Wilco pianist Mikael Jorgensen, who started with the band by providing sound manipulations on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour, played at the indoor Hunter Center with James Merle Thomas as Quindar. Pulling from NASA’s Audio and Film Archive, the group’s audiovisual performance tickled the brainstem with day-glo visuals and mellow, astral, psychedelic electronica.
Meanwhile, the band’s drummer, Glenn Kotche, expanded his Brazilian-leaning jazz/post-rock duo On Fillmore into a sextet featuring former Kronos Quartet cellist and National Sawdust regular Jeffrey Zeigler on electric cello alongside bassist Darin Gray – who would play with Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer in their band, Tweedy, later that night.
Wilco bassist John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, the band’s multi instrumentalist, presented their side project, the Autumn Defense, at the top of its game. Originally functioning as something of an incubator for Wilco melodies and harmonies (they practically lived at Le Poisson Rouge for years,) the Autumn Defense has evolved from an adult-contemporary, easy-listening side project into a muscular draw on its own. Closing with their cover of Love’s classic “A House Is Not a Motel” perfectly telegraphed the weekend sentiment that, though we were all travelers passing through North Adams, the weekend was not a celebration of transience so much as a planting of roots.
The family Tweedy carried this home with a closing slot on Sunday that featured a Tweedy set, a Jeff Tweedy solo set, and a set of covers involving all members of Wilco that included songs by the Staples Singers, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Doug Sahm, and Dylan with the Band. On the closing song, “I Shall Be Released,” youngest Tweedy Sammy made his live debut.
“I went to see Jonathan Richman and he talked about going to a truck stop somewhere and seeing a sign in the truck stop that said ‘everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind always,’” Jeff Tweedy told the crowd before bringing out friends for the Pops Staples cover, “Friendship.”
“And I did a little research… apparently Plato said that first, and people keep saying it over time, and for a long time that phrase has been coming up, and we need to keep telling each other that, because we still haven’t gotten good at it. There’s a lot of things in this world that are really upsetting to me right now, but it’s also made me try to be kinder than I’ve ever been in my life, and if that can translate into that, I know we’re going to be better than ever soon.”