Wednesday, March 16, 2005

the best part of breaking up...

Once upon a time there was a great little band called Uncle Tupelo. And it was good. A simple cover of an old Carter family song, No Depression, and a beautiful mysterious genre was ignited. Though the actual sound had emerged in the 60s, it was given a certain cult status with the birth of Uncle Tupelo. Is it Americana? Country-Punk? Alt-Country? Insurgent Country? Who cares my friend – it is damn good music. There are many bands who get thrown into this deep sea of hard to classify music, but there’s no doubt as to Uncle Tupelo’s influence.

Then, one day, a blessing in disguise. Uncle Tupelo was no more. Songwriters Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy parted ways, and a legend had ended. But legends never truly end, they just grow bigger. Some grow quietly, like Farrar’s band Son Volt and his subsequent solo career. Some explode, like Tweedy’s Wilco. Wilco has become a phenomenon, and has spawned numerous side projects and collaborations including Billy Bragg, Golden Smog, the Minus Five and the Autumn Defense.

Back in mid-February, I had the privilege of seeing my second Wilco live show at the Orpheum in Memphis. While I preferred the setting of my first show – the rooftop of the Gibson Guitar building in Memphis, Tweedy and the boys did not disappoint. And this Friday night at Sticky Fingerz I will partake in my second Son Volt concert. I saw Son Volt at Juanita’s back in ’99, and I’ve seen a Jay Farrar solo set there also (though I must confess, Jay solo when you’re really tired is a bad thing). Little Rock is the second stop on the tour for the newly reunited Son Volt, smack dab between Nashville and SXSW.

Elation.

Sometimes two is better than one. Uncle Tupelo was magic, but division of this powerful force created two decidedly different yet enticing delicacies. The best way I know to describe their differences is a road trip. Let’s say you were going to travel from Little Rock (a very good place to start) and head up to St Louis to get a feel for Uncle Tupelo’s old stomping ground. You’re going to take one of two routes, the back roads through the Ozarks or the freeway past Memphis. We’ll say Farrar is the Ozark route, slow and steady, not much change, laid back with lots of time to think. Tweedy on the other hand is the Interstate. Start with AM around Memphis and go ahead and keep traveling past St Louis to head on up to NYC – A Ghost is Born. I’ve taken both routes, and I like them. Though I spend more time singing along at the Wilco shows, and more time listening to Farrar (though I can’t help but belt out during Windfall), with both men I am aware that I am in the presence of true artistry. And it is good.

5 comments:

Kimberly said...

I'm off my game - I managed to miss out on tix (though I'll cally Sticky Fingerz today to make sure). Though the website says tickets are on sale, the online ticketing agent says "sold-out". Oh well, I just saw George Jones at the Ryman in Nashville... And Saturday night I'm seeing Alison Krauss... I guess I shouldn't be greedy!

rebstar said...

crap. :(
doug and i were really, really wanting to go see son volt. :(

i'm happy for you for all your shows, though! :) and i'm glad you're back!

(doug was at the wilco concert at the orpheum, too!)

Kimberly said...

Tix secured for me & the Austrians... I figure if Australia can produce Kasey Chambers, Austria must be close behind! I'll start with Austria, and then convert the world!!!

Ramonsito said...

Welcome back indeed! Great post to return with, my friend. As for your analogy, I always take US 67 up to St. Louis, so maybe I should check out some Jay Farrar soon (who I never managed to catch in all the live shows he did at Cicero's in the STL).

methy said...

Great post to return with, my friend...

Ha, to think you were worried. ;)