It’s hard to think of a more prolific, yet low-key American band than Chicago’s alt-rock outfit Wilco. Since 1994, they’ve brought us eight studio albums, a double live album, two + albums of original music for Woody Guthrie’s unreleased songs, numerous offshoot bands (side projects), and countless tours of theaters, ballparks and arenas. They curate their own music and art festival in North Adams, MA. They have their own record label. They’ve toured with Bob Dylan. They’ve toured with Neil Young. They’ve headlined major festivals. They’ve appeared on late night television. They’ve appeared on SNL, and ACL. They’ve survived industry indifference, personnel changes, addiction and rehab. They’ve played onstage with musicians as diverse as Leslie Fiest, Andrew Bird, Bill Frisell, and Neil Finn. And countless others, many of which cite Wilco’s influence and inspiration. Their 2001 battle with Reprise Records is the stuff of indie band legend. The group is the subject of several books.
And yet, among the icons of our popular culture, Wilco have defied easy categorization – and have remained low on the collective radar. Is that a testament to the band’s ingenuity? A compliment to their brand of obstinent creativity? A reflection of our fame-sex-celebrity obsessed media focus? Perhaps it’s all of the above.
At some point I’d like to write a proper retrospective of the band – not a trivial undertaking, even for a fan. For today, I’ll highlight three of the upcoming events marking two decades of Wilco.
Wilco Winterlude in Chicago. Once again, Wilco will play the Riviera Theater in the dead of Chicago winter, this time for six nights in December. Four nights are already sold out, so if you plan to go, check it out soon. http://bit.ly/WilcoWinterlude
Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994 – 2014. A 4-disc box set of rare tracks, outtakes and live performances, due out Nov.17th. http://smarturl.it/WilcoBox20
What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994 – 2014. Yep, a greatest hits album – and it should be pretty damn good, for a band with no hit songs. This two-disc release is a collaboration between dBPM and Nonesuch, and will feature 38 of the band’s songs (including several of the Guthrie tracks) in chronological order. http://smarturl.it/WilcoBox20
Wilco’s small legion of faithful listeners have a lot to look forward to, including a new studio album in 2015, another Solid Sound Festival, and, undoubtedly, plenty of live shows by one of the very best road bands around. New to Wilco? I suggest starting here.
p.s. for those who chuckle at the “dad rock” tag, you might enjoy this piece: http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/14-characters-whom-wilco-helped-grow-up.html