I began exploring the alt-country music of Uncle Tupelo which eventually led to Wilco’s first album, AM. I was hooked by Wilco's alt-country heritage and vibe, and then I was transfixed by their evolving artistry and sound.
Certain artists or bands will always have a fond home in my heart and music catalog. Reasons vary for these placements. Perhaps I loved the group when I was a kid; for example: Rush. Or, perhaps the artist has deep connections within my home state of Texas, like Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt or Robert Earl Keen (more on them in future posts).
Several artists arrived in my life coincident with meaningful transitional or page turning events. I discovered Wilco in 2001 or 2002 during one of these life transitions. Quite a painful one, actually — my first marriage was falling apart.
Generally, I find music discovery to be an enjoyable process. I discovered Wilco by first hearing Son Volt’s lovely song “Tear Stained Eyes” on KTRU Rice University Radio. This led me to purchase Son Volt’s album, Trace, on Amazon.com. Then, thanks to Amazon’s recommender algorithm (“People who bought this item also bought…”), I began exploring the alt-country music of Uncle Tupelo which eventually led to Wilco’s first album, AM. I was hooked by Wilco’s alt-country heritage and vibe, and then I was transfixed by their evolving artistry and sound. It wasn’t long before I purchased Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco’s critically acclaimed genre-bending breakout album which established the group as a creative force. For some reason, this album fit right into my life circumstances, and I became a lifelong fan.
I’ve seen Wilco live at least seven or eight times, and their concerts never disappoint. Last weekend, I went to Wilco’s fourth Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA with an old college buddy. Wilco has a tradition at this festival for surprising fans with something special. For example, back in 2013, they assembled, based upon fan input, an eclectic set of cover songs with artists ranging from The Beatles to Blue Oyster Cult to Daft Punk to ABBA (seriously). This year, similarly, they allowed fans to decide on a Wilco album to be played in its entirety. Wilco’s 1997 Being There was the overwhelming favorite, probably because it is a double album with over 20 songs, several not played live often. Based on the pre-festival Facebook chatter, fan reaction ranged from excitement to hear the full Being There album to total disappointment that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had not received enough online votes.
So, on June 23rd 2017, Wilco surprised everyone by playing both albums back to back. Then, the following night, they played another two plus hour 30-song concert without repeating any songs from the previous night. Wilco is one of the most exciting and innovative live touring bands out there today.
If you’ve never caught a show, you should.