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Wilco — 20 August 2021, Columbia, MD (Merriweather Post Pavilion)

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It's funny, I've never really thought of Merriweather Post Pavilion as a "legendary" venue along the lines of Red Rocks or the Hollywood Bowl or places like that. I'm sure that's probably sacrilegious to those in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area, but even when I lived on the East Coast, I just always sort of thought of it as another in a series of sheds from Maine to Florida that bands eventually play if they reach a certain level. But hey, not every shed gets a landmark album named after it and I recently met someone who told me that they were at this mythical concert back in 1969. And heck, the place is even noteworthy enough to prompt a visit by esteemed VCer nalafej — good to see you — so what do I know? k


Since I'd last visited the sprawling 54-year-old amphitheater, which may have been one of the places to establish what we think of as the modern shed setup (pit/seating/lawn), the place has gotten something of a facelift with a sturdy-looking roof and concrete balcony structure installed over the pit and seating areas that reminded me of another DC-area venue, Wolf Trap. Fortunately, MPP is big enough and/or the show not sold out enough that there seemed to be enough room for pretty much everyone to space out, watch the concert from where they wanted and still get a decent view — no small thing in these crazy Covid times.


The unfortunate thing, at least personally, was that because of the nature of the venue, the location of the speakers and other acoustic factors, being up front — at least if you weren't right in front of one of the "fill" monitors facing outward from the stage — probably wasn't the ideal spot to take in the show. I guess that's almost always true at any venue, that you sacrifice sound quality by being closer to the stage, but for me it was especially pronounced tonight. I'm sure the bands all sounded amazing from, say, 10 rows back in the seats or at the front of the lawn, but it was honestly a bit muddy for me and that did detract a little bit from my enjoyment, I must admit.


Then again, being closer to the stage also brings with it some advantages, and I have to give kudos to a few of the folks I was standing next to, who were just super enthusiastic for everything from Nnamdi's opening set (which keeps getting better and better, by the way) to Sleater-Kinney's energetic escapades to Wilco's sturdy headlining act. When you've seen a few shows on a run, especially when the setlists are pretty similar night to night, it's nice to be able to get — dare I say it? — a shot in the arm of excitement and perspective from other people.


As for Wilco's performance, when a security guard came by early on in the evening and showed the set times on his phone with Jeff and Co. slated for 9:30-10:45 p.m., I was hoping the set wouldn't be rushed even more than usual because of some random curfew. I guess I wasn't the only one for whom the night was flying by, because it seemed like the band had barely gotten warmed up when Jeff glanced over at the ever-present clock at the side of the stage around 10:30 and announced that, "We're getting close to running out of time, so we're just gonna try to play as many songs as we can." Fortunately, the show wound up reaching a satisfactory conclusion at 11 without feeling too rushed and we even got a three-song encore! Three whole songs, can you imagine? I mean, it's hardly the days of two or three encores with as many as eight or 10 total tunes, but hey, Covid. We take what we can get, right?


On this night, what we got was the tour debut of You Are My Face (excellent to hear that one again), a decent dose of Ode To Joy (Jeff repeated the joke he's been making about how that album "came out just in time for all the joy") as well as a somewhat surprise Outtasite (Outta Mind) (which utterly delighted the very earnest fan to my left, who had really, really been hoping to hear that one). Also of note was the continuing development of what I guess we'll call "The End" version of Heavy Metal Drummer with Jeff essentially doing a laconic spoken-word intro to the song for about 30 seconds as his bandmates kind of filled in with some light psychedelic jams underneath before launching into the full version of the song (with Glenn actually playing the sample from the recorded version).


Overall the band seemed to be in pretty good spirits as the back half of the tour winds down — six shows left for that hoped-for collab with Sleater-Kinney, but who's counting? — and Jeff noted in the encore "that we always have such a good time here." Jeff and Nels even had kind of a sweet little moment during The Late Greats when Jeff went over and briefly hugged Nels as he was holding a note during the middle section, and there were a lot of smiles all around. I was thinking that it can't necessarily be easy to do this tour, with the bands and crews being in relatively tight bubbles and not able to visit with guests, see friends or do things they might ordinarily otherwise do. Add to that some of the wild weather challenges and scheduling issues and other things that we probably aren't even aware of, well, you know that this probably isn't your run-of-the-mill run of shows. So I just have to say kudos to everyone involved for enduring and making it happen and giving those of us in the audience at least some semblance of normality.


