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Wilco — 13 October 2023, Santa Barbara, CA (Arlington Theatre)

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Infinite Surprise


Handshake Drugs

I Am My Mother

Cruel Country

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart


Meant to Be

Side with the Seeds


Bird without a Tail/Base of My Skull



Via Chicago (no coda)


Impossible Germany

Jesus, etc.


I'm the Man Who Loves You


Falling Apart (Right Now)

California Stars


Outtasite (Outta Mind)


("A Shot in the Arm" was listed as the closer to the main set on the printed set list. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" was listed as the final song of the encore in place of the Being There rockers.)


This was a very pleasurable day trip. After making the drive up from L.A.., I went to the box office to pick up my ticket at around 5 p.m. (I don't have a smartphone but, even if I did, I'll take a hard ticket any time I can get one.) Walking up State Street toward the venue, a gentleman walking in the opposite direction was excitedly chatting on the phone with a friend. I overheard him say, "Guess who was in line behind me at the box office?! Mikael Jorgensen's mother-in-law!!" After a brief pause, I then heard him say, "He's the keyboard player for Wilco." The gentleman's friend's unfamiliarity with Mr. Jorgensen did not seem to diminish the gentleman's enthusiasm. (After the show, I saw Mikael's mother-in-law, whose name is Olga, and shared this story with her, leaving out the detail about the friend's apparent reaction. She got a kick out of hearing how excited the gentleman was to meet her.)


After a delicious dinner at a favorite restaurant near the Santa Barbara Bowl, I headed back over to State Street to kill time before the show. State Street is closed to vehicular traffic other than bicycles and scooters, so it's a nice stretch to go for a walk and check out the shops and restaurants. While perambulating, I looked up and saw John Stirratt heading right toward me on his way back to the venue. I said hello and told him I was here to see him and the band, and we had a very nice chat for about ten minutes. We were talking about all the cool venues Wilco has played, and I brought up the show at the Camden Opera House (in Camden, Maine), which he said was actually when he first got the idea that he might want to live in Maine. I mentioned that I had been looking at that ticket recently and was amazed to see that tickets were $24.00 ($22.00 in advance) for a 500-seat theater. Grossing at most $12,000 from ticket sales, I said they must have each cleared about 75 bucks that night. He said that they had a big-money gig in Boston (two days later) that subsidized the trip*, but he also thought the theater was 900 seats. (I accepted this claim without demur, but I checked the Camden Opera House website today and it says the venue has 489 seats.) Anyway, he said the shows in L.A. were fun but that he was glad to finally get out of town. We also talked about what Laurie, his twin sister, is up to these days in Oxford. I asked him if there was any chance the band would bust out "A Bowl and a Pudding" soon, and he said they're trying to get it together. I surmised that the echoing vocals might be difficult to recreate in the live environment, and he replied that they probably wouldn't bother with them, comparing it to what he called "Oh Satellite." (Having had a conversation recently in which I pointed to "You Satellite" as a particularly low moment in the Wilco canon, only to receive vociferous refutation from a fellow fan, I quietly reveled in the idea that even John doesn't think this song is worth remembering properly.) I also told him how I had asked Jeff on Starship Casual if he had considered making "A Lifetime to Find" a duet since it's a back-and-forth with Death, and that I had suggested John would make a good Death. I said he has the voice of an angel, so it might as well be the Angel of Death. He seemed to appreciate this compliment. On my way back to the venue, I saw Pat having a drink with a friend at the outdoor seating area of one of the bars or restaurants. I didn't bother him, but a friend told me that he had run into Pat on the street yesterday and had a nice chat with him, including a discussion of whether Pat intended to bring the banjo back to "California Stars." (He doesn't.)


