Solid Sound Fest: Review

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Musicians thank their audiences all the time, but Jeff Tweedy did it even more than usual over the weekend at Solid Sound.

Time and again, he kept thanking his fans for allowing Solid Sound to happen. “It’s too nice of you guys to be here, to make this happen,” he said at one point. Of course, the same thing could be said of all festivals and concerts: They wouldn’t happen if nobody showed up. But it’s unusual to hear a rock star acknowledge that debt to his audience as explicitly as Tweedy did. He sounded humbled and maybe overwhelmed by the whole thing.

Tweedy’s band Wilco organizes the Solid Sound Festival every other year at Mass MoCA, aka the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which has taken over the sprawling grounds of a 19th-century factory complex in North Adams, a town in the state’s northwest corner. That setting is one of the event’s key attractions: The surrounding landscape is bucolic, and the museum’s cleverly repurposed industrial spaces are filled with oversized, ambitious, eccentric and playful art.

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Francesco Clemente's Encampment installation
Francesco Clemente’s Encampment installation
Jena Priebe, The Secret Lives of Books, part of the Bibliothecaphilia exhibit.
Jena Priebe, The Secret Lives of Books, part of the Bibliothecaphilia exhibit.
An artwork in Jim Shaw's exhibit "Entertaining Doubts."
An artwork in Jim Shaw’s exhibit “Entertaining Doubts.”

Even though Wilco’s headquarters are in Chicago, North Adams is a second home of sorts for the band and its extended musical family. Solid Sound — which returned to the museum June 26-28 for its fourth edition — isn’t totally and completely about Wilco. It does feature other musicians of various genres, as well as standup comedy, films and assorted artsy happenings. But it all revolves around Wilco, and it’s designed with Wilco’s fans in mind. Would you really go to Solid Sound if you didn’t like Wilco?

This year’s festival felt even more Wilco-dominated than the previous fest, in 2013, because a couple of major musical acts, Taj Mahal and King Sunny Ade, canceled their appearances. And yet there were many sterling musical moments that had little or nothing to do with Wilco.

Luluc
Luluc

Luluc, a duo from Australia by way of Brooklyn, entranced with its luminous songs; singer Zoë Randell’s voice was chillingly lovely as it melded with Steve Hassett’s expressive guitar lines. After their regular set, they showed up in the museum for an unamplified “pop-up” performance, casting a spell over a small group of people sitting on the gallery floor.

Richard Thompson played his set in electric-guitar mode, focusing on songs from his new album, Still, which was recorded by Tweedy at the Wilco Loft. Perhaps he would have played more of his classics if he’d had more than an hour; he did return to the stage with his trio for a short encore: a rocking cover of the Otis Blackwell song “Daddy Rolling Stone.”

NRBQ, an old band that sounds rejuvenated with its new lineup, played the most party-inducing set of the weekend. The group’s longtime keyboardist, Terry Adams, was clearly having a blast, and Scott Ligon ripped through an extended guitar solo that was staggeringly great.

Other highlights of the weekend included Jeff Davis’ traditional folk songs; a slightly more modern take on that genre by Sam Amidon and Bill Frisell; the energetic indie rock of Speedy Ortiz and Parquet Courts, perhaps the only band all weekend that prompted anything that resembled moshing; the eloquent guitar instrumentals of William Tyler; and the placid breeziness of Real Estate — which was too mellow for many audience members, but still rather nice. (For the record, I missed the sets by the Felice Brothers, Mac DeMarco, Charles Lloyd and Cibo Matto because of schedule conflicts, and caught only a bit of Shabazz Palaces.)

The brilliant John Hodgman curated the comedy portion of Solid Sound, including hilarious improvisation by the group Superego. When Jessica Williams of The Daily Show and Phoebe Robinson took the stage, the two African-American comedians said they had a bet over how many black audience members there would be. (Robinson predicted five; Williams, seven). They asked any black people in the crowd to say “Woo!” and counted six. (Yes, it should be noted here that Solid Sound attracts an overwhelmingly white audience, though it is diverse in other ways, covering a wide age range but skewing toward middle-aged folks and families with kids.)

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The weekend was filled with Wilco side projects. The band’s virtuoso guitarist, Nels Cline, showed off his art-school side with a solo set of evocative noises and textures, while the big screen behind him in the Hunter Center displayed a picture being painted and rapidly transformed by artist Norton Wisdom on the other side of the stage. Meanwhile, dancers choreographed by Sarah Elgart writhed inside colored fabric like fetuses desperate to escape the womb. This multimedia experience, called “Stained Radiance,” may sound a bit pretentious on paper, but it was an impressive and affecting spectacle.

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Wilco’s remarkable drummer, Glenn Kotche, performed contemporary chamber music with former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler. It culminated with “The Immortal Flux,” a percussion piece composed by Kotche using recordings that evoke the history of the Mass MoCA building. Fifty volunteer percussionists played drums specially created for the occasion. Unfortunately, the muffled acoustics in the back of the big gallery space failed to convey all of the music’s nuances.

The Autumn Defense, the soft-rock band led by Wilco members John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, teamed up with the Australian band The Windy Hills for another unusual set. They played music composed and recorded for Spirit of Akasha, a film that celebrates an earlier surf movie with a cult following, Morning of the Earth. But this wasn’t typical surf rock. The Windy Hills’ songs, which dominated the set, were more like Crosby, Stills & Nash. Even when the Autumn Defense guys joined in for an instrumental jam, it had a hippy groove reminiscent of CSN’s “Long Time Gone.”

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There was an also a museum exhibit showing an interactive Wilco timeline, with fans’ memories on Post-It notes. Elsewhere in the museum, a replica of Wilco’s stage setup gave fans a chance to see what it looks like standing by those guitars, keyboards and drums.

But of course, the main attractions were Wilco itself and Jeff Tweedy. Friday night’s headline concert was an all-acoustic show by Wilco — the first time the band has ever done a show that was unplugged from beginning to end. Some of the songs (including a couple from Tweedy’s days with Uncle Tupelo) were acoustic in the first place, but others sounded radically different in this format, with Cline’s lap steel guitar or trilling acoustic strings replacing electric riffs, as xylophone and melodica filled in for synthesizers and other layers from the full rock arrangements. This show came on the same day as the Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, and after Wilco played “Hesitating Beauty,” Tweedy commented: “I was thinking it’s so much nicer singing that song now that everyone can get married.”

