I interrupt all our DC/PA trip recaps to bring you a recap of different sort. Long-time readers and Twitter followers are probably already aware that I have a serious obsession with the band Wilco.
I painfully love them. Here, this is the best way I can think of to describe how I feel about them.
My first Wilco show was in 2005, which, for the record, still stands as my favorite Wilco show. It’s true what they say about your first time. I’ll never forget it. It was at the House of Blues in Orlando, and I just looked up the set list again to compare it against this one and that 2005 show is still my dream setlist.
The best/worst show was when we sat front-row a couple years ago … it led to a panic attack for me. You can read about that here and about our decision to incorporate a Wilco song into our wedding.
Enough history! You get the point, though — seeing Wilco is kind of a BFD for me.
But this show was so much more than just Wilco. It’s called the AmericanaramA (yes, that second “a” is supposed to be capitalized) Festival of Music, and it’s hitting cities across the country this summer. It features a rotating first act, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan. Not too shabby.
For our show, we got Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir. Fun fact: I’ve seen Bob Dylan in concert one other time. It was in 1995 at the Meadowlands and he was opening for … wait for it … the Grateful Dead. It was in the summer of 1995, about five weeks before Jerry Garcia died.
And here I was, all these years later, seeing Bob Weir open for Bob Dylan. Isn’t life just a fun, wild ride at times?
The concert was Thursday at the
Ford 1-800-ASK-GARY MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre just outside Tampa (seriously, how frequently does this venue change its name??). I left work after lunch to go meet my in-laws halfway between Daytona and Orlando (yes, in the opposite direction) so they could take E for the night, then turned around to come back to pick DadJovi up at his office downtown. Thanks to a nightmare on I-4, it took me twice as long to get to his office and us twice as long to get to the amphitheatre.
And I knew from Twitter stalking the night before’s show that Bob Weir hit the stage promptly at 5:30. Thankfully we arrived just before 5:30 and we had the one thing we’ll ALWAYS have for shows there — a premiere parking pass. They’re $21 to buy in advance and normal parking is $10 anyway. You park in an area right next to the entrance, and, best of all, you get out of there quickly. I’m still traumatized from the time it took us TWO HOURS to get out of the parking lot following a Coldplay show there. Never again.
The only good thing about the long drive is that I was able to pre-game a bit. It’s sweet tea vodka season!
As we were heading into the show, my night was nearly ruined. I stepped down with my super comfortable (but not very thick) recycled yoga mat flip flops and suddenly screamed out in pain — I’d stepped on a tack and it had gone right into my big toe. DadJovi had to pull it out OF MY TOE.
Honestly. Who throws a tack on the ground? It realllly hurt.
I hobbled in and we headed right for the pit (best decision ever springing for those tickets — for some unknown reason, they never used the big video screens so if you were in the lawn or further back in the seats, there was no hope of seeing the acts. Bizarre).
We’d missed his first couple songs, but we were still treated to a tremendous acoustic set from Bob Weir.
And you can’t tell it from this picture, but Bob was rocking a pretty sweet pair of sweatpant-looking capris. If I was a Dead bazillionaire, that’s the look I’d rock too.
I went in with no expectations of his set, but he really was great. Duh. This is another plus to the pit — the acoustic set worked when he was 20 feet away. I’m not sure how it translated to the lawn.
At this point, I also need to mention the pictures. Wilco is notoriously cranky about people taking pictures at their shows. In fact, at that same show where I had a panic attack, Jeff Tweedy (the lead singer) stopped the show to help security properly identify the girl who’d dared to take a picture. He really needs to chill out on this.
But apparently Dylan is the same way. So there was a strict “no pictures” policy in effect. Even during Bob Weir, every time someone would take a picture, security would immediately come over and tell the person to not take any more pictures. I never saw any cameras or phones taken away but it was really annoying.
Luckily for you all, your blogger is experienced in the art of stealthy photo-taking. No, I’m not a papparazzo. I just attend a lot of Wilco shows.
During the break between Weir and My Morning Jacket, we checked out the merchandise and food offerings. We came up huge on both. We typically get a poster at every concert (if it looks cool) and this one? Well, it’s in the poster Hall of Fame now. Look how great it is.
And do you see what’s behind the poster? The famous Tampa Taco Bus! I was so psyched to FINALLY try it. So we took our poster and food (fish taco for me; steak burrito for DadJovi) and headed back inside to watch MMJ.
To be honest, I don’t know many MMJ songs. I started listening to them more once we bought our AmericanaramA tickets, but I still wasn’t sold on them.
I am now. They put on a GREAT show.
The highlight for me, though, was when Bob Weir came out on stage with them to play The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” I was actually in the bathroom when it started and got a text from DadJovi saying, “GET OUT HERE NOW!”
It was spectacular. We’d seen on Twitter that Weir had taken the stage with Wilco the night before but this was his first time joining MMJ. I knew right then that it was going to be a special night.
My Morning Jacket played from about 6:30 to 7:30. As soon as they finished, we started working our way to the front of the stage. And I couldn’t resist this picture.
I also feared that was as close to a Wilco picture as I would get for the night.
DadJovi also begrudgingly posed for one pre-show picture with me.
It’s not a great picture of either of us but I include it because of the cast of characters around us. See sweaty back right behind my left shoulder? He wouldn’t make it past the third song before his friends had to carry him out. See the smiling lady in front of him? Thanks to her hippie dancing ways, I was able to have eye contact with Jeff Tweedy not once, but twice during the show. And finally, beret sunglasses lady? Well, she and her family, which included their teenage son, were also entertaining to watch. I can’t wait to bring E. to Wilco concerts!
