Theologians ... Don't Know Nothing
No, this isn't a Wilco blog, but Jaded Insider couldn't resist the lure of Brooklyn's Warsaw, a venue that serves pirogues and Zywiec beer. Well, it is the Polish National House of Greenpoint, so it makes sense. About three-fourths into Wilco's set, they took a moment to ask us if we'd had any pirogis. The collective "we" cheered. Jeff Tweedy said that they were too filling, and had to pass on them before going on stage.
Tweedy and co. were giddy that there wasn't a curfew, and as a result played loose and gave the die-hards some rarities, including a gorgeous, warped opening run through "Sunken Treasure." Other treats included the "Being There" cut "Why Would You Wanna Live," the Woody Guthrie nonsensical "Hoodoo Voodoo", aided by some weird sound effects and a clear crowd favorite, "Theologians."
Several times last night, guitarist Nels Cline ripped songs a new one and diverted all eyes his way. The rather mellow "Impossible Germany" was unmellowed; "Handshake Drugs" was served with extra feedback and as always, the slide effects on "Jesus, Etc." were mind-melting.
If we had to complain, we'd say Warsaw's sound is a bit muddy. Our ears are used to hearing those low Tweedy vocals, and at times they were drowned out. That said, maybe we'll see a different band this week. Odds are good; Wilco's heading to Boston today.
Here is Wilco's Warsaw set list:
"You Are My Face"
"I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"
"Pot Kettle Black"
"Side With the Seeds"
"A Shot in the Arm" ->
"Sky Blue Sky"
"Why Would You Wanna Live"
"War on War"
"I'm The Man Who Loves You"
"On and On and On"
"Ashes of American Flags"
"Hate It Here"
"The Late Greats"
"Outta Mind (Outtasite)"
You Can Rely On Them, Honey
Jeff Tweedy doesn't lie. You can rely on Wilco, just like he sings in "Jesus Etc.," to consistently be one of the best, if not the best, American bands working today. You go see them live, like J.I. did on Monday (June 25) at infamous New York shithole Hammerstein Ballroom, and realize they don't really have any bad songs at all. Their latest lineup is so versatile and talented, they almost make it look easy.
To be sure, folks who don't like the new "Sky Blue Sky" may think Wilco is going a bit too easy on the ears, but a few songs into Monday's show, that notion was blown completely out of the water. Guitaris Nels Cline even teased a little bit of Television's "Marquee Moon" into the beginning of "Handshake Drugs," which opened up into a ferocious waves of noise. Mellow, my foot!
Tweedy was clearly enjoying himself, chatting up the audience about the band's new macramé owl (which was lowered from the rafters before "Hate It Here") and dancing with the mic stand during "Hummingbird." He later played a little paddy-cake with Cline at the end of "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," which was loud and thick enough to rattle J.I.'s fillings.
Other highlights: the three-guitar beauty "Impossible Germany," rare airings of the jaunty "Kamera" and a super-loose "I'm Always in Love" during the second encore and a combustible "I'm a Wheel," which closed the show. "I'm gonna turn on you, turn on you, turn on you," Tweedy declared as the boys bashed out the garage-y chords, knowing full well that even if his fans think he's unpredictable, they're willing to follow him through just about any musical expedition. Where to next?
Wilco's set list:
"You Are My Face"
"Side With the Seeds"
"Shot in the Arm"
"I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"
"Shake It Off"
"Hate It Here"
"I'm the Man Who Loves You"
"Poor Places" ->
"Sky Blue Sky"
"War on War"
"Heavy Metal Drummer"
"I'm Always in Love"
"I'm a Wheel"
Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To
If J.I. were to start making predictions as to what will lead a lot of critics' lists in six months, surely Panda Bear's "Person Pitch" (Paw Tracks) will be hovering at the top of many. Some facts about Panda Bear: he now lives in Portugal and is a member of indie kid favorite Animal Collective. He also looks, nor resembles anything remotely, like a Panda Bear.
Most reviews and listeners are describing "Person Pitch" as a very warped Beach Boys-influenced album, with numerous songs having multiple, segueing parts. It's an album with seven tracks that sound like 13.
On Monday (June 18), Panda kicked off his four-stop tour at New York's Bowery Ballroom (he'll also conclude his tour there this Saturday). It was evident that a lot of people who clearly love the record were not prepared for his presentation. Panda just uses a sampler, so the only thing you're watching is a dude turn knobs and sing into a mic. He brings a mean slide show that seemed to be somewhat synched up with what he was doing on stage. Images included, but were not limited to: looped shots of little girls crying at a softball game, a couple about to get it on while riding a roller coaster and scenes from a rather amorous party.
Assuming the visuals didn't distract, he recreated the record almost perfectly but mixed things up by speeding up the "drum"-sounding tracks, and adding "bass" here and there, as well as changing around how the songs morphed into one another. Despite throwing us many curve balls, the crowd was stone faced the entire time. Maybe it was because there were no breaks between any songs or sounds for the entire hour. Maybe it was a Monday night, but Panda Bear charmed a few, alienated a few and ultimately made us very glad we were sober.
