The Time I Cried At A Wilco Show

Photo courtesy of Dana Gorab
Let me just be straight … it is honestly the TIMES that I’ve cried at Wilco shows if you include the number of occasions I have also seen Jeff Tweedy play solo throughout the years. The man is a national treasure and it’s appropriate given what an absolute sucker I am for his song, “Sunken Treasure”, which just so happens to be the tune that set me off on November 6, 2004 at the Fillmore in Denver.

I remember it well because it was shortly after the 2004 elections, when George W. had won reelection against John Kerry and that was sort of the tone that everything was set against. It was my very first election I voted in but I wasn’t really a fan of either candidate, so everyone was either bummed about the wet blanket of an opposition nominee or the bleak realization that we were stuck both in that administration and the first major war that I had witnessed in my adult life. I can remember Tweedy saying something offhand like, “Thank you all for not killing yourselves tonight and coming out anyways.”

Nonetheless, I was a huge fan of the band, obsessively so since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had come out and I was excited to be there. I had driven out from Boulder that night with my good friend and former bandmate, Adam Weiss (and now of Truest, in NYC). We had recorded a demo of about six songs and burned them to a CD to assist in our foolproof plan to deliver the disc to Tweedy, who would then take us home with him and let us live and record in his loft in Chicago. Our band, which had gone through several name incarnations, including such clear winners as Free Lemmings (so subtle and deep) and Arch Anemone, but at the time I think we were simply calling ourselves Yowza! - it was the sound of the future and Jeff Tweedy was our ticket to the stars.

Anyway, for those who don’t know “Sunken Treasure”, it sort of has two different personalities depending on if they’re playing it as a band or Jeff is performing solo. The band version includes their notorious noise and amps feedback of that era, while the solo version is stripped down, folksy and tender. Musically, it would hit you in different ways, but it is the lyrics that unite the visions:

“But there is no sunken treasure rumored to be

 Wrapped inside my ribs in a sea black with ink.”

I was, what, 19 at the time? If this just doesn’t paint a self romanticized picture of what I took very seriously at the time. What is this even all for, man? But that’s not even as intense as the lyrics that followed:

“I am so out of tune

With you.”

There’s your shot to the heart. It gets me every single time. The way the man would sing that lyric so earnest and raw. I swear he’d intentionally push his voice a bit too hard so he actually would pull out of tune with the rest of the band and by the time he’d resolve the tension on ‘with you,’ I was standing, knee deep in a salty puddle of my own making.

Anyway, I was young and sentimental. I think at the time I thought I was some sort of extra-special, empathetic superhero for bawling right there in the theatre, but the truth is it’s just a damn good song and easily one of Tweedy’s bests. A further truth is how awkward I was at that age. We waited to meet him outside after the show to give him our demo and I was utterly speechless. My friend was pretty good about small-talking gear and such to show how well researched and in-the-know he was with the scene. I just gawked and went in for a hug that was probably hugely unwelcome, but oh well. I love the man’s music.

So there. I cried. And I did again and to some other new Wilco songs throughout the following years, but I can say I had learned the lesson on personal space of those I admire.

- Curtis Peel, Futurist