About seven songs in, Jeff asked how many people were having their first live-music experience back at this show and he seemed touched that there were so many affirmative responses. "It's an honor," he said. "Thanks for letting us entertain you. It really means a lot." And after another remarkable Nels solo on Impossible Germany, Jeff chimed in, "I don't know about you, but I missed that."


For as much as we might nitpick things on this forum and elsewhere, I think we all did. And I just really hope that we won't have to miss it again anytime soon.


Here was Wilco's complete setlist, as played (didn't get a look at the printed list, so can't say if there were any changes/omissions):

A Shot In The Arm

Random Name Generator

Before Us

You Are My Face

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart>

Art Of Almost

If I Ever Was A Child

Impossible Germany

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Box Full Of Letters


Everyone Hides

Born Alone

Jesus, etc.


I'm The Man Who Loves You

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm Always In Love


The Late Greats

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

California Stars


And for anyone who cares, here was Sleater-Kinney's setlist:

High In The Grass

Hurry On Home

A New Wave

Shadow Town

The Fox

Can I Go On

Path Of Wellness

Price Tag

Down The Line

Bury Our Friends


Bring Mercy

Modern Girl

Surface Envy

Worry With You

One Beat>



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Thanks as always for the full recap.  I’ve been to Merriweather several times and always liked it even though it’s a pretty basic shed.  This was my first time there since the new construction and I was pretty impressed by the whole setup.  Parking was easy, restrooms clean and plentiful, what more can one ask?


It helped that the weather was gorgeous.  The forecast had been for yet more rain but by show time it was perfectly clear and yet miraculously not hot either.


I was about 5 rows behind the pit, dead center.  The sound was really muddy for S-K’s set, partly because the place was still at most half-full.  I put my fancy earplugs in and got much clearer sound that way.  I was disappointed for S-K having to play to a much-less-than-full house, but they put on a great show for those who showed up to see them.


Wilco seemed to be in good spirits.  No big surprises on the set list, but it was cool to see them power through as many hits at the end as they could squeeze in.  I had a direct view of the big red digital clock just off stage and kept an eye on it as curfew approached.  The band took their guitars off at the end of California Stars, exactly 11 seconds before 11 pm.  That, my friends, is a well-oiled rock and roll machine.  


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Fun - energetic shows.

First time seeing Sleater-Kinney, they were impressive, especially Carrie strutting around like a boss on guitar and singing.

Haven't seen Wilco since the Schmilco tour. Was pleasantly surprised. I thought the late 2019 shows (the Brooklyn livestream specifically) seemed like a depressing slog, way to heavy on the "Ode" bummer tunes (IMO, pleas don't kill me).

Thought they really brought it tonight, everyone seemed to be having a really good time on stage.

As you can see from the setlist, they brought the rock. "Before" was much better live than I expected.

"Theologians", "Outtasite (Outta MInd), and "You Are My Face" were the highlights for me.

I echo everything BBOP mentions above. Except, from my Row C spot in the seating area, the sound mix was fantastic, no complaints at all.

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Great narrative from VC’s reigning content champ, bbop, as always!


It was a nice night to ‘check in’ with Wilco. I thought it was a fine performance from the band. It really seemed liked they picked up where they left off in 2019 which is probably both a good thing while at the same time perplexing. My favorite moments of the night were the opening number, The End, Always in Love and the first two songs of the encore.

I think Jeff has done a great curatorial job with the setlist. That said, spontaneity is a good thing and the OTJ songs really just don’t match the quality of the rest of the set and drag it down imho.  

This was the 35th US state I’ve seen Wilco in and it was a nice enough venue (holy shit- The Who and Led Zep on one bill at this place?!!) aif not in the neighborhood of a Red Rocks or 930 Club. The sound wasn’t great up front in the pit.  We parked ourselves in seats for SK and it was better back there. 

super glad we made this one. Might have to check in again back home in Chicago next weekend. 