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SET LIST: Misunderstood / War on War / I’m Always in Love / Company in My Back / Hummingbird / Bull Black Nova / Handshake Drugs / Hesitating Beauty / She’s a Jar / One Wing / Kamera / New Madrid / Forget the Flowers / It’s Just That Simple / Airline to Heaven / Dawned on Me / I Got You (At the End of the Century) / Passenger Side / Outta Mind (Outta Sight) / Whole Love / Jesus, Etc. / Walken / The Thanks I Get / Theologians / A Shot in the Arm / ENCORE: True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston cover) / We’ve Been Had / Casino Queen / Hoodoo Voodoo / I’m a Wheel

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Saturday ended with a more typical Wilco concert, which began an hour early because of a rainstorm predicted for later in the night. As it turned out, the rain started falling before Wilco played the first notes of “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” and it kept falling throughout the show — but it never got bad enough to cut off the music. After all of the quiet strumming and banjo plucking on Friday night, Wilco came out ready to rock on Saturday night. The set was heavy on music from the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot era, including some of Wilco’s best obscurities, and it was as solidly entertaining as any Wilco show I’ve ever seen, the rain notwithstanding.

SET LIST: I’m the Man Who Loves You / Kamera / Candyfloss / I Am Trying to Break Your Heart / Art of Almost / At Least That’s What You Said / Either Way / Pot Kettle Black / Panthers / Sunken Treasure / Secret of the Sea / Heavy Metal Drummer / Born Alone / Laminated Cat (aka Not for the Season) / Ashes of American Flags / Hotel Arizona / Box Full of Letters / Impossible Germany / A Magazine Called Sunset / Via Chicago / ENCORE: Let’s Not Get Carried Away / Dark Neon / The Late Greats / Kingpin / Monday / Outtasite (Outta Mind)

On Sunday afternoon, the festival finished up with a set by Tweedy, the band behind 2014’s Sukierae album, which includes Jeff as well as his son Spencer on drums, plus Jim Elkington on guitar, Darin Gray on bass, Liam Cunningham on keyboards, and Sima Cummingham on harmony vocals. The songs from this record aren’t radically different from the style of Jeff Tweedy’s music with Wilco, but there’s a different dynamic among these players. The band stretched out a few moments with fierce krautrock-style repetition. When someone in the crowd called out, “You’re doing a good job, Jeff,” Tweedy thanked him for the vote of confidence. He said he must have the sort of face that prompts people to feel the need to offer words of encouragement. The sky was gray and a light drizzle fell as the band played. “This is the perfect weather for these songs, I think,” Tweedy remarked.

After an hour by Tweedy the band, Jeff Tweedy played a solo acoustic set. “I’m trying to think of the happiest songs I can play, to get you guys going,” he said. Before he played the Golden Smog song “Pecan Pie,” he said, “I don’t think this song has any death in it. I never know until I start singing. There’s just so much death.” Like usual, Tweedy was self-deprecating with his stage banter. Later, when Tweedy made a slight misstep in “Summerteeth,” he commented: “I know the words and the chords. I just wanted to display a little infallibility so the weekend isn’t too perfect.”

Various musicians who’d played during the festival came out and played with Tweedy. When Cibo Matto joined with him, the opening chords on Tweedy’s acoustic guitar sounded like “All Along the Watchtower,” but it turned out to be a cover of Madonna’s “Into the Groove.” When Tweedy played “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” he dedicated it to his wife, Sue, adding: “I always dedicate this song to her, and if I ever don’t dedicate it to her, I want you to know on the record, it is dedicated to her.”

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Tweedy the band returned to the stage for the final segment of the concert, which included a faithful cover of John Lennon’s “God.” “You probably thought that was going to be the last song, didn’t you?” Tweedy said afterward. “It would have made sense … John Lennon mic drop.” But he had a few more songs to go. A big crowd of musicians joined him for “Give Back the Key to My Heart” and “California Stars,” with a grinning Bill Frisell taking a guitar solo on the latter song.

SET LIST — BAND: Hazel / Fake Fur Coat / Diamond Light Pt. 1 / Flowering / World Away / New Moon / Summer Noon / Honey Combed / Desert Bell / High As Hello / Wait For Love / Love Like a Wire (Diane Izzo cover) / Low Key / Nobody Dies Anymore / SOLO: Remember the Mountain Bed / Please Tell My Brother / Summerteeth / Pecan Pie / The Ruling Class / Chinese Apple (with Glenn Kotche and Ryley Walker) / Too Far Apart / Into the Groove (Madonna cover, with Cibo Matto and Nels Cline) / Grandpa Was a Carpenter (John Prine cover, with the Felice Brothers) / Harvest Moon (Neil Young cover, with Luluc) / Be Not So Fearful (Bill Fay cover, with John Stirratt and Pat Sansone) / I’m the Man Who Loves You / BAND: You Are Not Alone / Only the Lord Knows (Mavis Staples cover) / God (John Lennon cover, with Bill Frisell) / Losing End (Neil Young cover) / Give Back the Key to My Heart (Doug Sahm cover) / California Stars

Over the course of the three nights, Wilco and Tweedy repeated only a couple of songs, showing once again how rich their repertoire is. Wilco’s a rare example of a band with the depth, talent and creativity to justify and sustain an event like Solid Sound.

See my photos of Solid Sound Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Solid Sound Festival: Photos of Day 3

Photos from the third day of the 2015 Solid Sound Festival, June 28, 2015, at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass. (Also see my review of Solid Sound and my photos of Day 1 and Day 2.)

