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TWEEDY — 20 January 2020, Riviera Maya, Mexico (Hard Rock Hotel) [Sky Blue Sky Festival; Day 3 of 4]

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Well, my dream of seeing Jeff perform while floating in an ocean lagoon was dashed when Sky Blue Sky organizers made the decision to move the Tweedy band's afternoon set from the Heaven Beach stage to the Stairway To Heaven stage because of concerns about the weather. Maybe it wasn't really a dream, but when the SBS schedule got announced, I have to admit I was kind of looking forward to the ridiculousness of it all. Calexico in the lagoon playing its dusty Southwestern, horn-accented tunes...yes. The Tweedy band in the lagoon with songs about dead parents and drug addiction...uhh.

 

Anyway, it basically turned out to be a moot point with the set taking place in more traditional environs. Nevertheless, it's always a joy to get a chance to see Jeff perform with both of his sons (and equally joyous to get to watch them while standing next to his wife and their mother, Susie, who came down to the front for the last song).

 

This slightly streamlined version of Tweedy, with Liam Kazar on bass in addition to Spencer Tweedy on drums and James Elkington on lead guitar, has only really played together twice — at the last Solid Sound Festival and in Evanston this past August — and this wasn't an especially sharp performance IMHO. But everyone seemed to be having a great time, no one more so than Jeff, who embraced his flubs, interacted with audience members and even told a few jokes.

 

"I messed up," Jeff said to Spencer after Summer Noon had to be stopped and restarted. "It's not your fault, son. Dad's trying to remember 400 songs this week."

 

Jeff subsequently did a sort of exaggerated bent-over pose, jokingly making a point about his age. Then after the song, he asked the crowd, "Is anyone in a band? Beginnings and endings, man. The worst part of being in a band." A guy standing front and center then reminded Jeff of how he had messed up the second verse of Kingpin during Wilco's set the previous evening, which caused him to jokingly retort, "I can have you kicked out of here. Be careful."

 

One highlight for me was getting to hear some of the Warmer songs played with a full band; it hasn't happened all that often. I'm glad I finally got to see Empty Head live, which I believe was debuted in Evanston — a show I sadly had to miss. I found myself thinking that a number of the Warmer tunes, such as Family Ghost, Ten Sentences and especially ...And You Cut It In Half sound more vibrant and twangy with this incarnation of the band.

 

Later in the set, introducing World Away, Jeff said it was the closest the band would get to playing a Rush song because it's in 7/4 time and dedicated it to the late Neil Peart ("or as some of you say, Pee-rt," Jeff said). Then before Let's Go Rain, Jeff recalled that the last time he and the band had played that song, at Solid Sound 2019, they conjured a rainbow. When no such rainbow materialized this time, Jeff joked that they were going to have fire their lighting designer, who had engineered that Solid Sound rainbow to appear on cue. (As it turned out, it never rained during the Tweedy set as the forecast had threatened.)

 

Two covers brought Tweedy's 85-minute show to a close, both fittingly twangy. Once again, I was personally glad to get to see their rendition of the Sir Douglas Quintet's I Wanna Be Your Mama Again that also made its debut in Evanston last summer. And when the audience shouted for one more song, Jeff acceded to the pleas and led the band through an — I think — unplanned performance of Neil Young's The Losing End (When You're On). I think Jeff was hoping Sammy might take a verse by himself, as he had on a couple of other songs earlier in the set, but he didn't know it well enough. Nevertheless, the Tweedy family hour (and a half) was a success and I hope it's not too long before we see Jeff and his sons together on stage again.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played (didn't get a look at the printed list, but I assume there were no changes other than maybe the addition of The Losing End):

 

Family Ghost

Some Birds (w/Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals)

New Moon

Don't Forget

Having Been Is No Way To Be

Orphan

Summer Noon

Ten Sentences

Guaranteed

Empty Head

Flowering

I Know What It's Like (w/Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals)

...And Then You Cut It In Half

World Away

Evergreen (w/Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals)

Love Like A Wire [Diane Izzo] (w/Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals)

Low Key

Let's Go Rain

I Wanna Be Your Mama Again [sir Douglas Quintet]

The Losing End (When You're On) [Neil Young] (w/Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals)

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A young member of the band once told me that it's (or should be) spelt TWEEDY in deference to another well known group. Just sayin'.

