August 28, 2011

A Wilco birthday.

I got one of the best birthday presents ever the other night, when I dug through some packing peanuts to pull out the 7″ clear, first-pressing vinyl single of the new Wilco song “I Might” b/w a cover of Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label,” in a special Solid Sound Festival edition. My dear friend Dainon, who covered the fest for me, sent it on over. “I Might” is muscular and crunchy pop, like no one does quite as well as Wilco. Since we can’t all gather ’round my record player (boo), I wanted to make sure you’d heard the sweet melody of the b-side especially — a charming way to honor the founding of the new Wilco label, dBpm Records.

I Love My Label (Nick Lowe cover) – Wilco

The new Wilco album The Whole Love comes out in one month (9/27), and you can listen to a rad assemblage of preview tracks over at The Wounded Jukebox. Cannot wait.

[Wilco photo by Zoran Orlic]

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June 29, 2011

distance has no way of making love understandable

A few days after I got back from my own soul-refreshing weekend in the stunning musical hamlet of Telluride, my good friend and music buddy Dainon took off from Florida for the Solid Sound Festival in western Massachusetts, curated by our beloved Wilco. This is a festival I have wanted to go to since I heard of its inception last year, but the timing is never quite right.

So when Dainon wrote out this lovely reflection for me about the festival, I decided I had to post them up as a guest review for the weekend-that-wasn’t for me. It’s almost as good as being there. Enjoy.

PS – damn my friends can write purdy!

How Wilco saved the music festival.

by guest contributor Dainon Moody

At some point last year, I took it upon myself to swear off music festivals. The reason? I got old. My back hurt too much and they were way too long and camping in a hailstorm sure sucked on toast. I would no longer dedicate chunks of my calendar and paycheck and the soft parts of my feet to proving my worth as a music listener. I’d had enough! Festivals were the blockbuster films of the music industry and all I wanted was more dialogue, less in-my-face effects and a quality story.

And then Doe Bay sold me with a single recap video. And then I learned I could take a water taxi from the airport to the Newport Folk Festival for a whole 10 hard-earned dollars and have Gillian Welch offer up some lullabies. And then Wilco went and reinvented how a few days of music and celebration ought to happen, simply because they’ve reached the point in their career that they could and can. They built it last year and the Wilco fanatics came in droves. They did it again this year, it poured down big buckets of rain the entire time and the Wilco fanatics smiled Cheshire grins, bought $2 garbage bag ponchos, sang along and danced in the mud puddles.

So, what I’m saying is, logic came into play. Viewing myself as one of those highly sensible sorts, it made sense, in the absence of the band having a new album out (three months!), to go see them perform a couple times in as many days on their own terms, along with a handful of their more musically-inclined friends. It made sense for them to finally have their own label and that they’d chosen an art museum to play in and that they did so in the quiet picturesque Mayberry of a town of North Adams, MA. Why not, right?

So I did it. And it was just a pleasure to see Jeff Tweedy give us a couple of the best shows I’ve been a witness to. Most tender “Reservations” ever heard. Loudest “Misunderstood” ever displayed. And, in what may be one of my favorite Wilco moments ever, having the microphone give out just before the end of “Radio Cure” on account of a thunder clap, causing all the thousands of wet attendees there to scream out the ending when Tweedy’s couldn’t be heard, no prompting whatsoever —“Distance has no way of making love understandable!” — it made for a long, beautiful moment. It even caused him to respond with, “You know, maybe that ought to happen more often.”

Also, can I just say that there are few more satisfying things in live music (and especially while taking in the many varied sounds that make up the collective that Wilco is) than experiencing Nels Cline making his guitar speak? Some songs in the catalog exist simply as bookends to his guitar solo; the singing, the drumming, the lights are simply there to house his shaking and squeezing the right sounds out of it.

When there wasn’t music, there was art (live silkscreening, installations throughout the MASS MoCA, The Impossible Project wandering around), where there wasn’t art, there was really good food (vegetarians openly rejoiced) and, when there wasn’t any of that, there was a grizzled old volunteer of a band follower to tell you exactly when he first saw Wilco and details for that and the seven shows to follow that glorious moment in time.

Of course, there were other bands, too. There was Philadelphia’s Purling Hiss (where three Wilco members were quickly spotted in the crowd), Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion stomp-clapping and singing and playing acoustically on a raised wooden indoor stage, the brand of happiness preaching that is JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Liam Finn with dual thundering drums (Glenn Kotche helping out on a second), Jamie Lidell offering up his wry humor with his rendition of “Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water” making its way round the raindrops and The Handsome Family plunking their way through engaging tunes of suicide, drinking too much wine on Christmas and lovelorn puddles (yes, really).