Glenn Kotche rehearsal

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Wilco signs the band’s poster book

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Jeff Davis

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William Tyler

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Nels Cline & Norton Wisdom’s Stained Radiance

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Glenn Kotche & Jeffrey Zeigler

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The Windy Hills and the Autumn Defense

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Tweedy

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with Sima Cunningham
with Sima Cunningham
with Ryley Walker
with Ryley Walker
with Cibo Matto
with Cibo Matto
with the Felice Brothers
with the Felice Brothers
with Luluc
with Luluc
with various musicians
with various musicians
with various musicians
with various musicians
with various musicians
with various musicians

Tweedy on Sound Opinions at Lincoln Hall

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Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy is releasing his first solo album — or rather, an album called Sukierae under the moniker “Tweedy” — on Sept. 23, and he was scheduled to play a headlining concert on July 12 at Taste of Chicago. The city canceled that show after heavy rainstorms earlier in the day, but Tweedy did play a free concert last night (July 17) during a taping of the public radio show “Sound Opinions” at Lincoln Hall.

The evening began with an entertaining interview: “Sound Opinions” co-hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis talking with Jeff Tweedy and his 18-year-old son, Spencer, who plays drums on the new record and on this tour with the Tweedy band. Jeff Tweedy said every Wilco album is created by committee, but this one was different, as he kept things simple in the studio, recording 20 songs with Spencer on drums. “There’s a DNA connection that I’ve never experienced with other musicians,” he said.

But Tweedy plans to convene Wilco soon to begin work on a new album by the whole band — or at least to start the process by “messing around” in the studio. “Six people finding a part on a song — that’s kind of the idea of Wilco,” he said. As far as when to expect that album, he said “probably” next year.

Like his father, Spencer has a great sense of humor, and it was fun to see the two of them joking around during the interview. When the subject of Jeff Tweedy’s acting in recent episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “Portlandia” came out, Spencer said, “Don’t be surprised if you see him in a major motion picture next year.” Acting surprised, his father asked, “Do you know something I don’t?”

After the interview, Tweedy and his band — Spencer on drums, Darin Gray on bass, Jim Elkington on guitar and Liam Cunningham on keyboards — played a set of songs from the new album. The music wasn’t a radical departure from Tweedy’s songs with Wilco: mostly mellow and midtempo, often with a pensive quality. It will take more listens to become familiar with these songs; I expect that they’ll grow on me, as most of Tweedy’s past music has.

He closed the show with three more recognizable songs: “You Are Not Alone,” which he wrote for Mavis Staples; Doug Sahm’s “Give Back the Key to My Heart,” which Tweedy covered with Uncle Tupelo on the 1993 album Anodyne; and the Wilco-Woody Guthrie anthem “California Stars.”

Portions of last night’s interview and concert will show up on a future episode of “Sound Opinions.” Thanks to the show’s producers for letting me take a few photos.

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Favorite records of 2013

These are my favorite records of 2013, the ones I enjoyed the most. Betraying my personal tastes, the list is dominated by alt-country and artists working somewhere around that genre’s vague boundaries. Simply put, a lot of my favorite artists came out with new records in 2013, and a lot of those records were very good. My honorable mentions include quite a few records I wish I could have squeezed into my top 10 — and I wish there’d been enough time to listen more closely to hundreds more.

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1. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
PUSH THE SKY AWAY

This is the quietest Nick Cave has made in a while, but it’s hardly mellow. In this tense and brooding suite of songs, Cave seems to be drifting in and out of dreams and unsettling nightmares, a world-weary traveler whose memories are slipping away. The fleeting images in his phantasmagoria flash with menace and yearning, climaxing in the epic “Higgs Boson Blues.” nickcave.com

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2. NEKO CASE
THE WORSE THINGS GET, THE HARDER I FIGHT,
THE HARDER I FIGHT, THE MORE I LOVE YOU

The latest in a succession of masterpieces by one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters of the past decade and a half. Neko Case has said she drew more on her personal life for her lyrics this time, but the evocative poetry of her songs has always been a bit mysterious, and it remains so. Her voice is as beautiful as ever, too, surrounded here by an alluring variety of musical textures, including sonar blips, jingle bells, trumpets and cellos. Case seems to be creating her own genre, even as her innovative songs echo with the radio signal of classic tunes of the 20th century. nekocase.com
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3. ROBBIE FULKS
GONE AWAY BACKWARD

Many of the smart songs on this intimate, acoustic record could have been written in the 1930s, or maybe even the 19th century. With a couple of exceptions, they’re actually new, but this is music with a true old-timey spirit. Renaissance man Robbie Fulks pulls it off with apparent ease, drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of classic and obscure country, folk and bluegrass. He knows the old stuff, and how to make it new again. robbiefulks.com
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4. BILL CALLAHAN
DREAM RIVER

As the title hints, this album feels like a nocturnal journey that flows with the logic of a dream. (In that way, it has a passing resemblance to the aforementioned Nick Cave record, though the two artists have distinct styles and personalities.) There’s a loose, jazzy vibe, punctuated at almost every turn by a singular guitar fill from Bill Callahan’s remarkable sideman Matt Kinsey. It all reaches shimmering perfection on my favorite song of 2013, “Summer Painter,” which finds Callahan musing on the meaning of work, as he sings about a summer job painting rich people’s boats. Then the story takes a turn toward the apocalyptic, when a hurricane hits and people blame the narrator: “Like all that time spent down by the water/had somehow given me control over the rain.” As peculiar as Callahan’s dreams may be, after a while, they start to seem like your own. dragcity.com/artists/bill-callahan

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5. MIKAL CRONIN
MCII

Like other records of the recent garage-rock explosion, Mikal Cronin’s second album is bursting with exuberance and energy. But it’s also carefully crafted, with a string section adding a touch of grandeur to all of its heartily strummed guitars and pounding drums. The spirit of late ’60s music is alive and well here. One song after another has the sort of melody that makes you want to sing along, thanks in no small part to the vulnerability in Cronin’s voice.  mikalcronin.bandcamp.com

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6. DAWN McCARTHY & BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY
WHAT THE BROTHERS SANG

Dawn McCarthy has sung haunting harmonies on previous records by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, aka singer-songwriter Will Oldham. On this tribute to the Everly Brothers, they get equal billing. That’s apt, since the combination of these two voices was one of the year’s delights. The album doesn’t include Don and Phil Everly’s biggest hits, but the song list reminds us just how noteworthy that duo was. In the elegant folk-rock renditions on this record, what the brothers sang sounds beautiful and brand new. dragcity.com/artists/dawn-mccarthy-and-bonny-billy

