Thoughts on Wilco (or MIA)

So, what'd you think? Were you at the [Wilco concert][1]? Or did you miss it to see [MIA][2]? Or were you in St. Louis for [Radiohead][3]? Or did you stay home and demonstrate your boringness? I was at Wilco and these are my thoughts this morning. ![][4]
(photo from LJWorld)
When I [first heard back in March][5] that there was talk of an outdoor concert in Downtown Lawrence with one of my favorite bands, Wilco, I knew it was not something I could miss. Having seen the band perform live before, it wasn't a must-see because of the music, per se. More so, I wanted to be there last night because I wanted to participate in what I hope will become a Rite of Spring for Lawrence, high-profile outdoor concerts Downtown. By showing up and actually paying for the ticket (what a concept!), I was putting my support and money behind the idea and doing what I could to make this first attempt at an outdoor show a success. Hell, I actually bought three tickets and since one friend got stressed with Finals, I ended up having an extra and gave it to a guy with no money sitting on the side walk. He was happy. I mean, he would have heard the concert regardless, but he was glad to get to go in and see things up close.While I don't think the ticket sales were what the promoters were hoping for - a Wednesday night show during Finals week is not a good idea - I think it's undeniable that [the event was a success][6] as far as everything else goes. The weather was perfect. The crowd was a nice mix old, young, families, hipsters and everyone in-between. Not surprisingly, there were no [Wilco-inspired riots][7] like the [old fogies][8] on the LJWorld forums predicted. And the band killed it. Were you there? What'd you think?For me, there were two things that did bother me a bit. First, the beer selection was dumb. Bud Select? That's all you've got for me? How can that happen when you've got a kick-ass local brewery in [Free State][9] and [Boulevard][10] just down the street in Kansas City? What is that all about? Second - and this is admittedly a dumb thing to complain about - but the piano player/guitarist on the right side was just annoying the crap out of me. Did you see this guy? He was the one in the hipster vest that had the cliche, foppish teenage model hair that had way too much swoop going on and would not stop making ridiculous faces and motions while playing guitar. I swear I saw him windmill strum the guitar at least two dozen times. I said to a buddy that while the other 5 guys in the band are just rockers in a band, he was a guy that knew he was in a rock band. By that I mean he's just too aware that he's in a badass rock band and it shows in every movement he made. He just didn't seem natural. It looked like he was trying too hard to look like a rock star. In fact, he looked exactly like I look when I try to look dumb while playing RockBand. Unfortunately, once we all became aware of his antics, we couldn't look away. I was hoping to get some video to demonstrate his douchiness, but didn't want people (or him!) to think I was a fanboy of his or something. But other than that uber-douche driving us a little crazy, the show was awesome. Afterwards, some friends and I were talking and concluded that the lot the show was in should really be made into a permanent 'amphitheater' for such purposes. It could serve as a place for outdoor performances by local and nationally-touring bands, as well as a stage for adult and children's theater put on by the Art Center or University theater. I'm no architect, but I think you could put a stone/earthen stage in the Northeast corner of that lot, where they had it last night and have tiered grass seating gently sloping up and away from the stage. You could build a retaining wall along New Hampshire from the North face of the Art Center to 9th Street and backfill it w/ dirt and sod so there would be a 6 to 10 foot difference between the view from the front and back rows. The wall would be a great spot for some more murals to help add even more color to Downtown. When concerts or plays weren't happening, this would just be a cool place to hang-out and have a coffee or read a book. I've sketched my plan and am working to get it digital so I can share it here, but I think the idea is simple enough to picture. What do you think of that? Would you support a permanent stage/venue for the community in that lot? Share your thoughts in the comments.![][11]

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Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

OJ, i think SkyBlueSky is one of the best albums i've bought in the last 2 years. but different strokes, ya know. Lazz asks:how were traffic and parking? >i worked downtown all day, so i was parked at 7am (two tickets, though, d'oh!) but i didn't see a lot of spots, but it wasn't crazy like a football game or something)Could the music be heard all over downtown? >i had a friend text from Cielto Lindo(sp?) saying it was sounding awesome there, and that's "up river" so-to-speak, so i bet the sound traveled pretty far south. How early did people start getting there?>no clue, wasn't a huge crowd and most people rolled in around 7ish, 8.Mostly curious about how the logistics worked; especially with the crossroads of 9th and NH cut off, that's sort of a difficult space to move a lot of people through in their cars and get them parked >there wasn't any organized traffic directing or parking, nor was it needed, so this wasn't an issue. At least, I don't think it was. I'd say the lower-than-expected turnout is actually a benefit for the promoters, bc it allowed them to work out some kinks and see how everything would work out w/o being slammed by huge crowds and not preppared. Something like that would have jeopardized future concerts. They kinda played 'just the tip' last night. Starting slow should help them ease into some more events like this in the future. (wtf? did i just write 'just the tip'?)

