Why You Can’t Vote For Wilco In The 2016 WXRT Listener Poll “Local Artist” Category

Nor the Smashing Pumpkins or Mavis Staples or Cheap Trick or Buddy Guy or any other act that long ago transcended any hint of being “local”. Nothing wrong with being local mind you. I’ve proudly given airplay to Chicagoans for twenty-five years on Local Anesthetic. And, as I said on my Sunday afternoon shift this past week, I think I can put any band I spin on Local Anesthetic up against any music being played anywhere.

But, the question at hand is, is Wilco “local”? Jeff Tweedy had already been part of a highly acclaimed, national touring outfit in the way of Uncle Tupelo by the time Wilco‘s debut was issued in 1995. Out of the box, Wilco was on the esteemed Reprise label, was selling out the Vic multiple nights, getting reviewed in all the major rock mags and getting serious rotation on any number of big rock stations like XRT.

From the outset, to my mind, Wilco was “local” only in the fact that any number of the guys lived here. I had the Smashing Pumpkins on as Local Anesthetic guests in July, 1991. Loved that band, loved Gish, loved that they were being asked to join tours with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. and becoming the most commercially successful act Chicago had seen in any number of years. But by 1993, with the release of Siamese Dream launching them to the heights of the rock world and much ado being made about nonsense like Billy‘s psyche and controlling nature and who actually played what on the records and blah, blah, blah, I decided this band had far outgrown any definition of “local” beyond the fact that they all still lived in Chicago. Cheap Trick were recent inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but only Rick Nielsen (and Daxx) live in the area anymore (and an argument can be made that Rockford stretches the definition of “local”, too, although that’s never stopped me from having every one of the original guys on Local Anesthetic including three appearances by Rick). Buddy Guy has won how many Grammys?

Where I’m going with all this is once an act hits the realm of Superstar, we (that’s “we” as in voters in the Local Artist category of the 2016 WXRT Listener Poll) need to let them go. We love you, are glad you still call Chicago (or, Rockford or Highland Park) home and are damn proud of all you’ve accomplished in your musical careers. Thank you. But you’re off the Local Artist list. Who IS on the list? Bands that are ongoing and active participants in the fabric that constitutes the Chicago music scene. New bands, old bands, instrumental bands, heavy bands, folk bands, bands beyond categorization. That’s “local” music to me.

Don’t worry, I’ve already started on the 2017 list to possibly include bands you think I missed. For 2016, however, vote for your favorite(s) here. They appreciate your support.

More from Richard Milne
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