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7. DAVID BOWIE
THE NEXT DAY

David Bowie’s new album seemed to come out of nowhere. And it sounds like it came from another time and place — maybe the 1980s, maybe somewhere on Planet Bowie. This artist who’s legendary for his innovations and constantly shifting persona isn’t necessarily trying to invent anything new this time around, but it’s a batch of excellent songs. The dense rock-band-orchestra arrangements deliver one great hook after another with some wallop, but more than anything, it’s terrific to hear Bowie singing again, sounding like classic Bowie. davidbowie.com

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8. JASON ISBELL
SOUTHEASTERN

The former Drive-By Truckers singer-guitarist finally came into his own with this masterful album, striking a chord with memorable turns of phrase and the rueful wisdom of a man who’s made mistakes and learned from them. jasonisbell.com

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9. MAVIS STAPLES
ONE TRUE VINE

Producer Jeff Tweedy’s clean, simple arrangements bring a warm glow to Mavis Staples’ glorious voice in this stirring set of gospel, soul and folk rock. The first song and the last are modern hymns (one written by Low, another by Tweedy), gracefully restrained prayers to the world. mavisstaples.com

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10. DOLLY VARDEN
FOR A WHILE

A family album in musical form, with Steve Dawson’s memories filling each page like tantalizing old snapshots. This is the sound of a songwriter and a band at midlife, contemplating their past, present and future, and transforming it into beguiling ballads. dollyvarden.com

 HONORABLE MENTIONS

Molly Drake — Molly Drake
Yo La Tengo — Fade
Kelley Stoltz — Double Exposure
Veronica Falls — Waiting for Something to Happen
Laura Mvula — Sing to the Moon
Richard Thompson — Electric
Heavy Times — Fix It Alone
Cate Le Bon — Mug Museum
Low — The Invisible Way
Laura Marling — Once I Was an Eagle
Charles Bradley — Victim of Love
Waxahatchee — Cerulean Salt
Rose Windows — The Sun Dogs
Twin Peaks — Sunken
I Was A King — You Love It Here
Sam Phillips — Push Any Button
The Sadies — Internal Sounds
David Lang — Death Speaks
Laura Veirs — Warp and Weft
Superchunk — I Hate Music
The Cairo Gang — Tiny Rebels
Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood — Black Pudding
Cave — Threace
Patty Griffin — American Kid
My Bloody Valentine — m b v
The Handsome Family — Wilderness
The Liminanas — Costa Blanca
The National — Trouble Will Find Me
Arcade Fire — Reflektor
Chelsea Wolfe — Pain Is Beauty
Disappears — Era
Midlake — Antiphon
Thee Oh Sees — Floating Coffin
Various Artists — Good God! Apocryphal Hymns
Pelican — Forever Becoming
Rokia Traoré — Beautiful Africa
Black Bug — Reflecting the Light
Kronos Quartet/Bryce Dessner — Aheym
Phosphorescent — Muchacho
Shocked Minds — Shocked Minds
Ensemble Signal — Shelter
Alvin Lucier/Janacek Philarmonic Orchestra — Orchestral Works
Cass McCombs — Big Wheel and Others
Dobrinka Tabakova — String Paths
Frank Rosaly — Cicada Music
Savages — Silence Yourself
Bonnie “Prince” Billy — Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Kurt Vile — Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Nadia Sirota — Baroque
Jacco Gardner — Cabinet of Curiosities
Foxygen — We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Guided By Voices — English Little League
Mind Spiders — Inhumanistic
Ty Segall — Sleeper
Dumpster Babies — Dumpster Babies
Faun Fables — A Table Forgotten

Solid Sound, Part 4

My recap of Solid Sound 2013, continued from blog posts 1, 2 and 3

The Solid Sound festival also featured rousing soul music by the Relatives; rootsy jamming by White Denim; harmonic pop by Lucius (who were most impressive when they guested with Wilco); Miracle Legion founder Mark Mulcahy doing solo music, with J. Mascis playing guitar in the back part of the stage; a nice set of solo singer-songwriter music by Sean Rowe; and singer-songwriter Sam Amidon playing quiet songs in the vein of Nick Drake as well as more traditional Appalachian folk, with Beth Orton (his wife) joining in for one song. Marc Ribot and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo played a terrific set of their “Border Music,” and Brazil’s Os Mutantes playing songs from its new album Foot Metal Jack (which I’m not so keen on) but also some of its classic psychedelic tunes. And as mentioned in Part 2, the fest closed with a strong set by Medeski Martin & Wood, supplemented by various guests.

White Denim
White Denim
The Relatives
The Relatives
Mark Mulcahy
Mark Mulcahy
The Solid Sound fest at MASS MoCA
The Solid Sound fest at MASS MoCA
Sean Rowe
Sean Rowe
Lucius
Lucius
J. Mascis plays guitar during Mark Mulchay's set
J. Mascis plays guitar during Mark Mulchay’s set
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo
Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo
Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
David Hidalgo
David Hidalgo
John Medeski
John Medeski
Billy Martin
Billy Martin
Chris Wood
Chris Wood
Chris Wood
Chris Wood
Medeski Martin & Wood
Medeski Martin & Wood
John Medeski
John Medeski

Watching all of the music, I missed most of the comedy cabaret hosted by Hodgman, though the portion I caught — featuring Hodgman and Jen Kirkman — was hilarious and eccentric.

In between the concerts, I stopped into MASS MoCA’s galleries and saw a few of the most striking and memorable artworks I’ve experienced in a while. The Chinese artist Xu Bing’s Phoenix, a pair of hundred-foot-long mythical birds constructed out of debris, is hanging from the ceiling in a room the size of an airport hangar. (And Xu Bing’s remarkable super-wide-screen animated film The Character of Characters was screening in another room.) Another gallery displayed a thousand or so miniature paintings that Tom Phillips created on the pages of an obscure Victorian-era novel, W.H. Mallock’s A Human Document. I could have spent many more hours examining these fascinating pictures. And then there was an entire building devoted to the paintings of minimalist Sol LeWitt. Now, I must confess here that I am unenthusiastic and generally bored by most minimalist art. When I see a big canvas covered in one color of paint, my typical response is, “Big deal.” So I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of seeing all those LeWitt paintings. But there was something damn impressive about seeing all of them assembled in the three floors of this building. Taken as a whole, they became more like a weird piece of architecture.

