Late to the Game: Wilco/Jeff Tweedy

Wilco has been a band that has been hanging out in my periphery for many, many years. I remember seeing them on 120 Minutes occasionally, and enjoying their singles. But back then, if you wanted to check out a band, you had to take a leap of faith and buy the entire album. I didn't have the money to do that most of the time, and I had probably used up all of the names in my household for various Columbia House signups. So I never checked them out, beyond 120 Minutes. But they've always hung around, in one way or another.

I had a friend, Tony, who loved Wilco. His two favorite bands of all time were Wilco and Guided By Voices. To this day, I still associate both bands with Tony. He was with me the first time I saw The Hold Steady, which I've always viewed as good luck. Tony was always one of those guys who was so passionate about what music he loved, so I trusted his judgment.

I met Kurt in 2014, and he's a huge Wilco fan. One of the first Instagram posts I saw of his was a shot of the new Tweedy record. He had just gone to see Wilco in Akron the night before our first date. He had an extra ticket, but he said it'd be weird to bring some girl he had met on Tinder to the show with him and his brother, and I agreed. Our first date went well, and we went on to get married in 2016. We walked up the aisle to "I Got You (at the end of the Century)". I still hadn't seen them live, but slowly, with each listen to their albums with Kurt explaining why he liked a certain track, they started to grow on me. And I mean, I got him, and he's all I need.

I knew I had to (at the very least) really like Jeff Tweedy. He had been on Parks and Rec, one of my favorite shows of all time. Nick Offerman is in love with him. Interviews I had read with Tweedy were always good. But for me to even consider whether I like a band, I need to see them live. Their shows had been mostly cost prohibitive for us; they came through town I believe twice while we were planning the wedding, and we didn't have the $100+ to pick up two tickets.

A friend of Kurt's posted that she had tickets for their show at Stage AE back in June. We live just under two hours from Pittsburgh, and since nobody comes to Cleveland anymore, we go to a lot of shows there. He told her that we'd take the tickets, and we took a trip to Pittsbugh. Our friend Vern was up front, so we went up there and hung out. I was a little stoned, and had been out of work for a few weeks, so I was starting to finally relax and feel like myself again.

And holy fuck, Wilco is so good live. Jeff Tweedy's voice is as smooth as it is sad and strange. And he has a lot of stage presence, which I wasn't expecting for some reason. And man, he writes some beautiful, sad lyrics. I was really struck by Sunken Treasure, where he says "music is my savior/ i was maimed by rock and roll/ i was tamed by rock and roll/ i got my name from rock and roll".

I loved that although I am not a seasoned fan, the setlist was really accessible, and the overall mood/vibe of the show was good. The songs flowed well, and Tweedy kept the audience in the palm of his hand the entire time.

Setlist (via

Ashes of American Flags
Normal American Kids
If I Ever Was a Child
Cry All Day
Company in My Back
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Art of Almost
Pickled Ginger 

Sunken Treasure
Someone to Lose
I'm Always in Love
Via Chicago
Impossible Germany
Jesus, Etc.
Box Full of Letters
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm the Man Who Loves You
The Late Greats

Encore 1:
Random Name Generator
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
I'm a Wheel

Encore 2:
Outtasite (Outta Mind) 

Since that show, I have been slowly digging my way into their catalog, listening to everything, paying attention to the lyrics. Of course, I'm sold. But I also am glad that I waited to get into Wilco. I feel like 20 year old me wouldn't appreciate them like 40 year old me does. I was in Chicago the week after that Stage AE show seeing The Hold Steady, and I totally went to the building on the cover of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and took a photo in front of it.