After an up-and-down week in Los Angeles, it was time to come home for the second half of Wilco in California, starting out with my roots and the San Jose Civic Center.
Wilco, San Jose Civic Center, January 28, 2012: I'm a Bay Area girl at heart, and my life experiences were primarily shaped by my time in three cities, San Jose chief among them. It's where I grew up, met some of the most influential people in my life, and indulged in my first ridiculous inclinations as an overzealous music fan. (Ask me how many buses we took to get to Tower on Bascom!) My family still lives there, along with good friends. I grow defensive about its reputation as a bland suburb -- never mind I plotted my escape from the age of 12 or so -- but San Jose also offered a steady stream of record shops, college radio, and arthouse cinema when I was growing up. Now, for the second time in eight years, Wilco was in town for a gig.
Back in 2004, Wilco played the San Jose Center for Performing Arts, a site I know well, thanks to all the Vietnamese cultural events I watched there. It wasn't necessarily one of the band's best shows, but it was a memorable night for me. After all, Wilco in San Jose?! Shut up! But I also got to hear "Misunderstood," very much in my old neighborhood, and my friends came over for my mom's amazing -- if I do say so myself -- pho.
As for the Civic Center, I had my doubts about this show. For one, I was completely unfamiliar with the venue, other than the fact that my cousin's high school graduation took place there. Also, though Wilco's San Francisco and Oakland shows sold out almost immediately, tickets remained available for this gig for several weeks. Finally, it'd been a long time since I've seen a concert in San Jose proper (not to be confused with Saratoga, despite Jeff's comments about wine-related tweets); I had no idea how the crowd would welcome them.
As it happened, my concerns were for naught. The fans roared from the outset and didn't let up for the whole gig, the band was incredibly in sync with one another, and they maintained a good tempo with the setlist. I didn't get "Misunderstood," but then again, I put in one vote about a month ago. The top ballot choice turned out to be "(Was I) In Your Dreams" -- no offense to the song itself, but it's not an obvious choice, even among die-hard fans. I loved "Art of Almost," even more than the already impressive versions I heard earlier in the week. In San Jose, thanks to the expert placement of a speakers for the audience, I felt the electronic drum beats coming from Glenn's kit. I only wish I had a kidney stone or two that needed dislodging! Jeff's shout-out to Jane Smiley's boyfriend -- in attendance that evening -- was a sweet touch too.
Here's the key to understanding this gig: San Jose is in many ways a tertiary market. Though it's the third-largest city in California and gets plenty of huge shows at the HP Pavilion, midlevel bands like Wilco don't come along often. And if you live in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Gilroy, and further points south, a gig in San Jose is a treat compared to the trek to San Francisco or Oakland. I don't expect many artists to add San Jose to their itineraries, but I always hold out hope that my overlooked town will get more attention.
After an anticlimactic end to the L.A. shows, it was great to kick off the Bay Area mini-residency with a fantastic gig. There really is no place like home.
» when nobody gives a fuck
» can't stand it