Xu Bing's Phoenix at MASS MoCA
Xu Bing’s Phoenix at MASS MoCA
The Sol LeWitt exhibit at MASS MoCA
The Sol LeWitt exhibit at MASS MoCA
MASS MoCA's exhibit of art by Jason Middlebrook
MASS MoCA’s exhibit of art by Jason Middlebrook
A detail from inside artist Mark Dion's installation "The Octagon Room" at MASS MoCA
A detail from inside artist Mark Dion’s installation “The Octagon Room” at MASS MoCA
Tom Phillips' "A Humument," on display at MASS MoCA
Tom Phillips’ “A Humument,” on display at MASS MoCA

All in all, Solid Sound lived up to its name. It’s an inspiring model for how to run an arts festival — although it’ll be hard to emulate elsewhere, because how many other places are there like MASS MoCA?

Artist Mark Remec's piece "Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (Circle Totem)" in the foreground, with the main Solid Sound stage in the background, following the end of the festival of Sunday evening
Artist Mark Remec’s piece “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (Circle Totem)” in the foreground, with the main Solid Sound stage in the background, following the end of the festival of Sunday evening
Artist Marko Remec's installation "Can't Hear You (Fat Totem)" — acrylic dome safety mirrors strung up on an old water tank — on the Solid Sound festival grounds at MASS MoCA
Artist Marko Remec’s installation “Can’t Hear You (Fat Totem)” — acrylic dome safety mirrors strung up on an old water tank — on the Solid Sound festival grounds at MASS MoCA
A courtyard at MASS MoCA
A courtyard at MASS MoCA

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Read more about Solid Sound and see more photos in Parts 1, 2 and 3

Solid Sound, Part 3

Read more about Solid Sound and see more photos in Parts 1, 2 and 4

My last two blog posts about Solid Sound were about what the members of Wilco were up to during this festival. But like any decent fest, this one wasn’t entirely about one band. In brief, the other highlights included a high-energy show on Saturday afternoon by The Dream Syndicate, who were cult favorites in the 1980s California indie-rock scene. This was their first North American gig in more than two decades, but as it felt like they’d never stopped playing.

The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate

Yo La Tengo played not one, but two shows during Solid Sound. Alas, I arrived too late on Friday night to get a set at the screening of the film The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, featuring a live score performed by Yo La Tengo. On Saturday afternoon, the group played a typically excellent set of its songs, both old and new, with the most drastic shift in dynamics I heard all weekend. After blasting a couple of noisy songs to open their concert, Yo La Tengo took the volume way, way down for a couple of its hushed, whispery ballads, “The Point of It” and “Decora” — and it seemed like everyone in the crowd stopped making any sound so they could listen in. (At least, that’s what it was like by the stage, where I was standing.) By the end of the set, the band back at full volume.

Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
The MASS MoCA courtyard during Yo La Tengo's set
The MASS MoCA courtyard during Yo La Tengo’s set

Out of all the artists playing at Solid Sound, the one that seemed to represent younger, hyped bands was Foxygen. Just as they acted goofy during their recent in-store at Chicago’s Saki, Foxygen’s members seemed loopy at Solid Sound as they cavorted on the stage, playing their quirky, catchy songs. Perhaps they cavorted a bit too much. I heard most of Foxygen’s set, but I was away from the stage when lead singer Sam France reportedly tried to climb the scaffolding and got pulled down by security. Later in the day, I noticed three security guards surrounding Foxygen’s tambourine player, who looked intoxicated, and escorting him away from a tree. During Wilco’s show that night, Jeff Tweedy told the audience that the members of Foxygen had been “kicked out” of the festival. “They’re awesome. A little too awesome, I think,” he said. Later, he apologized, saying he hadn’t meant to disparage the band. But he dedicated the song “Passenger Side,” a song about drunk driving, to Foxygen. And then Tweedy brought up Foxygen one more time, suggesting that they might want to try drinking water onstage. The Reverse Direction blog has more about the Foxygen story. Whatever happened, I was charmed by what I saw of Foxygen’s set.

Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen

Although Low got some flack for playing one long droning song at the recent Rock the Garden festival in Minneapolis, the band played a standard set of its songs at Solid Sound on Saturday. And with Low, standard means beautiful.

Low
Low
Low
Low
Low
Low
Low
Low
Low
Low

Neko Case is another artist who nearly always delivers a good to great performance, and her show on Saturday night included a few songs from her forthcoming album The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, which comes out Sept. 3 on Anti. On first impression, the new songs sounded like a strong continuation of the singular style of music Case has been shaping over her last few records. For me, the highlight of the set was a heart-stopping performance of her 2002 song “I Wish I Was the Moon,” with Case’s voice plaintively calling out across the park in the opening verse. “We’re kind of a weird band for a festival because all of songs are bummers,” Case remarked at one point. Her stalwart harmony singer, Kelly Hogan, pointed out: “Low played earlier.” At the end of her set, Case said, “Every single song in our set is dedicated to that girl playing drums on her dad’s head.”

Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case and Kelly Hogan
Neko Case and Kelly Hogan
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case
Jon Rauhouse plays during Neko Case's set
Jon Rauhouse plays during Neko Case’s set
Neko Case
Neko Case

Read more about Solid Sound and see more photos in Parts 1, 2 and 4

Solid Sound, Part 1

The MASS MoCA grounds
The MASS MoCA grounds

Read more about Solid Sound and see more photos in the rest of my report: Parts 23 and 4

Wilco’s home base is Chicago, but the band’s vacation home seems to be MASS MoCA — the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.  Wilco held its Solid Sound festival of music and arts June 21-23 on the museum’s sprawling grounds, the third time in four years that it has brought this event to this spot in the Berkshires. (The previous two Solid Sound fests were in 2010 and 2011, and then the event took the year off in 2012.) This past weekend was my first visit to Solid Sound and MASS MoCA.

