Words: Dave Kear Photos: Patrick Jacobi
Two longtime Wilco fans and conscientious hedonists journeyed to Solid Sound 2015. One is a free-lance writer by trade and the other is a regular contributor to ChunkyGlasses. With a shared history of two previous Solid Sound Festivals, countless Wilco shows attended together, and a friendship built around their shared experience of love for the band, Dave and Patrick plan to describe all that is great about Solid Sound in a personal and experiential way. Think Chuck Klosterman at a Kiss festival. They will explore not only what they love about Wilco, but also why the band is important to them as they age, how their perspective has changed over time, and what it all means -- the Festival, the band, and life.
This is how it begins...
(Music Selection: “Sunken Treasure” by Wilco)
PATRICK JACOBI: So, another Solid Sound.
DAVE KEAR: Yee-haw!
PATRICK: I cannot wait. Is this really the third one we’ve been to?
DAVE: Number 3.
PATRICK: And to think it all started as an excuse to get away from our wives.
PATRICK: Uh, no. No, we’re just kidding.
DAVE: That’s right. We love you, pretty wives.
Patrick–It came out of our mutual love for the band known as Wilco.
PATRICK: Actually, I think my very first Wilco show was with you and your lovely wife at the Riviera in Chicago back in 2001, was it not? Air conditioning was a block of ice with a fan behind it.
DAVE: Yeah, and the rest is history. We’ve seen a lot of shows together and a lot of shows apart. Not always the easiest thing to make happen with me in Brooklyn and you in DC.
PATRICK: But then along comes Solid Sound up in North Adams, Massachusetts, and all our eggs are in one basket. Why, in a single weekend we get to hang out together and take in not one, but two Wilco concerts. That’s enough live Tweedy to hold me over for at least 6 months. And they usually have a bunch of other stuff we want to see, too. Comedy.
DAVE: Yo La Tengo.
PATRICK: That was awesome. Euclid Records.
DAVE: Smuttynose Beer.
PATRICK: Okay, now we’re starting to sound like a commercial.
DAVE: But if anyone wants to send us free merch, we are more than happy to keep on shilling.
PATRICK: The point is we love music and we love this band called Wilco, and we have an abiding platonic love for each other that makes the other’s presence bearable for 3 days at stretch, so you put it all together and what do you get?
DAVE: Solid Sound?
PATRICK: Exactly. Oh, yeah, yeah, turn that up.
DAVE: What is this? This sounds familiar.
PATRICK: It’s “Last Night” by the Mar-Keys.
DAVE: Right, right, that’s the first song you put on the Mixtape.
(Music Selection: “Last Night” by The Mar-Keys)
Patrick and Dave's
Official Solid Sound 2015 Mixtape
PATRICK: I came up with the Mixtape idea after the first Solid Sound we went to, because as much as we love music, we were constantly flipping back and forth between each other’s phones and playlists on the way up and I thought Dave was going to drive us off the road.
DAVE: Right, I always drive. I hate to ride. But I always have a back log of tunes that I want to share with Patrick during the one time I get to see him all year or maybe two years.
PATRICK: So I got the idea to get the sharing part out of the way before we leave. Basically, I start the ball rolling with the first song. This year it’s “Last Night” by the Mar-Keys
DAVE: Right, then I chose “The Last Days of Disco” by Yo La Tengo.
PATRICK: Then I picked “Waitin’ for Superman” by the Flaming Lips because Georgia’s drums in the YLT song reminded me of the Lips drummer. And so on and so forth. It’s not rocket science.
DAVE: We never agreed on any rules, I kind of just held myself to a set of standards, like no artist can be used twice. If Patrick plays the Tom Waits card, then that’s all the Tom allowed on the mixtape.
PATRICK: Unless you pick one of those Primus songs where Tom sings. It’s kind of like a rhyme riche in poetry. A sweet move in the mixtape game.
DAVE: Funny you call it a game, because there’s no winning. But we started this one when? Back in January, and for the past 6 months it’s been like the best game of chess by mail. You make your move, then I listen to it and I think for a day or two, I play through some options and finally I arrive at a decision.
PATRICK: I have to tell you, I do believe this year’s Mixtape is our best yet.
