Saturday, April 28, 2012

people say i'm crazy doing what i'm doing

Look, I don't know how long we'll keep doing this either, but while we have the excuse, we'll continue to get together for our little show with Jeff Tweedy. This year, we had a change in venue, moving out to the Chicago suburbs at Casa K&A. Inevitably, roll call yielded new names too. Otherwise, you know where to find us: Turn left at Greenland Find the dinner table buckling under the weight of the potluck, then head downstairs.

Chicago 2012Jeff Tweedy, Casa K&A, April 21, 2012: I know I say this each time, and you don't have to believe me, but this show is different every year. For one thing, the poster order didn't go in, so we held a massive craft session in which we created our own artistic commemorations of the evening. For another, I attempted opera cake cupcakes this year, and I'm happy to report I didn't take a single crumb home with me.

On a more musically related, er, note, the setlist is easily the most malleable element of any of these gatherings, and I don't mean it in the way Wilco swaps out blocs of tracks from night to night on a tour. As Jeff noted at the Largo talk with Jeff Garlin back in January, we have a habit of requesting songs he can't play. This is not at all a malicious move or our own version of Punked; for better or for worse, we veterans have a habit of digging deep into album tracks, covers, and rarities. However, we're also prepared to amend our picks if they turn out to be unfeasible.

Chicago 2012I'm going to say it: The show started out a little rough, maybe because of the downbeat song selection, the unpredictable chemistry of the new cast in the smaller space, Jeff not remembering his own lyrics, that broken string on his guitar. But by the end of the evening, some three hours later, it had managed to come together with the kind of good feeling that reminds us why we do it every chance we get.

You can't blame me for harking back to those otherwise unheard gems, even if the rest of the setlist would light up any regular show. Come on -- "Radio King," "More Like the Moon," an acoustic "Impossible Germany," and our harmonies of "ELT" would comprise one of the greatest gigs ever on any other night. A couple of other selections -- "On and On and On" and "What Light" -- surprised me too for their power when belted out in a cozy room with no other amplification.

"You Are Not Alone" (Rob's pick) continues to mesmerize, maybe due to its relatively infrequent airings, but tonight, we also got a couple of Mavis-related yarns, including more confirmation of Jeff's work on her next record. We got some funny studio scoops, but more amazing was the demo he played featuring Spencer on drums and a friend on vocals. I can't wait to hear the final product.

For our purposes, they were all lovely, but it was hard to overlook known Beatles freak Jeff W.'s request for "Watching the Wheels," which was achingly wonderful in the solo acoustic treatment, especially matched to Jeff's trademark scratchy vocals. I tip my hat to Jeff for requesting it. I hope it doesn't sound too self-serving to highlight my pick for "I'm Beginning to See the Light," which occupies a spot on my list of songs Jeff can do at Largo and have, say, certain L.A. musical talents join in.

I'd also like to commend Paul for choosing "Give Back to the Key to My Heart." I can't believe it's taken this long for the suggestion to come up, but is it any surprise that the valet surfaced with the brilliant idea? I'm skipping over a ton of great tunes, but there's no way I can cover every single one in this blog (nor would you want me to).

Chicago 2012

The finale came about with some engineering from our audience and Jeff, who decided on the sequence of the last two songs. The penultimate track was a duet with our good friend Martin Rivas for Bill Withers' "Use Me," which Jeff learned on the spot. The last last track was our traditional closer of "Candyfloss," with as much of a dance party as we could manage as we stood elbow to elbow. I guess we're just old-fashioned that way.

The full history
» i wish that i knew what I know now
» the message
» all the ladies and gentlemen
» that year
» springtime comes
» turn our prayers to outrageous dares
» every day is dreamlike
» it's been a while