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What a cool place to hold a festival. The maze-like museum has been open only since 1999, but most of the 26 brick buildings on the 13-acre site have been standing there since the 19th century, when 3,200 people worked there, making printed textiles for Arnold Print Works. During World War II, the industrial complex was transformed into the Sprague Electric Co.’s factory.

The Wilco strongman carnival game
The Wilco strongman carnival game

Now, it’s a place for putting up works of modern and contemporary art, with enough space to hang up some truly massive sculptures and paintings. And for three days in June, it was also a place to make music — and to explore. During his performance on Sunday with David Hidalgo, guitarist Marc Ribot marveled at the sight of music fans gathered in one of the old factory courtyards. “If they took all of the factories and turned them into art museums, everyone would have fun,” he remarked. (Not exactly a sound idea in economic terms, but let’s not quibble too much.)

Like many other music festivals, this one had a bunch of bands playing on a few stages, with their performances taking place over a few days. That’s one of the main reasons people attend festivals: to see a whole lot of bands in one fell swoop. The pace was more leisurely at Solid Sound than it is at, say, Lollapalooza or Pitchfork, with only a little bit of overlap in the performances. There was plenty of room for people to move around, anywhere other than the clusters right in front of the stages for the most popular musical artists.

There was a lot more than live music at Solid Sound. John Hodgman, who emceed the comedy portion of the festival, called it “a nexus of fantastic things coming together in an amazing space.” Of course, Hodgman was emceeing, so you’d expect him to hype up the festival a bit, but his description wasn’t far off from the truth.

Naturally, art was on display in and around the art museum — as well as displays created specifically for Solid Sound. “Jeff Tweedy’s Loft” exhibited pieces of Wilco memorabilia.

"Jeff Tweedy's Loft" exhibit at MASS MoCA
“Jeff Tweedy’s Loft” exhibit at MASS MoCA
1962 Silvertone 1482 tube amp used during the "A.M." sessions, on display in "Jefff Tweedy's Loft" at MASS MoCA
1962 Silvertone 1482 tube amp used during the “A.M.” sessions, on display in “Jefff Tweedy’s Loft” at MASS MoCA
A Nudie jacket on display in the "Jeff Tweedy's Loft" exhibit at MASS MoCa
A Nudie jacket on display in the “Jeff Tweedy’s Loft” exhibit at MASS MoCa

One of the museum’s galleries filled with Sol LeWitt paintings featured Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche’s sonic soundscapes playing over the speakers. Kotche also created some “earth drums,” which were embedded in the ground, with signs encouraging festival attendees to tap out messages in Morse code to one another. (I got the impression that most people were just playing random rhythms.) Wilco bassist John Stirratt and Chicago artist Chad Gerth created the “Rickshaw of Forward Motion,” a mobile sound installation. (I failed to catch a ride on it.)

Jeff Tweedy, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy, during the June 21 Wilco concert

And of course, Wilco performed on the concert stage — an all-request show on Friday night, followed by a more standard Wilco show on Saturday night. Saturday’s concert was fine, as far as Wilco concerts go. Just another night starring an outstanding band playing a wide range of songs from throughout its career. If you’ve seen a Wilco concert in the last few years, you’ve seen a show like this one. But the one on Friday was something else entirely.

John Hodgman, "randomizing" during the June 21 Wilco concert
John Hodgman, “randomizing” during the June 21 Wilco concert

The band asked for fans to request songs, and boy did they ever — apparently dozens of pages listing songs. Pulling from that list, the songs that Wilco chose to play were almost entirely covers. Hodgman came out onto the stage several times to “randomize” the concert, pulling out ping-pong balls with numbers assigned to songs on the huge master list and challenging the band to play them. This resulted in a few of the less-rehearsed and sloppier tunes of the night (Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” and Yo La Tengo’s “Tom Courtenay,” which was rescued by the participation of Yo La Tengo itself). Just to prove that all of his choices weren’t rigged, Hodgman also brought up three audience members to play “stump the band.” It turned out that Wilco couldn’t really play two of these audience requests (Lucinda Williams’ “Atonement” and the Cranberries’ “Dream”) without learning and rehearsing them, but the band delighted much of the crowd when it succeeded at playing the third audience member’s unlikely request: Daft Punk’s current hit, “Get Lucky.”

Jeff Tweedy, Pat Sansone and James McNew of Yo La Tengo, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy, Pat Sansone and James McNew of Yo La Tengo, during the June 21 Wilco concert

The members of Wilco were clearly having a blast as they played covers of some terrific tunes, ranging from the delicate, wistful beauty of the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” to a goose-bump-raising guitar solo by Nels Cline during Television’s epic “Marquee Moon.” And Replacements guitarist Tommy Stinson made a surprise appearance when Wilco played the Mats classic “Color Me Impressed.” Stinson (who will play with the reunited Replacements — er, Westerberg and Stinson — at Riot Fest in September) had a big grin on his face the entire time, and Tweedy seemed to relish sharing the stage with him.

Jeff Tweedy and Tommy Stinson, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy and Tommy Stinson, during the June 21 Wilco concert

At a couple of points during the night, a fan or two shouted, “Play some Wilco songs!” If you had never seen Wilco before, this concert would’ve served as a rather unusual introduction to the band’s live act. But for longtime fans, this was a night to treasure, filled with delightful musical nuggets. (NYC Taper captured the whole thing on audio.)