OtherJoel 9 years, 8 months ago

Why is it that when Tweedy quits smoking and drinking, he suddenly starts looking like a 60 year-old wino? Weird.I like Wilco well enough. I saw them on their first tour in a small club in Springfield, then again in 2002 in a big concert setting (with Sonic Youth). They are a very capable live band. I don't know if it's still this way, but they perfectly replicated the CD on most of the set, which kind of got boring by the end of ninety minutes or so. Contrasted with Sonic Youth, who rarely play a song the same way twice, it didn't really leave me chomping at the bit to see them again. Nor did Wilco's last two full-lengths.

Gail Grant 9 years, 8 months ago

Where was it publish? I wish we knew on the event... :-(

Marcy McGuffie 9 years, 8 months ago

I'm a bit sad that I didn't go. The hubby hates them, while I think they're a decent band. I'm not a hardcore fan though, so I didn't spring for a ticket. Regrets? A little bit! Though, the Bud woulda down right pissed me off! WHY??? My sister and her boyfriend are Wilco fanatics, though (their newest little one is named Julian Wilco). I haven't talked with her today, but she took her two oldest boys - not the namesake - to their first Wilco concert. I'm sure they had a blast!

lazz 9 years, 8 months ago

that's a GREAT idea about a permanent performance space there, Chris. I'd especially love to see Dave Loewenstein's take on it ... I know he's drawn fanciful plans for that space before ...Missed the concert (hit the Royals game; Soria is a superstar; true sports magic happening). Thought the crowd would be much bigger. Curious for some details:how were traffic and parking? Could the music be heard all over downtown? How early did people start getting there?Mostly curious about how the logistics worked; especially with the crossroads of 9th and NH cut off, that's sort of a difficult space to move a lot of people through in their cars and get them parked ...

smerdyakov 9 years, 8 months ago

OtherJ, that hardly applies to last night's show--they mixed up new and old, and none of the songs were just straight up album-style. I hate that, too. "Jesus, Etc." stood out last night--what was that, like a 10-, 15-minute version? I dunno, I had a few Bud Selects in me.lazz, logistics were not a problem at all. I parked at 7th and NH less than an hour before Wilco started (and could hear music on the walk in). Even the Pig was reasonably accessible. I was surprised to see the parking garage was open--all 3 levels were full of people watching. I assume they didn't have to pay? I heard the folks on the Arts Center balcony paid $2Gs for that access. 9th and NH wasn't really cut off--just to cars. They put the fence just to the south of 9th so the entire street was filled with foot traffic. It was a beautiful scene there. People just outside the fence had a fine view of the show.Bravo to Pipeline, the City Commish, Downtown Lawrence, and whoever else deserves thanks for making that happen. I was a beautiful day to be a Lawrencian.But holy shit if MIA wasn't the better show. DAMN. That was intense. I'd try to elaborate but it wouldn't make any sense... it was just, how you say, insane?

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

Ami, what the hell are you talking about ? :)

onceinawhile 9 years, 8 months ago

Went to M.I.A. People were on the street begging for extra tickets. It was a really great experience - tons of energy and people really into the show who dressed up and/or just had a good time by dancing all over the place - but the music was a little disappointing. The acoustics were kind of shitty and M.I.A. and her backups didn't have very great voices. BUT! I don't regret going. It was pretty fun.

