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Jeff Tweedy — 09 November 2023, Cincinnati, OH (Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Walnut Hills HS Auditorium)

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Haven't seen much in the way of recaps for the book tour this time so I figured I'd chime in a bit about last night's event, since it was a rather limited run and many folks didn't get the chance to see one of the stops. Much paraphrasing here... I didn't take actual notes... but this is how I understood his comments.  It's tough to recap something from memory which is basically ALL BANTER versus a regular Wilco show, but here goes. 


Jeff stopped by this very same High School auditorium five years ago for the memoir tour, and I remember that one being a little better attended than this one.  Getting there a few minutes after doors opened this time put me at about person #5 to enter, where last time there was a line on the sidewalk to enter.  Still a very receptive, engaged crowd that filled in nicely in the rather "well loved" HS auditorium before the pair of simple chairs onstage were occupied. 

The host last night was Louisville musician and Joan Shelley collaborator (in more ways than one - they're married with a little one) Nathan Salsburg.  I thought he did a great job with the discussion, being informed and aware, and asking great questions, but letting Jeff do the talking.  There were a few audience-submitted questions toward the end, and then Jeff played a few songs (see below) before closing out about 90 minutes later.  Really cool poster for the event by Cricket Press too. 


Nathan, who along with Joan had opened for Wilco at a few shows years back, told a story about how Jeff had made a comment after playing a song that he just noticed that "the font on the exit signs in the back of this room are in the Black Flag font".  Nathan said that he really thought that it made Jeff seem to be more open about himself, admitting that he might not be 100% immersed in every song every night, and that this openness came through quite strongly in the book.  Jeff acknowledged that, saying that it's impossible to play a song hundreds of times and be totally invested emotionally in it every single time... but also that if/when he catches himself thinking about what's to eat after the show or something that he's quick to snap back into the moment before something goes wrong.  He also said that he tries to lock in with someone(s) in the audience who has clearly given in to the moment and feed off of that focus.  We've all seen that gaze.  He said he's always giving his best performance (we've all seen that too), but it's just not possible to have the same emotional reaction to a song after 1000 times that we may be having as the audience. 


He talked about us (the audience, the fans) quite a bit, explaining about how during the pandemic they started something called "The Tweedy Show" after Susie was relaying how sad / disappointed we all were on social media after the OtJ tour came to a screeching halt.  It was during those episodes, where 1000 of us would show up night after night, that Jeff said he really saw not just the fandom of the band and the music and the shows, but the community that we are.  He was quite moved that something he created and put forth into the world (the music) had landed and formed this camaraderie among us all, and how much we all meant to each other and not "just" all about Wilco.  He talked about how we actually TALK TO EACH other on the sidewalks (guilty).  You could tell that it meant a lot to him, and helped fuel his desire and confidence to be more open about himself in his book writing, which culminated with this book about music, saying that writing about his feelings about other people's music is way more personal than the other two books. 

Another question was if writing songs is different than writing a book, with the answer being clearly "yes".  He said his songwriting is a process, even more so a practice, where he longs to write something new every day, and usually just puts it away after writing it to pull back out later.  He said his need to have a new song to sing every day (even if it's not particularly good) is what drives him.  But writing a book is a more linear process, and that he had to focus more on actually describing feelings rather than allowing the (much more obscure) lyrics and melodies and instrumentation to all work together to communicate a thought.  He called the two processes "photographic negatives" of each other. 


One audience question was "what's your favorite REM album?".   Jeff kinda dodged it at first ("Oh, they're all great.. they made great records all the way through the end") but quickly fessed up that it was their first record Murmur, which he said just hit him at the right time/place in his life to make an impact.  He talked about the lyrics being less clear than the music, which he described as "sounding like old music" at a time when nobody was trying to sound "old" (versus nowadays where everyone seems to be doing so).  He also said that while he isn't one of those people who "only love the old stuff" by a band, he did confess that the first exposure to a certain music (song/band/whatever) does make an emotional imprint that only happens once and can't be repeated.  He relayed a very cute story about seeing REM in their early days at Six Flags with about a dozen in the audience.


Lots more discussion that I can't recall well enough to relay here.  Maybe @M Christine could chime in - she was gracious enough to save me that front row seat since I was a few minutes late (although the other 4 people in the room when I arrived didn't quite fill out that row).  Delightful to see her and also Sarah S (Dayton Sarah - not Chattanooga Sarah C) & Mom front and center. 


Songwise... upon entry we were asked if we wanted to fill out a song request for one of Jeff's songs indicating what that song meant to us* .  Jeff explained onstage that he originally planned to just learn a few of the songs from the book and play some covers as part of the book tour.  But he reconsidered and wanted to find a way to reverse the flow of the book and see how his music was viewed by us instead of his views of songs.  He also explained that he can't do that too much, since knowing too much about that can really lock up his ability create songs in the future.  He said he needs to maintain that bit of separation, but he did seem to value that feedback from three audience members. 


I Know What It's Like - requested by above mentioned Sarah S, explaining how that song on repeat really got her through the isolation of the pandemic.

Hummingbird - requested by 11YO Ezra(?) explaining that the song reminded him of his grandmother, who was also a small person like a hummingbird.  Jeff asked him what his grandmother's name was, and the kid kinda froze up.  "Oh, just grandma, right?", and the parents replied that the called her Grandma Munch. Jeff said something like "that's not very flattering" but they explained that since she was small all her friends caller her Munchkin and that the Wizard of Oz was her favorite movie.

Reservations - requested by Meredith, explaining that she tends to overthink everything except for how her husband loves her.

You Are Not Alone - not requested by anyone (per Jeff), but he said that he's been closing all these events with that song because, more so than any other song of his, it encapsulates what he's trying to describe in this book.  He explained what an honor it was to work with Mavis, saying that their very different musical (and life) backgrounds would lead you to believe that they had nothing in common.  But the music they made together speaks for itself.  About this particular song, Jeff said that Mavis was gracious enough to NOT tell Jeff that she had already been singing this song her whole life, long before Jeff penned the words for her. 


All in all a very sweet evening.  Don't miss a chance to hear him this run!!




* It should be note that I did indeed fill out a song request, and that it indeed was NOT Bull Black Nova.  To find out the rest of that story, see me on a sidewalk...

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