The end of September is a special time in New England. Change of season colors and Freshgrass for roots music lovers! My guest on Nine Volt Heart is partly responsible for at least the latter. Olli Chanoff curates the lineup of musical acts for September 22-24 at MassMOCA in North Adams. Our conversation covers planning for an event this size; a year round process involving hundreds of possibilities. We discuss the part diversity plays in creating a broad spectrum of sounds for Freshgrass audiences. Chanoff is excited for fans to hear some of the lesser-known acts like Bombino; blues from the African desert or Buffalo Nichols and Sunny War; two talented singer songwriters. Elements of the past festivals remain, such as the Band contests and the Commissioned works by the Freshgrass Foundation. This year I’m excited by Aoife O’Donovan’s new work as well as very special commissioned work by Mr. Sun; a reworking for string band Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” (itself a radical remake of Tchaikovsky’s).
Other elements of previous festivals like workshops are returning from Covid precautions. Last year the festival added a segment called House of Songs where a group of musicians come together a week prior to the concert to cowrite and create new works in common. Elements like a dedicated set to a particular band (previous selections like Johnny Cash, Grateful Dead or the Band) have not been announced. While element come and go, it’s ALWAYS the highlight of this time of year. The Mass MOCA campus lights up with amazing music on three stages on three days. Details at Freshgrass.com