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

also, cameras are getting better. more high-defamegapixelation and all that.

olmsted78 9 years, 8 months ago

tweedy always seems to look different. For a while, he reminded me of like a witch or something.......last nite, kinda the incredible hulk. nice event, would love to see more done there. thanks.

smerdyakov 9 years, 8 months ago

Nice idea Chris. I'd be up for most anything that yielded more events like last night. If something were built there, though, it should be versatile enough to accommodate all kinds of configurations -- at the very least a stage placement a la last night, and movies on the parking garage wall. I'm no Maya Lin, but just accommodating that seems like a bit of a hurdle... That and the whole city being a broke ass fool thing. BUT if you build it, they will come, no?

smerdyakov 9 years, 8 months ago

Still waiting for a Tupelo reunion myself -- that'll be their best lineup evar

OtherJoel 9 years, 8 months ago

Glad they're mixing it up. I think I saw the new version of "Jesus, etc." when they did Austin City Limits.I've heard Sky Blue Sky, and I appreciate and respect the musicianship. It's just a little too authentic in terms of 70s jamminess. Being There and YHF had kind of a weird backdrop of noise and weepy country, but they were good pop albums, and Summerteeth, while a bit overproduced, was full of great hooks. And I think Bennett, while the weaker songwriter, had a positive impact on their sound -- maybe just by being there to piss off/motivate Tweedy. And now they are more laid-back, healthier, tighter, and probably have their best lineup ever as far as strict musicianship is concerned. And they added Nels Cline -- whose non-Wilco stuff I absolutely love, oddly enough. After that they became... well... happy. Maybe it's just that I don't like happy music.

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

just added my rough sketch of my amphitheater idea, so please check it out if you didn't already see it!

alm77 9 years, 8 months ago

OJ - About Tweedy, I thought the same thing. When I saw the pic on LJW I was like "Heeeyyy, when did James Hetfield join Wilco?"

Elizabeth Sedita-Laufer 9 years, 8 months ago

I loved it. Great music, friendly crowd, and beautiful weather. The only bad thing was the lame beer and the one guy singing in my ear. This band definitely does not play a replica of the album, lots of funky additions and memorable banter. They appeared to be enjoying themselves too. I think the keyboard/guitarist was just being silly. Why does he have to pretend to be cool? He's already in WILCO for goodness sakes!

lori 9 years, 8 months ago

It was great, the fam loved it. My kid LOVED the keyboardist/guitarist. She thought he was the most entertaining aspect of the show; he looked like he was having at least as much fun as the rest of us were.I'm sorry I'm a beer snob--but how about the fact that within a 50 mile radius we've got a couple of great breweries; why can't we have some of those as options in a downtown concert? There was ONE beer option--Bud Select. That's it. I'm sorry it seems elitist, but if I'm paying $30 per person to get in, then five bucks or more for a cup of beer, I'd like a few options, and maybe something that doesn't smell, look, and probably taste like old man pee.I'm all for a permanent stage there. It was so much fun (even without a beer or three). I'd love to see more acts there in the future; both big headliners as well as local groups.Anyone feel that Tweedy was channelling Van Morrison at times? Very cool.

DOTDOT 9 years, 8 months ago

Hey!!! What's wrong with old man pee?

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

Hey KentuckyChrome, Thanks for chiming in. You are correct that Pat is no Mick Jagger. But it sure seems like he tried to act like him. Like I originally said, it is/was an admittedly a dumb thing to complain about, but if you can't bitch on a blog, where can you, ya know? :) I'll state the obvious for the record: He's a badass guitarist. The duel was awesome (and i think i have a great video clip of it, but haven't looked at them all yet.) I love the band and had an amazing time. I just had to share my two minor annoyances, because I hate Bud Select and i'd heard from some other people that noticed Pat's antics and thought it would be worth including to see if others agreed/disagreed. (mission accomplished). Some people love that stuff, so I'm not saying it's something he shouldn't do. It's just not for me. My mom would get a real kick out of it, for example. She attends pageants and teaches dance, so she's all into that showy stuff. I think she has that same vest too, but in a different color.btw, you wrote "You stick to blogging, he'll stick to rocking, and the world will be much better for all of the above."Did someone sign me up for America's Next Top Guitar Douche or am I missing something? Oh, nope, that didn't happen. I'm still just writing a blog and he's rocking it in a new city, so the world must still be pretty bettererer, afterall.

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

rammy, you made an account just to leave that comment? was it worth it? Does thinking it's dumb to contract w/ a beer company from MISSOURI rather than a Lawrence-based brewery make me a beer snob?

smerdyakov 9 years, 8 months ago

I think homie just stopped using stage make-up. I say high marks for coming to terms with the whole aging thing.

maclothier 9 years, 8 months ago

And for those who are curious...WalkenHummingbirdA Shot in the ArmAt Least That's What You SaidYou Are My FacePot Kettle BlackImpossible GermanyShe's A JarSay You Miss Me Handshake DrugsWar on WarVia ChicagoJesus, etc.Too Far ApartTheologiansI'm The Man Who Loves YouKingpinI'm A Wheel----------------------------MisunderstoodPassenger SideCalifornia StarsHate It HereHeavy Metal DrummerThe Late GreatsRed-Eyed and Blue>I Got You (At The End of the Century)>Hoodoo Voodoo

Jill Ensley 9 years, 8 months ago

You leaves that field alone, ya hear! There are plansssss.

