Wilco: Far, Far Away

The Auditorium TheatreWilco

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, September 20, 2003

Wilco comes home from two years on the road and lots of growing pains. An old-school fan struggles with the new fans who can’t shut their fucking mouths during the show.

When I was in fourth grade my friend Pat Joyce moved away. We’d gone to school together since first grade, which, in the short span of elementary school, is a lifetime. We lived in the same neighborhood, had all the same friends, our parents had similar jobs and cars. But he moved away. I didn’t see him for a while. But then a couple years later, I did see him and he invited me over to his new house—a much larger house, with fantastic new toys and really nice furniture. He had new friends too, and we didn’t get along.

After two years on the road promoting Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco came home to Chicago with a show at the opulent and exquisite Auditorium Theatre. It was a far cry from those early days at the dingy but beautiful Lounge Ax, where I saw my first Wilco shows, and further proof that you can never really come home again.

Wilco at the Lounge Ax
Wilco at the Lounge Ax
Back in the Lounge Ax days, it was literally shoulder-to-shoulder standing for hours of balls-out rock from the Midwest’s greatest band. You were so close to the action that if you positioned yourself just right on the sides of the room, you could almost literally be on stage when Tweedy and Co. broke into “Casino Queen.” It was a mass of sweat and smoke and bobbing heads and raised beer bottles. There was glass on the floor and piss on the walls. It was the perfect venue to catch the man who would be one of America’s greatest lyricists try out the dopey lines and twisted phrases of his earliest forays into stream of conscious writing backed by the strongest instrumentalists and collaborators in the field. It was the middle days of alt-country and there was still a buzz about that term. Wilco were shepherding in the flock Uncle Tupelo had gathered and it was good.

But the Auditorium Theatre is an altogether different venue. It is posh, ladies and gentleman. But make no mistake, this is not an indictment from a pseudo-punk clinging to the boring aesthetic of trash. No, I like posh. I like comfy chairs and good sound. I like the Auditorium Theatre. But it was still shocking to see a band I used to pay $10 to see twice a month at Lounge Ax in a venue that sells plastic opera glasses to rock fans.

Yes folks, this was their new house and it is huge. The distance from my seat in Balcony 2, Row A completely removed me from the show. Whereas at Lounge Ax members of the crowd were participants, those of us in the upper reaches of the Auditorium Theatre were spectators; as involved in the show going on below us as a Cheesehead is involved in a Packers game. The good news is that Wilco’s new house, in addition to the cozy seats, has an awesome sound system. The sound was impeccable. Truly the best sounding show in a venue that size I’ve ever heard.

But just like my old friend Pat, Wilco too has new friends.

The success of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in addition to the massive amount of attention the band has received surrounding the album’s release and subsequent documentary, has brought Wilco a lot of new fans, or at least a lot of curious onlookers. Yes, Wilco has new friends and we don’t get along.

Wilco at the Auditorium, photo by Megan Phillips
Wilco at the Auditorium
An increasing fan base is bound to happen when you couple brilliant songwriting with made-for-reality-TV drama, and the last two years have brought a lot of attention Wilco’s way. But the newcomers don’t all share the same enthusiasm and respect or even the sense of community as many OG fans. The din of crowd chatter between songs bordered on ludicrous and was downright rude during opening act Smog’s set. Cell phones, camera flashes, and inane conversations in the seats left those of us unlucky enough not to get floor tickets with a sense of disconnect from a band we’d dedicated years to and a rising resentment of the jackasses who’d bought tickets only to talk through the entire show.

Mind you it’s not Wilco’s fault and who doesn’t want the boys to make some honest, hard earned dough? And this is not meant to further the rift between the hardline alt-country-heads and the newer fans. But we humans fear change and there’s a hard wind blowing at Ye Olde Yankee Hotel.

It’s silly to try to hold on to your favorite bands and hope that the masses never find them. These guys have bills to pay and a successful follow-up to YHF would just add more sticky, stinking egg to the face of the Reprise Records execs who dropped Wilco [David Kahne, to name names – Ed.] for delivering a “career ending” album two years ago.

No, of course we want Wilco to succeed. And they’re still a cool band. That was particularly evident at the after-party where dozens of hardcore fans from the Via Chicago fansite gathered to meet their heroes. Jeff Tweedy’s wife, Sue Miller, personally handed out passes to the Via Chicago members. The band hung out with fans for hours taking countless photos and signing all the strange shit with inside joke associations.

But it was still weird. It wasn’t so long ago—before I moved to Chicago—when I was at my first Lounge Ax show and a scraggily, dreadlocked chap rushed through the crowd and tripped over my leg minutes before the opening act started. I turned to my Chicago host and asked a bit excitedly if it was Jay Bennett to which he replied, “What do you think they are, big stars?” They are now.

Yes, things are changing. While Wilco’s success is confirmation of what the long-timers have always known, we can’t help but shed a tear as our band walks off a stage that is three times larger than the whole of the greatest venue they’d ever played. Good night Wilco. Good night Lounge Ax.

109 thoughts on “Wilco: Far, Far Away”

  1. I hope this never happens to the Jayhawks. They are just fine as they are. A small but loyal fanbase and lots of smokey venues.

  2. Alright, so maybe the “new friends” you speak of are lame, but the music (assumedly) means something to them too. I don’t think its fair to them to be persecuted. Does that kind of behavior at a show annoy me too? Sure. But the point of concerts, ideally, is for a lot of people who share the same passion for music to come together and rejoice in that passion. Wilco isn’t the type of band people go see for “cred”, so I’m assuming most of the people there really do love their music. Maybe just as much (or even more) as you.

  3. “But the point of concerts, ideally, is for a lot of people who share the same passion for music to come together and rejoice in that passion.”

    …And you completely missed the point.