 

Edit. Also - concerns about the weather, or a floater spotted?

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A member of the band once told me that it's (or should be) spelt TWEEDY in deference to another well known group. Just sayin'.

 

Edit. Also - concerns about the weather, or a floater spotted?

Yeah, guess you’re right about the spelling. As for the floater, I can’t say.

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Actually, as Jeff briefly alluded to during the Tweedy set, that actually wasn't his first performance of the day. Earlier, he had graciously stopped by to play a short solo set for a small group of folks who were part of a “day of service” at a site about 15 miles away from the Hard Rock Hotel that was organized by Positive Legacy, a non-profit organization that works with the organizers of Sky Blue Sky. Basically, a small group of festival attendees had the chance to visit the nearby Playa Xcacel and its adjacent turtle sanctuary and do small projects like beach cleanup, road repair, sign painting, etc., for a couple of hours before gathering for Jeff's set and lunch (and an optional dip in the Caribbean).

 

Jeff played for about 30 minutes or so, mostly taking requests and also emphasizing that he didn't want to play anything over the course of the entire festival — this set included — that he had already played or planned to play later. I'm not sure where this "no repeats whatsoever" ethos originated, but it is interesting.

 

Anyway, after opening with New Madrid and saying that was the only song he could remember, Jeff took a request for Airline To Heaven and struggled through it from a lyrical standpoint. So from there he "threw caution to the wind" and started playing Blue Eyes by Gram Parsons — from the International Submarine Band record — which I'm not sure he had ever publicly played live before. I certainly had not heard it. So that was a highlight. (For what it's worth, Uncle Tupelo covered Blue Eyes for a Gram Parsons tribute record in 1993.)

 

Jeff continued to take requests for the remainder of his set, eventually settling on one song or another that he felt like playing (or felt like he could play), until his time was up. He also had a pretty funny exchange with a Canadian kid who was eating a box of Froot Loops. Anyway, it was an opportunity to give a tiny bit back to the local area and see Jeff play in a beautiful setting, so I think just about everybody who was able to be a part of it walked away with positive feelings.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

 

New Madrid

Airline To Heaven

Blue Eyes [Gram Parsons]

Drawing From Memory

—chords to Sunloathe (instrumental only)—

Gun

So Much Wine [The Handsome Family]

Radio King

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I see you stand corrected. Ta.

Also, as regards your comment in yesterday's thread - you are singlehandedly bumping up the average level of Wilco fandom present - much appreciated.

Are you off to Mexico City too? I did a big Mexican archaeology-based tour once back in the day - Oaxaca, Palanque, many in Yucatan, Guatemala too. Amazing to think of the new sites discovered since then reclaimed from the jungle and many more to come. Great stuff. The main museum in Mexico City is well worth a visit.

 

EDIT - So Much Wine! - was thinking about that song last week. Love JT's version(s).

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I see you stand corrected. Ta.

Also, as regards your comment in yesterday's thread - you are singlehandedly bumping up the average level of Wilco fandom present - much appreciated.

Are you off to Mexico City too? I did a big Mexican archaeology-based tour once back in the day - Oaxaca, Palanque, many in Yucatan, Guatemala too. Amazing to think of the new sites discovered since then reclaimed from the jungle and many more to come. Great stuff. The main museum in Mexico City is well worth a visit.

 

EDIT - So Much Wine! - was thinking about that song last week. Love JT's version(s).