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

maclothier, great description of the night! the friend's backyard thing really is how it felt. so fun.

jonathanholley 9 years, 8 months ago

A friend who couldn't get M.I.A. tickets asked me about the show, so for those who're interested, here's a partial summary:The crowd was probably the liveliest I've ever seen at Liberty, and one of the youngest. Lots of 19 year olds dressed like like pre-apocalyptic Saved By the Bell the Electro-Afro-Disco Years flailing around, singing along, having their Best Time Ever. The next day, the few like-aged friends and co-workers I know who went all remarked the same: the concert made me feel my age. Most days thirty feels pretty young, but not when M.I.A.'s around. The show began with a faux-documentary clip of a foreign politician advocating revolution of his unnamed and hopelessly corrupt country. All the kids in the crowd cheered, and from what I could intuit they were identifying the video fiction's anger and contempt for his country with their own projected anger and contempt with the United States. We cheered for the revolution! M.I.A.'s politics are abstract and blurry, but for some reason the suggestion of meaningful content makes her all the more appealing and danceable. A wave of nausea began to creep over me as I watched the crowd's reaction to the packaged pseudo-revolutionary imagery, but then the music started! We danced for the revolution! We went home early! Or to the after party! We forgot to plot the revolution! Three large projection screens were set up behind the performance floor, so the whole stage had a video backdrop. The video accompaniment was probably the real star of the show. Every song had (nearly) synchronized video to go along with it. Like the super-pixelations of her web site and her videos on methamphetamine, but 1000 times larger. M.I.A. wasn't a particularly strong live vocalist, and her vocals were mixed pretty low compared to the music. I'm not sure why, since the vocals on her albums aren't that strong, but I was irrationally expecting to to have a stronger stage presence despite her quiet voice. Karen-O, Mick Jagger, she is not. That said, she was usually competing with four or five After Effects-enhanced versions of herself, each 150% larger, in brighter colors, spinning around like a firecracker or riding a computer generated bus, often holding a pixelated AK-47 or guitar. M.I.A. danced about, stood on speakers and hammed it up for the crowd's video-capturing camera phones, but at times she chose not even to compete with the Super Party Production of the show itself. At one point called up the ladies from the crowd, and probably 50 scrambled onto the stage. The next song (was it "Boys"? My memory's failing...) she demanded the girls call up the boys, and a dozen or so of the most flamboyant joined the ladies on the Liberty Stage. M.I.A. knows how to throw a party.

Teddyfreedom 9 years, 8 months ago

I am a huge Wilco fan, so you can temper my opinion accordingly. It is the end of their tour, so they weren't pushing the material on the new album. Thats a plus. It was a "Being There" night with at least four or five tracks from ten + year old album. I thought their version of "California Stars" was a little heavy and ramshackle.I wonder when they started performing "Pot Kettle Black" with the new bass line. The album version was one of the lessor tracks on YHF, but the new version rocks. I also enjoyed "I'm a Wheel", I have been to three prior Wilco concerts (including Wakarusa) and never heard the song played.After seeing The Police the night before, it was refreshing to watch a benevolent (sp) dictator (Tweedy) make fun of himself, his band, paying audience, and non paying audience. That Sting dude is one intense band leader. His dirty looks to Andy Summers, made me sweat and I was in the cheap seats.

alm77 9 years, 8 months ago

We stayed home and had company. My three year old was snotty and running a low grade fever all week, so besides from being tired parents, we didn't think it'd be good for him. Glad to hear it went well!