As for the show-- a.k.a., what you really want to hear about-- it was a standard playlist delivered very energetically. There was nothing new for this tour, unless you stretch the definition of "new" and consider that "Levee" made its second appearance. The Arlington Theatre is a seated venue, so we had the sitting and standing factions, but standing won out by the time the set got to the one-two punch of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "Kamera." Jeff had commented that the audience couldn't seem to make up its mind whether to sit or to stand, and that Wilco is not the kind of band that tells people what to do in this regard. He said he left it to us to decide whether we wanted to be "good citizens," a fiendishly ambiguous remark that allows that sitters to think that they're being good citizens by not interfering with the sightlines of those behind them and the standers to think that they're being good citizens because one of the hallmarks of being a good citizen is active participation in the life of the nation (in this case, Wilco Nation). As I say, it ended up being moot because people were on their feet for the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot combo, remained up for new song Meant to Be (maybe Jeff's timeline of people wanting to hear the song in one to three years has been accelerated) and pretty much only sat down for "Pittsburgh" after that. I was actually in the last seat at the end of the row Nelside, so I had complete freedom to stand without bothering anybody, which made up for the fact that I could not see Mikael at all and often could see only part of Nels behind the stack of speakers. I also had the good fortune of having a very enthusiastic gentleman in front of me who was rocking out most of the night, and we shared a moment during the breakdown in "Hummingbird" where I offered him my arm and we did a little do-si-do. We had a lot of room to move around in the aisle and took advantage of it for the show-closing Being There tracks (which I'm so glad were subbed in for "Spiders (Kidsmoke)"-- the band was offstage before the encore for a little longer than usual, so there must have been some debate about this choice, but I say they made the right call). Jeff remarked at one point about the beautiful indoor theater that looks like it's outdoors. (The Arlington is decorated to look like it's al fresco, sort of like the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian in Las Vegas.)


There are pianos scattered up and down State Street that anyone can play, including one at the front of the entryway to the theater. (There is a long outdoor courtyard that leads up to the doors to the theater, so this piano is right next to the street but a couple of hundred feet from the theater proper.) When we came out of the theater, a couple of guys were playing and singing "Story to Tell" on the public piano, and did a nice job of it. I joined them for a rendition of "At Least That's What You Said" that was a lot of fun.


Wilco now moves aside as a much bigger artist takes over the Arlington tonight: they're screening the Taylor Swift movie. I'm looking forward to it myself but I think I'm going to save it for an early-afternoon weekday showing to avoid the pandemonium that I'm sure is taking place at every showing this weekend. 


Wilco's tour continues to infinity. Sadly, Brian F.'s tour ends tonight, after eight Wilco gigs in ten days (counting Kimmel).


* It seems like I should have attended this Boston gig, which was at the then-Bank of America pavilion on the waterfront. After all, I drove to Maine from Boston on a (holiday) Monday to see them, so why wouldn't I have seen them right in Boston, just a few blocks from where I worked, two days later on Wednesday? But I have no record of having been to this show-- no ticket or stub, and it doesn't appear in an email I wrote to my then-girlfriend in 2002 listing and describing all of the Wilco shows I had seen from 1995 up to that point (an email without which I would have forgotten about at least a couple of shows that I did attend-- and, to be clear, she requested this summary). Thinking back, I wondered if I might have had a baseball game that night, but I checked and I didn't. Why did I apparently pass on that show? The mystery binds me still.

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FYI-- the set list on Wilcoworld incorrectly lists "I Got You (At the End of the Century)" as the final song played. Someone changed the setlist.fm page citing Wilcoworld, but I have changed it back. They definitely played "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" coming right out of "Monday," as they often do.


If anyone knows someone at Wilcoworld, tell them to fix their set list.

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John Pat and Glen sat in with Mother Hips on Neil Young’s Out On The Weekend, nice! Two of my faves together! Great vocal  by John and great Sansone solo!


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Wow, that is so cool. That Johnny has the voice of an angel.


So they went and did this after the show and still made it up to Berkeley the next night? Does anyone know how they are traveling? They must have flown from SoCal to NorCal on Saturday morning on no sleep. They apparently did the same thing the week before, where they played Sunday night in Monterey and then were at Kimmel in L.A. by 2 p.m. on Monday.

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On 10/20/2023 at 9:29 AM, Brian F. said:

So they went and did this after the show and still made it up to Berkeley the next night? Does anyone know how they are traveling? They must have flown from SoCal to NorCal on Saturday morning on no sleep. They apparently did the same thing the week before, where they played Sunday night in Monterey and then were at Kimmel in L.A. by 2 p.m. on Monday.

I mean, they have a bus driver(s) that drive them overnight, so it’s not that crazy. Drive overnight after the second Bellwether show to SB, get there early in the morning, soundcheck afternoon, play the show, sit in with MHs (who I’m sure we’re playing a venue close by) and then hop back on the bus and drive overnight to Berkeley. Rinse, lather, repeat.

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3 hours ago, Brian F. said:

I can't imagine they're able to sleep very well on the bus-- Jeff's hips, Nels' height-- so it still seems like a lot to me.


I mean, that's rock 'n' roll, right? At least for a mid-tier working band... :rock

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