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Baby all I need is a shot in the arm

Last night, my brother-in-law and I, much to the relief of our spouses, went to see Wilco together.  Matthew is as big of a Wilco fan as I am, and being from Chicago, he's had more opportunity to see them. Graham--who has been dragged to many a Wilco show with me by default--had to work, and Claudia has passing familiarity with Wilco, but said it'd be much better if just Matthew and I went.   The show was awesome, and we had an excellent time.

At some point in the evening, Jeff Tweedy said that exactly ten years ago they'd played in the exact same room, though I think it was named after a different corporate entity. I did some mental calculations and realized I'd been to that show too!

So I went to the ever helpful setlist.fm to help me figure out which shows I've been too.

April 23, 2015: Houston, Texas, Bayou Music Center.  This was last night's show, and it was the second date of the 20th anniversary tour.  Since Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer were working on a side project for most of last year, there wasn't much new material, but with 20 years of work, there's a lot to choose from.  They played with arrangements and had a fantastic time. Art of Almost was an early standout.   Nels Cline just flat out owns Handshake Drugs, but Jeff proved he's no slouch with At Least That's What She Said. My favorite Jesus, Etc. was of course played (and sung along by pretty much the whole crowd), as was Heavy Metal Drummer.  For the final encore, the entire band huddled in the middle of the stage unplugged. Mics were brought close to the instruments, and the crowd reacted to the intimacy of the presentation really, really well. But for being so stripped down, it was a lot of fun too.  Nels Cline and Pat Sansone dueled lap steel guitar against banjo for most of Hoodoo Voodoo.  All in all, it was an awesome show, and it's outstanding that my sister married someone with such impeccable musical tastes.

October 11, 2013: Austin, Texas, Stubbs Bar-B-Q.  This was a pre-ACL show, and Graham had a gig on sixth street the same night.  A friend of Graham's from high school lives in Austin and she volunteers for an organization that cleans up and recycles after concerts. So they get to go to shows for free AND they get in early for prime locations.  It had been raining all day, but right as the show was supposed to start, the rain started to dissapate.  Graham dropped me off at the venue and introduced me to his friend, and then he went off to set up for his own show. I went to maybe the best Wilco show I've ever seen.  The crowd was all me and Matthews: knew every song, loved everthing there is to love about Wilco, totally into it.  I got the impression the band was totally into it too. They played 33 songs that night, and it lasted for hours.  After helping to clean up (which took all of ten minutes), I walked back to my car, changed, and then went to Graham's gig totally high from the Wilco show.

May 6, 2011: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater (which is the same venue as Bayou Music Center).  This was the show we went to six days after our accident.  It was the first time since the accident that I smiled.  This is what I wrote to the band afterwards through their website:

I don't know if this sort of letter gets to the band or not, but I wanted to thank them profusely for the show on Friday night in Houston, Texas.
I was in a pretty horrible car accident on Saturday, April 30.  I was hit on the side, and car rolled over two and a half times on the freeway.  After the accident was over, I was banged up, my fiance was banged up and my dog was missing.  Fortunately, miraculously, she somehow managed to escape the car unscathed and was returned to us about ten minutes after the accident.

The following week was surreal. We ached all over, we were baffled on how we all managed to survive, and we had to deal with the day to day crap associated with losing your car and dealing with insurance companies and the police.

On Friday, though, we got to go to the show.  My fiance said that he hadn't seen me smile since the accident.  And not only did I smile, I danced and sang and yelled and, to the extent my neck injury would let me, I bounced around a lot.  I was joyful for the first time in a week, and I didn't once think about he sound of metal hitting metal, or the feeling having no control at all as my car rolled over and over, or the horror of thinking that my sweet puppy dog had been killed or severely injured in the crash and there was nothing I could do about it.

We left a little early, because we're still tender, and being jostled by a departing crowd would have probably hurt. But I wanted to stay and absorb the music for hours and hours and hours.

So thank you. Thank you very much for putting on such a wonderful show, and for making me so happy.

It was something I needed very badly.

Whoever gets their fan mail wrote me back within hours:

Hi Christina

wow... we are all so relieved that you, your fiance and puppy are alright!  That was great you were still able to attend the Wilco show.... it means alot to the band that they can make folks happy and forget about their troubles.

we wish you both a speedy recovery

It was my most needed Wilco show.

March 7, 2008: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. This was the first Wilco show I ever took Graham too.  He'd just moved to Houston, and we were in the early part of our relationship. It was the first show of any kind that we'd been too together. Graham had been to the venue as a stagehand back in another life, so he was familiar with the venue.  He'd been a big Uncle Tupelo fan, and he respected Jeff Tweedy but confessed he was bigger Son Volt fan than Wilco. I maintain that there can be enough love in the world for both.  The opener was John Doe, who was outstanding and set a great tone for the night.  This show was deep into the Wilco tour, so Tweedy's voice was shot when he was talking, but he managed to keep it together when he was singing.  It was great.  A few months later, we saw Son Volt at the Continental Club.