 

Indeed, I'm looking forward to getting a few days to explore in Ciudad de México. Never been before. Thanks for the advice about the museum. Shall try to get over there one day. Do you remember if everything was just in Spanish there in terms of the signage? I always worry about going to museums in foreign countries where I don't speak/read well enough to comprehend sans translation. Anyway, yes, Mexico must be amazing in terms of archaeology. I'm sure there's still some crazy stuff waiting to be unearthed...

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The museum was fine with English signage as I remember.

Also have fond memories of a street near the centre where all the Mariachi bands hang out waiting for people to come along in pick-up trucks to hire them and take them off to parties for the evening, or play songs for you there for what was then a few dollars. Probably still going on if you Google ...

You should definitely get out to Teotihacan (typing without checking spelling) too. The massive pyramids of course, but more amazing to think that the dark volcanic stone that you see was all plastered and painted in bright colours then (just as most ancient Greek marble statues were). Some bits remain. Go to the entrance furthest from the on-site museum and walk the entire length of the plaza leading up to the pyramids to give it time to sink in.

You should also make Wilco go to Peru for similar reasons ...

 

Edit - also the lowering of the flag ceremony in the main square. Was the largest flag in the world when I went. Mixed feelings - many ordinary Mexicans showing deep respect for what was going on, and some unintentional hilarity as the soldiers tried to avoid the disrespect of any part of said flag touching the ground as it was lowered. There is a Empire State style building nearby too with a top floor bar/view (plus of course the leaning cathedral side by side with the Aztec pyramid).

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This is what you want:-

 

http://www.manvsglobe.com/mariachi-bands-plaza-garibaldi-mexico-city/

 

 

Somehow at that time (pre- Google) I just discovered it by chance. Maybe I'm becoming an old Git now but I often say that the internet has ruined travel - everyone knows everything about where to go (hence anywhere good quickly becomes overdeveloped/overcrowded), everything can and needs to be booked in advance instead of just turning up and finding places, etc. etc. There needs to be a large element of chance involved with travel. Bah humbug.

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The museum was fine with English signage as I remember.

Also have fond memories of a street near the centre where all the Mariachi bands hang out waiting for people to come along in pick-up trucks to hire them and take them off to parties for the evening, or play songs for you there for what was then a few dollars. Probably still going on if you Google ...

You should definitely get out to Teotihacan (typing without checking spelling) too. The massive pyramids of course, but more amazing to think that the dark volcanic stone that you see was all plastered and painted in bright colours then (just as most ancient Greek marble statues were). Some bits remain. Go to the entrance furthest from the on-site museum and walk the entire length of the plaza leading up to the pyramids to give it time to sink in.

You should also make Wilco go to Peru for similar reasons ...

 

Edit - also the lowering of the flag ceremony in the main square. Was the largest flag in the world when I went. Mixed feelings - many ordinary Mexicans showing deep respect for what was going on, and some unintentional hilarity as the soldiers tried to avoid the disrespect of any part of said flag touching the ground as it was lowered. There is a Empire State style building nearby too with a top floor bar/view (plus of course the leaning cathedral side by side with the Aztec pyramid).

Grassy arse, as a wise man (acre?) once told me...B)

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looks like you all are having fun. sadly, being recently (early) retired i won't be able to do something like this. in younger & healthier days i certainly would have! enjoy the rest of the trip & remember to put on the sun screen!  :guitar

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Sooooo

YLT soundcheck on main stage. Maybe 35-45 minutes staring with “”don’t cry no tears” by Neil Young. Autumn Sweater, too and much more. I asked Ira prior to “set” if I could take a few pics- he said yes, no video please, and said I was courteous for being a Philly fan (Phillies hat). There are exceptions to every rule- I responded and now I can stop going g to therapy.

Sooooo

YLT soundcheck on main stage. Maybe 35-45 minutes staring with “”don’t cry no tears” by Neil Young. Autumn Sweater, too and much more. I asked Ira prior to “set” if I could take a few pics- he said yes, no video please, and said I was courteous for being a Philly fan (Phillies hat). There are exceptions to every rule- I responded and now I can stop going g to therapy.

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