Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Promised Wilco Post

I live in my own little world. I am constantly being reminded of this fact, as well as the fact that I’d do well to come out of it every so often. But then I’ll make the effort, get to the gates, contemplate letting the draw bridge down over the moat, and think, “nah, too much trouble,” climbing back up the tower stairs, refusing to believe not everyone lives here with me. Not for the first time, due to my tendency to expect everyone to be living in Emily World, I find myself needing to apologize to someone for thoughts I’ve had. This time, that person would be my dear friend Danny.

You see, Danny is Jeff Tweedy’s brother-in-law. Yes, I just said he’s related to Jeff Tweedy. Thus, I am one degree of separation from Jeff Tweedy. All you Wilco fans out there can claim this, too, if you start reading Danny’s blog. To tell you the truth, I’m actually more thrilled to know that Danny’s sister, who is married to Jeff Tweedy, occasionally reads my blog, because I’d rather be one degree of separation from her. Knowing Danny, I’m sure I would adore his sister. (As a matter of fact, I think we need to have an extended Miller-Michie family meet up in Chicago sometime, since my siblings read Danny’s blog). Anyway, being a kind brother-in-law, Danny does quite a lot to promote Wilco on his blog. More than once (although I eagerly read these blog posts, always interested in an “inside scoop”), I’ve found myself thinking, “But you don’t need to promote Wilco. Everyone knows Wilco! They’re fantastic. They’ve won Grammies. It’s like promoting The Rolling Stones.”

How wrong I’ve been all this time. You see, it seems, not everyone does know Wilco. So, I’m going to join Danny and promote them here, today. If you don’t own any Wilco CDs, come join me in my castle, and I’ll play them for you.

How did I suddenly discover not everyone knows Wilco? It all started with one of Danny’s blog posts, about how he was going to see Wilco with Neil Young at a benefit concert out in California. I, ignoring the Neil Young part, immediately thought, “Wilco’s touring? Let’s see if they’re coming to New York.” I never dreamed they might be coming to Philadelphia. I checked their web site and discovered not only were they coming to New York, but they were also coming to Philadelphia, and that Neil Young just happened to be coming along with them.

I’ve always loved Neil Young. Bob, on the other hand, has always wanted to be Neil Young. I think he’s got every Neil Young album ever made in duplicate (his old vinyl records plus CDs). He doesn’t understand why I don’t want a shrine to Neil Young in the middle of our living room, nor why, when we go on 12-hour-long journeys in the car, I don’t want them to be “All Neil Young, All the Time.” He also loves Wilco. His birthday was right around the corner, and the perfect birthday gift seemed to me to be a ticket to see the two in Philadelphia (I was right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bob so excited over a gift. I thought I had last year, when I got him a Suzanne Vega ticket, but I was wrong). And you know, he needed someone to go with him, so I made the huge sacrifice and got a ticket for myself while I was at it. So, Bob was going to see Neil Young with Wilco. I was going to see Wilco with Neil Young. We were both happy.

I don’t exactly want to build a shrine to Wilco in our living room, but I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since a friend of mine handed me a copy of “Mermaid Avenue,” their album with Billy Bragg, and said, “Here. You’ve got to listen to this.” She was right. I went out and bought my own copy. I like them, because they kind of remind me of a punk-ish Grateful Dead with an eye on innovation (if that makes any sense at all). I was very excited to hear them in concert, because I’d heard they tend to add more dissonance when they perform live than appears on their albums. And I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. I loved the sudden dissonance and the cool use of lighting at their performance.

What did disappoint me was how few people seemed to know who they were. (I will refrain from saying, “More proof that Pennsylvania is a little behind the times.”) Bob and I arrived in a half empty stadium about five minutes after the first band to play took the stage. We were aware that this other band would be playing, but we didn't know who they were. We liked what we heard, and I was wondering if they’d announced who they were, so I asked someone sitting close by. She replied,

“I don’t know. Wilco, I think?”

No, it most definitely was not Wilco. It turns out it was a band called Everest, and a very good band it was, but it wasn’t Wilco. This was when I first came to suspect that maybe people had only come to this show to see Neil Young, that yes, there are large numbers of people who don’t live in Emily World, who hadn’t fought rush-hour traffic for two hours to get into Philly, which should only have taken an hour, to idolize Jeff Tweedy on stage (oh yeah, and to listen to a little Neil Young afterwards). People did, at least, begin to pack the stadium for Wilco’s performance, and I began to think maybe I was wrong, maybe it was just those two people I’d happened to pick out of all these Wilco fans, who weren’t familiar with the band.

But nope, the band played an excellent set. I was wishing they’d play a little longer as they left the stage, and the lights came on. With nothing better to do while Bob went to wait in interminably long food and bathroom lines (yes, even the Men’s room was terrible), I began eavesdropping on the guys who were sitting behind me. One of them knew absolutely nothing about Wilco. He was asking all kinds of questions about that “weird dissonance.” His friend (obviously an Emily World resident who said he’d now seen them five times) was busy explaining the band to him.

