Jeff Tweedy, Hotel S'n'S, April 23, 2011: First off, Jeff didn't play us the new Wilco album, as he had in years past. Apparently, the band is still in the studio, but we did get a sneak preview at a couple of new songs (more on that later).
However, if you've been following this blog over the years, you know the drill. Food, friends, and music (not necessarily in that order--but not not necessarily either): Done, done, and oh boy, done. Alas, many beloved original cast members didn't make it this year, and they were missed (and even celebrated, but more on that later too). In their stead, a wave of new faces and friends joined in.
The roster aside, no two appearances have ever been the same when we get together. Last year, there was a certain poignancy with what we thought would be the final show the Tweedys put on for us in this setting, but a general ease has been the overall vibe for a while now. At times, we wondered if all parties had become too comfortable, but as someone who's allergic to drama, I prefer the laid-back approach.
In a slight variation from the past few years, Jeff informed us he would open with a song of his choice from the submitted requests instead of kicking it off with a random party. In turn, the person who had chosen the mystery request would pass it along, duck-duck-goose-style. Easy enough, we figured.
I don't think anyone recognized the song immediately, but seriously, how could we, considering it hadn't been played it in more than a decade? The opener, as it turned out, was "This Ain't No Lounge Ax," previously performed twice (as far as we can tell from bootlegs), inspired by Susan Miller Tweedy's old nightclub, and coincidentally, my nomination. Dedicated readers may even recall I tried to request it last year, but was denied.
I'm completely biased on this count, but it sounded fantastic, especially considering Jeff had been reacquainting himself with the tune just minutes before the show (so I'm told--I didn't see it myself, and I'm glad for the surprise). The song also set the goofy, tongue-in-cheek tone of the night, and the slightly revised lyrics suited our show perfectly. In fact, at the end, Jeff remarked that the tune had withstood the test of time, and I think I detected some pride in his voice. I hope it doesn't take another decade-plus before the work is unfurled once more, but if he happens to dust it off at a show I'm not attending, don't forget where the revival began! My only concern is that it may bring up bad memories for Susan--I hope she realized it was meant as a laugh.
From there, I picked Wafer, and he tapped Judy, setting off the trend from the first set: Asian power, including a couple of Caucasians married to Asians or mixed Asians. [Editor's note: Some non-Asians and non-Asian-related people made the cut.] We rocked it! Or rather, our requests rocked it, including Judy's long-awaited "Corduroy Cutoff Girl"; the so-called LouFest version of "Casino Queen" (taking a cue from "Subterranean Homesick Blues") from Mike; Patty's crowd-pleasing "Summer Teeth," bolstered by our backing vocals; Andy's request for a new song, which turned out to be an uptempo track that may be called "I Might"; and Paul's inspired suggestion of one of the most effective and enjoyable earworms of all time, "Cruel to Be Kind." Whew!
Sometimes I claim I could go home happy after hearing a song or two at a show. In related news, I sometimes lie, so I won't attempt to roll out that fib now. But if I had made good on that claim, I would've missed such in-the-moment events as Ruby's uninhibited dancing or Alison's three-part request plan, which culminated in a iPhone-abetted group rendition of "Ripple" that would probably give any Fillmore West or Greek Theatre singalong a run for its money. I also would've been deprived of Kris's sweet request for "Wish You Were Here" in honor of the friends who couldn't attend, as well as his ballsy move to take the lead vocals, at Jeff's behest.
And I most certainly would've lost out on some of Jeff's more memorable moments, such as his serenade to Zelda for "Either Way," his wholesale disowning of "Train" from his Uncle Tupelo days (sorry Dick!), a fractured rendition of a Replacements tune in response to a question about a song from his youth, and his game attempt at an LCD Soundsystem takeoff called "Jeff Tweedy Is Playing at My House," in concert with Sam and her drum machine. That last one somehow became an old-school rap medley that owed more in its delivery to Jackie Mason than Melle Mel--go figure.
Oh yeah, we heard one more new song that may be titled "Capital City," which betrayed a Randy Newman-esque lilt, and several more unabashedly gorgeous works, including the always hypnotic "More Like the Moon" and the Grammy-winning "You Are Not Alone." I don't do setlists except for that one guy in Los Angeles, but trust me, several more gems comprised the final tally, which you can find elsewhere on the Internet--or even on my blogroll--if you do a little searching.
Photo by Joshua Sarner
The weekend was hardly over, and we had more meals, music, and activities (again, maybe or maybe not in that order) on the schedule--that is, it was another wonderful weekend in Chicago. Even though I have no predictions on whether we'll do this again, I know I'll be back to Chicago soon enough. In the meantime, feel free to check this space and see for yourself; I too am pretty excited about discovering the answer.
The full history
» i wish that i knew what I know now
» people say i'm crazy doing what i'm doing
» all the ladies and gentlemen
» that year
» springtime comes
» turn our prayers to outrageous dares
» every day is dreamlike
» it's been a while