...which, over the course of the last couple of weeks, has encompassed sitting on the couch with a No. 1 foam finger wrapped around my hand, hooting "USA! USA! Wooooooo!" at the TV, and fanning myself off at the mere mention of the Water Cube. These Olympian achievements have also inspired me to contemplate setting a new personal record: how many consecutive shows I can attend that involve only Wilco, members of Wilco, that other name that dominates this blog, or any combination thereof. I await the medal ceremony.
Wilco, The Winery at Eagle Knoll, August 20, 2008: Speaking of records, I embarked on perhaps my most extensive rock tourism run around this time last year, starting in Vancouver, covering much of the Western seaboard and wrapping up in Denver. My plans are less ambitious this summer (if you ignore the not inconsequential trip to Alaska), and I even cut back on the initial itinerary, finally settling on Boise alone.
Part of the fun of rock tourism is venturing to places I'd probably never go otherwise, and in that regard, Idaho has ranked high on the list for some time--partially because of its relative proximity to California, partially due to the potatoes, and partially as a function of the goofy punch line it would provide at some point in the future. Truly, dreams can come true! (That said, if the gig had taken place the same week that men's Olympic swimming was broadcast, this report might not even exist.)
But as I've robotically repeated a million times, the best thing about these out-of-the-way places is often the venue itself. In Boise, this meant a small winery--not at all like the courtly and colorless complexes more common in my part of the world. Instead, we found ourselves in a small rolling amphitheater-like space. Outside of what we discovered was the unofficial standing-room pit area, the concert-goers spread out blankets and lawn chairs, while the stage might as well have been a gazebo. Jeff Tweedy himself commented that it felt like they were playing in someone's backyard.
I think we came to decide that the Alaska shows were almost like warm-up gigs, albeit thousands of miles away. That is, they were loose and less than perfect, though not without their charm. Back in the lower 48, we didn't witness anything on a par with Alaska's more pronounced missteps, but the band didn't quite stay in the lines either. (Note: I hate staying in the lines.)
To the band's credit, malfunctioning equipment led to a couple of diversions, most prominently when the bass started making crackling noises. John, understandably, seemed particularly flustered, but so did Jeff, who remarked he was "dying" up there as he tried to banter with us while their staff brought out amps and fiddled with cords. Though not fully content, they launched into "Handshake Drugs" anyway, and it was probably more than a minute into the song before John's resourceful tech switched out the bass guitar--problem solved!
Since I'm going with the "bad news first" model, I'll also mention there was a matter with Jeff's mic (also fixed by one of the trusty crew) and a slightly off-harmony "War on War." Then again, I'm not sure how many people noticed the latter.
But on the flip side, there was plenty to enjoy too. I loved that they opened with "Hummingbird," Jeff extended an admiring "nice" to Nels on "Walken," Jeff kissed Glenn's "guns," and I got a great reminder of what that one riff in "Poor Places" does to me.
Capping off the night was a real treat, wholly unsuspected: The band brought on Fleet Foxes, the openers, for Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." We had heard it in soundcheck but didn't put much faith in it being played right away, as the kinks seemingly needed to be worked out. In fact, I was resigned to the idea that I'd have to enjoy the rough version--but I was glad to be proven wrong.
The camaraderie between the bands had been clear, with several members of each group coming out for the other's set, but it was cemented here. In his intro, Jeff praised their singing, and at the end, everyone was smiling and hugging.
Next stop: Home, where the streak continues.
» all of my maps have been overthrown