We Built This City On Air Guitar
Our faces were blasted off with invisible instruments a little more than a week ago and we've had to undergo hours of air-plastic surgery to have them air-replaced. Andrew W.K. was one of the special guest judges. We touched his sleeve and said hi to him. We almost started crying like a little girl.
Winners thus far have included two women of rock: Erin "McNallica" McNally at the Boston competition and Cami "Airisol" Phillippi at the Minneapolis match-up. Leldon Omar De La Cruz, aka Skeety Jones beat one of favorites from last year, Nordic Thunder, in Chicago. Our favorite, of course, is New York's own Andrew Litz, otherwise known as William Ocean, who brought a little "Idol" to the competition... Billy Idol, that is. It will mark his second return to the U.S. Air Guitar National Championship, due to take place Aug. 17 at
Irving Plaza the Fillmore New York blah blah blah at Irving Plaza .
Bonnarooings: Reflections From A Weary Writer
Jaded Insider is back at his desk, walled in by the familiar piles of CDs and bins of unopened mail. And it feels, well, pretty damn weird after an otherworldly weekend at the Bonnaroo festival, our first. Our brain is still in a daze of incredible performances, quality time spent with best friends and that truly special collective vibe that only events like this can conjure.
Back to that in a minute. First, the highlights of Sunday. Elvis Perkins toed the line between super depressing and kinda fun during this set in the This Tent, even bringing up Clap Your Hands Say Yeah vocalist Alec Ounsworth to play guitar on "Doomsday." We heard someone who we think was Sonya Kitchell covering Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" while walking to and from the press trailer, and the down-and-dirty power rock of Wolfmother seemed to be the perfect soundtrack for the blazing heat at the early afternoon Which Stage.
We were really just waiting, though, for Wilco, and they were superb if not transcendent. The credit really has to go the expanded six-piece lineup that has been in place for the better part of the last few years. It has made the band so versatile and capable of honing in on the nuances of songs like "Handshake Drugs," "Via Chicago," "Impossible Germany" and "You Are My Face." Nels Cline continues to amaze. At times, it almost feels like his guitar is a jet plane beautifully crashing into the rest of the music -- and it's that push/pull between noise and melody that continues to propel Jeff Tweedy (pictured above) and his colleagues into new territory.
The sun was just starting to go down as the band finished, and a smile-inducing glow came over the grounds (which, despite the best efforts of everybody to recycle and generally keep things clean, were in pretty dreadful condition). It made us begin to think about why Bonnaroo is so unique. I'm a Coachella junkie, having been to seven of the eight editions, but Bonnaroo is different. For one thing, it's more WORK to keep yourself engaged in the music, because nearly everybody is camping on-site, eating hot dogs, drinking beer all day in dusty, 91-degree heat (with no breeze) and trudging quite a ways back and forth from the venue to homebase.
Myself, after a mixup about who was supposed to bring the air mattress, I wound up sleeping on a big pile of tarps with an old sheet on top, and not nearly enough blankets/clothes to keep me warm at night. We were in VIP camping, which afforded us hot showers and air-conditioned bathrooms, so I guess I shouldn't complain. But oh yeah, did I mention that the moment the sun comes up around 6 a.m., it becomes a convection oven in your tent, and if you're lucky, you can manage another hour or two of bad sleep before someone nearby starts practicing the saxophone or the sound guy at the main stage blares Rage Against The Machine loud enough to wake the dead?
Yet, these obstacles are precisely what makes it all worthwhile. J.I. and his friends were a bit late arriving at Friday's Led Zeppelin jam with John Paul Jones, Ben Harper and ?uestlove (pictured), and we could barely hear anything from our first vantage point. But we gently nudged ourselves closer and closer until we were in the thick of what turned out to be an amazing two hours of music. Nobody once was a jerk, or failed to say sorry if they accidentally stepped on your foot on the way through. It's a small gesture, but repeated throughout a weekend, it winds up meaning a lot.
Then, there's the camaraderie of sharing stellar performances like the Police, Flaming Lips and Ween on Saturday not only with valued comrades but with 80,000 other people who have so much invested in the experience. That's why when Wayne Coyne lashes out at the U.S. government for shoddy treatment of the families of fallen Iraq war personnel, it just seems to resonate a bit more: you're thinking of the larger good, not just yourself for a change.
That alone can provide the impetus to draw on previously untapped reserves of energy for when you just feel like staying up and watching music until there isn't anymore to be heard. Post Lips, we were cutting through one of the tiny tents on our way to Galactic but were captivated by Charles Walker and the Dynamites, who we'd certainly never heard of. We were immediately teleported back to good old nights in Indiana, when insert-name-of-funk-band-here provided the sublime soundtrack to working up a sweat on the dance floor. Come to find out these guys are just a local band doing it the old-fashioned way: enticing new listeners one by one, even if it means playing for 70 people at 3 a.m.
This may all sound like hippie-era idealism, but for people like us who missed the Summer of Love and all that was wrapped up in it, it's significant. There seemed to be some kind of grand harmony to everything that transpired at Bonnaroo, an intangible force that will be hard to resist in the years to come. - Jonathan Cohen