September 16, 2007: Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival.  I didn't know it at the time, but this was the last ACL I went to.  I'd met Graham less than three weeks before, and I was still riding the high of my first Burning Man.  I was technically doing ACL by myself that year, but some friends found me and I spent more time at their house than I did the festival.  I did make sure to go to the Wilco set though. This is what I said about it at the time:

They gave Wilco an hour and 15 minutes when they usually give an hour. It was awesome. I know I say that every time I hear them, but dammit...I'm not the only one. Look at This blog report of the taping of their Austin City Limits television show set the night before. It's the little things with them. Like Tweedy going acoustic for "I am going to break your heart." And the big things, like the amazing guitar solos that seemed to just take over the world. And the craziness around him with drums and guitar and other noise while Jeff sings softly and calmly to the lyrics of "Via Chicago." The set was pretty heavy with Sky Blue Sky, but as always, they played a lot from various albums. I've heard "Walken" so many times live now, it surprises me it's only been released on Sky Blue Sky. I actually was sort of surprised that "The Late Greats" wasn't played because I've heard it so many times live now... I don't really know how to express how much I love hearing this band, especially with Nels Cline at guitar now. It's possibly my perfect band. I was standing there, singing along with thousands of other die hard Wilco fan and I was perfectly happy. I could have just gone to this show and I would have been fine with my ACL experience.

It was a great end to my ACL years, and hopefully we'll go back sooner or later.

October 13, 2006, San Antonio, Texas, Sunset Station. This was also a very needed show.  I'd spent the summer recovering from a bad breakup, and I was just then coming out of my shell.  One of the things I'd done in my recovery was determine that I would start doing things because I wanted to rather than because I was expected to. I really wanted to go see Wilco, and this was the closest show on their current tour. (It was the closest for a lot of Wilco fans: Austin and Dallas got skipped that tour too, so there were a lot of out-of-towners who made the trek to San Antonio that day.)   I got off of work at 5:00 and drove three and a half hours by myself to San Antonio to go to the show. It was great.  I bonded with other Wilco fans; I got close enough to the stage so I could see everything perfectly; and I had an excellent time.  At this show, after a summer of sadness, I gave myself permission to be happy.

By the time of "Shot in the Arm," I was fully into the show and singing along and dancing and totally into the whole experience. I found myself, from time to time, grinning like an idiot. You know there are moments in your life where you actually acknowledge that you're feeling very happy? This show was a series of those moments.

It was a good thing for me.

September 25, 2005, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival This was a weird ACL, in that it was immediately after the Hurricane Rita evacuation, and I was meeting my new boyfriend there. There were a lot of logistical problems with a) getting out of Houston (we rocked that), b) meeting up with my boyfriend (there was a lot of flight changing), and c) dealing with the dust at ACL itself (there was no grass that year to hold it down, and there was tons and tons of wind). Nevertheless, we prevailed and saw all three days of the show AND focused on Wilco's set on the last day.  It was the last set we saw that day after a pretty incredible day of music (including Bob Mould's first live performance in YEARS).

April 23, 2005, Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. Ten years ago!  I went to this show by myself and had a BLAST.  Since I was alone, I could wiggle my way closer to the front. The show was plagued early on with technical difficulties, but the energy was awesome.  I ran into three friends from three different parts of my world that night, and we all were riding Wilco highs.

The Wilco show on Saturday night was one of the best concert events I've ever been to. From the moment that they took the stage until the house lights came on, I was riveted. The whole set was tight, despite some major technical difficulties with amps and guitars. They covered a lot of material in the two hours that they played, covering all five albums. What I thought was amazing was that I saw them at ACL in September, and this show was completely different than that set. Contrast to Modest Mouse, who had a nearly identical set in February as their ACL set.

This is probably the show where I transitioned from generally liked their music to true fan.

September 19, 2004, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival.  This was my first Wilco show and my second ACL.  I'd gone to ACL that year meeting up with a bunch of lawyers from my lawyer board as well as Claudia, and there was a lot of complicated scheduling that ensued.  I had all of Wilco's catalog on CD at that point, but I'd never seen them live before.  I was, as I described, mellow but intense.

And so, a decade plus of going to Wilco shows, and I'm not at all sick of them in the slightest.  Last night's show was outstanding, and I love that the band and its fans have such an awesome rapport.  I was reading a review yeterday of a Hozier show at the same venue a few nights before (and another from about a month ago, I didn't know Hozier liked Houston so much). The reviewer lamented that in our ADHD society, audiences, especially in Houston, don't have the capacity to shut the fuck up and listen to the music. This was not the same crowd.  Obviously, Hozier doesn't have the 20 plus years to develop a loyal, music dorky fan base that Wilco has, but I didn't feel the notorious bad, unengaged crowd that Houston has apparently become famous for.  We were on the balcony, and while I saw a few LED screens every now and then, most people were focused more on the show than on their devices.  At most, people were sending out quick media updates or grabing a picture and then putting their phones away.



( 2 comments — Say something )
Apr. 24th, 2015 08:33 pm (UTC)
I really loved reading this. Thank you for sharing.
Apr. 29th, 2015 07:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I had a lot of fun writing it. It turned out to be more reflective of my last ten years than Wilco's.
( 2 comments — Say something )