How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. And how do you make a perfect private show with Jeff Tweedy? You don't because there's no such thing, but you can work out the kinks over time. Fortunately, we've now had three shots at this wonderful opportunity, and I think we've come closer to the ideal than before.
Jeff Tweedy, Hotel S'n'S, February 17, 2007: The weekend officially started on Friday, with Sam's "I Hate the '90s" party. I love the '80s, but I gotta admit the '90s were fantastic as well. My Anglophilia was at record levels, and as such, I represented with a full Pulp-centric outfit. As a group, we managed to reflect many of the decade's trends: Hypercolor, listprocs, kinderwhore, X-Files, Cross Colours, Pulp Fiction, slackers, the macarena. Throw in flying toasters and a dancing baby, and it was almost like a VH1 special had exploded at the S'n'S.
The next day, all flights had landed, all troops had reported in, and we reconvened for the main event: the potluck. We've grossly overcompensated in the past, but this year, we approached something resembling a happy medium between sweet and savory. There was way too much good stuff to note, but I know I got in a bite or five of Alison's mac and cheese, Sooz's lasagna, Jeff's pierogies, and Laura's guacamole, while nibbling at Brianne's baklava, someone's oatmeal cookies, and the limoncello cheesecake, then washing them down with Paul's killer cocktails.
Back in the basement, Dave Mirabella treated us to an opening acoustic set of originals. Besides getting us in the mood for even more singer/songwriter action, Dave's guidance and expertise would come in handy later in the night too.
During Dave's set, word on the street was that the poster artist Jay Ryan had arrived with his guests: his girlfriend Diane (who had designed our poster the first year) and their good friend Andrew Bird. I was also told that Andrew Bird later ate one of my cupcakes, but I have no photographic proof of such--not that it'll stop me from spreading the story.
Not long after, Jeff and Susan made their way through the door, giving us enough time to settle in, chat, and even sit back and listen to some new tunes before the playing began. When it was time for Jeff to pick up the guitar, he started with "Blasting Fonda," followed by Paul's request for "If That's Alright." Jeff didn't quite make it through the lyrics and promised to come back to it later in the evening; unsurprisingly, it got lost in the ensuing four-hour shuffle.
We had submitted a list of songs for the show, following the precedent set in previous years, but Jeff went off script this year. In a brilliant move, he suggested we go around the room, have each person request a song, then select the next person. Thus, Paul kicked it off by choosing Susan, who picked Dick, who picked Sandy, and so on. Jeff was game for most of the requests, though a few flummoxed him. Still, we got a bunch of great covers, including the long-awaited "Pink Moon" and "I Wish I Was Your Mother," with help from the Internet.
It's nearly impossible to pick a single highlight from the evening's gloriously meandering, unhurried performance, but if I had to choose, it would probably be the five-man acoustical jam (thanks for the coinage, Paul!) toward the end. By this point, everyone had got in their picks, and we were supposed to do only the holdovers from the original requests--that is, the songs that Jeff saved for the singalongs (i.e., didn't really know).
Instead, Jeff called up the guitar players in the room--maybe we pushed a few of them up--and together, they (Jeff, Dave, Martin Rivas, Adam Fitz, and Devin Davis) tackled almost everything we threw at them or, at least, politely demurred. So that's how we got a soaring "Stand By Me" and "Airline to Heaven," as well as Jeff following the others' leads for "Try a Little Tenderness," "I Shall Be Released," and "Out on the Weekend." The capper to this evening was a small tribute to Susan Miller Tweedy, who was serenaded with a couple of Herman's Hermits songs and enjoyed a dance with Sam and Sock Jeff.
But wait, there's more! Mart saw us off with the Campfire, betraying his current Police fixation but never far from his soulful roots. It's kinda amazing how many Police lyrics I remember, but I guess I did listen to them a whole lot back in the '80s. In fact, Heidi and I may have been a little too "strong" again on that Nabokov line, but I swear we were just caught up in the spirit of the show.
On paper, this shouldn't work: 30 people coming together through a band and a performer, nurtured by a message board. When we first did this two years ago, it was the culmination of our fantastic adventure, more than many of us ever expected from this so-called hobby. But a couple of years down the line, you have to believe it's a whole lot more than that.
The full history
» i wish that i knew what I know now
» people say i'm crazy doing what i'm doing
» the message
» all the ladies and gentlemen
» that year
» springtime comes
» every day is dreamlike
» it's been a while