Then, I happened to look at the guy sitting in front of me and noticed he had a Wikipedia print out of a “Wilco” entry. I asked him if I could see it, because I’ve never bothered to look up the band on Wikipedia. He passed it back to me with this comment,

“They turned out to be pretty good, didn’t they?” (Yet another non-resident. Sigh!).

No, they didn’t "turn out to be pretty good.” They are good. A better word choice would be “awesome.” How many other beings from Non-Emily Worlds were sitting under this one roof with me? I sat back in my seat and decided to keep my mouth shut, lest any of them turn out to be hostile. Can’t have my towers getting attacked, you know.

So, Danny, I’m sorry. Apparently, we all need to be promoting this band as much as possible. Maybe one day the whole world will finally know about them. Meanwhile, maybe someone could make me a little “Wilco” button for my sidebar?


Charlotte said...

Until you mentioned Wilco in NYC, I had never heard of them either. I challenge you to upload a YouTube video of your favourite Wilco song, Emily, and share the love.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I've never heard of Wilco, and if you mentioned it previously, I probably thought it was a TV programme like Seinfeld or Frasier. But I am sure they must be represented on youtube, so I will go and check them out! I'm not related to anyone in the least bit famous, so I am always very curious when people are.

Emily Barton said...

Charlotte, well now THAT'S a challenge! It will have to wait till I'm back home and have some time (I'm on the road for work right now).

Litlove, oh, check them out, and let us know what you think.

Anonymous said...

Ok - so glad to hear I'm not the only one who didn't know about Wilco. I will certainly be checking them out today. Thanks for the invite to Emily World!

Emily Barton said...

Sara, guess I'm introducing the rest of the world to Wilco, one blogger at a time!

Anonymous said...

Emily, thanks so much for your comments! That's the thing about opening for someone else--you're always going to get a lot of people who don't know who the heck you are. Jeff and the rest of the band like that, though, since regular Wilco shows are always so packed with "regulars." I'm sure there are a lot of people they'll play for on this tour who will become new fans. And who would ever turn down the chance to be with Neil Young? (Did his wife Peggy sing with him at all? She looks so much like my sister that people kept confusing them with each other at the Bridge School Benefit.)

I also find it shocking when any great band is opening for someone else and lots of people haven't bothered to arrive yet. Bad rock concert etiquette (and their loss!). But I don't think it bothers Jeff or the others one bit, especially since they rarely do this. Usually they are the headliners and have devoted fans staring in rapt attention and mouthing every word to their songs, even ones that haven't been released yet (I've never figured that one out). It's probably good for their rock-star egos to play in stadiums where people don't know who they are (not that their egos are overly inflated--they are the most down-to-earth guys you'd ever want to meet, believe me!).

Last night at Madison Square Garden my nephew Spencer played drums with Wilco on several songs. He is such a fantastic drummer. It was his 13th birthday--not a bad way to celebrate!

As for Wilco, I'm relieved they're not more famous than they already are. I'd hate to think of my sister popping up in People magazine or "Entertainment Tonight."

And I'm ready for that Miller-Michie meet-up. You know what a fan I am of your literary family!

P.S. I'm fascinated by the guy who brought the Wilco wikipedia entry with him to the show! I wonder how many others were looking them up on their iPhones!

Emily Barton said...

Danny, Thanks for the nice long comment! True, I suppose it wouldn't be much fun to see your sister show up in People or on Entertainment Tonight. Yes, Neil's wife did play (or was that your sister?). Seems your nephew is one for us to keep an eye on as well, no? Let's get to work on that Michie-Miller family gathering.

Oh, and how was "Snoopy?"

Anonymous said...

Leah was fantastic as Snoopy. True, the kids playing Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Linus couldn't sing a note, but you can't have everything! Sally and Peppermint Patty were great.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to not be living in Emily World, but I have not heard of Wilco either. I promise to give them a listen sometime, but it would be really cool if you uploaded a Youtube video of them to make that listening easier :)

Rebecca H. said...

I've heard of Wilco! And I like what I've heard, although I've only ever heard them on the radio (WFUV) and don't own any of their albums. But I've been tempted to buy some of their music. What do you think is their best album?

Anonymous said...

Oh I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands...
Obviously Wilco needs to do a European Tour (and MN for Stefanie!) - Wilco is actually somewhat hit or miss for me...there is one album I don't love (can't think of the name of it) but I am fanatical about other songs. And I believe one can also be a Sun Volt person at the same time, contrary to music myth.

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, tough to choose their best album (especially since I don't have all their albums). I like "A Ghost is Born" a lot. The critics love "Summerteeth."

Court, I guess most bands are like that -- some you love, some not as much. I agree. I like Sun Volt, too, because it's about the music, not the people (however, in any arguments between the two former bandmates, I'd take Jeff Tweedy's side).