There was more, too. There was “California Stars” playing at the ticket booth. There were kids flying homemade kites up and down hills, bits of cotton floating through the air like lazy snowflakes. There were clouds so close and surrounding the area that it felt like we may as well be resting atop a big, cushy pile of them. Do I digress? Yes. And purposefully so.

In essence, what Jeff Tweedy and his cohorts did was not just play the pied pipers to see who would gather around their feet, but they reinvented the festival as we’ve come to know it. They took the parts that they didn’t much care for and improved on them, offering sandpaper for the roughest edges. This wasn’t so much a rock concert as it was a carefully created community, one that lasted a few glorious days long.

If I were the demanding sort, I’d want the band to know that, having booked a flight (a solo flight, no less) to Albany, renting a car and driving the couple hours to North Adams, sleeping in the car in a forest after the downpour didn’t allow me to camp any other way for two nights and then braving lightning and a damaged camera while watching them, well, I’d want them to acknowledge that I’d earned some new stripes as a fan. That I deserved some kind of stars-next-to-my-damn-name recognition, be it a nod from the stage or whatever. But I’m not much the demanding sort. And there are so many others that’d done pretty much the same.

I came, I filled myself up with the goodness of their creation and left a happier, more fulfilled fan of their music and the way they chose to present it to the collected masses and, in effect, the rest of the world. And, as long as other festivals follow suit, I’ll continue to change my misguided ways, promise. I just hope this bit of an extended Thank You card suffices. Wilco, you did good.

Handsome Family

Purling Hiss

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January 15, 2011

Jeff Tweedy at the Boulder Theater last weekend

tweedy boulder

Last weekend Jeff Tweedy played the 75th anniversary party of our lovely old art-deco Boulder Theater. I was sadly not in attendance, but now I can listen to the gem-packed setlist thanks to an awesome taper, and so can you.

The varied setlist is packed with all kinds of fantastic audience participation (the “oooh, ahhhhh“s of Summer Teeth, likewise on Heavy Metal Drummer) and Jeff’s fantastic banter. I think Tweedy is one of the funniest stage banterers in existence; I would enjoy a spliced-together recording of just him talking to the audience.

In addition to the Woody Guthrie cover (Mermaid Avenue, anyone?), his version of “Fake Plastic Trees” still kills me, the way his voice cracks on the lyrics “if I could be who you wanted…” Also, the simple opening chord progression of “She’s A Jar” always completely makes me smile, even in this stripped version — just a guitar and that homesick-sweet harmonica.

I commented once on how Wilco fans are really unlike any other fans I think I’ve ever known. I get almost as much pleasure on this recording through listening to the crowd recognize the songs literally from the first half second and starting to cheer their appreciation as I do from the songs themselves. This sure is a feel-good show for a feel-good weekend like this one.

tweedy boulder 2

JANUARY 8, 2011

Sunken Treasure
Remember the Mountain Bed
(Woody Guthrie)
Wait Up
How To Fight Loneliness
I’ll Fight
Someday, Some Morning, Sometime
(Woody Guthrie)
Not for the Season
You and I
She’s A Jar
Either Way
Summer Teeth
I Must Be High
Radio King
Forget The Flowers
Passenger Side

Red Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
Heavy Metal Drummer
Fake Plastic Trees
Dreamer in my Dreams


May 5, 2010

I know I’ll make it back / one of these days :: Wilco vinyl contest


On most days, my favorite Wilco album is Summerteeth (maybe on most warm days like today, or perhaps it would always be my favorite if I lived in California full time).

So today I am pleased to have a new contest to giveaway the 180-gram double disc gatefold vinyl of Summerteeth. The vinyl-loving folks over at Because Sound Matters let me pick something from their cool stock on vinyl to give away to you guys (not the Neil Young retrospective!), and with summer just around the corner, this one felt right.

shows_ive_seenTO WIN: Let’s talk about your favorite Wilco _______ (seemingly nonsensical but somehow profound song lyric, live concert moment, etc). You pick what to write about, and the responses will be enjoyable for me to read in these coming days of travel and services. I’ll pick a winner when I get home on Sunday night.

Me? Probably “Via Chicago” when I first saw it live in Denver and it wrenched at my insides when the song broke apart all dissonant. Still one of my favorite shows, and favorite things I’ve written about a show. It blew the veneer off my insides.

Via Chicago (live in Denver 9/1/07) – Wilco

But the wind blew me back via Chicago, in the middle of the night
And not without fight at the crush of veils and starlight

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April 7, 2010

Jeff Buckley’s music + Shakespeare this summer?


A new theatrical adaptation that combines Jeff Buckley‘s music with Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet will premiere this summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, August 5-20. Under the direction of Michael Kimmel, with music direction and orchestration by Kris Kukul, The Last Goodbye weaves a dozen of Jeff’s songs into the ill-fated love story we all know so well.