Finally, at about 7:55, Wilco took the stage, opening up with “One by One,” a Woody Guthrie song that was on the Billy Bragg and Wilco album “Mermaid Avenue.” It’s interesting that every night of this tour (so far) Wilco has opened with a Woody song, leading some to speculate it’s because of Bob Dylan’s connection to Woody. Whatever the reason, I like it!
They followed “One by One” up with “Hesitating Beauty,” also from “Mermaid Avenue” and one of my favorite songs. We hadn’t seen Wilco perform it since that first concert in 2005.
Yup, I pretty much had a grin plastered across my face by this point. And even the sometimes cranky and snarky Tweedy was downright chipper. I felt so bold as to snap my first picture.
Right after I took that, a rainbow appeared in front of the stage. In typical Tweedy fashion, he quipped, “I don’t like rainbows. They’re overrated.” Of course that’s what he said. I don’t care. I adore you, Jeff.
By the fourth song, we even had our moment. One of the worst parts of that front-row concert a couple years ago was my sheer terror of singing along to the songs for fear of the wrath of Tweedy. But during outdoor shows like this, I feel more freedom. It may have also been the booze. But when the band started singing, “It’s a war on war; it’s a war on war …” well, dammit, it was impossible not to sing along. And that’s when it happened — Jeff and I locked eyes and he held it for three lines of the song. I nearly died. Oh sure, he may have been looking at someone else behind me, but I’m choosing to believe it was me. And he didn’t even scowl! It was magic.
Yes, I have issues.
The set was great. I started excitedly yelling “they never play this” when “Hummingbird” started. DadJovi tried to assure me that we have heard them play it, and it took me looking up the setlists from all our past shows to realize, yes, they’ve played it at every show. I don’t care. It’s one of my favorites so I’m so glad they played it.
That’s OK, I got to say the same when they played “Handshake Drugs,” one of DadJovi’s favorites. They hadn’t played it the night before, though, so he was nervous they wouldn’t play it. It turns out they’re turning out almost an entirely different set each night of the tour. That’s what happens when you’ve been producing great music for 20 years.
This was the first concert we’ve been to where they didn’t play “Jesus, Etc.,” the song I walked down the aisle to. But they more than made up for it with a couple surprises.
We were cautiously optimistic that Weir would join Wilco on stage, and we were not disappointed. The first song they teamed up on was a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers.”
Um, it did not suck. It was one of the most memorable moments in my long concert-going history. Know who else was having fun? Tweedy.
It’s the rarest of all occurrences — Tweedy smiling during a show! I really need to stop making him sound so miserable. I’m sure he’s a very happy person, albeit a slightly tortured songwriter. He’s always very interesting and engaged with audiences but you get the sense he likes things a certain way … his way.
But his way is more than OK with me. In fact, it’s perfect. (God, I’m such a pathetic fan girl)
After “Dead Flowers,” Weir stayed on stage to play the Dead song “Friend of the Devil.” Just such a cool few minutes.
After Weir left the stage, there were only three more songs, including “I Got You (At the End of the Century)” as the closing number. And this time my excitement held up to the facts — a quick check of the Wilco database (such a cool feature on their website) confirms I’ve never seen that song performed live.
The set was obviously way too short for my taste (I think it was about 75 minutes) but it was nearly perfect. It also confirmed that I need to find more ways to see Wilco at outside/festivals rather than theaters. I love the theater shows but they’re just not as free spirited and as, well, fun, as outdoor shows. It really is my happy place.
After Wilco left the stage, we exited our front-stage area to let the Bob Dylan fans move in. We were so high from Wilco that I couldn’t helpt but tweet my excitement.
And almost immediately, I got this hilarious response.
The entire Bob Dylan set was just odd. For starters, the stage set-up seemed more suited for a small jazz club than for a large amphitheatre. I tried to snap a picture but a) we’d moved to the back of the pit area and b) when you’re on the fringes and near security, it’s a lot harder to surreptitiously take a picture. Here’s the best that I got.
Yeah, that picture probably isn’t blog worthy. But you can see what I mean with the jazzy lounge set-up and giant flames on the sides of the stage.
And Bob? Poor Bob. His voice is unrecognizable. I really think the majority of the audience was there just to say they saw him perform live, which is understandable. The man is unmatched in his songwriting genius. But he also seems to be doing his best to not be himself. Even some of his bigger songs that the casual fan like me would know were also nearly unrecognizable. It took myself (and the crowd) about three minutes into a song to realize it was ‘Tangled Up in Blue.”
I actually enjoyed the set as long as I wasn’t expecting it to sound like Dylan. From a strictly performance sense, I was kind of digging it.
But honestly? My favorite part of Dylan’s set was watching Bob Weir and Wilco’s Michael Jorgensen watching Dylan from the side of the stage. That was pretty cool.
We ended up leaving about 3/4 of the way through Dylan’s set. I hate “beat the traffic” concert-goers but in this case, it seemed to be worth it.
OK, you see why it takes so long for me to blog about things? I have a serious overwriting condition. I apologize but also thank you for sticking around (if you did!)
What song or band makes you feel the way Sapphire described in “Almost Famous?” Have you ever stayed at a concert just because you felt you “should” see that artist instead of wanting to really see him or her?