Our first great Wilco moment is a pretty recent one. Wilco has toured with some pretty cool bands over the years, but it’s kind of a big deal when Bob Dylan asks you to do a festival tour with him. In 2013, Wilco were one of the bands invited to tour with Dylan as a part of the Americanarama festival. Acts like My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham were also asked to play on the festival tour, which was often at outdoor venues like football and baseball stadiums.
After releasing four studio albums with Nonesuch Records, Wilco decided to create their very own label. The result was dBpm records, which means decibels per minute. As we’ll learn later, the band hasn’t always been so lucky with record labels, so it makes sense that they would like to release their own music. In addition to 2011’s The Whole Love, the label also released frontman Jeff Tweedy and his son’s recent album Sukierae.
The Sun Came Out
Wilco went to Auckland, New Zealand, in 2008 to participate in a music benefit project called The Sun Came Out. Organized by Neil Finn of the band Crowded House, the project was an album and a live concert to raise money for Oxfam, which is an organization that works to end poverty and injustice. Wilco wrote and recorded several tracks on the album, and worked with musicians like Johnny Marr, as well as Phil Selway and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead. It was perfect for a band like Wilco, because they take causes like these very seriously.
Wilco teamed up with British folk singer Billy Bragg for the album Mermaid Avenue. The songs all contained previously unheard lyrics from legendary folk musician Woody Guthrie. Woody’s daughter Nora thought it would be a good idea to let younger artists introduce these unheard lyrics to a newer generation of listeners. It was quite a risk to take the lyrics of an iconic folk musician and have a young alternative rock band put their spin on the music. It paid off, and Wilco received their first Grammy nomination. They’ve since released two more volumes of Mermaid Avenue.
Purchasing Of The Wilco Loft
After they released Mermaid Avenue Volume II in 2000, Wilco bought a studio in Chicago on Irving Park Road and named it the Wilco Loft. It’s their main recording and practicing space, but they also let exciting musicians record their own stuff there. Artists like Glen Hansard, Mavis Staples and Iron & Wine have worked there as well as younger bands like White Denim and Real Estate. Thanks to Wilco, cool artists now have another reason to come back to Chicago.
Signing With Nonesuch
Many believe that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is Wilco’s best album, but the band wasn’t sure when anyone would hear it. That’s because their label at the time, Reprise Records, rejected the record and asked Wilco to leave the label when they didn’t listen to their ideas and suggestions. One issue was that the company didn’t believe there was a “single” on the album. So what did the band do? They streamed the album for free on their website and a lot of people listened to it. They eventually signed on to Nonesuch records, and Foxtrot ended up being their best-selling record to date.
I know what you’re thinking, this was just a Jeff Tweedy side Project, but it turned out to be essential to the band’s future. Tweedy wanted to play with one of his inspiration’s, Jim O’Rourke, and he then introduced him to drummer Glenn Kotche. The three of them decided to make a side project named Loose Fur. Tweedy liked working with them so much, that he asked Kotche to play drums on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and he asked O’Rourke to mix it. O’Rourke helped produce the next Wilco album, and Glenn Kotche has been the drummer for Wilco ever since.
The Addition of Nels Cline
The band wanted to change the lineup a bit around the release of A Ghost Is Born, so they added a couple of members. One of them was guitarist Nels Cline, who has played many different genres of music ranging from jazz to punk rock. If you’ve ever seen a Wilco concert or listened to any of their live music, you know that Cline’s guitar playing is an exciting part of the show. See why multiple people have listed him as one of the best current guitar players in music.
Invention Of Solid Sound Festival
Yes, Wilco have done some pretty cool stuff. Got their own label, check. They have their own recording studio, check. Did I mention that they have their own music festival? Yes, it’s true, but unlike a lot of the awesome things they do, it doesn’t take place in Chicago. The band announced in 2010 that they would form and curate their own music festival outside the Massachusetts Museum Of Contemporary Art, which is where it takes place. Besides Wilco and their side projects, the festival has included artists like Neko Case, Yo La Tengo and Levon Helm.
Their First Live Album
Wilco still gets a lot of praise for their live shows, and for good reason. Not only do they play lengthy concerts, but you’re guaranteed a lot of variety in the setlist and many guitar solos. The band playing the Winterlude shows has been the same lineup for almost a decade now. It was also the same lineup that played on their first live album, Kicking Television: Live In Chicago. The album was recorded at a series of concerts at The Vic Theater in 2005, and you should listen to it if you’re for some reason still debating on going to a Winterlude show.