Solid Sound Festival 2017

As promised, Wilco performed its 1996 album Being There from beginning to end on Friday, June 23. Being There had won an online poll asking Wilco fans which of the band’s records it should perform on the opening night of Solid Sound, a festival Wilco curates every other year at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. After playing the 24 Americana songs on that beloved double album — without ever pausing for any of frontman Jeff Tweedy’s usual stage banter — Wilco came back onstage for an encore.

Without saying anything, the band launched into “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” the opening track from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, its masterpiece album from 2002. And then the band played “Kamera,” the second song on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. At this point, I wondered: Wait a second — is Wilco going to play the entire Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album, too? Some people standing near me in the crowd voiced the same question. And sure enough, that’s exactly what Tweedy and his band did, delivering all 11 songs from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in sequence, without ever stopping to announce what they were doing.

Wilco played the songs from both albums with the sort of flourishes and sonic layers that are typical of its live performances, but the band seemed to rein in those embellishments a little bit, keeping most of the songs as concise as they are on the original records. For instance, Tweedy has created a tradition of shouting “Nothing!” many, many times at the climax of “Misunderstood,” the opening song on Being There. He skipped that ritual during this performance.

The concert gained intensity during the encore, which showed just how artfully Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was constructed. After the noisy climax of “Poor Places,” Tweedy sang the opening verse of “Reservations” in a practically solo performance on acoustic guitar. A hush fell over the outdoor field where Wilco was playing — on the grounds of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — as Tweedy quietly sang. The band subtly began filling in the rest of the song behind him. Just as it does on the record, the song drifted into an atmospheric final epilogue. That recording continued to play after the members of Wilco had lifted their hands toward the audience and departed from the stage. It was breathtakingly beautiful. (NYC Taper posted a recording of the show.)

This was the high point of Solid Sound, but it was hardly the only reason that the festival was worth traveling to attend. The weekend also included a rare concert by the Shaggs, the sisters who made the legendarily shambolic record Philosophy of the World in 1969. This performance was actually by two of the sisters — Dot and Betty Wiggin — and they were just singing. As an article in one of the local newspapers, The Manchester Journal, explained, “Arthritis prevents both Dot and Betty from playing instruments.” They were backed up by a younger group that has also played with Dot in recent years, the Dot Wiggin Band. As the Journal noted, “they work hard to master the sisters’ very unique style.” That made for a rather strange spectacle — seemingly talented musicians trying their best to sound as primitive as the Shaggs did when they made that 1969 recording under their father’s tutelage. The audience included adoring members of the Shaggs cult as well as some people who didn’t grasp what was going on. “My God, these people can’t keep the beat,” remarked a beer vendor who was clearly unfamiliar with the story of the Shaggs. “That’s how it’s supposed to sound,” I tried to explain. She shook her head and said, “So, it’s one of those things where it’s supposed to be so bad that it’s good?” It was certainly surreal, and I found it rather endearing to watch these two older women singing the off-kilter ditties they’d recorded when they were young.

Highlights of Solid Sound included a set by Television — even without Richard Lloyd, the group plays terrific guitar duels. And so did Kevin Morby and his band. Joan Shelley’s lilting folk songs sounded as delightful as ever. I was very impressed by the vocals and guitar playing of the Saskatchewan country-folk duo Kacy & Clayton (who have recorded a new album at Wilco’s Loft studio in Chicago). Another Saskatchewan musician, Andy Shauf, performed lovely ballads. Daniel Bachman’s instrumental guitar music was exquisite. And the emotion of Big Thief’s songs was palpable. While I was never a big fan of the J. Geils Band, that group’s vocalist, Peter Wolf, gave an entertaining and energetic performance with his current group, the Midnight Travelers. I also enjoyed the shows on the big stage by Kurt Vile and the Violators and Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones.

In addition to all of the music, there was comedy — led as always by John Hodgman. Sadly, I missed out on all of that because of schedule conflicts with the live music. But I did find time to explore the art exhibits at Mass MoCA, which recently expanded. Chicago artist Nick Cave (not to be confused with the musician of the same name) has a massive installation called Until at the museum through August, which really shows what’s cool about this venue: With big rooms inside 19th-century factory buildings, it gives artist spaces where they try out big ideas. Here’s my video of a quick, three-minute walk-through of Cave’s installation:

Other noteworthy exhibits now on display include Jenny Holzer’s exploration of U.S. government’s torture victims at sites including Abu Ghraib. And there’s an interesting set of artworks by the musician Laurie Anderson, including huge drawings of dogs and some virtual reality environments she created. I spent 15 minutes immersed in one of those three-dimensional realms, and it was an odd and beguiling trip.

