What do art, music, education, and agriculture have in common? Early this summer, the common denominator will be the band, The National. The band performs at MASS MoCA in North Adams on Saturday, June 11, at 7pm, for its only Northeast headline show of 2016. All proceeds from the concert benefit Hawthorne Valley Association in Ghent, NY, and MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.
If you ask Aaron Dessner, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter for The National, he’ll tell you that art, music, education, and agriculture — yes, agriculture — offer fertile ground for creativity and that the encouragement and support of these endeavors lay the groundwork for a healthy community. “It’s pretty clear that our country and the world in general needs positive pro-social and environmentally responsible change — and people and communities transform through the creative process. So it stands to reason that if we encourage creativity, we can instigate these kinds of changes — maybe even change the world,” says Dessner. He continues, “We saw this concert as an opportunity to support two organizations that are doing good, creative work in service of both their immediate communities, and the community at large. Each supports creativity and independent thinking which are vital to the development of innovative solutions. The work that MASS MoCA is doing to highlight visionary art and artists, and that Hawthorne Valley is engaged in — biodynamics, scientific research, and Waldorf education — positively impacts the health of their communities, and ultimately the well-being of our children and families, and the planet as a whole. It is work we feel the need to support in any way we can.”
In addition to the headlining benefit concert at 7pm, A Lot of Sorrow, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s 6-hour documentary opus, filmed on tour with The National, screens in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center throughout the concert weekend. A live, silent auction of band memorabilia — including a signed, framed “Trouble Will Find Me” gold album, a “Trouble Will Find Me” boxed set, and Aaron’s signed Bigsby guitar, all donated by the band — takes place before the concert. An exclusive concert pre-party, “Drinks with The National,” also for the benefit of Hawthorne Valley and MASS MoCA, is sold out. “Drinks with the National” features locally sourced food and drink with the band, and tours of MASS MoCA’s Building 6 — the site of the museum’s 2017 expansion that doubles the already-massive museum’s exhibition space.
“At once precise and meticulous in their craft, but also gloriously exultant and ambitious, The National is a truly great band, complex and expansive,” notes MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson. “We are deeply honored that they are kicking off their summer season with a rare headline show at MASS MoCA, and not only at MASS MoCA, but for it, and for Hawthorne Valley Association, as a benefit concert.”
“We are thrilled to be working with MASS MoCA, a truly innovative cultural initiative in the vanguard of the contemporary art world. And we are infinitely grateful to The National for their generosity of spirit and goodwill in offering their considerable talents in support of MASS MoCA and Hawthorne Valley,” says Martin Ping, Executive Director of Hawthorne Valley. “The National and MASS MoCA each represent how art, music, and the creative process can be foundational in building regenerative and resilient economies both locally and globally. As we come together in celebration of our interconnectedness and interdependence, I enthusiastically look forward to the good work and to the collaborative road ahead.”
MASS MoCA’s Thompson continues, “I’m sure the band could turn the depth of our gratitude into a searing lyric, with an infectious and nearly impossible beat, but for now we’ll have to settle with this: we can’t wait to host them on June 11, and feel so fortunate that they’ve smiled upon MASS MoCA and Hawthorne Valley in this way.”
Throughout its career, The National has engaged in social activism as illustrated by its support for charitable organizations including the Yellow Bird Project that raised money for Safe Space NYC, an organization that provides safe refuge for underprivileged children and families in southeast Queens, and Partners in Health. The band’s most notable effort this year is a 59-track Grateful Dead tribute album that they curated and produced, all the proceeds of which will benefit the Red Hot organization, which is dedicated to fighting HIV, AIDS, and related health issues internationally. Additionally, The National has performed numerous benefit concerts for such organizations as MusiCares, Artists for Peace and Justice, the Robin Hood Foundation, and Cooperative for Education’s Thousand Girls Initiative, a program supporting the growth of educational opportunities for girls in Guatemala.
Says Dessner, “Individuals — even whole nations — can’t solve all problems by themselves. We need one another. We — and all species — are inextricably linked. The road to a better world, and a healthy future for our children, depends on forming alliances and cooperating with others. As more and more positive connections are made, maybe we can realize a collective positive force for change. If our band can give us a platform to contribute in some way to connecting people doing good work, like MASS MoCA and Hawthorne Valley, we’re all for it.”
The National performs on Joe’s Field at MASS MoCA, at 7pm, to benefit MASS MoCA and Hawthorne Valley Association. San Francisco-based, post-pop band YASSOU opens. The concert is co-presented by Higher Ground Presents, headquartered in Burlington, Vermont. General admission concert tickets are $49 through late May, when tickets will increase to $55. Tickets are available for purchase through the MASS MoCA Box Office located at 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Massachusetts, by phone at 413.664.4481 x1, or online at massmoca.org/thenational.