Be a Part of It
"For a rock show, you're gonna kinda try to get yourself pumped up and stuff. For this kind of show, you drink a nice, warm glass of milk and put your slippers on." So says Wilco's Jeff Tweedy in his new solo DVD, Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest, a collection of live solo clips and rainy road footage from early 2006.
Since forming Wilco in 1994, Tweedy has played only about 100 solo shows, most of them in or near his home base of Chicago. But as bootlegs of these shows began to circulate in the late '90s, more and more fans clamored for the chance to see Tweedy in a solo setting, prompting occasional, short solo jaunts through the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
This week he'll hit Texas and the Southeast for the first time in his solo incarnation. For those of you lucky enough to get in (the Dallas show is sold out), here are some things to remember.
1. Don't yell out anything you might regret hearing on a bootleg someday.
Tapers will undoubtedly be present, and you don't want to be the guy remembered for screaming, "Hey Jeff, I saw you at Trees in '97!"
2. Don't talk through the whole damn show.
In a clip from a Portland show featured in Sunken Treasure, Tweedy calls out several fans for excessive talking, pausing to give them a lesson in Rock Concert 101. "It's really, really cool if everybody was really quiet for just one second," he says. "You feel yourself being in a room full of people, with all their hearts beating, and all of their thoughts and feelings...and you're a part of it...I'm not just being some pissy artist. It's what you do when you go to a concert—you be a part of it."
Tweedy's solo shows are exquisitely quiet affairs, with the singer running through a cross-section of his impressively deep catalog—popular and lesser-known Wilco and Uncle Tupelo numbers, as well as songs from side projects such as Loose Fur and Golden Smog—all of them stripped to the bare essentials, with Tweedy's impressive acoustic guitar playing, Dylanesque harmonica and endearingly cracked vocals coming to the fore. To say it's powerful to hear a group of fans join a solo Tweedy in singing "California Stars" or "New Madrid" is an understatement. As Mr. Tweedy puts it, "There's a collective experience happening at a rock concert that I've always assumed would probably be what church should be like if church was what it should be." You wouldn't talk in church now, would you?
3. Make smart requests.
Some of us have been waiting years for this and would rather hear something besides "Heavy Metal Drummer" for once.
4. Have fun being a "part of it."
It's not everyday the lead singer of America's best rock band plays a solo show next door to Snuffer's.
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