Moving to Chicago from Atlanta over 20 years ago, there were a few certain things I learned quickly about the city. Italian Beef, Cubs or Sox and Wilco.
I can honestly admit I didn’t subscribe to all of those suggestions, but I was definitely drawn to Wilco like a moth to a flame. I'm sure it helped the timing of my move, as I arrived into town shortly after the band released their fourth record, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I remember at the time you could mosey down to the Virgin Records store on Michigan Avenue and check out the new releases at listening stations.
I was already in a phase of discovering different bands outside what I had been used to, and they definitely piqued my interest and easily became one of those albums I could sing along with off key when headed to class in my ears. I remember moving in with roommates a couple years later and she had the previous three albums; it's wild to think at the time, unless you bought the physical copy of a band’s music, it wasn’t really accessible. Either way, I felt that sensation all over again of rediscovering them but adding onto the catalog of songs from the band I played on repeat. Oddly enough, I would not get a chance to catch the hometown band performing live until many of years and albums later in 2011 out at the Gorge Amphitheater at the festival Sasquatch (RIP).
At the time, the band was amping up for their upcoming release and now eighth album, The Whole Love. So much life had occurred for me as well as for the band since first finding them and this was a chance not to only get to see them live but capture through my lens in the pit. What I'm coming to accept about myself and my relationship with the band’s music is similar to two great friends who grew up together and find our own paths and at times re-intersect and an overall appreciation of what's been created during that lost time.
My personal experience with their music is almost like trading war stories and battle scars; we obviously have them and their records are this longstanding journal of my trek along the way. So I was beyond psyched when their current tour was announced which included a three-night stand with no repeats on set lists in Chicago. I have since Saturday’s show cozied myself into playlists from all three nights of songs. The evening was kicked off by a solid set from the young local band, Horsegirl, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was excited to see since their debut release, Versions of Modern Performance last Summer on Rough Trade.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was the realization of how tall the average Wilco fan seems to be, thinking it would be alright in a spot near the sound booth turned out to be behind countless six foot plus fans. Given the certain intimacy the Riviera Theater provides while still being able to pack in a decent crowd and better sound than the neighboring venue The Aragon, I was able to look past the lack of sightline I had throughout the set. I'm sure there are many debates taking place on Reddit and Dads groups on Facebook about who had the superior evening’s set list; like most things at this point in my life, I was pretty grateful for what they played that evening.
It does intrigue me to wonder how the song selections were made per night and the sentimental value they played for the band or if in some way Jeff Tweedy threw the catalog of the band’s 12 albums worth of songs into a "Random Name Generator" (a song which they played for us) to make the decision for them. An added bonus was the actor Chris Kattan utilized the evening’s show along with the radio friendly track “I’m the Man Who Loves You” as a prompt to propose to his girlfriend, Maria Libri. (As mentioned before though, none of that spectacle could actually be seen through the wall of Wilco fans; had Jeff not mentioned Kattan by name, we wouldn’t had really known.)
My takeaway from the evening was just getting a chance to get lost in the light show and the jamming out familiar songs and favorites. I admittedly take Wilco for granted, always feeling like I pick up with their music where I've left off in the past and am able to groove along with newer tracks I hadn’t gotten to know yet. You see it in movies all the time, where two estranged friends wind up crossing paths later on in their respected lives and finding a deeper connection with each other that hadn’t developed yet or wasn't able to be truly appreciated when they were younger. That's the sentiment I'm feeling today with Wilco’s music and am really enjoying it.
Far, Far Away
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
War on War
If I Ever Was a Child
All Across the World
Bull Black Nova
Too Far Apart
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Random Name Generator
Airline to Heaven
Box Full of Letters
Falling Apart (Right Now)
Via Chicago (with “Many Worlds” coda)
Can’t Stand It
You Never Know
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
I’m a Wheel