What do you call it when the exact opposite of what you wished for comes true? Bad luck? Murphy's Law? A curse? Because when this current batch of Wilco dates was announced last fall, in addition to making all the usual arrangements, I crossed my fingers in hopes that a certain group wouldn't tour at the same time -- three guesses as to how that turned out. Well, I now have more confirmation of where my loyalties reside; this week, those bonds led me up the Western seaboard. First stop: Portland, Oregon.
Wilco, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, February 9, 2010: Let it be known that it's been a good seven months since I last saw Wilco, and technically, that show preceded the official release of Wilco (The Album). I realize that's chump change to anyone else, but for me, it might as well be a drought.
On second thought, I might do well to avoid further mentions of precipitation, as Portland was the only destination in this run where the rain stayed away. Later in the week, the soggy skies would get to me, and the beautiful start to this adventure would be remembered even more fondly.
Seeing Wilco in a big, fancy concert hall is not an entirely familiar or welcome sensation to me, even if our seats were pretty good. Thankfully, we were too busy playing "spot the Portland indie rocker" to pout.
From our vantage, we spied Eric Johnson from the Fruit Bats and Richard Swift, both of whom have opened for Wilco in the past. Later, we noted an ex-Decemberist, and we may have sighted a Blitzen Trapper and a Modest Mouse. We heard an NFL quarterback was in the house as well, but we can't confirm that. We weren't the only ones to notice this mass of musicians; Jeff mentioned it from the stage, claiming that the Dharma Bums were the only band in Portland when Wilco first toured. He also suggested that taco carts provided the livelihoods for everyone else in town.
These grand rooms with their high ceilings can take a particular type of song and hold the sustain so well that you can almost see the sound waves bouncing off the walls. The opening "Sunken Treasure" and, a couple of tunes later, "Hell Is Chrome" easily qualify for that group. "Sunken Treasure" presented another surprise for me, ending in a jazzy trot--yet one more variation on this track that I've previously heard embellished with Eastern psychedelia, forceful rumbles, and all-out cacophony, to name just a few approaches.
Up-and-coming indie rockers weren't the only musos in attendance; old friends Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey dropped in for the obligatory "California Stars," and I heard actual jangly guitar from Peter this time, which was not the case in a previous appearance. Playing deeper into the locals' hearts, Jeff also subbed the city and state names into "Kingpin," a move that I always eat up.
Speaking of eat, I'm introducing a new feature in this blog for this run of shows: food porn. In the course of a single day, we hit Kenny and Zuke's, Laurelhurst Market, and Voodoo Doughnut. Oh my aching arteries! They were all delicious, but I think you can see why Kenny and Zuke's earns the spotlight in this go-round:
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