Once upon a time (in the early 1990’s) a dude I was smitten with took me to see a band called Uncle Tupelo at Liberty Lunch in Austin, Texas. My date was always broke and had a radio show on the student station, so I know we must have gone because he was on the list!
At the end of the show, I remember my pal walking up to the stage and handing Jeff Tweedy what was (at least in Austin slacker circles) the early 90’s business card of the gently employed. That improvised business card was a torn off portion of his deposit slip– the part with his phone number on it —for the next time the band was in town. They chatted for a bit while Tweedy was packing up his gear, and my date and I left.
The early 1990s were a time when alt-country was just starting to become a going concern. I may have hopped on the alt-country bandwagon a little more easily than some.
You can take the girl out of Pasadena, but it’s hard to take the Pasadena out of the girl. Growing up just outside of Houston, I heard a lot of country music before I was old enough to drive. How chicken-fried was my upbringing? My orthodontist was across the street from Gilley’s, the bar made famous by the movie Urban Cowboy.
After the Uncle Tupelo show that night, I was impressed enough went out and got Anodyne, the Uncle Tupelo album that the record store had in stock.
Once Tweedy and Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo went their different ways, I stuck with Tweedy.
Since that long ago night at Liberty Lunch, I’ve seen a lot of Wilco shows. If the PBS Overheard interview that Tweedy did with Evan Smith earlier this week is any indication, I might remember some of those shows better than Tweedy does!
I couldn’t help thinking about that long-ago night at Liberty Lunch when I saw Wilco tape an episode of the Austin City Limits television show earlier this week at the fancy new ACL Live venue, located not far from the much lamented ghost of Liberty Lunch. From where I was sitting in the mezzanine, it didn’t look like anyone was handing Tweedy torn off slips of paper!
At the ACL taping (scheduled to air on PBS in February) the band covered a lot of material from the early Wilco albums that I’d loved to death.
Since I tend to listen to things on repeat for months, when I’ve listened to something, I’ve really listened to something. Listening to songs that was obsessed with in graduate school brought me back to a very specific time and place.
It turned out that on Twitter at least, people started referring to the ACL taping as the “Wilco rarities” show.
I was lucky to also go to the sold-out public Wilco show the following night. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to hear “Heavy Metal Drummer” “Capitol City” and “Misunderstood” live two nights in a row!
Update (Tuesday, Dec 6) : As my very smart veterinarian pointed out, Tweedy was much more “present” for the PBS taping than he was for the show the public show the next night. (During the taping, Tweedy talked about how some songs hadn’t made it to air, despite the fact that they’d played them during previous ACL tapings.) Maybe that was part of what made the taping magical for me.
The program for the ACL taping! Squee!
Waiting for Wilco at Austin City Limits
Jeff Tweedy and Evan Smith taping the PBS show “Overheard”