maclothier 9 years, 8 months ago

I had a great experience with Wilco yesterday...Got downtown about 4pm and heard the strange sounds of a band playing and realized SOUND CHECK! Broke into a light jog to hear the end of "Say You Miss Me" (played later that night) and "Thanks I Get," one of my new favorite Wilco tunes. Grabbed a burrito and a Pacifico at Chipotle, and then bounced around bars in the area - hitting the Pig, Cielito Lindo, then the Sandbar. My wife and friends met me around 6, and they had no problems parking. The atmosphere downtown, with the weather and the various concerts, was very nice. Stopped by Pepperjax to grab some 99 cent bottles before going into the show around 7:30. The line took almost no time to get through, and it was a short trip to the beer tent and then to the right front of the stage. Wilco were in fine form, with multiple selections from every album. Cline is a 21st century guitar god, and my non-Wilco fan friends thought the band was very good - and they were impressed by the piano player/guitarist on the right and the amount of different things he did, and his goofy "rock star" moves. I think Tweedy can sometimes be a bit heavy with his dry humor, so it's nice to see the drummer (Glenn Kotche) and the "douche" (Pat Sansone) bring an air of irreverence to the proceedings. Lizziemarie - apologies, that was probably me singing badly in your ear. All in all, a glorious Lawrence evening for me, topped off with a beer at Louise's Downtown. As I read somewhere else, "[I]t just seemed like we were seeing the world's coolest band in a friend's back yard." It really did feel that way!

OtherJoel 9 years, 8 months ago

A couple of treats for those who just learned about Nels when he joined Wilco:When he was touring with Watt -- I got to see them on this tour (not this gig, though) with about 10 other people in the same small Springfield club where I saw Wilco. And Watt was the coolest guy ever, even though they probably made $20 that night: Watt stuff ft. Cline -- can't wait 'til this one comes out:! Wilco:

olmsted78 9 years, 8 months ago

...and when i say witch, i of course mean the best, over-served, haggard, having too much fun like a wise ass kid kinda witch...the kind with the poetry potion, i suppose....if there was one. it'd be Jeff Tweedy. ...In other news... Nels Cline melts helpless spectators like butter! oh, the humanity! oh, the grace!You're killing us over here man!

Chris Tackett 9 years, 8 months ago

"We danced for the revolution! We went home early! Or to the after party! We forgot to plot the revolution! "ha, i'm actually lol'ing. :) wish i could've been there. and nice description on the attire of a lot of the attendees. i think you nailed it.

kentuckychrome 9 years, 8 months ago

Really? All of that harping over Pat Sansone's mugging, foppy hair, and fairly stylish dress, especially after so many other amazing moments in the show? Did you somehow miss the absolutely mind-bending guitar duel between he (Pat Sansone is the "uber-douche", since your Google is apparently broken) and Nels Cline on "Hoodoo Voodoo"? That shit was priceless.Maybe you've never seen/heard of this band called "The Rolling Stones", but Pat's giddy mugging/rock star moves pale in comparison to this Mick Jagger character. F'real, he's having fun up there, so lighten up and let the man enjoy himself and not be a goddamn morose stick in the mud. You stick to blogging, he'll stick to rocking, and the world will be much better for all of the above. That said, I totally agree on the beer least get a decent thing going on like Wakarusa and New Belgium? I was really hoping to have an Ad Astra under the stars w/ Wilco, and wasn't about to get ridiculous with a Mojito in a bottle.I also don't know that there is a need to make that space a permanent amphitheatre (I'm sure the people that live right behind it would be really jazzed about that), but it is a cool open public space to occasionally transform into a venue. I thought the show was incredibly mellow, well planned (aside from food and drink options), just well-enough attended (hopefully enough for everyone to recoup), and once the sun went down, pretty effin' perfect.

binkers 9 years, 8 months ago

those who can't create criticize. why waste your breath on the band member who annoyed you? weak.

lindzow 9 years, 8 months ago

on the subject of M.I.A.'s stage presence......i have to disagree with you jonathan. part of M.I.A.'s appeal is in the subtlety of her dance moves. well, some of them at least. butt-humping the speakers was genius, just for the fact that at that point, there was no longer anything left that waving your arms and shimmying your shoulders could express. on another the girl who pushed me, why'd you waste twenty five bucks on an M.I.A. concert when you could have bought the new E=MC^2 album AND Hard Candy?and to the man who, after i nudged, fell down the steps, kudos! you don't remember but you were still holding that beer!

jonathanholley 9 years, 7 months ago

Correction to my previous comment that, "the show began with a faux-documentary clip of a foreign politician..." I was wrong: it was a legitimate speech by a dissident activist Kouichi Touyama.The country I thought unnamed was Japan, though I can't recall if the version MIA showed at Liberty Hall included the introductory text that prefaces the the clip at:

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