Sunday, April 12, 2009

that year

The New York Times has a regular feature advising readers how to spend 36 hours in any given city. Rock tourists know, however, that 36 hours might as well be a month in the country compared to the pit stops we call our getaways. Case in point: This year's visit to Chicago for our show with Jeff Tweedy. It was a whirlwind adventure for me, but one that I wouldn't dream of missing.
Photo courtesy of Kristina
Jeff Tweedy, Hotel SnS, April 4, 2009: As any Emily Post acolyte will tell you, wood is the traditional fifth-anniversary gift, and to mark this, our fifth annual potluck/reunion/Jeff Tweedy concert, I did my part with faux bois cupcakes. Let's face it, though: Alison's mac 'n' cheese ruled the school. Again. Jeff (Walrus), however, gets a gold star for his brilliant addition of a soft-serve machine. Is there a Nobel Prize for dessert?

My limited schedule meant that certain events fell off the itinerary, so I couldn't break out my Sandra Oh for the Canadian party on Friday night or make the pilgrimage to Hot Doug's. And of course, there are never enough hours in the day to hang out with these friends (old and new), though that's never stopped us from trying.

This year, we supplied Jeff Tweedy with a song list, which was both good and bad. Though Jeff may have had some time to prepare for this round, it also meant that we loaded the roster with some doozies. Hey, it can't hurt to ask, right? And as always, he retains veto power. But before the show even began, Jeff sprung a surprise of his own: If 10 people gave up their requests, he'd play us the new Wilco album in its mixed, though unmastered state.

Food, friends, and music, Hotel SnS, 4-4-09

We were certainly intrigued, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from the way the show unfolded: "Train" may have been summarily dismissed, the lyric sheet flicked decisively to the ground, but Dick and Paul still got a couple of oldies out of Jeff--"That Year" and "Flatness," respectively. From there, we landed a decent range of Jeff's music, including "Sky Blue Sky" (who says we only request old stuff?), as well as a few Woodie Guthrie and Golden Smog tunes. "More Like the Moon" and "Laminated Cat" mesmerized as always, "Radio King" drew its customary appreciative remarks, and the night is never complete without "Gun."

Food, friends, and music, Hotel SnS, 4-4-09You gotta know, considering how many Wilco and Jeff Tweedy shows that we as a group have seen, our Wilco appreciation is not insignificant. However, the standout songs at these shows are often the covers or the one-offs.

This year, we finally got the Split Enz double-header, with equal representation to both Finn brothers. On this count, I thank the two dozen people in the room not singing along. I bet you didn't realize your saintly patience would be called upon for this cause, did you? The segue from "I Can't Keep from Talking" to "Barstool Blues" may have surprised the performer as much as it did the audience, but it was pretty sweet just the same. And I simply love that Jeff has been dusting off "I Wanna Be Your Dog" again after all these years.

Speaking of covers, many of my most beloved memories of these shows have been of Jeff playing them with some of our friends. This year, Dave Mirabella of the Rationales accompanied Jeff on "Glad and Sorry," and newbie Hamilton Sims held his own--and then some--for the "Fake Plastic Trees" duet. As someone with no musical talent whatsoever, I can only imagine how much pride and joy they must take in such moments--but I know how much we love watching these scenes unfold.

Food, friends, and music, Hotel SnS, 4-4-09

This open, collaborative spirit culminated with the last request of the night, when Jeff called dibs and asked Martin Rivas to reprise his performance of "Sir Duke," as carried off in grand fashion last year. (Don't take my word on it, though; let Martin amaze you himself at any of his frequent gigs in and around New York City.) Our dancing and revelry, already fueled by the music, the company, and in some cases, the drinks, got an extra boost from the realization that, a year on, we had truly come full circle.

Oh yeah, about the new Wilco album: All six members play on it, there are some guitars, there's some piano, and there're some vocals. In other words, I don't for a second believe that my opinion on it will sway anyone reading this post--nor should it. You can decide for yourself come June. Also, I have no perspective when it comes to this band. I like 'em, pure and simple.

So many details from the night will get only a glancing mention in this post: the rock 'n' roll anecdotes, the doggie diversions, the celebrity impersonations, the wordplay ("Is that a douche reference?"), the heckling (from both the audience and the performer), the profanities ("that fucking 'Stars' song"), the long-distance dedications, the dancing babies, the proposals of love from husband to wife, and so much more. I can't even point you to a recording of the show for a taste of the experience, as once again, we failed to document the evening. Then again, that's never been the point of these gatherings.

It's my nature to want to express--perhaps with too many words and too overwrought a style--why these shows mean so much to me, but for once, I'll keep it simple. Thank you, friends; thank you, Chicago; and thank you, Jeff and Susan Tweedy for so many of my favorite memories, with many more to come, if we should be so lucky.

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
» springtime comes
» turn our prayers to outrageous dares
» every day is dreamlike
» it's been a while


T.J. said...

That's so cool. Is there a story on how this potluck got started?

pneyu said...

No story--we like to get together, we like to eat, and many of us like to cook. I need to re-emphasize the excellence of the soft-serve machine. If we could've sucked right off the nozzle, we would've.

BeeKay said...

So many "sucked right off the nozzle" jokes just crowded into my head. The influence of last weekend is still with me.

Thanks for the excellent post - you always do a much better job than I do of describing the actual show!

ms. yvon said...

"word play!"
"that was solid."

great capsule summation of the evening-->wee hours, p.

soft serve highlight: graham cracker crust cups!

performer remark of note: "i remember you now. you're hell on wheels."

also: i'm going to post a link to your post on my blog. let me know if i should take it down.


BeeKay said...

Haha! Who did he say that to, E?

pneyu said...

Link away, E. And my guess is that the comment was directed at Mr. Soft Serve himself. Do I win a prize?

Trish said...

Nope, it was Patti!

pneyu said...

Of course it was Patti! In fact, that's even better. Muahahahaha.