The set list almost speaks for itself:

The Boys Are Back in Town (Thin Lizzy) 
/ Cut Your Hair (Pavement)
 / In the Street (Big Star)
 / New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo)
 / Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones)
 / Simple Twist of Fate (Bob Dylan) / Ripple (Grateful Dead)
 / Who Loves the Sun (Velvet Underground)
 / And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles)
 / And Your Bird Can Sing (repeat) / Psychotic Reaction (Count Five)
 / Tom Courtenay (Yo La Tengo)
 with Yo La Tengo / James Alley Blues (Richard Rabbit Brown)
 / Waterloo Sunset (Kinks)
 with Lucius / Waterloo (ABBA)
 with Lucius / Peace Love and Understanding (Nick Lowe)
 / Marquee Moon (Television)
 / Happy Birthday (to Pat Sansone) / Don’t Fear The Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult) / Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young) / (Stump the Band) / Get Lucky (Daft Punk)
 / Surrender (Cheap Trick)
 / Color Me Impressed (Replacements)
 with Tommy Stinson
 / Kingpin
 / Thank You Friends (Big Star)
 / ENCORE: The Weight (The Band)
 with Lucius / Roadrunner (The Modern Lovers) with Yo La Tengo

Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy, during the June 21 Wilco concert
John Stirratt, during the June 21 Wilco concert
John Stirratt, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy and Lucius, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy and Lucius, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Tommy Stinson and Jeff Tweedy, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Tommy Stinson and Jeff Tweedy, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche and Tommy Stinson, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche and Tommy Stinson, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Nels Cline, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, Jeff Tweedy and  Glenn Kotche, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, during the June 21 Wilco concert
Wilco's June 22 concert
Wilco’s June 22 concert
Pat Sansone, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Pat Sansone, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
Jeff Tweedy, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Jeff Tweedy, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
Glenn Kotche, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Glenn Kotche, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
Glenn Kotche, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Glenn Kotche, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
Jeff Tweedy, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Jeff Tweedy, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
Jeff Tweedy, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Jeff Tweedy, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
John Stirratt, during Wilco's June 22 concert
John Stirratt, during Wilco’s June 22 concert
Nels Cline, during Wilco's June 22 concert
Nels Cline, during Wilco’s June 22 concert

Read more about Solid Sound and see more photos in the rest of my report: Parts 23 and 4

Low at Saki

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Saki record store in Logan Square was packed Thursday evening (March 7) for a free performance by Low, followed by a Q&A including the band as well as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who produced the new Low album, The Invisible Way. And as if all that weren’t enough incentive to bring out a crowd, there was also free beer. This was part of the monthly “Off the Record” series of free listening parties, presented by the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and saki. “Listening parties” tend to involve a new record being played, and that happened, too — The Invisible Way, which comes out March 19, was playing in the store before the live performance.

The performance was billed as a “stripped-down” show by Low. But of course, Low has always played some pretty bare, stripped-down music. So some of trio’s live renditions probably weren’t all that much different from what the band will play when it returns to Chicago for a full concert March 22 at Metro. In any case, it was a beautiful set of serene yet passionate music, with intimate harmonies between guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker. Steve Garrington, who has normally played bass with Low since joining the band in 2008, played on the record store’s piano throughout this set. The new record features a lot of piano, too. As the group explained during the Q&A, that’s because the album has more songs than usual by Parker, who writes her songs on the piano — despite, by her admission, not really knowing how to play the instrument.

WXRT’s Marty Lennartz asked questions during the Q&A, before opening it up to the audience. Tweedy emphasized how he tried to stay out of the band’s way, producing the record with a light touch. “It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. The interview concluded with Tweedy displaying the albums that members of Low were purchasing at Saki, including (pictured below), Pat Travers’ Makin’ Magic.

Watch the trailer for The Invisible Way on YouTube.

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The Bottle Rockets with Jeff Tweedy at Schubas

JAN. 27, 2006
THE BOTTLE ROCKETS
at Schubas, Chicago

Wow… what a night. I’d only seen the Bottle Rockets once before. Saw them a few months ago at the Beat Kitchen after years of intending to see them. Both of these shows were fun rock shows by a tight band.

This one, the last in the series of Gary Schepers benefit concerts, was extra special because of an appearance by a special guest — Jeff Tweedy. Standing as I was near the stage, I couldn’t help noticing Tweedy and his wife, Sue Miller, slipping in through the side door and standing by the edge of the stage. I always feel a little weird spotting someone like that at a concert. Don’t stare. He just wants to have fun like anyone else. So I find myself watching him once in a while from the corner of my eye. He’s watching the concert and clapping between songs like any fan.

Of course, it’s no surprise when Brian Hennemann of the Bottle Rockets invites Tweedy onto the stage late in the concert. For three songs, the BoRox (as they’re known in fan shorthand) become … WilBoRox? Tweedy picks up an electric guitar and they launch into the Neil Young classic “Walk On,” with Tweedy and Hennemann trading lead vocals. Then they do two of the songs that Wilco played on “A.M.,” back when Hennemann was playing guitar with the band: “Passenger Side” and “Casino Queen.” Tweedy looks like he’s having fun.

Henneman said the gaps between his meetings with Tweedy are growing progressively shorter. First, they went, I think he said, five years without seeing each other. Then four. Now it’s been three or two. He joked that they’ll soon be together on a reality TV show, Henneman and Tweedy hanging out in an apartment and writing songs.

Earlier in the show, Henneman had told a story about touring with Uncle Tupelo and having Gary Schepers come on board as the sound man. At their first stop in Denver, Tweedy lined up sleeping quarters at some fan’s house but Schepers insisted, “I don’t sleep on any little girl’s floor,” and so they went to a Motel 6 for the first time — a life-changing event, according to Henneman.

This story came up again when Tweedy took the stage and they reminisced about eating really bad food on the road.

Henneman gave a nice little intro to “Passenger Side,” recalling himself as a kid who could barely cut it in the studio when they recorded that. Tweedy’s expression made it obvious not to take the story too seriously.

Concert performances by “special guests” are often superfluous, but this was clearly a perfect example of how well they can work. This was sort of magical Chicago music moment that I live for.

Now, you may be asking, where are the photos? Well, like an idiot, I did not bring my camera with me to this concert. I’ll never leave home without it again.

Here’s a picture by Chris Constance:

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Lucky Break
Kit Kat Clock
Alone In Bad Company
Every Kinda Everything
Get Down River
Middle Man
Mountain To Climb
Happy Anniversary
Gas Girl
Smoking 100’s Alone
I’ll Be Coming Around
$1000 Car
Gravity Fails
Indianapolis
Welfare Music
Walk On (Tweedy & Henneman on vocals)
Passenger Side (Tweedy on vocals)
Casino Queen (Tweedy on vocals)
ENCORE
Slo Tom’s (request)
Cartoon Wisdom (request)
Nancy Sinatra
Crossroads

Jeff Tweedy at the Abbey Pub

JAN. 25, 2006
at the Abbey Pub

SEE PHOTOS OF JEFF TWEEDY. 