  4. “But the point of concerts, ideally, is for a lot of people who share the same passion for music to come together and rejoice in that passion”

    What the fuck?

    I bet the only thing the jamokes in the floor seats of the Auditorium were sharing were mp3s of “California Stars.” You’re a damn hippy if you think that anyone down there was applying words like ‘share’ or ‘passion’ to their experience – they were only there so they could say they were the next morning at work.


  5. “Maybe just as much, (or even more) as you.”

    If you read this site regularly, you’ll know no one loves Wilco more than DP — I think that’s in the article anyway, whether you’ve read his past pieces on the band or not.

    Sure, the band deserves new fans. If fans love a band’s music, they listen to it, they don’t talk through it. It’s easy to tell the difference.

  6. Jeez you guys, you’re being a little hard on the newbies. Just because they wear baseball caps doesn’t mean they don’t care about the music. Sure, there’s no excuse for talking on a phone at a show. None whatsoever. And as much as it annoys me when people talk during shows, it is A ROCK AND ROLL SHOW, not the fucking opera. There’s nothing creepier than a fanboy’s reverance toward their idols. Talk, laugh, have fun, sing along, rock out, dance, whatever. It’s only rock and roll.

    People enjoy music in different ways. For most people it is just pleasant background noise, for some it’s something they occasionally appreciate when something catches their ear, and for people like us it’s our religion and we hate it when people are disrupting the service.

    I can see how the fact that you pay $50+ for the experience would make you want to actually be able to hear it though. The solution: turn it up!

  7. Thanks, Johnny, make me crack up out of context at work.

    I dunno, this argument cuts both ways. For every Wilco who we the indie snobs (self-inclusion here, mind you) (and that’s not always all bad) have to release to the mainstream, there’s a Loud Family, who produces album-after-album of amazing tunes and builds a cult fanbase of x number of people, but ultimately that number isn’t a large enough number for the principals to justify continuing to create albums and tour, despite the rabid nature of their existing fans. So out of sheer economic necessity, the band throws in the towel for lives as Joe Citizen, breaking the hearts of said rabid fanbase.

    Taking the point a step further, the formerly indie-embraced groups surrendered to the mainstream can be subdivided into (at least) two subgroups: your R.E.M.’s of the world, who get huge and lose the plot, or a U2 who still once-in-a-while makes great albums that justify seeing them in an airplane hangar (I’m sorry, overexposure and band ego aside, All That You Can’t Leave Behind is an excellent album). So who’s to know? Yes, it’s heartbreaking having to share with the nimrods. But just like the frontiersmen had to ultimately share California with the Gold Rush fuckwads, so too does Wilco now have to be shared with the impolite trendy cunts (which might be one of the deeper issues at hand; if all Wilcoholics acted the same in terms of passion and reverence, D-Phil might be celebrating). At least now with a green river behind their house (i.e., ca$h), Wilco might find the incentive to carry on as artists. And that’s not always so bad, is it?

  8. I’m sorry. I think I was too hard on Tom4. He’s made many thoughtful comments, so I know he does read the site regularly. Sorry, Tom.

    O.T. — How was Smog? (through the din.) I really like him. He’s kind of snotty but I think his songs are really neat and his voice is great. “The Lou Rawls of indie rock,” my friend called him.

  9. Ah, the age-old dilema of the music geek: mainstream success of ‘their’ bands. I hate baseball cap wearers too (as do all good folk), but fuck it; at least they’re throwing their money at Wilco instead of Silverback. This week, anyway.

    Although with their generally lousy taste I don’t see what the Normals are getting out of it. I’ve never been able to understand the mainstream types who take a taste of alternative, only to turn around and go back to the same old crap. I guess they’re trying to be cool. Stupid knobs.

  10. I saw Wilco in Boston about a year ago. I had pretty bad seats, and the people in front of us talked through the first 4 songs- I remember they started the gig with ‘How to fight Loneliness’. It was really quiet and they talked through the whole damn thing! I was pissed off enough to tell them to please be quiet since I had driven 150 miles to be there(from Albany, NY). This might have been rude, and they said something back to me, but at least they shut up.

    I guess this sort of thing is to be expected when your favorite band is playing seated auditoriums. They are still my favorite band, and I’ll still go see them in seated venues.

  11. Quoth Robert: “Some of you are truly pathetic fanatics. Get a fucking grip.”

    …Where? On your fuckin’ throat? Or is it that maybe you’re too thick to substitute the word “Wilco” with “Dave Matthews Band” or “football”, or whatever turns your crank. Most of us post here because we do care a lot, and don’t see the sin in that. Obviously you’ve stumbled on the wrong message board Robert; don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  12. Little question on the slang used here. Baseball cap wearers? I can only guess this is a jibe at the fraternity set? Or maybe at High school kids?

    As a fan of Wilco for only a couple of years, I can attest that there are some of us who are there to “experience” the show, crappy floor seats or not.

    And no, I rarely wear ball caps to shows.

  13. Woah, this isn’t about what kind of hats people wear or whether “normals” are allowed to like Wilco. It’s strictly about the changing makeup of Wilco’s audience. There are lots of people who have just discovered Wilco within the past year who are just as “into” them as your run-of-the-mill No Depression type. Some of these newbies even wear Dockers (gasp)! That has nothing to do with the article. It’s all about the growing pains. I am GLAD Wilco is getting a larger fanbase. I am glad they’re making more money. I am glad they are turning more people on to music that I really love. But, when you have a band that’s attracted as much attention as Wilco has in the last year, you might get some bozos who show up just to say they saw them when…

    By the way, to further my point, the yapping jackasses who sat next to me left about half way through the show.

