Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment

August 25, 2008
Wilco at Outside Lands

wilco_outside.jpgI'm not a huge fan of gigantic outdoor music festivals - they're crowded, stinky and unless you get there at an indecently early hour, chances are you'll barely be able to see the bands.

Even this weekend's Outside Lands Festival didn't quite pull at me - as much as I'd like to see Radiohead or Beck or Tom Petty again or even as much as I'd love to check out newer, younger acts such as Bon Iver.

But, I am a huge fan of Wilco and because the Chicago-based band was otherwise bypassing Northern California, I decided to make the trek to SF's Golden Gate Park to check out their set on Sunday.

I'd actually hoped to also see Canada's Broken Social Scene because I imagine that, like the Arcade Fire, they're quite an exciting band live.

But, alas, Muni is not my friend and after the N line dropped us off somewhere near one tail end of the park, it took us nearly an hour (for reals) to find ourselves to the Twin Peaks stage - exactly 10 minutes after BSS finished its set.

Note to festival organizers: Signs pointing the way to the appropriate entrances would've helped. Really.


But, all was not lost. That still gave us plenty of time to get a much-needed beer and find a spot on the grass for the show - only about five miles out (see accompanying photo for lack of detail).

And, although I wish Wilco had been the headliner instead of Jack Johnson and, thus, played beneath the night sky, they still put on a great show.

A grew show that was, however, definitely geared toward the latter half of the band's catalog. Playing for about an hour-and-a-half, Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline and the rest of the band stuck mostly to fare from their last two albums, 2004's "A Ghost is Born" and 2007's "Sky Blue Sky."

They did pull out a few older tracks including "Via Chicago" (from 1999's wonderful "Summerteeth" record) and "California Stars" (from the band's 1998 "Mermaid Avenue" collaboration with Billy Bragg).

But, if you were hoping for a dose of early country-rock ("Casino Queen" or "Passenger Side" anyone?!?), then this wasn't the show for you.

Instead, the band stayed pretty faithful to its current noise lovefest. What do you expect, that's why they hired Nels Cline to be in the band. The guitarist, who's played with everyone from Charlie Haden to Thurston Moore, is an amazing musician and his very presence lends to Wilco's current obsession with noisy, noodle-y rock and guitar solo freakouts.

If you can get yourself out of the past (and it's hard, I know, it's hard), Wilco is still a great band - albeit a very different one that rose from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo in 1994..

Still, the best moment for me, came via 2001's pretty, quiet "Jesus, Etc." And, judging from the chorus of cheers that rose from the crowd as the band struck that song's very first note, I wasn't alone in my happiness for its inclusion.

Wilco will probably never get the acclaim or even album of, say,a Radiohead who, of course, headlined Friday's Outside Lands set to much fanfare.

But, for me at least, they were more than worth the drive, public transportation adventures, endless walking, that really bad overpriced vegan burger and the slightly nagging feeling that I'd gone to all the trouble to watch a band from a distance that approximated at least one full city block.

What a girl won't do for rock'n'roll, y'know?

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