The late-setting sun worked to our advantage as we covered the nearly 400-mile stretch between Fairbanks and Anchorage, which we had to negotiate to get to the Wilco gig the next day. Also helpful: an unexpected stop in the tiny town of Nenana, where we enjoyed a midnight meal of cheeseburger and fries in a locals-only bar. The combo never tasted so good, nor could the locals themselves have been more welcoming.
Wilco, Moose's Tooth Parking Lot, July 26, 2008: They had me at "Alaska," but I was totally committed to taking this trip when I heard that Wilco's Anchorage show would take place in the parking lot of a pizzeria charmingly named Moose's Tooth. Oddly, the scenario has proved more resistible to most of the people who've had to listen to me talk about the trip. No, the acoustics weren't exactly world class, and as it turned out, we were spared no relief from the rain for most of the day.
The nonstop rain, I admit, affected my enjoyment, but my lack of preparation had something to do with it. (Note to self: A cotton hoodie is not appropriate rain gear.) With bellies full of delicious pizza and our hotel just across the street, we managed nonetheless.
The band was a bit more pulled together for this show. Jeff referred to the rain often, perhaps trying to bolster our spirits, and even stepped out from underneath their protective awning later in the show to assure us that it wasn't too wet. Tellingly, he also quickly ducked back into the dry zone.
More impressive was Nels's guitarwork in "Forget the Flowers," which led both Jeff and John to gape, the latter mouthing "wow" at the frenzy. John got his own turn in the spotlight when the band performed his Wilco track, "It's Just That Simple," which featured a particularly relaxed-looking Jeff on bass. For "Casino Queen," Glenn introduced a newly syncopated bridge that Heidi identified as an homage to "Mississippi Queen" (a song we've done exactly once in Rock Band, and only because Evonne knew it).
For the second time, we heard both "One Wing" and "Sunny Feeling," which sounded even better this time around. "Sunny Feeling," especially, revealed its darker undertones set against that bopping beat. I also finally realized what song "One Wing" brings to mind, but it's such a stretch, it's not even worth naming.
We closed out our stay in Anchorage with a few planned forays, such as a drive out to Chugach National Forest for a short glacier cruise and a walk around an animal preserve, as well as visits to a coffee shack and my namesake restaurant.
What we didn't anticipate: the mysterious case of the disappearance of Hot Licks in Anchorage and Alaska Airlines unceremoniously canceling our flight. Thus, Annie and I extended our stay in town for one more night, dozing not far from the stuffed albino beaver. It was not the way I wanted to end our trip, but after a short cool-off period, I was able to get over the grumpiness. It's not likely I'll ever get back to Alaska, but with such amazing memories of a great trip with wonderful pals and awesome adventures, I wouldn't rule it out either.
» choo choo charlie had a plenty good band