Stage readings of its early incarnation sold out in New York last year. Now that the adaptation is completely fleshed out and ready to hit the stage, I’ll admit an intense curiosity to see his songs yearn and take flight inside this story, live on a stage in the open air once again — but it seems a daunting undertaking. Certainly, you can clearly see the story arc that this fits into – “Lover, You Should Have Come Over” during the pining, “Last Goodbye” in the tragic final moments, even “Everybody Here Wants You” or “Forget Her,” all seem almost tailor-made for a story like Will Shakespeare’s. But…it’s Jeff, and that still holds a sacrosanct place in my musical heart.

I am reassured by fans who saw the readings last year at Joe’s Pub; the Music Slut wrote of a fear that the tunes would be butchered, but “the ninety minute show was stunning from start to finish. In fact, I’m still reeling from it, twelve hours later.” “My mind is blown,” wrote another Jeff fan. So yeah — this could be magical. I’d at least give it a shot, in the August twilight in the Berkshires.

One of my favorite quotes of Jeff’s, and one that makes me curious to see how his songs will tell secrets in this adaptation, is where he says:

Music comes from a very primal, twisted place. When a person sings, their body, their mouth, their eyes, their words, their voice says all these unspeakable things that you really can’t explain but that mean something anyway. People are completely transformed when they sing; people look like that when they sing or when they make love. But it’s a weird thing–at the end of the night I feel strange, because I feel I’ve told everybody all my secrets.”

The Last Goodbye runs August 5-20.

Lover, You Should Have Come Over (acoustic) – Jeff Buckley [from the Eternal Life single]

And, oh: Wilco also is curating and headlining the new Solid Sound Festival down the road during the same chunk of August: Friday the 13th – Sunday the 15th, in North Adams, Mass. It’ll be Wilco’s only East Coast summer tour dates, and the Buckley show may soon head off to Broadway, never again to hit such intimate spaces. Summer vacation? My birthday on the 19th? YES, please.

[photo credit Merri Cyr]

March 29, 2010

melt on the blue breath of the auctioneers

Released today from the fine folks at La Blogotheque; just exactly what my Monday needed.

Country Disappeared (La Blogotheque) – Wilco

Wilco – Country Disappeared – A Take Away Show

June 15, 2009

I want to hold you in the bible-black predawn

I saw modern Chicago soul group JC Brooks And The Uptown Sound at the Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul Revue in April, and these young guys added a fiery verve of new sound amongst the vanguards and legends performing that night. I thought they had immense charisma live.

The Chicago Tribune recently called these guys “the real deal,” and the band says by means of self-description: “For us, it’s a little like, ‘What would it sound like if Otis Redding fronted the Stooges?‘”

A friend sent me this incredible cover from a few weeks ago at the Do Division Street Fest in Chicago, where the Uptown Sound played the mainstage alongside acts like Viva Voce, Handsome Furs, and White Rabbits.

All infused with shiny horns and a groove where I never thought I’d hear one, this song makes a freaking fantastic barnburning soul tune.


May 24, 2009

Jay Bennett gone too soon

Jay Bennett died early this morning. As Jeff Tweedy once said, “We put an ad in the paper for a guitar player, and he’s the only person that answered.”

I’m really glad he did.

Via Chicago (live) – Jeff Tweedy & Jay Bennett
I’m Always In Love – Jeff Tweedy & Jay Bennett
(both tracks live & absolutely gorgeous from the Old Town School of Folk Music Fest, 7/25/99)

Reservations – Wilco

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February 20, 2009

Can you haw without hemming?


Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco), always the affable frontman, poses this question for thought. Haw without hemming? Never looked at it that way, Jeff. This is a great solo show taped by The Flat Response at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colorado in August of 2006.

Was I (In Your Dreams) – Jeff Tweedy

[get or listen to the whole set here]

And then, since I was buying a plane ticket today to Chicago (beginning of April!), I clearly had to have suitable listening. This is by far the prettiest ‘lil version of “Via Chicago” that I have ever heard, from a Jeff Tweedy/Jay Bennett show at the Old Town School of Folk Music Festival on July 25, 1999.

Via Chicago – Jeff Tweedy & Jay Bennett

[whole show here]

And finally, since you mentioned it, how rad does this film look?

…Okay kids, I have a friend in town this weekend so I am pleasantly disconnected til Sunday, off to play tourist in my own backyard? Sunshine feels good!

[top photo credit]

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November 1, 2008

Joffrey Velvet


(The Socialist free song referenced in the interview is –hooray!!– a great version of that stunning duet of “I Shall Be Released” they were performing back in August in Oregon with the Fleet Foxes — I’ve only listened to the crappy YouTube-ripped version about twelve dozen times)

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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