SET LIST
The Ruling Class
Summer Teeth
(Was I) In Your Dreams
Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard
Please Tell My Brother
Blasting Fonda
Pieholden Suite
Is That The Thanks I Get? (new song, title uncertain)
Airline To Heaven
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Heavy Metal Drummer
New Madrid
ELT
Someday Soon|
ENCORE 1
A Shot In The Arm
Hoodoo Voodoo
Henry & the H Bombs
Theologians
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
I Can’t Keep From Talking
ENCORE 2
Acuff-Rose

Jeff Tweedy at the Vic

MARCH 5, 2005
Jeff Tweedy
The Vic, Chicago

Jeff Tweedy’s occasional solo concerts are one reason I feel lucky to live in Chicago. Sometimes Tweedy uses these shows to try out new songs, which end up later on albums by Wilco (or one of his other projects). Tonight’s show was all about nostalgia, though, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Resurrecting no less than five pre-Wilco songs out of the Uncle Tupelo catalogue, Tweedy seemed to be reconnecting with some moments from his past — and giving the musical equivalent of a big wet kiss to some of his most rabid fans, the ones who scream out requests for oldies like “Gun” at his solo concerts.
In addition to the five Uncle Tupelo songs, Tweedy played a couple by one of his side projects, Golden Smog; two from the Loose Fur album; and one from the Minus Five album that Wilco worked on with Scott McCaughey. He also gave a rare performance of the non-album Wilco song “Blasting Fonda” and played a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “Henry and the H Bombs.”
Few performers can command the attention of a large theater with just a voice and an acoustic guitar, and Tweedy is one of them. Two of his Wilco bandmates, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, opened in the guise of their group Autumn Defense, playing beautiful, sleepy acoustic pop, most of it from the excellent 2003 album Circles. Stirratt acted as if he were a little daunted about playing these little songs in front of such a big audience. “It’s like Schubas on steroids,” he joked, commenting on how quiet the room was.
Tweedy played several songs before saying anything to the audience, but he was talkative later on, bantering with the crowd about all of the people holding up cell phones. Tweedy momentarily blanked out on the lyrics of “(Was I) In Your Dreams” and flubbed a chord or two in “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again),” which made him seem human. He had some fun at his own expense about this. Those lapses were forgivable, of course, as Tweedy once again showed himself to be an accomplished acoustic guitarist. And his voice? It has become so familiar to me and many other listeners that it’s hard to say much new about it or to rate his vocals on a particular night. It just sounds like the voice of a friend.
Tweedy joked that it seemed like he’d played 10 or 12 Uncle Tupelo songs tonight. Noting that “Gun” was 12 years old, he shook his head and wondered where the years had gone. After a false start in a lower key, he played the song without a capo in the higher key he originally sang it in for Uncle Tupelo. When he polled the crowd afterward, most hands went up for the higher version. Tweedy lamented that it’s harder to sing that way.
With Autumn Defense as the opening act, the odds seemed good for a surprise appearance by Wilco at the end of the concert. But I’d heard no such thing happened on the previous night (I missed that concert). And after two encores and 90 minutes of music, it felt like the show was over. Tweedy played an excellent version of “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” capturing the jaunty vibe that song had in incarnations pre-dating the final studio version on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy waved to the crowd and walked off stage. Many people (myself included) got ready to leave, but then some roadies appeared.
At the sight of a Persian rug, the crowd went wild. Yes, I know that’s a cliche, but it’s one of the few times in the last year I’d say it was a true description of an audience reaction… the other being the roar of applause when Wilco took the stage at the Vic a year ago. This band certainly has some devoted fans.
Just about everyone knew what the rug meant — Glenn Kotche’s drum set was coming out. The roadies quickly set up the drums, a couple of keyboards and guitars. Beaming like a giddy child, Kotche sat down and began playing the recognizable beat of “Laminated Cat” (aka “Not For the Season”). Tweedy came back out and played the Loose Fur song. Mikael Jorgensen and Pat Sansone joined in for “The Family Gardener.” Then Stirratt came out for the remainder of the mini-Wilco concert. All that was missing was guitarist Nels Cline, and Tweedy joked about that, having Sansone call him up on his cell phone. (He got Cline’s voice mail.)
Without Cline, Wilco’s sound was a little subdued and keyboard-dominated, but it matched the mood of the evening perfectly. The performance had the loose feel of a friendly living-room jam or rehearsal. Tweedy set down his guitar for three of the songs: Randy Newman’s “Political Science” (he even did a couple of leg kicks on the lines, “Boom goes London, boom Par-ee!”), “Hummingbird” and “I Shall Be Released.” After the big-keyboard finish of “Hummingbird,” Tweedy said, “Damn you, Jim O’Rourke! You made us sound like Supertramp!”
Those looking for clues about the direction of the next Wilco album were left clueless after tonight’s show, but it was a great look back at what Tweedy and his pals have accomplished so far.

Here’s the set list:

Someone Else’s Song
Remember the Mountain Bed
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Airline to Heaven
(Was I) In Your Dreams
Wait Up
Black Eye
Radio King
Chinese Apple
Bob Dylans 49th Beard
Someday Some Morning Sometime
Blasting Fonda
Someday Soon
Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)
Summer Teeth
ELT
I Can’t Keep From Talking

Encore 1
Gun
We’ve Been Had
Candyfloss
Henry & The H-Bombs
Acuff Rose
I’m The Man Who Loves You

Encore 2
Misunderstood

Encore 3
Not For The Season (with Glenn Kotche)
The Family Gardener (with Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen and Pat Sansone)
How To Fight Loneliness (with Kotche, Jorgensen, Sansone and John Stirratt for rest of set)
John Wesley Harding
Political Science
Hummingbird
Late Greats

Encore 4
Passenger Side
California Stars
I Shall Be Released