Our plans to see one of those indie bands that I love, car seat headrest, performing at the Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass., began over 2 years ago. I bought 2 tickets in January 2020 before the release of the band’s new album and plotted to get Deborah out of her musical comfort zone to join me at the concert. We would make it an otherwise weekend filled with restaurants, art, and hiking.
But the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the show from April 2020 to September 2020, and after that was canceled, I kind of thought that was it. But I was surprised to see that the show was back for this March 25, so arranged for an Airbnb and loosely scheduled art museum visits and hikes.
From there we headed to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA). The sprawling 25,000 square foot building on the Hoosic River was built in the 1860s and served as the Arnold Print Works factory for decades. As manufacturing declined, in the 1940s the Sprague Electric Company took over the site. But it wasn’t until 1999 that MassMoCA became the place for large scale art installations as well as a great place to catch a concert and party like it’s 1999.
Masks were required at the spacious, indoor site and proof of vaccination had to be shown. The sound in the venue was crisp, starting with opener Bartees Strange, and a well-timed light show propelled Car Seat Headrest through its set, with every few songs eliciting crowd chants, fist-pumps or flashlights for cell phones. Singer Will Toledo wore a gas mask with animal ears and light-up eyes throughout the show (we wish he’d ditched the headgear halfway through), but his voice was still clear. I enjoyed the show, as did my wife, although her favorite song was actually when convincing guitarist Ethan Ives continued with a melody that came from one of his side projects. Somehow, rock n’ roll stardust follows Deborah wherever she goes.
While our legs got a workout at the sold-out show, we forced them back into action Saturday morning for a hike up Mount Greylock. We had originally planned to climb the highest peak in Massachusetts, starting from the trailhead on Hopper Road in Williamstown, but decided instead to take the Money Brook Trail and hike along the fast moving water. With the trees not yet in leaves, we had a view of the water the whole way. We never got to top of the falls, as we found an impassable part (or at least 1 of us did…), but still enjoyed about 2 hours of moderately uphill and downhill hiking. As we learned later, there are other routes to the falls that might get you there more easily.
In the afternoon we returned to Mass MoCA ($20 per adult), this time to see the art. We spent 2 hours exploring the museum, but you could easily take more. Among the most striking installations we saw were The spooky memorial to Marc Swanson at Ice at the Dead Dear Disco, Introducing Glenn Kaino in the Light of a Shadowand Jenny Holzer’s infinitely readable truisms (we also saw her stuff in the Davis Museum at Wellesley College).
For dinner, on the recommendation of friends who lived in nearby Williamstown, we headed to the bustling Trail house kitchen and bar, owned by a local resident and filled with a fun-loving crowd. My wife tried the small Caesar salad topped with salmon. The salad was small as advertised and the salmon on top overshadowed the greens. She pronounced the meal visually unbalanced but tasty. The leftover salmon, as well as the leftover stuffed mushrooms also made a great dinner the next evening.
Our final day included a short hike past charming Williams College to Clark Institute of Art ($20 per adult). Like Mass MoCA, it’s a spacious museum, though the art selection couldn’t be more different. The Clark features impressive collections of American and European paintings by Renoir, Cassatt, Inness and others. It’s been on our list of places to go for a long time, and it was excellent.
A special exhibit on Artists Witnessing the War included fascinating Civil War illustrations by Winslow Homer, who was drafted into the military as an artist (the museum is free to veterans and active military personnel until May, by the way). We spent about 90 minutes at the Clark and easily got it all figured out, although we had to drive so we didn’t take advantage of the scenic hiking trails surrounding the museum which could stretch for much of the day .
On the way back, the GPS took us briefly through New York, then we hit the Pike for what we hope will be the last hail of the season. A great way to say goodbye to winter and say hello to what we hope will be a spring full of new adventures.
Beyond Natick—Worcester Art Museum is a nearby gem
Beyond Natick – a 2 mile walk around Weston Reservoir
Beyond Natick – visit Block Island
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