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FWIW, and this is obviously anecdotal, but I was confused a few weeks ago when Vince mentioned to me Wilco playing Merriweather Post Pavilion. I just know that name as an Animal Collective album. As a foreigner from a distant land, who's into music, I feel like if someone like me is aware of a venue then that's probably a good indication of it's "legendary" status, like the Hollywood Bowl, Red Rocks, First Ave, etc. But maybe in this situation that's just on me. 

Anyways, appreciate the recap as always bbop!

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21 hours ago, TCP said:

FWIW, and this is obviously anecdotal, but I was confused a few weeks ago when Vince mentioned to me Wilco playing Merriweather Post Pavilion. I just know that name as an Animal Collective album. As a foreigner from a distant land, who's into music, I feel like if someone like me is aware of a venue then that's probably a good indication of it's "legendary" status, like the Hollywood Bowl, Red Rocks, First Ave, etc. But maybe in this situation that's just on me. 

Anyways, appreciate the recap as always bbop!

In the US most of the 10k+ seat amphitheaters are similar looking "sheds," nearly all owned by Live Nation and named for corporate sponsors that buy naming rights for a set number of years, leading to many of them changing names every few years. The Boston venue Wilco is playing has been named after like 6 different banks in the last decade; there's also a place in Tampa that was called The 1-800-ASK-GARY Ampethetre for a couple years. I don't have data to back this up but I think the majority were constructed during or after the 90s (or existed before the 90s, but became "sheds" with the big roofs, lawn and capacity during that time frame). So it's rare to come across one that has a history that dates back to the 60s; I think that's partially what sets Merriweather apart. But I think it's also the Animal Collective album.

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56 minutes ago, Rusty Shackleford said:

Yes, Merriweather is one of the few shed-type venues not owned by LiveNation, and has wisely (IMHO) avoided diluting the brand with sponsorships.  IMP does a great job with all their venues.

The northeast is rotten with Xfinity/Verizon/Bank of America/TD Bank/Dunkin Donuts etc amphitheaters/arenas, it's kind of depressing to look back at some of the major shows i've seen and remember that Comcast was tangentially involved.

It's nice that Wilco generally does mid size theaters in that sense. Rooms with real history.

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7 hours ago, sinko25 said:

The Boston venue Wilco is playing has been named after like 6 different banks in the last decade; there's also a place in Tampa that was called The 1-800-ASK-GARY Ampethetre for a couple years


I'm looking forward to the next Wilco RSD release... "Wilco Live at the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre" 😂

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Delayed Ta since you're not yet part of my weekend rituals.


P.S. If you want to become part of my weekend rituals, are a virgin with long flowing locks, voluminous semi-transparent gown, and gently heaving bosom, then please apply via the usual channels at druids.com.

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I'll echo everyone's comments about the horrible sound down in the front.  We ended up in the the third row for S-K's set and managed to stay there for the rest of the night.  In retrospect, I kind of wish I went to my Row P seats to take advantage of better sound.


It took me a while to figure out why the pit was so dead and why I kind of "bored" with the set.  Bored is not the right word, I wasn't bored, I just wasn't moved by the music.  It slowly dawned on me that it was the sound that was bringing people down.


The most egregious example of the horrible mix (up close) was during Pat's solo in Box Full of Letters.  He was out there wailing away and doing all these rock star moves with the guitar and I heard nothing!  Not a single note for 3/4s of his solo!  


Someone above mentioned the well oiled machine the crew was during the guitar swaps.  I had another take that it was distracting, stressful and almost comical to see those guys sprinting out with Jeff's guitar, doing the swap, then sprinting back and then doing the same thing for Nels.  It was stressful watching it happen song after song!  And it didn't even seem necessary as there were usually long stretches of ambient music/noise when both guys had their new guitars before the next song started.  All of that is my way of saying three bands is too much when you start and 7 and have an 11pm curfew!!  It's kind of ridiculous that the headliner has to cut songs and shorten sets.  



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