I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer last Wednesday night at the Top Hat. I wanted to go but missed the boat on tickets as the show sold out super fast (Missoula loves anything related to Wilco and Wilco seems to love Missoula as well). I'd resigned myself to just hear about the show, which unfortunately seems to be the trend in my life rather than the exception these days. But happenstance and luck reared their heads again and two tickets fell into my lap thanks to Alex & Nick Simmons making the state high school basketball tournament. Jen pooped out and various friends couldn't go for one reason or another (the best excuse coming in the form of a text from Mexico apologizing he had to miss the show due to lounging on the beach....BAH), so I headed to the show with my friends Karl & Lolo sans listening partner. As for the problem of the extra ticket, after standing out front for 15 minutes with no taker, I popped a message onto Facebook and sold the ticket within 5 minutes. The buyer was a friend of a friend and we did the age old, "I'm wearing a blue flannel-ish shirt with glasses - I'm wearing a denim jacket with a brown shoulder bag" exchange. Easy peasy and rather fun..
Minus 5 opened the show early. Most folks (including myself) were blown away by what has been called, "the side project to end all side projects" that Minus 5 represents. The band has had a who's who of rock n' roll float in and out, collaborate, tour, and just have fun with the leader of the pack, Scott McCaughey This time around was no exception with none other than Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame on guitar. Buck has played with the band on and off since its inception and was effortless in keeping up with the pace. They played a lot of music I'd never heard before and a great rendition of not ready to die, die, die. There was a cameo from Liam Cunningham, who is on the Tweedy tour. I came to find out he is Jeff Tweedy's son's best friend and he is a killer musician, Thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to start off the night.
Tweedy took the stage shortly after 9:00PM, a refreshing change of pace for an old fart like me who dreads it more each time when bands don't take the stage until 10 or 11. The first thing I noticed was how much he was smiling. The crowd went crazy of course (did I mention Missoula loves Wilco? Did I mention they've played here three times in the past 6 years and two of their films had their debuts here?). Then I noticed his son Spencer on stage and man is he young but man can he play the drums. Tweedy engaged the crowd from the get go with plenty of jokes and references to Waltz's and the age of the audience. The band took there time and they appeared like they were actually having fun. Great mix of solo, covers, and Wilco tunes. In addition to his solo music, the band played covers of Mavis Staples, Uncle Tupelo, and Love Like A Wire, a lovely song written by Chicago songwriter Diane Izzo. Tweedy, rather on purpose or not, went from the melodic flannel rock Uncle Tupelo cover to a hard rockin' tune with a big smile on his face, perhaps his ode to want to be a punk rocker. About half way into the show the band left the stage and Jeff Tweedy did an acoustic set of Wilco tunes including plenty of music from A.M. and Sky Blue Sky. At about 11 the band left but came back for a great encore set which included a fantastic rendition of California Stars. The show was incredible and made my week. Thoroughly tired the next day but my head was swimming in the memory of good, live music!