“When is the last time we saw Wilco?” Erin asked on our drive downtown last week. We were going to the Taft to see Jeff Tweedy and crew. It had been nine years.
“I think it’s been nine years,” Ben said.
“It has not been nine years,” Erin replied.
“I’m afraid it has.”
Nine years ago, Wilco played Tall Stacks in Cincinnati. That fall show — October the 7th, 2006 — was two years after A Ghost is Born had been released, and less than a year before Sky Blue Sky would come out. Wilco has since released two more full-length albums, while Jeff Tweedy and his son, Spencer, collaborated on a project (under the moniker “Tweedy”) called Sukierae. Nine years.
And just like that, we felt old. The last concert we attended was also at the Taft, when Ryan Adams played three years ago. THREE. YEARS. AGO. (That was so long ago it was when we were still blogging on a regular basis.) When did we get old? When did we stop going to concerts? Why did we stop blogging? (There are multiple answers to that one, life being the primary reason.) And, perhaps the question that sums up all of the other ones: When had we secretly entered middle age?
These thoughts played through our heads as we sat in the nose bleed seats (another sign we’re not in our twenties: we were relieved it was a sit-down concert) while Wilco revisited a catalog spanning twenty years now. We sang along with “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I Got You (At The End Of The Century),” thinking of what those songs meant to us when we first heard them in college or just-out-of-it. Our first meeting was helped, in part, by a Wilco sticker on Ben’s Nalgene bottle … a bottle Erin spotted at camp, thirteen years ago, before she connected it to the owner; before a certain inconvenient boyfriend was out of the picture; and before we both settled in Nashville and decided, sure, let’s get engaged and figure this thing out as we go.
The more recent songs — “Art of Almost,” or “Born Alone” (notably, the band played nothing off of “Wilco (The Album)” — “not many of these songs seem destined for the Wilco canon” we wrote back in 2009) — we listened to politely, enjoying them respectfully if not with the same ardor as we did the early stuff. It was during these songs that our attention drifted and we looked around at the audience, wondering how much the people in the seats around us — mostly white, mostly adult, vaguely hipster-ish (or post-hipsterish) — were a reflection on us. How does a rock band age gracefully? How does anyone age gracefully?
We promise not to return with much navel-gazing and chin-stroking. We blogged what seems like forever ago because we loved it, and that’s why we want to restart now. But we’re returning a little simpler. The whiff of pretentiousness behind our former title (the Raymond Carver-inspired “What We Blog About When We Blog About Love”) has been replaced with just “Voreblog.” Posts may not be quite as frequent, and there may be less to say now about, oh, what we’ve been reading (since pleasure reading has diminished of late), or what the Utah Jazz should be doing this offseason (answer: acquiring a veteran point guard). But plenty else has happened, and we’ll unspool those things in the coming days and weeks. (And yes, Scooter Thomas is still alive.)
When Wilco launched into “It Dawned On Me,” toward the end of the show, Ben pulled out his smartphone (yes, we own them now!) and recorded it for Sam. On our vacation to South Carolina last year, Sam requested that we listen to this song roughly one hundred and eighty-seven consecutive times. Being parents on an eleven hour road trip, we obliged. He knows it only as “the Wilco song.” (We’ve tried explaining to him that Wilco is a band with many songs; this concept still eludes him.) The day after the concert, I (Ben) showed Sam the video, and he watched it with joy, piecing together that this song he loves could also be performed, in real life, in a dark auditorium where he does not yet have access to go (“Were there kids there?” he asked), and which his parents could now capture on a phone and play for him (or, more accurately, he could play himself, as the four-year-old mind seems perfectly assembled to intuit how smart phone navigation works). He listened to it over and over. When I tucked him in that night, he asked if he could listen one more time. I said sure. He took the phone and huddled up in a ball, his red blankie draped over him as he made a secret fort. The sound of a band I loved played faintly from below the covers. I pictured myself, listening to Wilco for the first time back in 1996, seeing this moment from afar, and wondering, as with so many things in life, how we got here from there.