  14. wearing hats inside is just stupid, whether you’re a (former) frat boy or not. unless it’s part of your religion or you’re freezing and it keeps you warm. god forbid i deny anyone heat.

    i had no idea (smog) was opening until right now; and now it’s much too late. might have made the push in price almost palatable.

    and, let’s all keep in mind that wilco has had some stupid fans for quite some time; this isn’t exactly new except for the volume. and it’s not like all the new fans are attrocious either. just for god’s sake take your hats off. all of you.

  15. I know someone who went to both shows only because she knows someone who “knows them”. Not because she really liked them. She doesn’t even own a single cd of theirs and barely knows their songs, likes their sound somewhat.

    Now that is what I call pathetic. ANd it pissed me off.

  16. Being someone who is 22 years old and could pass for 18, I’d like to think I wouldn’t be looked on with scorn by people who’ve been into Wilco as long as me or more (since ‘Summer Teeth’ and been aware of their existance and ‘Misunderstood’ since about 1997). I hope I never retreat into “ah things were better when Ken and Jay were in the band” which I could say if I so wanted to.

  17. Charli, isn’t that how people get turned on to new music? When I saw the Libertines at the Empty Bottle I had only heard one song on a comp. I liked the show, bought the cd, and now I’m a fan. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

  18. I was at both shows (2nd Balcony on Friday, 1st Balcony on Saturday), and I felt the same way. While there’s a sense of pride that Wilco is finally getting the recognition and acclaim they’ve deserved all along, there’s also an undercurrent of regret…a lost connection of intimacy. Those early Lounge Ax shows fostered my love and devotion for the band, and I’ve followed along ever since.

    The overwhelming feeling I had at the Auditorium shows was being on the outside, looking in. I certainly don’t blame Wilco for this, as it is just part of the natural progression for a talented band. But after seeing them at the Lounge Ax, The Abbey, Martyr’s, the Vic, and even the Riv, something was definitely lost in such a large venue. The sound was, of course, outstanding, but I was so distracted by the chatter going on around me (combined with the distance from the actual stage), that I had to make a conscious effort to enjoy myself. I even politely asked the two bubblehead blondes in front of us to please refrain from yammering away throughout the set. Needless to say, my request was met with incredulous glances and muffled laughter…and the ceaseless chatter continued.

    I hope that Wilco will continue to play smaller venues, but lately I’m left with a sinking feeling akin to dropping your only child off at an out-of-state college some 500 miles away. I’ll definitely still follow the band’s every movement and I’ll undoubtedly be standing in line at Tower on Clark during the witching hour so I can pick up their next release. But if the current trend of larger venues continues, I’m not sure how motivated I’ll be to continue seeing them live, which sucks.

  19. Pete, RE: your comments

    While there’s a sense of pride that Wilco is finally getting the recognition and acclaim they’ve deserved all along, there’s also an undercurrent of regret…a lost connection of intimacy. Those early Lounge Ax shows fostered my love and devotion for the band, and I’ve followed along ever since.

    The overwhelming feeling I had at the Auditorium shows was being on the outside, looking in. I certainly don’t blame Wilco for this, as it is just part of the natural progression for a talented band. But after seeing them at the Lounge Ax, The Abbey, Martyr’s, the Vic, and even the Riv, something was definitely lost in such a large venue.

    I think this is true of ANY band that graduates from smoky bars with intimate settings to amphitheatres or hockey rinks. Unless you end up in the first 10 rows, there is little in the way of intimacy or any chance of feeling a part of what is happening onstage. You are merely an observer. For most of the general populace this is fine. But for people like us for whom music and the live experience mean so much more, this just isn’t good enough. And when you add the annoying yattering of others around you to being 500 ft away from the stage, it kind of makes you wonder why you even came.

    At my last Wilco show (opening for REM) in Vancouver Aug 29, I was lucky to be 4 people back from the front dead center, but had to put up with loud chatter from four idiots next to us during most of their set. They had no idea who Wilco was, and were completely disrespectful to everyone around them during the set. Finally someone told them to shut the hell up or get out, and they sheepishly did, thank God. But I was so pissed off it seriously affected my enjoyment of the show. So I know what you’re talking about…..

  20. Jake,she didn’t really care for either show. She told me they were “ok, not my thing”.

    Trust me, she won’t go out and buy their cd’s now.

  21. It’s OK Kristy, thanks. If you like my insightful comments, read about what I think about the new Spiritualized album off to the left. Talk about insightful!

    As for Derek, I don’t think I missed the point. My point was that just because they were behaving at the show differently then you, doesn’t mean they had no regard for Wilco or their music. Like Jake said, people respond to music differently, especially in the live setting. Maybe the conversations they were having were about the music? I get annoyed at shows too, but you’ve got to remember that you don’t know these people and shouldn’t be judging them from 200 ft away. That’s why indie music lovers like us get made fun of, because of elitist sentiments like those above. Now that’s not an insult at you Derek, because you’re very knowledgeable about music and I enjoy your writing, but I think you came off as arrogant in this piece.

  22. “for people like us it’s our religion and we hate it when people are disrupting the service.” You’re so right, Jake!

    Wilco’s success is certainly bittersweet for hardcore fans. I’ll confess, the selfish little kid inside me is screaming, “they’re mine, you can’t have them!”

    Then again, I’ve been dragging my friends to Wilco shows for years trying to spread to gospel.

  23. “Woah, this isn’t about what kind of hats people wear or whether “normals” are allowed to like Wilco. ”

    Excuse me, ‘D’ (if that IS your real name), but I think I know a just a little bit more about your article than you do. And I say it’s all about the hats! The hats, I tell you! Tell the world!

  24. “you don’t know these people and shouldn’t be judging them from 200 ft away.”

    I was referring to the people right next to me who were actually talking about going to Rock Bottom (a bar in the Loop), and in fact they left early and evidently did go to Rock Bottom.