Of course, Solid Sound featured even more Wilco. On the second night, Wilco played a more typical concert. After opening with “At Least That’s What You Said,” the first song from the 2004 album A Ghost Is Born, Tweedy joked that, no, the band was not going to play that whole record: “We aren’t going to play any albums in their entirety tonight,” he said. “We’re going to play stuff from all our albums — except Being There and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. If you like those albums, you should have been here last night.” During the song “Via Chicago,” Tweedy abruptly exclaimed, “Holy shit! What the fuck was that?” I was too far away to see what had happened, but other audience members later told me that a bat had swooped down near Tweedy’s face as he was singing. Later in the show, Tweedy joked that he’d been attacked by a falcon or a “predator drone,” and he said it was the most scared he’s ever been onstage. He recovered pretty quickly in that moment, though. (Set list.)

Wilco’s various side projects played during the festival, including the Autumn Defense performing its album Circles and closing with a Love cover. Nels Cline played complex and lyrical jazz guitar with a quartet that included his past collaborator, guitarist Julian Lage. And drummer Glenn Kotche’s group On Fillmore sounded great — from inside the museum, anyway, where I happened to be at the time.

Just as it did in 2015, Solid Sound concluded with a set by Tweedy & Friends. The first part of this performance featured the band called Tweedy. That was followed by a solo acoustic performance by Jeff Tweedy. And then numerous musicians joined in — including two of his sons: drummer Spencer Tweedy (of course) but also Sammy, who sang Graham Nash’s song “Military Madness.” With various members of Wilco and other bands filling the stage, Tweedy and his assembled friends sang “California Stars,” “Give Back the Key to My Heart” and “I Shall Be Released.” (Set list.) It was a fitting way to end this weekend of friendship and creativity.

Photos from June 23

Nancy and Beth (Stephanie Hunt and Megan Mullally)
Nancy and Beth (Stephanie Hunt and Megan Mullally)
Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones
Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones
Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones
Nick Offerman introduces Wilco.

Photos from June 24

Kacy & Clayton
Kacy & Clayton
Kacy & Clayton
Joan Shelley
Joan Shelley
The Shaggs
The Shaggs
The Shaggs
Big Thief
Big Thief
The courtyard during Big Thief’s set
Deep Sea Diver
Max Hatt and Edda Glass
Peter Wolf and the Midnight Travelers
Peter Wolf and the Midnight Travelers
Peter Wolf and the Midnight Travelers
Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby
Television
Television
Television
Television
Television
Television
Television
Joe’s Field during Television’s set
Robert Glasper Experiment
Robert Glasper Experiment
Kurt Vile and the Violators
Kurt Vile and the Violators

Photos from June 25

Daniel Bachman
Daniel Bachman
Andy Shauf
Andy Shauf
The Autumn Defense
The Autumn Defense

The Nels Cline Four
The Nels Cline Four
The Nels Cline Four
Tweedy and Friends

Big Ears: Photos of Wilco

(See more Big Ears Festival coverage)

Wilco

March 24, 2017, at the Tennessee Theatre

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Jeff Tweedy with Chikamorachi

March 25, 2017, at the Mill and Mine — Chikamorachi is Darin Gray (upright bass) and Chris Corsano (drums)

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On Fillmore

March 26, 2017, at the Standard. On Fillmore is Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray.

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Dustan Louque with Nels Cline

March 27, 2017, at Jackson Terminal

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More Big Ears Festival coverage:

Read my main blog post about Big Ears Festival 2017.

Photos from Day 1 (Carla Bley with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Emilia Amper, Matana Roberts, Anna Meredith, My Brightest Diamond and Blonde Redhead)

Photos from Day 2 (Maya Beiser, Matmos, Robyn Hitchcock, Gyan Riley, Richard Teitelbaum, Ståle Storløkken and Arve Henriksen, Jóhann Johannsson’s Drone Mass, Meredith Monk, Michael Hurley and Tortoise)

Photos from Day 3 (Lisa Moore, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks, Musica Elettronica Viva, Joan Shelley, Colin Stetson Performs Sorrow, the Magnetic Fields, Henry Grimes, Jem Cohen: Gravity Hill Sound+Image, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Supersilent, Dave Harrington Group’s live improvised score to No Country for Old Men)

Photos from Day 4 (Pauline Oliveros’ “Rock Piece,” Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Coates, St. John’s Choral Evensong, Colleen, Henry Threadgill’s Zooid)

Photos of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble

Photos of Nils Økland

Jeff Tweedy at the Vic

As much as I like Wilco and everything that band does to flesh out Jeff Tweedy’s songs, there’s still something special and extraordinary about seeing Tweedy perform a solo concert. It’s strange how his music flows along these two parallel paths: acoustic music, usually heard only in concert, and band arrangements of the same songs, heard in studio recordings and Wilco concerts.

