Was in the back of the room for Wilco’s new Tiny Desk Concert…

So, it’s great to see the set up close. Summerteeth forever.

Another NPR Music winner for me recently: Morgane Stapleton and Chris Stapleton singing You Are My Sunshine, an Ann Powers pick for the Songs We Love series. A few weeks ago, I heard another cover of the song and thought I was doing with nearing new takes. I was wrong, happily.

Recent listening: Early Wilco, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Amanda Shires

1. Spent some time the other weekend cleaning up a drive and found a Wilco bootleg I’d downloaded a while back and somehow left unplayed. Turned out to be a killer early recording: 1996, Live at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, once distributed on cassette and now in digital glory, which is good for you, because you should go and download it right now.

2. Also discovered during that clean-up: DJ Jazzy Jeff and Mick Boogie’s Summertime Mixtape, which has since turned out to be an annual tradition, and which remains an amazing capture of the feelings of summer. Listen. Open your windows, open the doors and embrace the swelter around you.

3. Amanda Shires, Wasted and Rolling, at Austin’s KUTX (AAA public radio, my favorite), with husband Jason Isbell joining in, via No Depression.

4. Bonus: Via friend Adam, Lucinda Williams, playing the Stone Pony last week, covering Springsteen’s Factory, so well. I’ve blasting it before work. Neighbors, I’m sorry. But also not. You get to work your way, and I’ll…

Wilco morning always follows a Wilco evening

I have a policy of going to only one Wilco show per tour, and it has served me pretty well. The band is great, one of my favorite bands. The band is great live, one of everyone’s favorites at festivals and whatnot. But the band isn’t great at evolving shows over a tour. If you’ve seen them once on a  tour, you can largely imagine a show months later. The band makes some changes but not many.

That said, after I skipped the Wilco shows at Wolf Trap earlier this month, I questioned my policy. The band played an acoustic version of Spiders (Kidsmoke)? They played a rock version of Laminated Cat? Sure, They closed one night with Hoodoo Voodoo? The rest of the setlists didn’t rock my world, but those three caught the collector in me. I had never heard them played.

So, it was sure an excellent thing last night when the NPR Music broadcast from the Newport Folk Festival found the band playing all three. The big win turned out to be acoustic Spiders. I’d also liked the rock version, on record and live, and the lighter take was a quality psychic switch. NPR Music preserved the audio from the show here, with the song beginning at at 19:19 mark.

This morning saw a bunch of Wilco-playing around the apartment. The week had been exhausting with long hours at work and new meetings seemingly every half hour. This morning was a counterweight. Found the Spiders from last night. Found a cool mini-doc on Tweedy’s prep for a benefit show. Found, again, because it’s always watchable, Tweedy doing the WGN weather.

Found a decent video of acoustic Spiders in Paris. Found myself rereading the lyrics and remembering how angry and useful the song had been for me when it first came out. We appeared to go through our lives as people expected of us, but we saw and felt much more than what others expected us to share. I was 25 and felt trapped in copy-paste work. I was 25 and, as such, unable to express how I felt trapped or come up with much of a plan for how to get un-trapped. The song offered assurances. As long as a wisp of kidsmoke was present and you alone could see it wafting, we could all fool each other as we went about our lives and hold out hope for realness.

You could interpret the song more darkly. I never have.

I’m more than a few years from that 25-year-old now. Life has figured out or at least lessened concerns of expectation and expression. Angry songs aren’t as useful as they used to be. Wistful songs help more now. They’re an inducement against anger but also against wistfulness. As others knock off life events faster than I do, the songs remind one to keep faith in the long term.

In the video of Tweedy prepping for the benefit show, he starts singing a song I’ve never heard before. From Google, I learn it’s an Uncle Tupelo outtake called Wherever. “When you get back from wherever / Let me know what it’s like / And I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you / What it’s like to watch you go.” The song is simple and wistful. The song is young and petty but full of real worry.

A Wilco missing link

In my Wilco concert take on Monday, I mentioned the new Whole Love was possibly the optimistic flip side of the dark Ghost Is Born. A bonus track from the new one’s deluxe edition makes the point even better.

Listen to Speak into the Rose on this Tumblr or inside Spotify Premium. (I first heard it on regular Spotify when they left it outside the pay-wall for a day. A strategic move?) Not only is the song an instant contender for best Wilco song title ever, simultaneously evocative of noir novels, clown jokes and romance, but the sound is a pedal-down instrumental drive out of the wilderness, back from where Spiders (Kidsmoke) took us, from the woods to the highway, back to civilization, loud and clear.