    I was actually really trying to avoid the rock snob thing and even made mention of the goofy hardliner alt.country mooks who call Tweedy a sellout. I’m not passing judgement on the new fans as a whole, but on the fact that Wilco shows are different now than they were when I first saw them.

    It was a good show, from a performance standpoint, but not a good show from an upper balcony sitter perspective. From my view, most of those on the floor were having a ball. I was much too far away to feel that excitement (see photo 2).

  25. Oh, DJMurphy, you crack me up. Gotta love it.

    It is a rare thing for a band to move from the bar circuit to an arena or large Auditoriums and maintain the intimacy that the uberfan needs to sustain themselves.

    It’s less of an issue with some rock bands. I’ve seen Foo Fighters repeatedly at arena sized venues and couldn’t imagine them playing in a bar. In fact, I don’t want to see them play at a bar. Conversely, I don’t know if I want to see Wilco play in a venue that allows more than 500 people in the door.

    I have noticed that lately people in general seem to lack a certain degree of decorum at public entertainment events. I’m not talking about kids being wild at the Warpped Tour. That’s appropriate. When I go to the nearby suburban multiplex to see movies I notice that people are often talking on cell phones, talking to each other, yelling at the screen, etc. etc. I think that both the interactive nature of entertainment technology (ie. the internet, cell phone, etc.) and the continuing deformalization of our culture have led to this type of behavior.


  26. I’m one of the people who heard story behind YHF and was intrigued. I checked out their website and downloaded an MP3 of Ashes of American Flags and loved it. I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the album.

    Since it wasn’t out yet I picked up Being There and Summerteeth and thought they were fantastic. When YHF came out I got it immediately and thought it was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard.

    I finally got to see them this past June at Constitution Hall in DC and thought they played an amazing show. I was sitting in the last row and had no problem hearing the band, even during the quieter songs (they opened with Poor Places and Reservations) because people around me were talking. There were some jackasses there I’m sure, but people genrerally seemed to be there to listen to the band and not just there to say they were. It’s probably the best show I’ve seen all year.

    I remember when Being There came out and it got a lot of great press. And I remember thinking that maybe I should check it. I wish I had. I wish I got to see them at a place like the Lounge Ax.

    I found this site because it was linked from the official Wilco site. I liked what I read and kept coming back. After reading this article and the comments I’ve decided I’m never coming back here. Sour Grapes dude and next time make sure you get floor seats.

    “And I remember when GloNo didn’t have Google ads…”

  27. And I’m lucky. I live in Chicago and will still get to see Wilco at those “secret” small shows that pop up all the time. This was just one jarring example of how things have changed in three years.

    And I agree Scott, getting wild at a Warped show is what it’s all about. Hell, I’ve almost been chucked out of Lounge Ax for getting so drunk and stupid at a Wilco show that it probably negates my bitching of obnoxious fans in my article. I don’t want people to sit quietly at a Wilco show, but I also don’t want to hear them discussing that horrible show Sex & the City while the band plays “Via Chicago.”

  28. I have a theory it’s because we hardly ever see each other. We’re very isolated. Deformalization of our culture goes along with increaing privatization. We’re all at home with TV or the Internet, unless we’re out at rock shows, where we want to catch up with each other as well as listen.

  29. Kristy,Formalities are left by the wayside because cultural norms can’t keep pace with the culture. Once the phone isn’t conected to the wall by a 6 foot cord, you can answer it all the time, which means that anyone can call you all the time, etc. etc. I only wich Free Love would have taken off like this. Being pysically seperated, I believe, has less to do with it than the technology that connects us. 100 years ago our society was mostly agricultural and people saw very little of each other. Beyond the immediate family, you would see people possibly once a week at church. Yet that society was very formal. Rigid norms and customs, etc. Introduce instanteous connectivity and all that is blown apart.

    Wow, Wilco really gets my stream of consciousness thingy going.

  30. So, let me get this straight…. Arse holes talking during a Wilco show leads only to minor inconvenience. But Google ads lead to a boycot.

    What the fu……

  31. PS: GA shows are the way to go… no casual fan/tourist would line up for hours just to get close to the stage. Hell, I drove down from Canada to see Wilco at the MacDonald Theatre in Eugene, OR and THEN I lined up for 3+ hours outside the venue. My reward? I got to stand up front right at Jeff’s feet. Heaven!

  32. “Paul,

    You’re exactly the fan I was referring to in my last post. I like that Wilco is picking up new fans and I’m sure you dig the band as much as anyone. Glad you’re a fan

    Now let me tell you about when Jay and Ken were in the band…”

    Thanks Derek, but I saw them both at Glasgow Garage in May 1999!

  33. I’ve always wondered about the hardcore GA fans. Once you’re front row, what happens when you have to pee? Seriously, maybe I need to dehydrate for a full day prior to shows but as soon as I’m front row and the band starts rocking, nature calls.

    About the article now, what the fuck are you people getting upset about? This is a natural progression for any fanbase. The oldies get sick of the newbies. Not for any other reason than it’s a bummer to have your level of intimacy pulled from underneath your feet like an old rug. The hardcore fans just need to stick it out long enough that they become a joke or a thing of the past.

    Me, I was and still am a hardcore Quiet Riot fan. In the 80’s, it was me and 10,000 other fans banging our heads. Now, it’s me, the bartender, the band’s ugly girlfriends and whoever else I coerced into attending with me. Patience, please practice patience. The fly-by fans will soon dissipate.

    Also, Scotty’s stream of consciousness was funded by the Frederick Meijer Corp. for anyone who’s keeping tabs.