DAVE: It’s a true Masterpiece of Mixology.
PATRICK: Can Mixtapes win the Nobel Prize?
DAVE: They will after this one.
PATRICK: We've got Dylan on here singing with Mavis Staples
DAVE: The talking part is hilarious.
PATRICK: (nasal Dylan voice) Welcome to California, Mavis.
PATRICK: I even put a Drive By Truckers song on there in your honor.
DAVE: I know, and it’s fricking “Steve McQueen.” One of my favorites. Because I really did want to be “Steve McQueen” when I was younger.
PATRICK: You turned me on to those guys.
DAVE: I don’t know, though, I haven’t been much into their later albums. They haven’t been “Steve McQueen”-good in a long, long time. I've pretty much tuned away from them in the last couple of years. The music starts to lack specificity like early versus latter day Springsteen.
PATRICK: Happens to the best of us. When we first start out young, we’re so hungry and fired up, we write and create from what we know, and we deliver it with roar and passion, but over time especially with success and adulation, the fire cools and the message softens, all the great details got used up in the early work. Burnt up really, and the jagged edges are smoothed and polished. The music takes on a more populist bent, and in trying to be for everybody it winds up being about nobody.
DAVE: Very astute, Mr. Jacobi. But what time is it?
PATRICK: Almost 1 o’clock.
DAVE: Holy crap, we better hit the road. It’ll take at least an hour to get out of New York City.
(MUSIC SELECTION: “GONNA CHANGE MY WAY OF THINKING” BY BOB DYLAN W/ MAVIS STAPLES)
PATRICK: (doing nasal Dylan impersonation) Mama, we got anything to eat?
DAVE: (in woman’s falsetto) We got some some chickens out there in the yard.
PATRICK: (still Dylan) Well, let’s go knock a few of ‘em off and fry ‘em up.
DAVE: (back to regular voice) Which album is this off originally?
PATRICK: Change My Way of Thinking? Not sure. One of the Christian ones. Saved, maybe. But this version is way better.
DAVE: Ah, crap.
DAVE: Google Maps is saying 3.5 hours to North Adams.
PATRICK: Luckily we have just spent the past six months assembling a Mixtape that is at least that long. Time to drop the needle and pray.
DAVE: And don’t forget we are supposed to be music journalists on this trip. We should talk about things lofty and musical, and you should get lots of pictures.
PATRICK: Click. I call that one “Urban Decay”, and Click, that one is “Metropolitan Squalor.”
DAVE: Yessir, you gotta love the Bronx.
(FFWD 2 Hours…)
PATRICK: …which is why it is a crying shame that Nick Cave and PJ Harvey never procreated. That kid would have been like a demon rocker savant.
DAVE: “I got the no passy blues!”
DAVE: Pacifier. Come on, man, I have three kids.
PATRICK: But this weekend you are just a cool rocking daddy looking to listen to a little dad rock before you put on your Depend undergarment and go to sleep in your overpriced motel room bed.
DAVE: Yeah, ain’t life grand.
PATRICK: Are you looking at this countryside, by the way?
DAVE: Suddenly I feel like Kerouac. New York State is not so crowded once you break the gravitational pull of NYC. Suddenly we are slingshot into the rolling hills and all that billowing greenery blurring past the window. Rolling mad across the great vast continent to some dangling destination.
PATRICK: Did I ever tell you that you drive like an African Taxi Driver, 70 mph with all the windows down?
DAVE: What can I say, man, I like the wind. And besides, air conditioning burns gas or so they tell me.
PATRICK: These are things we talk about whilst driving to the Solid Sound Festival.
(FFWD 30 minutes…)
DAVE: My son is crazy for Spotify. First it was Dean Martin, then David Bowie, then Frank Zappa, the Beach Boys, and now the Beatles, but the Beatles aren't on Spotify so we have to go back to the CDs for that.
PATRICK: I was reading somewhere that kids have a much broader selection these days with streaming services. They don't think of things in terms of genre. It's just music. They'll make a mix with reggae, punk, garage, classical, jazz, rockabilly, surf, etc. and like it all, and group it all together in their minds. It’s just music.
