I remember the exact date that my history with Wilco started. It was November 3, 1997 at the Granada Theatre in Lawrence, KS. My friend (and main concert promoter in town) Jacki Becker called me up that afternoon and asked if I would mind helping work security for a Wilco concert that evening. Jacki called me somewhat often to guard doors at bigger shows, and paid me in free concerts of some of my favorite bands. In my barely-21-year-old brain at the time, Wilco was a band for post-collegiate bros with backwards baseball caps, whose taste for live music had dwindled alongside their taste for beer (I seem to remember a lot of Miller Lite hovering around that scene). I hemmed and hawed and finally agreed, mainly because I had nothing else to do that night and all of my friends were busy. If nothing else, the story about the godawful band I saw the night before would be worth retelling the next day.
My part in this crack squad of security volunteers was usually to make sure people didn't sneak backstage or climb onstage. Simple, boring, easy enough to watch the show as it was happening. This time, however, I was thrust into a different role. My job for the evening? Stand in the front row, center, directly in front of Jeff Tweedy. Keep those rowdy, husky, Miller Lite sluggin' bros off the stage. Most importantly, Jeff was to stage-dive during one song in the set, and I was instructed to leap onto the stage and make sure his guitar cable didn't get yanked on or tangled up in the mass of adoring hands. (I'm still convinced Jacki put me there to get me to fall in love with Wilco.)
I watched Jeff and the Being There-era iteration of Wilco come out onto the stage and likely grumbled under my breath about being stuck watching this alt-country band play a 75 minute set full of sleepers. Not five minutes after the first chords of "Misunderstood" were strummed, I was slackjawed (likely with a mouthful of crow) and unable to deny the perfect blend of melody and atmospherics that Wilco were perfecting on Being There. Later in the set, Tweedy crowdsurfed, I kept his guitar cable from getting stolen, and I patted his butt back onto the stage post-solo. I remember the show wrapping up with a cover of Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song" complete with a deli tray full of processed meats being tossed into the crowd. I was sold.Read More