  34. Chatty, inattentive crowds seems to be a US thing. In the last 1 1/2 years I’ve been to 9 wilco shows. Most attentive crowd was at the Montreal Jazz Festival last June. Here in the US, there seems to be a thing called “The Me Show.” Certain folks decide they’re going to be the center of attention, either performing for his/her friends or starting some mid-show drama. Your hope is to stay clear of them, or that they’re hanging back at the bar. Even Little Steven commented about this at Springsteen shows – we have the attention deficit thing, as compared with European crowds.

  35. i don’t see how it can be a matter of people reacting differently to the music. As much as I would like to say that we are all equal and intelligent, at shows this is glaringly not true. I think Derek Phillips makes a lot of sense. Yeah everyone has a right to pick up on something good and interesting, and no it is not the opera, however it is on some level an artistic endevour and it should, in some sense be treated as such.

    There is nothing worse in the world than behavioristic sizing up, but in saying that a frat boy is a frat boy (in a general sense, in appearance) Recently i saw radiohead, lawn seats. It was insanity. Tickets were $45 and people talked nonstop, and like the other posters, when asked to stop became indignent. The point is, if you pay $45 to see a show, enjoy it, BY LISTENING TO IT. Fine if your way of listening to it is by talking, then at least stand in the bar area. It really is a matter of either being in tune with the world around you and showing that world respect. I would put forth that the same people who jabber nonstop during shows are the same people who would stab your sick grandmother for her shawl. Just kidding, but if they aren’t willing, or aren’t able to recognize that they are part of a community, then they are fundamentally lacking in being decent human beings.

    Also, i wholeheartedly agree with Johnny Loftus that many people go to shows, when the start to blow up, Wilco, WhiteStripes, esc, so they can include it in coversation. that may not be a morally wrong thing to do, but it is annoying as fck.

  36. Recently, at the United Center, my wife and I were at the Steely Dan concert (I know, typically not the type of music covered here, but I have a point) with floor seats, because we actually wanted to enjoy the band. Wouldn’t you know it, these two drunk twentysomething assholes in front of us are shoving each other into the group of people on either side of each other and screaming in the middle of songs. And keep in mind that most of the crowd for a Steely Dan show is older and more sedate than that for, say, Limp Bizkit. I mean c’mon, assholes; if you want to act like fools, go to a fucking hockey game.

  37. Thanks for reminding me how much of an asshole you can be at hockey games. Man, I can’t wait until hockey season.

  38. Greg, you are right on about that “Me show” thing.

    This is exactly why I took a pass on seeing Wilco this time. I was done after that last Riviera show. I’m glad they have new fans, I just don’t get along with them either.

    I opted to see stellastar* (and the Raveonettes) at Metro that night and I felt just like Derek probably did those days seeing Wilco at Lounge Ax.

  39. I think that popular music in general is such a commodity now, and so devoid of real entertainment value, that people are unable to totally appreciate much of anything. Being raised on it, people develope an attitude that entertainment is only a way to spend your time in between other periods of entertainment. We used to just refer to this as “being shallow”. Now that shallowness pisses some of us off when it’s displayed to the detriment of a genuine performance that requires one to listen to appreciate.

    God, I sound like an old fart………..

  40. I too was around during the Lounge Ax days but I remember it a bit differently. I agree with a lot of what Derrick is saying but the Lounge Ax had people talking throughout the show as well. They would do it during Jeff’s solo shows which was really asinine. The Lounge Ax was notorious for people continuing to talk through the show as if Jeff was background music. I loved the Lounge Ax and miss it but it is great to see Wilco at new venues as well. In fact, Wilco, since it’s inception, has always been too big for Lounge Ax. They really started playing at places like the Vic that were much larger venues. Lounge Ax was just a place to have weekday shows on short notice to pay the Lounge Ax bills.

  41. I only noticed people talking at Jeff’s solo shows toward the end and it was usually knocked off pretty quick. But you’re right, Wilco was probably always too big for Lounge Ax and you really had to rely on “being in the know” to catch them there.

    And again, the article is in no way a criticism of the band. I’m quite happy they’re doing well.

  42. Every single solo Tweedy bootleg I have from the Lounge Ax features Jeff chiding the audience for talking. This goes back to 97 or 98. It’s sort of funny. Beer + crowd = loud.

  43. ooh i have a story too!

    i’m one of those bandwagoneers who liked “summerteeth” a lot but only really started liking wilco a _whole_ lot after “yankee hotel.” (end me show.) but i saw them last year and was privy to the cell-phone fucks and the giggly tank-top wearing fucks and the following snippet of dialogue, which to this day will not wipe from my brain:

    “ooh, he [tweedy] reminds me of jakob dylan.”

    ow. ouch. owie.

  44. great photos! isn’t the band looking EXTRA sharp? have they been influenced by queer eye for the straight guy? it looks like carson took them all shopping!

  45. Well now I have to chime in…’cuz I’m kind of amazed by this string of comments and really just ‘cuz I’m bored.

    Writing (and bitching) about music is useless. And I say this as someone who has been compensated with cash money for both playing music and writing about it. And, yes, I’ll gladly continue to do either for money and/or beer.

    The appreciation of music is ENTIRELY subjective. I know that Helmet is the greatest band … ever. That’s in world history. Ever. Nothing before them nor anything that will ever (ever) come after will surpass their surely unsurpassable greatness (that cannot be surpassed). But y’know what? Not everybody likes Helmet. And some people might have gone to (or been dragged to) a Helmet show and not enjoyed it to the degree nor in the manner that I know is appropriate. Oh well.

    If you’re so concerned about your darling band playing larger venues to people younger than you (hat-wearers at that! the bastards), then BUCK UP, get a babysitter, pay the dough, get there early and get in the front row.

    By the way, WILCO is not a Chicago product. Wilco is a St. Louis product — back in their Uncle Tupelo guise. Yeah, yeah, they were actually from the Illinois side of the river, but they were REAL close to St. Louis, so they’re OURS ALL OURS and all their fame and fortune is OWED TO US.

