Taking a ride with WILCO

Taking a ride with WILCO




I was starving, and for once, my roommate Kevin and I had successfully managed to leave Lexington early. I had almost refused to drive again, but something told me to take my 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 Convertible. It would be her first roadtrip since I bought her and it was a beautiful top-down day.

We arrived in Louisville two and a half hours early for the Wilco show that evening. I was now one hour hungrier and had somehow managed to find Headliners Music Hall. We pulled up near the buses and got out to stretch our legs.

Within two minutes, the band came out from soundcheck and Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer, struck up a conversation. Thinking he would probably say No, we asked if we could get a picture of the band in the Galaxie.

wilcoTweedy countered with a request for us to take some of the band to their hotel. I assumed he was joking and laughed it off. He went on to explain that they had been waiting for a cab and since there aren’t too many convertible cabs around these days, riding with us would be the best way to go. We were happy to oblige.

Immediately, Tweedy and Jay Bennett, the guitarist/keyboardist, went to get their stuff – and their road manager, Daniel, soon emerged to see if we were going to kidnap the band, and to make sure we knew our way around Louisville. Lying through my teeth, I reassured him about our extensive knowledge of the River City and shrugged off his protective interrogation. Not long after, we were on our way to the Brown Hotel with the two famous musicians in the back seat.

Tweedy and Bennett discussed unreleased Brian Wilson records and Smile bootlegs. And we eventually learned that “Candyfloss,” the first of the two hidden tracks on their album Summer Teeth was actually not intended to be hidden at all. We also learned that several members of the band own old cars as well. John Stirratt, the bass player, in fact, has a Galaxie.

Once we got to the Brown, they asked if we would be willing to pick them up around 8:15 and take them to the show.

At this point Kevin and I realized that we had to figure out how to get back to Headliners so that when we picked them up, we wouldn’t look like morons. After spending some time mapping out and practicing our return route, we felt confident we could manage.

We arrived at the Brown at 8:15 sharp. Tweedy came down first and we chatted for awhile about school, music, and songs he’d written with other bands. Bennett showed up and we were on our way. Kevin put in a Kinks CD, Muswell Hillbillies, and Tweedy asked if we could turn it up and start the first song over. He then played air guitar and sang along with, “20th Century Man.” It was a little strange to hear a voice that you know only from CDs, singing a song you’ve never heard them sing before, and the voice is live, coming from right behind you, in your back seat.

Given our cargo, we were allowed to park with the buses. Tweedy and Bennett then insisted that they repay us for the ride. I had a brainstorm and Daniel agreed to put us on the guest list with two friends for the next show in Cincinnati.

We hung with the roadies while Tweedy and Bennett kept feeding us free beer all night. We ended up with a V.I.P. pass and pretty much enjoyed the show from backstage. But we earned our keep when it came time to switch the equipment for the bands. There was no light outside, so I pulled the car around and put on all four headlights. The crew proceeded to break down Joe Henry’s stage and construct Wilco’s with only the light from the Galaxie.

During the show, Tweedy thanked us from the stage for driving them around. That was enough, but it got better when after the show, girls actually approached the band asking to meet Chris and Kevin. We saw the band pointing us out and (thinking we had overstayed our welcome and were about to get the boot) prepared to leave – but instead I spent the next hour and a half giving rides to beautiful girl before heading home.

The next night, we parked the Galaxie with the tour buses again and decided to slip around the corner for a few beers before the show. And I passed the backstage door just as Tweedy was walking out. He promptly invited us to the “meet and greet” next door. And we waltzed right into a record-label party complete with free alcohol, free CDs, and lots of people we didn’t know. We loaded up on discs and booze and headed back to the car.

There, we ran into Ken Coomer, the drummer, who had just purchased a copy of Venus in Mars on vinyl, complete with original inserts. We wandered up to the guitar shop and ran into Tweedy who was buying a vintage 1952 Fender amp. We escorted him back to the bus where, after making Kevin put out his cigar, he gave us free beer and let us hang out for a while.

After the show, we stopped by to say goodbye. The band thanked us again. We expressed our gratitude for two unforgettable days. They told us to keep in touch via e-mail and to say hello the next time we come to a show. It was two days of sheer luck, being in the right place at the right time. The car helped a lot, too. And I think I finally did get to eat in there somewhere, but I’m not sure.

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