Don’t worry, Wilco will warm you
VAIL CO, Colorado
Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy is not a skier, but he is looking forward to possibly working in a hike during the short time he and his band make their one-off trip to Vail to headline the 2012 Snow Daze Festival.
“We played like 120, 130 shows over the last year and I don’t remember many bad ones,” said Tweedy, who launched Wilco 18 years ago and has since witnessed it becoming one of the most positively heralded modern rock bands of all time, releasing eight studio albums including last year’s highly acclaimed “The Whole Love,” created and delivered independently on Wilco’s own label.
“On any given night, you’re so in the moment, you don’t dwell on shows when you play that many in one extensive tour,” Tweedy said. “But if for example you asked how the last show went in San Francisco, I’d remember it clearly. I’m sure Vail will be memorable.”
Wilco has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe over the last year and has another full plate of venues to hit on the other side of the map, in Japan, Australia and New Zealand in 2013. The Vail show however, will involve a special trip and will mark the band’s 2012 grand finale.
“It’s putting a big bow on a pretty extensive year of touring,” Tweedy said. “We’ll probably be a little rustier than we have been, which usually makes for a fun, unique performance. We ended the last of the tour in Europe a few weeks ago. It was grueling. At the end of it we felt like it was hard to say goodbye and even hug each other. So for us it’s nice to have a little time off then one last show at the end of the year. It worked out well planning-wise for us to have a stand alone, relaxing show.”
New songs = highlight
Although it will be Wilco’s first time in Vail, they are no strangers to Colorado – having sold out Red Rocks nearly every time they’ve played the famed venue, which for Tweedy, serves as an obvious standout over Wilco’s nearly two decade lifespan.
“Over the years it’s one of those venues that’s never going to blend into the landscape of all the other shows,” Tweedy said of Red Rocks. “Location-wise, the audience always comes into it expecting magic. Because of that energy they always stand out and draw a similar energy out of us. The area brings it out, too. I like to hike quite a bit and generally like being in your neck of the woods to get a good hike in.”
He was happy to hear that in lieu of making some turns on the mountain while in Vail – something he deems “too risky … I would definitely fall” – there might be some hiking terrain still available.
Getting back to his work, “The Whole Love” record revived a lot of the edgier riffs that so deeply etched Wilco onto the radar several used ago. Throughout the last year of touring, the new songs have elicited some of the loudest feedback from the audience, a rare phenomenon Tweedy hasn’t enjoyed since Wilco’s “A Ghost is Born” release back in 2004.
“The reception has been really good. I would have to say the audience has responded to the material for this record more immediately than the previous couple of records and it felt like a pretty seamless integration into our live set,” he said. “Definitely we’ve felt on many nights that the new material was the highlight, which is sometimes a tough thing to accomplish with anything new. It’s been nice.”
‘Keeping your fingers warm’
Tweedy also likes the idea of small festivals and has even designed one of his own. The Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Mass., features Wilco, its many side projects and a handful of other invited artists that have yet to be named and is returning for 2013. While not exactly on par with Snow Daze, the festival offers a similar dynamic that captures the spirit of a small collective of independently talented artists.
“In our experience over the years playing other people’s festivals – big festivals – we’ve gotten better at it and learned to enjoy it more, but they’ve never been completely comfortable,” he said. “Off stage it’s been overwhelming, so having our own festival is scaling it back and putting it in a context that feels more unified and manageable and allows you to see a little of everything on offer. In a way it was an extension of the band, presenting it as a fuller collective of a crew making music together. Our crew is littered with creative people.”
Tweedy anticipates the experience to feel more like a more intimate performance – one in which he is bracing himself for cold fingers.
“Headlining something like this feels more like an outdoor show, it doesn’t feel as much like a festival,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with festivals – but the smaller the number of people involved, the more manageable it is. Playing outdoors is usually pretty fun. We’ve had some winter shows over the years. The only hard part is keeping your fingers warm.”