Something incredible happened last Saturday that only happens once every 64,000,000 years. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong - the phenomenon that occurred was subtle, but the effect profound: The literal very worst and very best American rock bands played in close proximity to each other on the same day.
The first part of this equation went down at the SF Tour de Fat event in Golden Gate Park, or as I will refer to it henceforth, “Biking Man,” where hoards of bike freaks (and one disenfranchised MOTH storytelling enthusiast) were subject to the yelpy badness of He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, a band that becomes easier to understand if we assume that the overall value of a band is equal to how few pronouns the band name contains. HMBSMS look and sound like a Camp Winnarainbow talent show act that decided to do a reunion tour after 15 years or so.. or like the Dandy Warhols ate Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Mercilessly. (Which would actually explain a lot. Someone should look into this)
Some hours later, as Wilco took the stage at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, I had to brace myself against the shift in music quality. It felt like jumping into a hot tub after swimming in icy eel-infested waters, if the eels were wearing polka-dot jumpsuits and were accompanied by a largely decorative standing girl drummer.
Wilco's set was everything in the world I hoped it could be and more. The sound was full-bodied and delicately balanced. Jeff Tweedy, like -- don’t even make me talk about Jeff Tweedy. Don’t. They played songs from every record (except A Ghost Is Born, I think) with unwavering enthusiasm and precision. It was only at the end of the encore that the band allowed themselves to fuck around a little bit and play some random country tunes nobody had ever heard of before.
One of the evening’s highlights was when Jeff Tweedy tried to pay opener, Jonathan Richman, a compliment by listing the “Twelve American Originals” amidst whose ranks Tweedy claimed Richman resides. Jeff Tweedy named three (Louie Armstrong, Woody Guthrie, … Nightrider?) and then had to take a break from counting. The crowd swooned. I swooned. I love when musicians try to count.
The crowd was definitely on the older side and a little rowdier than seemed appropriate. There was a couple right in front of me who were probably like 60 and totally wasted. The woman kept falling over and cracking up. A few feet away, there was this other old guy who smoked pot during basically every song and was doing old guy “rap hands” for most of the night. Like, you know when you keep your hands really flat and kind of jab them out in front of you? The move is somewhere between a karate chop and the motion you make when air-DJing.
Anyway, Wilco rules. That other band blows. Check out Wilco’s newest video because it’s pretty cool.