DAVE: Hell yeah, it’s just music. Hey, is that Skynyrd on the Mixtape?
PATRICK: “Tuesday’s Gone.”
DAVE: Well, turn it up, man.
PATRICK: Ah, Berkshires.
DAVE: Ah, Mt. Greylock.
PATRICK: Ah, Pittsfield and Lenox and Williamstown and North Adams. Here we are. We have arrived. What a stunning, ridiculous sunny afternoon in the country with Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio.
DAVE: I think the weather said it was supposed to start raining tomorrow.
PATRICK: And probably straight through the rest of the time we’re up here.
DAVE: But that’s pretty much par for the course. That’s New England in late June. It’s rained before, and we kept right on rocking.
PATRICK: In some countries rocking is the only way to keep warm.
DAVE: Rock for survival.
PATRICK: Time check.
DAVE: Uh, almost 6:00pm.
PATRICK: Dang, that traffic in the Bronx nearly killed us. We’ve got to get to the shuttle.
DAVE: Get to da choppah!
PATRICK: Come on Cohaagen, give deez people ehyar!
DAVE: Don’t forget you have to pick up your press credentials.
PATRICK: Ha, oh, yeah.
DAVE: And we need food and beer.
PATRICK: It’s going to be tight, but I think we just might be able to pull off a decent buzz and a decent spot in the crowd by the time Wilco takes the stage.
DAVE: Well, lead the way, Ahnuhld.
(Music Selection - "The Jolly Banker" by Wilco)
PATRICK: Do you want another sip from the Rusty Bear.
DAVE: Sure, man. What is the significance of the Rusty Bear, by the way?
PATRICK: That’s what my wife calls me when I get cranky on vacation. So she had it engraved on this flask.
DAVE: Ah, cute. Perfect name for it. Every time I take a sip I wanna wheeze, ugh, Rusty Bear.
DAVE: You know, I don’t know. I’m not so sure about this acoustic set.
PATRICK: Yeah, I think I had something different in mind. The sound is not so hot, is it?
DAVE: No, and that’s surprising, because they usually have such great sound. I’ve never had a problem with the sound. Maybe because they usually play plugged in. This is supposed to be such a big deal that they’re doing a totally acoustic set, but I am kind of underwhelmed. I’m going to get another beer.
PATRICK: I’ll be here.
DAVE: Hi, I’m back.
PATRICK: Like the Central Scrutinizer.
DAVE: I’m digging this beer list, man. They have the Wilco Tango Foxtrot from Lagunitas. And Smuttynose brewed a special beer just for the festival, Summerteeth IPA.
PATRICK: How is it?
DAVE: Not bad. I like it better than their original IPA, Finestkind. Wanna sip?
PATRICK: Thanks, I’ll stick with the Rusty Bear.
DAVE: Yeah, let me have another hit of that.
(Disclaimer: We are actually not those guys who talk throughout an entire concert who you want to punch in the nose and kick to the ground. Most of this conversation took place elsewhere, but for the sake of space and time parameters it is being included here during the Wilco Acoustic portion of the evening. In point of fact, we are very reverent Wilco audience members singing along with every song we know, which is most, no matter how poor the sound is, and quietly nodding our heads up and down during the words that we don’t know, which are few. End of Disclaimer.)
PATRICK: “Misunderstood” is an interesting way to start.
DAVE: Yeah, but when they play it acoustic it doesn’t make sense for Tweedy to do all those balls-out Nothings at the end. NOTHIN! NOTHIN! NOTHIN! When it’s acoustic it kind of turns navel-gazely like I’m sitting in my room strumming my guitar and I’m so misunderstood. Boo-hoo.
PATRICK: Actually, this is a pretty standard setlist, just acoustified. I kind of like the plugged-in versions better.
DAVE: Right, I was kind of imagining them doing this radical set of songs they normally don’t play because they sound better acoustic, but they typically aren’t set up for that. Like go back to some deep Uncle Tupelo cuts, or a bigger chunk of Woody Guthrie stuff. Like the “Jolly Banker,” you know, on that new box set.
PATRICK: It’s still pretty good.
DAVE: Oh, it’s great what they’re doing. But remember last festival, the first night was that set of all covers.
PATRICK: That was amazing.