    I also like Sade.

    But Helmet is better than Sade.


  46. Smarty Pants, you raise some interesting points. However, I must quibble with you that some of the contentions that you proffer are not informed by the situation at hand. While what you say is true about “get there early”, “buck up and stop yer whinin'”, etc. yadda yadda, you miss the fact that for non-general admission concerts (such as the one Mr. Phillips found himself at), this doesn’t apply; you only marginally picked your seat, and you sure didn’t pick your seatmates. And as far as the degree of triviality or “uselessness” of writing about music… as someone who writes here habitually, I enjoy the different perspectives. I like seeing that I’m not the only one who thinks Sting is full of shit; I like learning that the Romantics’ latest could signal a career resurrection for them. And by comparison, I think the level of intelligence rises above your typical “Justin Timbercrack is so dreamy” message boards. And if the sports nuts can wax rhapsodic about how many homers Sosa hit last Thursday, we music fanatics are allowed to get as arcane as we wanna be here.

    Oh, and UT might be from St. Louis (Belleville, actually), but Wilco makes no bones about being all about Chicago, ever since Mr. Tweedy married Sue Miller and set down roots in our fair city. Notice it’s Marina Towers on the cover of YHF, not the Gateway Arch. Sorry Charlie…

    Besides, for someone who supposedly sings about passion, Sade is appallingly bloodless. Viva Roxy Music!!!

  47. Now this is fun. (I’m supposed to be working you know.)

    1. The world needs a return of the Romantics about as much as a return of, say, The Outfield. I cannot in type convey the puking noise I’m currently making.

    2. Yes, yes. I agree with the sports-nut thing. I will earnestly talk music (and even worse – music gear) with my musician buddies ’til the wee hours.

    3. I’m a little concerned that you know Mrs. Tweedy’s name (unless she, too, is some sort of Chi-town alt figure).

    4. I’ve never seen the YHF cover, so I didn’t know what was on there. However, I believe (and don’t ask me how I know this — maybe it was a piece on NPR) that on a song (maybe) titled “Rock n Roll Drummer,” Mr. Tweedy sings about playing “on the landing,” which would be Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis — a (once) proud collection of nightclubs on the riverfront. You can take the boy out of St. Louis (Belleville), but you can’t take the St. Louis out of the boy. (I can hear now the sounds of Wilco devotees scrambling to check the above song reference and lyrics. Get back to me on that, yes?)

    5. I liked Dream of the Blue Turtles.

    6. I forget what I was gonna say here.

  48. SP sez: “3. I’m a little concerned that you know Mrs. Tweedy’s name (unless she, too, is some sort of Chi-town alt figure).”

    That is correct; she was one of the co-owners of the wonderful (and unfortunately defunct) Lounge Ax. And liking Dream Of Blue Turtles does not negate Sting’s status as full of himself. Just because Exile On Main St. is a classic doesn’t make Mick any less of a swanny diva in loose fitting clothes.

  49. I am 19 years old and just started listening to Wilco when my buddy introduced them to me about a year ago. I have been buying up their albums since that point and they have become one of my most favorite bands. I sat in the second row at the Aud. Theatre on Sat. Do you people think that because I am a new fan that the music dosen’t mean anything to me? I understand the feeling of loss when a small band makes it big and it seems as if the new fans don’t care as much as you do. The fact is music is there for everyone, and it is selfish to think you are the only one who can experience it. If you love the music, it shouldn’t matter who you are. It’s ironic how people want to see small bands succeed and get the recognition they deserve, and when they finally do, they want it to go back to the way it was. Just becasue I didn’t see Uncle Tupelo play back in the day, or didn’t even know about the band when Being There was released, does that mean that I can not be a part of this? I am not one of those people who brings a cell phone to concerts (i don’t even own one), or talk during shows. I was there to take it all in, and not to talk about it the next day at work, but rather to talk about it years and years down the road as a great experience.

  50. “Do you people think that because I am a new fan that the music dosen’t mean anything to me?”

    How many times do I have to write it? NO. I’m sure the music means as much to you. I am GLAD (bigger letters, where art thou!!?) you are a fan. I’m doubly glad Wilco is getting new fans. Blah blah blah. Read it again, softhead!

    But Smarty is right. This is all pointless and we’re going to close Glorious Noise at midnight tonight. It’s been great knowing ya but it seems our little venture was all a waste of time.

  51. Why midnight?

    No, no. C’mon now. Writers, keep writing. Listeners, keep listening. And fans, keep being fans.

    What I was trying to impart is what a certain “swanny diva” once said: “It’s only rock-n-roll.” A rock show is a rock show. People are gonna talk, drink, smoke and act in ways that may or may not please you. That’s part o’ the deal.

    This thread just exhibited a bit of “my band” syndrome and indie elitism that needed leavening.

    ‘Til next time.

    – one smart feller.

  52. Crap, guys. And girls. I only really read half the posts on here. But I suspect that’s okay. I’m not breaking tons of new ground for the discussion. I’ve been listening to Wilco since I was fifteen, and I’m 21 now. They’ve been one of my favorite bands the whole time. But I never saw them until Summerfest this year. Huge venue. But I got their early, and I was yards away from Jeff. It was amazing, despite some asshole guys to my right. There were also really cool people to my left, including a forty year old guy who had never heard wilco until then. He left the show a fan.

    But I wore dockers and a hat, and now I feel awful. But, in my defense, I only wore a hat because I hadn’t showered in two days. I think that’s another great reason to wear a hat–temporary lapses in hygine. And the dockers were Stain Defenders. Which kick ass.

    Wilco are like the Stain Defenders of Rock’n’Roll.

