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Wilco — 29 August 2021, Columbus, OH (The Lawn At CAS) [Wonderbus Festival - Day 2 of 2]


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After seeing Wilco wrap up several weeks of touring with Sleater-Kinney and Nnamdi with a big hometown show in Chicago on Saturday night, I have to admit it felt a little weird to be watching them close out a small festival in Columbus, Ohio, just 24 hours later. But such is life for a working band, I suppose: You go where the next gig is, regardless of any narratives or odd routings or other potential challenges.

 

And of course there were bound to be some challenges, given everything that's happened this month as the band has returned to the road. In the Midwest in the summer, weather always looms as an obstacle to be overcome for outdoor events. For example, your humble correspondent heard that a surprise downpour early in the day nearly proved catastrophic for parts of Nels' rig. Then as other bands on stage before Wilco were performing (Black Pumas, St. Paul and the Broken Bones), we could see stage crew in the background scrambling to pull out tarps and cover up equipment with plastic in anticipation of more approaching storms. Even midway through Wilco's set, Jeff looked out from the stage at one point, spotted lightning and seemed almost gleeful that it was far enough off in the distance that "I think we're gonna get this in."

 

Given all that, the band's headlining set on the second and final day of the Wonderbus Festival was a nice coda to this first run of shows following one of the biggest challenges most of us have faced in our lifetimes. Not that the 92-minute set was vastly different from the others the band has played this month — though we did get the relatively rare occurrence of both Side With The Seeds and You Are My Face in the same show — but it did showcase a group of musicians who still seem to enjoy playing music together after all this time especially in front of a receptive audience that still features people seeing the band for the first time.

 

As far as Banter Corner, I can't even accurately recap all of Jeff's visits on this night. He was in festival crowd mode, for sure. After a small beach ball landed in the photographer's pit between the barricade and the front of the stage, Jeff jokingly mentioned how he wished someone would come down and throw the beach balls back into the crowd because they helped the band's performance. No one did at first, which was even funnier — "No one's gonna help us out? OK, good talk." — but eventually some one came down and did the deed. He also had fun at various points with people yelling out various requests ("We have a program.") and someone who I'm not sure if they just looked like they wanted to yell something, but before Box Full Of Letters, Jeff said they were going to play a song off their first album and he pointed at the guy and asked if he knew what it was and the guy just let out a big "Casino Queen!" that caused Glenn to crack up. (Even more amusing, it turned out that Jeff maybe was actually just asking if the guy knew the name of the album.)

 

One other noteworthy bit of banter came after Hummingbird, when some guy near the front decided to yell out something that sounded like "Dad jeans!" Which Jeff looked very confused by at first, and apparently thought the guy was saying, "Dank jeans." Then he just sort of shook his head and quipped to the crowd, "You haven't been out in a while. We expected some of this aberrant behavior as you readjust to entering society."

 

It wasn't a perfect performance by any means — Nels, for example, had a little bit of a rough start to his solo on Impossible Germany, perhaps owing to some of the issues with his pedalboard from the aforementioned weather issues earlier — but better than I might have expected for the kind of gig where I imagine it would have been pretty easy to be a bit distracted coming off the hometown finale show the night before. I mean, I know Jeff and his bandmates are (total) pros and have experienced that scenario before, but they are also human and I'm sure that playing the show they did the previous night with a lot of family and friends in the audience, not to mention saying goodbye to folks you've been seeing for weeks, etc., and the vibe of a festival crowd and the various shenanigans therein can make it somewhat tough to focus.

 

Speaking of potential distractions, it didn't seem like any of the band members noticed a tiny little frog that somehow made its way onto the lip of the stage midway through the show and just kind of hung out for a while, gradually hopping down the line from in front of Jeff to all the way down by Pat, but those of us relatively close to the front did. I just had to mention that little guy, though, because he was the chillest festival frog I've seen maybe ever.

 

That frog was almost as cool as "The End" spoken-word introduction to Heavy Metal Drummer that Jeff and band are really beginning to perfect. Now if only they'd do the entire song that way, at least once! Unfortunately by that point in the set, we know it's getting close to the end. And as always with a 90-minute time slot, there's a sense that time is running out — Jeff even seemed to go around and tell his bandmates before I'm Always In Love that they weren't even going to go off stage for the usual encore break in an attempt to squeeze one more song into the show.

 

Anyway, Wonderbus might have been a bit of a coda for this run of touring but it was a pretty fun, memorable — and did I mention, super humid? — coda in more ways than one. It was nice to see and actually get a chance to talk to a few familiar faces throughout the course of the day. And kudos, as always, to the Wilcrew, who always go above and beyond for our benefit and definitely deserve a few days of rest after this crazy month. Here's to a bit of a break and then we'll see what the future has in store for us during these pandemic times.

 

This was the complete Wilco setlist, as played (California Stars was scratched out in favor of Outtasite (Outta Mind) on the printed list as the final song):

 

A Shot In The Arm

Random Name Generator

Side With The Seeds

Via Chicago

Art Of Almost

If I Ever Was A Child

Impossible Germany

Hummingbird

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

You Are My Face

Box Full Of Letters

Everyone Hides

Dawned On Me

Jesus, etc.

Theologians

I'm The Man Who Loves You

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm Always In Love

The Late Greats

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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  • bböp changed the title to Wilco — 29 August 2021, Columbus, OH (The Lawn At CAS) [Wonderbus Festival - Day 2 of 2]

Not much to add to the masterful commentary above other than a note on the general chillness of the crowd. Other than what was seemingly an alcohol fueled (and possibly other substances) violent yelling outburst by a guy about 3 rows back, there were no shenanigans of note, which is always welcome at the end of a long, hot festival day. And kudos to the event security for quickly dealing with said nitwit. As for the show, all I can really say that it was a great way to end the summer!

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Ta.

There's that Goth/Joy Division version of HMD. Is this version like that?

Also. How is Pat Watch? He went through that spell of not being very engaged. The novelty of performing again means there is no sign of that?

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12 hours ago, Albert Tatlock said:

Ta.

There's that Goth/Joy Division version of HMD. Is this version like that?

Also. How is Pat Watch? He went through that spell of not being very engaged. The novelty of performing again means there is no sign of that?

 

I was on the lookout at Merriweather Post and Pat was very engaged! I think we can end the watch.

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On 9/1/2021 at 4:28 AM, Albert Tatlock said:

Ta.

There's that Goth/Joy Division version of HMD. Is this version like that?

Also. How is Pat Watch? He went through that spell of not being very engaged. The novelty of performing again means there is no sign of that?

 

Apologies, dear Tatlock! Been on a road trip and just saw your post. To answer your inquiries, I had totally forgotten that goth version of HMD (though I prefer to go more with Bauhaus than JD, but anyway)! This version is decidedly not like that at all. This one really is a The End-esque rendition, where Jeff starts speaking the lyrics like the Lizard King himself whilst the band fill in some downcast psychedelic sounds behind him. My only regret is they don't do the whole song that way, but rather then launch into the "regular" version — albeit with Glenn playing the natural intro rather than using the sample (which might be retired for good?) :devil

 

And as far as Pat, he seemed to be engaged just fine throughout though I heard through the sosh medes that he is dealing with some hand/finger issue that I hope he is able to get fixed or at least helped before the next run of shows...:hmm

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