DAVE: That was a great idea. “The Boys are Back in Town.” “Dead Flowers.”
PATRICK: “Get Lucky.”
DAVE: Holy shit. That’s right they covered Daft Fricking Punk.
PATRICK: It’s still Wilco.
DAVE: How much of that Rusty Bear have you had exactly?
PATRICK: Enough to sing along to “New Madrid.”
DAVE: “Cause death won’t even be still.”
PATRICK: “Caroms over the landfill.”
DAVE: What the fuck does that mean?
PATRICK: I have no idea. Tweedy listened to a lot of Dylan back then.
DAVE: Remember that old story Tweedy told about his kid saying, “Daddy plays harmonica, and Bob Dylan plays Harmonica…”
PATRICK: “But daddy is not Bob Dylan.”
DAVE: (somewhere about the beginning of the encore, Mr. Dave slips into a moonlit soliloquy. It seems that the traffic and the drive up and the Summerteeth IPA and the sips of the Rusty Bear have finally gotten the best of him…) Finally I can’t hold it any longer and have to take a pee, and while I'm waiting in line the band plays their last song and leaves the stage and turns off all the lights. So when I come out from the porta-potty, I don't know where the fuck I am. Maybe if I can just find a purple line bus, cause that was the shuttle we caught over here, wasn’t it? Then I'll text Patrick and let him know I've headed back to the motel. At some point, I think I ask some people for directions, but once I hear my own voice it’s probably for the best that I don’t talk to anyone ever again so they don't lock me up somewhere. Wait, this doesn't seem right, I'm walking too far away in the wrong direction. The buses are right outside the venue. I have to turn around now. Okay, okay, this is looking better. There, over there is a purple line bus. I mumble something about “ich bien purple line” and the driver confirms yes, but maybe he isn't leaving right away, but I don't care. I need to sit down and regroup. Time slips and stumbles, it stretches and jags. Sorry, sorry, I'm sorry to everyone whose life I may have affected or inconvenienced with my slovenly sloppiness. Then I start thinking about that YouTube video of the guy at the music festival trying to put his flip-flop on for like half an hour and everyone standing around laughing at him and taking videos of him with their phone. Hopefully that wasn't me anytime tonight, though I can’t be for sure. Maybe it was. Remind me to check YouTube in the morning. But now I have miraculously made it home and only have the energy to stumble the last few feet from the door of the motel room to fall face forward into bed. Black out. End of Day #1.
The Great Flood w/ Music by Bill Frisell (Or, What Patrick saw.)
(Music Selection: “Pipeline” by Bill Frisell)
PATRICK: (in the meantime, Patrick has his own monologue.) It is not, however, the end of the day for me. Not quite, anyway. Unsure where Dave slipped off to, I drift over from Joe’s Field to the Hunter Auditorium where Bill Frisell is just tuning up. What is this Great Flood thing all about, anyway? I’m familiar with Mr. Frisell’s music from the album Guitar in the Space Age! Which has a killer cover of Pipeline on it, but I’ve never seen the man play live. Great googly moogly! Apparently he has written some kind of soundtrack to this old black and white silent film called the Great Flood.
I’m exhausted, but I am digging this.Check out that juxtaposition of the giant black and white images and the little band down below lit in color. So cool. And that tone Frisell has. That incredibly delicate, expressive tone, such a touch. Dave is really missing something for sure. Where did that guy go anyway? Wait, here’s a text from him, says, “On the bus headed back to the hotel.” Then a bunch of indecipherable gibberish.
Well, at least he’s on the bus.
Hope he’s okay on the walk back from the parking lot. Should be fine. This is just one of those small towns. Maybe one murder in ten years. Of course, I could be making that up. But you just feel it when you’re here. With the Berkshire Mountains all around, like you’re in some place out of time and all previous experience. You know what I think? I think Bill Frisell is like an avocado. He’s good anytime, and no matter what you mix him with, he only makes it better. Of course that could be the Rusty Bear talking, too. Speaking of which…Ah, that’s the last sip.
End of Day 1. For real this time.
Tune in tomorrow for PART 2!
Check out the full gallery of Patrick's shots from 2015' Solid Sound Fest below.