  53. ball cap is not an article of clothing — like snoop’s comment about “girls gone wild”, it’s a way of life. or death, depending on your politics.

    but fear not my wilcomrades, for i have plunged the depths of summerteeth and yhf (not to mention alpha romeo tango) and i can tell you without the slightest hesitation that mr tweedy and company shall burrow deeper into the collective Uberconscious (yep, that’s MY term – I coined it, back the fuck off — i also coined the parsely/pussy dichotomy on so many bathroom walls — nobody eats parsely) and confound the skullcaps beneath those very same ballcaps so they can devote more time to matchbox 20 and allow us to avoid their vampyric presence. you think I’m overreacting, but yackers can’t be told nicely, they have to have ice-cold sodas “accidentally” poured down the back of their pants – especially the blondes. cellphone jockeys, shot at dawn – NO BLINDFOLD!!!

    Calexico fans, oddly enough, still keep their collective mouths shut, as do most of Jay Farrar’s minions as witnessed over the past week at chicago’s metro. Understand – I love me some Wilco although, granted the chance, I would tell them myself: “Yooooooooooouve changed”. now it’s time for the fans to change BACK.

    michalino (pan e vino)

  54. Jeff Tweedy just did what all St Louis people do in their 20s….leave. “You can take the boy out of St. Louis..”, but he’ll probably beat you to it. What a fucking dump that town is. No wonder everyone move here after college. The only people that stay are those wierd people that get married at 22 or 23.

  55. I saw UT in 1992 for the March16-20 tour. I saw them on Anondyne. I saw them at Lounge Ax on their last tour. We bitched about the “Bandwagon Jumpers” who got on at Anondyne too. Believe me, this is nothing new.

    Honestly, the crowds have sucked ass since Anondyne. And Im not kidding. There have been fun shows. (The First Lounge Ax shows on T-Giving Weekend in 94, the First Show with Bennett (solo, Jan. 95), the 3 Golden Smog at Lounge Ax, that show at Navy Pier when they played some of the songs that would become Being There) – but overall, the dorks that constantly yell out their most favorite, “obscure” UT song have always been there.

  56. The Khmer Rouge labeled people who wore glasses “intellectuals” and either killed them or used them in slave farms. Will someone explain to me how judging and condemning people by an arbituary factor like wearing a baseball hat at a Wilco show doesn’t come from the same fascist mindset?

  57. I wonder if it’s the conversation and/or crowd noise at a rock show that’s at the center of the controversy, the content of the conversation, or does it all depend on the song itself during which the talking/noise is taking place?

    Saw Costello back in ’83 at Pine Knob, and most of the rowdy crowd was probably there to hear “Pump It Up”. In fact, one guy was incessantly yelling for it, even at the point Costello broke into “Shipbuilding”. Half the crowd was VERY restless as Elvis played the tune, and a sea of murmuring lasted the entirety of the song. Elvis himself was visibly pissed, and at song’s end, he yanked the cord out of the guitar and walked offstage. It could have been a good set-closer, but it didn’t seem as if he’d played very long… he was just upset with the crowd, mad enough to leave. He did come back out and played five or six more songs after a ten-minute lull, but it was the first time – and one of the only times – I saw a rock performer act in protest against the behavior of the crowd.

    NOW – on the other hand – aren’t there times when it just doesn’t matter if the crowd wants to talk at a performance? Doesn’t it add to the atmosphere sometimes? Think about the live club (?) cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” on Neil Young’s “Broken Arrow” – my favorite thing about the track is trying to hear what the hell the crowd members are talking about as the song is groovin’. And frankly, if I were in the crowd for this performance, with this particular song I don’t think I’d care about a crowd noise (I’m sure Jimmy Reed, if not Neil Young, would’ve welcomed it). A performance of “Birds”, that would be a different story.

    Having almost punched a guy out who insisted on talking business with his buddy at a rock show I attended a couple of years ago, I don’t wanna say that I don’t care about conversation while a rock show’s going on… but if a rock show crowd were dead silent, wouldn’t it be boring as hell? In fact it wouldn’t be gloriously noisy rock and roll. “Old-school” fans of any act who expect pure reverence from the audience as their fan base gets broader should find new, unknown acts to go see as they’re starting out – I’m sure any young act who has the misfortune to be scheduled the night Wilco’s playing across town would be glad to have you at their show, talking or not.

    P.S. – to those who complain about people writing about rock and roll – why the fuck are you reading it?

  58. >There was glass on the floor and piss on the walls. It was the perfect venue to catch the man who would be one of America’s greatest lyricists try out the dopey lines and twisted phrases of his earliest forays into stream of conscious writing backed by the strongest instrumentalists and collaborators in the field.

    Odd. This is one of the best observations ever on this site (situatioanlly and musically) and people are bitching about ball caps. If this is the way “rock and roll can change your life”–jesu!

  59. Damn you, Derek! Why did you let all those Jews, Vietnamese and Native Americans die all those years ago? And why did you allow the enslavement of Africans in North America? I know why! Cause it’s your fault, that’s why. I also want to blame you for the death of Trotsky. Yeah, that’s right. Trotsky. You killed him. All because of your penchant for classifying people on the basis of hats.

    Damn you

    Damn you

    Damn you

    Peace out


  60. I am also an evil giraffe who eats more leaves than I should so that others may die.

    PS: I never wrote anything about hats in my article. I love hats. Up with hats! Down with Wilco!

  61. I love me some Derek Phillips from way back when his Overtones power-popped my world to now and never said he was a hat fascist. Guess I should have directly addressed the posters to which I was referring. And no one has yet explained how the anti-hat “mindset” doesn’t share similarities to pleas for “purity” used by fascists throughout the ages. Here’s a fun game: put “jews” in place of “baseball hat wearers” and see what I mean.