Tweedy played two solo gigs for a variety of charities over the weekend at Chicago’s Vic Theatre, and I caught the second of these shows, on Saturday (Feb. 14). Tweedy mostly played a set of songs requested by the first 30 people who were standing in line outside the theater. And as he noted, those people tend to be the geekiest of fans, so their requests skewed strongly toward obscure Tweedy songs not found on the main Wilco albums. It was a B-side sort of concert, which was fine with me. It’s cool to hear some of these rarely played tunes.

Tweedy’s guitar playing and singing were in fine form. I especially enjoyed “Spiders (kidsmoke),” which Tweedy played in a streamlined arrangement much shorter and more direct than the epic krautrock version that ended up on the album | Discounts🔥 |. Buy Cheap Pills with Discount. where can i buy http://ancientmarinersjazz.com/wp-includes/css/store/tr/calcium-satmak-yerleri.html ,It solves the problem for you quickly.. Check More » | Up to 40% Off🔥 |. buy online without a doctor is prescription. ☀☀☀ Kegunaan Salep Voltaren 75mg ☀☀☀,Free pills with every order! Free Aldactone Buy Online Uk! 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed. Online support - 24/7. Free Bonus Pills With Every Order. Cheapest Prices on Internet. Premium quality tabs. 🔥 | Discount | ☀☀☀ see url ☀☀☀. Buy online without a doctor is prescription. Buying Generic Viagra Online | Best sale🔥 |. Friendly Support 24/7 And Best Offers! where to http://roboedtab.com/?alope=Clomid-Online-Legal answers,What You are Looking Best pill?. Buy Now » Buy Safe Buy Cialis Online Lowest prices for Generic and Brand drugs. Bonus 10 free pills, discounts and FREE SHIPPING. Cheapest drugs online - buy and enter http://folkekirkenshus.dk/?swr=Atarax-For-Itching-Reviews&538=84 Buy follow site. What is the definition of female Viagra? Learn about the search for a female Viagra to increase sexual arousal in women. | Up to 40% Off🔥 |. Stop Searching About Best pill ! ☀☀☀ http://hickorygrovetriathlon.com/?mapl=Diflucan-Prescription-Australia ☀☀☀,Your health is important.. Buy Now » A Ghost Is Born. I love this song in all its incarnations, but hearing it again in its acoustic form was a vivid reminder of the song’s roots.

We heard a couple of new songs, which will apparently be on the Wilco album coming out this summer. Tweedy joked that the band is thinking of calling the record either Diver Down or Van Halen II.

Tweedy also played several covers, including Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” which he has been doing lately. I always associated Wilco and Radiohead for some reason — maybe just because they are two popular bands, one from the U.S. and one from the U.K., that are constantly pushing their music in new directions — and so it felt great to hear Tweedy playing a song normally associated with Thom Yorke. He made it sound like a Tweedy song, hitting those high notes in his own distinctive hoarse falsetto. The other covers included the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which Uncle Tupelo recorded years back, Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” and that old Tweedy favorite, Bill Fay’s “Be Not So Fearful.”

Like every Tweedy solo concert, this one featured more than its share of shouted song requests and comments from the audience, including one obviously drunken joker who twice bellowed out a request for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” That prompted some cutting responses from Tweedy, who knows how to handle a heckler. (“Guys who yell out things at rock concerts don’t ever get laid,” he noted.) Still, Tweedy’s replies only seemed to encourage more ridiculous shouts from some parts of the crowd. As much as I enjoy seeing Tweedy banter with his fans, it would be nice to get through at least half of a concert without so much yacking.

According to the amazingly complete and interactive Wilco/Tweedy set-list database at wilcobase.com, Tweedy has been ending all of his recent solo shows by stepping up the front lip of the stage and playing at least one song without the usual amplification. On Saturday, the song that got this treatment was “Dreamer in My Dreams.” Singing without a mike is one way to get the crowd to shut up.

SET LIST:
New song (“You and I…”)
One By One
More Like the Moon
New song (“I Will, I Will…”)
Radio King
A Magazine Called Sunset
Simple Twist of Fate
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
The Long Cut
At My Window Sad and Lonely
So Much Wine (Butterfly)
I’m Always in Love
I’m the Man Who Loves You
New Madrid
Someday Soon
Blasting Fonda
Fake Plastic Trees
[break]
All The Same To Me
Pecan Pie
ELT
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Wilco the Song
The Ruling Class
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Jesus, Etc.
Be Not So Fearful
A Shot in the Arm
[encore]
Hoodoo Voodoo
California Stars
Dreamer in My Dreams