, 50 miles, ~1 hour driving). Or, if you fly into Boston (BOS, 136 miles, ~3 hours driving), skip the car rental and take Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited Route to Pittsfield, MA (18 miles away, ~30 min rideshare).
Is the festival family-friendly?
Absolutely. Children under 6 can attend for free. FreshGrass plans kid-specific programming, and the MoCA KidSpace will be open.
Where can I camp?
The festival has its own campground, FreshGround, a tent-camping field less than a mile from the MoCA, with complimentary nonstop shuttle service. Other nearby campgrounds include Clarksburg State Park and Historic Valley Campground.
Can I check out the museum exhibits as well?
You bet. In addition to hosting some of the festival’s musical acts, gallery admission is included with GA tickets.
What can I bring? What should I leave at home?
Bring your instruments, strollers, folding chairs, sealed or empty water bottles. No pets, glass, coolers, picnic baskets, or smoking. No weapons. Large bags, backpacks, and umbrellas are also strongly discouraged.
Make sure to check beforehand where each musical act takes place. To protect the art, large objects (like strollers, folding chairs, and backpacks) aren’t allowed in the galleries or smaller courtyards. There isn’t a bag check, so you’ll need to store these items in your car.
Which artists are on the lineup?
Dropkick Murphys (Acoustic), Lukas Nelson + Potr, Sierra Ferrell, Rhiannon Giddens, The Devil Makes Three, Aoife O’Donovan, Allison Russell, Mighty Poplar, Alison Brown, Becky Buller Band, Hanggai, Bombino, AJ Lee and Blue Summit, The Sensational Barnes Brothers, Buffalo Nichols, Sunny War, Son Rompe Pera, Sam Grisman Project, Arkansauce, CJ Field, Michael Davis, Hank Wonder, Jesse Ahern, The Wildmans, Black Legacy Project.