  62. or try to replace baseball hat wearers with the word PICKLE and you will see that this is a sign of anti picklism.

    brutius maximus

  63. Brutius (JTL?) sayeth: “What I meant to say was….Feed Jake to Ryan Adams!”

    But Ryan’s a scrawny fucker, with a smaller appetite. There’s no way he could eat Jake. I think it is safe to say we ought to keep the dirty sticks away from Ryan. Ryan’s just crazy enough he might get ideas about what to do with the dirty sticks.

  64. “If you can judge a man, by the color of his baseball cap, then mister, you’re a better man than I”

    if it is white he probably deserves to be stabbed with a cambodian’s eyeglasses.

  65. hmmm.

    i did make the mistake once of seeing wilco in columbia MO when school was still in session. that was a night of chatter by the annoying hammered cap boys and greek girls on cell phones.

    but i saw jay farrar about a week back in StL and was surprised at the hat wearing 20somethings who where having a great time down front. i was surprised because if you missed UT/SV then you have to work a little bit to know about jay. it’s not like he’s on the radio or anything. so the kidz were really excited and sang every word to songs i thought were kind of throwaways – voodoo candle, damn shame, etc. whodathunkit?

    so it can go both ways…

  66. There seems to be alot of “I heard them first dude” going around in this string. Which is fine. I do it myself. I think that this was a wonderfully written article, and have bitched about the same thing to friends around town.

    Dude. Get on the mailing list- I got floor seats because those of us on the list got the heads up for the show, and the presale.

    I am jealous that people got to hang around with the band. My girlfriend and I met two girls on the el on the way home who had come in from NC to see the band and met Glen before the show, who invited them back stage and took pictures and signed things for them. I’m jealous of them too.

    Here is the question though:

    Tweedy has upgraded from Lounge Ax to the Abbey to the Vic for his solo shows, and wilco similarly supersized, but does that mean that these things will continue?

    Granted the band has a huge fan base (especially here in Chicago) and sells out right quick, does that mean that they won’t go back to the Riv? Or similar mid sized venues and play a few shows instead of turning people away?

    I really don’t see them becoming a stadium sized band. I think Tweedy would have a terrible panic and cry in the dressing room.

    I think the next time they hit the road will answer alot of these questions, but I’m just here to speculate.

  67. I think Wilco has a limited appeal. I don’t believe that they will end up doing stadium tours, or even arena tours. However, one unsuspecting hit single could change all that in the future.

    You just never know……

  68. “An old-school fan struggles with the new fans who can’t shut their fucking mouths during the show.”

    Can you believe this douche? You are a self important turd, people like you deserve to be beaten up by frat guys, you are just as exclusive in your social circles. A statement like this reeks of insecurity, and no doubt, a small wiener.

    Could a piece be more redundant on Glono?

    “Man, why can’t Wilco just play for me and black-plastic-glasses-wearing friends in my moms basement, those fuckin’ sellouts”…


  69. “Up with hats! Down with Wilco!”

    That’s my favorite new saying. With the author’s permission, I’d like to make that into a hit Broadway musical, and/or tattoo it on my forehead as words to live by.

  70. Well its hot in the poor places tonight.

    i remember seeing wilco right after the formed in Memphis to a crowd of about 10 people. Now that was a show to see. 3 encores. the chatter at shows has gotten out of control. I saw wilco once this summer and some arse in the crowd told Jeff to “not quit his day job”. Truely furious, i want to break that guys toes. Peace.

  71. Man, Im just shittin you Derek. Seriously, anyone that can write something that gets over a hundred comments posted on it, has something going for them.

    Fuck Johnny Loftus.


  72. While Wilco is still one of my favorite bands, and I still have Lounge Ax bootlegs to remind me of the time when I first fell in love with them, the show at the auditorium was the first Wilco show I voluntarily did not attend. Without so much drama, and trying not to sound so lame… I will keep my own feeling of intimacy with the band, and will not see them in a large venue. The last time I saw Tweedy was at the Hideout, with 40 people present, and I loved it.

  73. i like my baseball hat.

    it covers my hair and sometimes goes really well with my shoes.

    does the hat get cancelled out by a nice sweater, or maybe some chuck taylors?

  74. Don’t worry about that ever happening to the Jayhawks. Their music keeps getting worse and worse. I still love ’em but Hollywood Town Hall will just never happen again, especially without Olsen group. They tried to change their sound with Smile and Sound of Lies which Louris couldn’t pull off. Now they are back to back to jangy pop, it’ll all they can do, and without Olsen, not all that well. Just one man’s opinion.

  75. Saw Wilco in Las Vegas with Rem back in September. Hazy thirtieth birthday present from the greatest piece of blonde ass I have ever known.

    Fourth time for Wilco and they have never been musically tighter. Jim G . once described Wilco as ‘Jeff Tweedy and his backing band’. His wish has come true.

    Some idiot nearby kept drunkenly screaming “You rock Jeff Tweedy!” His poor wife was sitting right next to him when security tried to remove him. You never heard so much 42 year old whining.

    Fell asleep ten songs into REM. Ahh Vegas, 24 hour party people.

  76. I know this post is years old, found it when I googled Loung Ax, and read this article. I was fortunate enough to catch Wilco at Lounge Ax, and feel fortunate to have even visited such a great music venue. The thing that caught my eye here though was the mention of Pat Joyce. I’m assuming your speaking of the Pat Joyce with ties to the Vic Theatre (probably one of my all time favorite music venues) I hope your still in touch with Pat and I hope that he’s still involved with The Vic. The late 90’s through the first couple of years of the 2000’s was a great time to be in Chicago if you are a fan of music. It seemed that Chicago was “The Hub” for great bands and festivals.
    If you ever run into Pay,,give him a big hug from “Big Greg”,,,I’m certain he’d remember me.

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