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Wilco — 10 September 2022, Grand Rapids, MN (Grand Rapids Area Library) [Grand Rapids Riverfest; Day 2 of 2]

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Once again, I *really* could use a couple more hours of sleep but let me at least put finger to keyboard and try and get down a few thoughts before the ol' noggin starts to shut down...


Things I've learned so far on this trip to Minnesota: 1) There's a Grand Rapids here, too. Who knew? Take that, Michigan! For the record, it's a smallish, but charming city that sits on the Mississippi River about three hours drive north of Minneapolis. 2) Minnesota Vikings fans really like to yell, "Skol!" at every opportunity, but especially the day before the season opens against the Green Bay Packers. 3) There aren't nearly as many Culver's as you think in northern Minnesota. Oh, and perhaps most importantly, 4) Wilco still has the power to surprise after all these years.


Not to bury the lede further, but I can't say I had the highest of expectations for Wilco's headlining set at the second annual Grand Rapids Riverfest. Coming less than 24 hours after a pretty compelling show in Madison, Wis., it would have been easy for Jeff and his bandmates to deliver a solid, respectable festival performance and move on to the next stop. I confess to almost having my story written, at least in my head — something about consistency and the fine line a band must sometimes walk (particularly when supporting a new record) between presenting the show it wants to present night after night after night and things getting stale.


I also had gotten it into my head for some reason that the festival would be taking place at a little amphitheater on the river or something like that, so when I arrived and saw that it was actually a conventional outdoor stage setup in the parking lot between the Grand Rapids Area Library building and its front lawn, well, it was honestly a little bit of a letdown. To be fair, there was a nice little "Riverwalk" behind the library that offered some lovely glimpses of the legendary waterway. Still, it was not exactly what I had envisioned.


So the show begins and it's going along pretty much as expected. Jeff had his usual first check-in with the audience about six songs into the set, saying "What a lovely thing to get to do. Thanks for inviting us." Then he asked how many people "actually live here," and thanked them especially and "not all these carpetbaggers," before relenting and admitting that he and his bandmates love the carpetbaggers, too. During this crowd interaction, Jeff also had to take the time out to somewhat gently scold someone to his right who had apparently been a bit overserved and was "jostling" other folks in an attempt to get closer to the stage. Fairly typical festival stuff, more or less.


Other visits to Banter Corner included Jeff thanking the crowd for clapping during Hummingbird, saying that the previous night's audience needed "a pep talk to get involved in the show, but you don't." He added that if if they had participation trophies to hand out, everyone would get one..."but, you know, supply chain issues." (This was also the point when a "Skol!" chant broke out, which also happened multiple times on my flight to Minneapolis earlier in the day.) A bit later, Jeff also had another funny bit where he asked, "Do the bugs ever go to sleep? I feel like Pigpen. I've only been on the road for two days; I shouldn't have this many flies around me." He added, jokingly, that it must be "part of my persona...that guy who smells bad. Ziggy Bratwurst." You probably had to be there.


Another interesting bit that I don't remember ever hearing before came when Jeff introduced A Lifetime To Find. He said that when he was producing the forthcoming album by northern Minnesota band Trampled By Turtles he offered them the song to cut for their record, which they apparently did. But because the album has taken so long to come out, Jeff decided to also record it with Wilco and put it out on Cruel Country. He compared it to Hank Williams writing Hey, Good Lookin' for Little Jimmy Dickens back in the 1950s before cutting it himself (though Jeff was definitely self-deprecating when telling the story, not trying to compare himself with Williams).


As for the setlist, well, I thought it was a nice nod to a festival audience that Wilco decided to close their main set with some old favorites like Heavy Metal Drummer and I'm The Man Who Loves You. (And since I know there's at least one lady who's going to ask, no, Glenn didn't stand on his drum stool before and they played the album arrangement with the ooh, oohs restored and Jeff singing the second "writing this letter to you.")


I had figured we weren't going to get Kicking Television again, either, which is understandable, so the only remaining drama was how the show would conclude. I knew something unusual was up when I saw one of Wilcrew put down a cheat sheet at Jeff's station during the encore break. However, I could not have predicted that the second song of the encore would be a full-band version of the Grateful Dead's U.S. Blues. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that after learning a number of Dead songs for the Philco set(s) that Jeff and Nels performed with Dead bassist Phil Lesh a couple of weeks ago at the Sacred Rose Festival in Chicago — of which U.S. Blues was one — that one or more of them could conceivably pop up during a Wilco show. I just didn't expect it to be this one — and since it wasn't on the printed setlist, we can assume that it was a spur-of-the-moment decision.


So there you have it. It might not happen as often anymore, but if nothing else, this Grand Rapids festival show demonstrated that Jeff and Co. can still surprise and delight even the most seasoned onlookers/longtime fans from time to time. And even though I'm not quite ready yet to fully embrace the Dead's apparent "victory" over the generation of punks and new wavers who initially rebelled against them, well at least I'm glad that their music has provided some new frontiers for Wilco to explore.


Here was the complete setlist, as played, for Wilco's set at the Grand Rapids Riverfest (as mentioned, U.S. Blues was not on the printed setlist, but otherwise, there were no changes/omissions):


Handshake Drugs

I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart


War On War

If I Ever Was A Child

Via Chicago>

Many Worlds (coda only)

At Least That's What You Said

Story To Tell


All Across The World

Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull

Jesus, etc.

Impossible Germany

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

California Stars

A Lifetime To Find

I'm Always In Love

Heavy Metal Drummer>

I'm The Man Who Loves You


Falling Apart (Right Now)

U.S. Blues [Grateful Dead]

I Got You (At The End Of The Century)>

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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Wilco-loving Deadheads gotta stick together! :D.  For us, victory and surrender are concepts that don't apply to music, not a battle, no borders or boundaries, only music that moves you or doesn't.  This was gonna happen sooner or later, ha ha ha!!!

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12 hours ago, Shug said:

Wilco-loving Deadheads gotta stick together! :D.  For us, victory and surrender are concepts that don't apply to music, not a battle, no borders or boundaries, only music that moves you or doesn't.  This was gonna happen sooner or later, ha ha ha!!!

#FuckingHippies ;) :pirate

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