Wilco Is Back!


Wilco is back!

Knoxville–and much of “Wilcoworld” around the globe–was abuzz when it was announced earlier this Spring that the iconic indie rock band would be reconvening in the East Tennessee city–home to the Tennessee Volunteers, the Smoky Mountains, and musically, the internationally lauded Big Ears Music and Arts Festival and Historic Tennessee and Bijou Theatre– after over 18 months on hiatus.

Tickets quickly sold out to the two-night stand at the Bijou Theatre and fans appeared thrilled to find out the band had arrived early in town to rehearse for what would turn out to be a longer tour–from Knoxville, they posted an announcement of a slew of dates across Europe and then back in the States at places like the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville throughout the fall. To Wilco fanatics who’ve been missing the unique chemistry the group embodies onstage, it was exciting to say the least.

Sure, the guys were getting around. Jeff Tweedy was all over the place the past few years, touring behind his memoirs Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), his solo record “Warm,” playing with his son Spencer in their band Tweedy, and making appearances on shows like Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s IFC sketch vehicle Portlandia, and Nels Cline led the Nels Cline 4 in exploring improvisation on “Currents and Constellations” as well as on other collaborations like his big band jazz program “Lovers,” which he performed at Big Ears with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and special guests in 2018. Glenn Kotche worked with the Ate9 Dance Company, composes, worked a multi-disciplinary project with actor Jon Hamm called “Fishing,” and taught his own clinics. Jon Stirratt led his side project the Autumn Defense and opened his own hotel, Tourists, in North Adams, Massachusetts.

The band has continued to diversify its offerings over the years with its Solid Sound summer music and arts festival up in Massachusetts and now is selling all-inclusive packages for its upcoming Sky Blue Sky winter festival at the Hard Rock Hotel and Resort in Puerto Adventuras, Mexico for January 2020. They’ve done reissues of several of their old albums, special singles and covers of songs like Nick Lowe’s “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” (popularized by Elvis Costello) for a Spotify Singles session.

But this summer and fall–starting with last night in Knoxville (and the plan is again tonight) the band seems to be all about just bringing it back to what they’re best known for–rocking their impressive catalogue of inventive, genre-bending folk-based, jazz-and-psychedelia-infused indie rock music for their rabid fans.

“Our long national nightmare is over,” Jeff Tweedy joked when he first spoke after performing opening number “Hell is Chrome,” in the Bijou the first night, under a lush hanging topiary set arrangement and swirling incandescent lights, in a warm, intimate room packed full of some of Wilco’s biggest fans in town–and from around the Southeast and beyond (we talked to folks outside who’d traveled from St. Louis for the show on the way in).

After “One Wing”: “Remember that one? We do…sorta. We’re gonna be remembering all night.” After I’m Always in Love”: “You haven’t been seeing other bands have you?” Tweedy was all effusive charm and playfully sarcastic quips rolled into one and seemed to be having a ball with it.

Tweedy and the group seemed loose and ebullient all night, swapping smiles and jokes and shaking the dust and rust loose, going for big signature jams on a variety of classics like “War on War,” “Either Way,” Company in My Back” and the always barn-burning “Impossible Germany” with Nels Cline’s impossible shredding and the ASMR-inducing full-band harmonizing solo section at the end, but also throwing in some newer stuff like “If I Ever Was a Child” from “Schilmco” (2016) and “Random Name Generator” from “Star Wars” (2015).

Tweedy and Cline must have a dozen gorgeous vintage guitars between them now–Tweedy played a Strat, Gibson SG, Fender Jaguar, Gibson acoustic and a Telecaster at different points in the night and Cline played a Les Paul, Danelectro, some type of double-necked electric and more. They both did some elegant finger-picking and some wicked shredding together at times. Stirratt and Kotchke as always were a solid rhythm section but not predictable or basic-they play with flavor and panache and have their own personality and groove in the songs. Stirratt’s signature harmonies simply make the part on many songs (like the backing parts of the choruses on “Heavy Metal Drummer”). Third guitarist Pat Sansone and keyboardist Michael Jorgenson add reliable extra textures, riffs-and with Sansone, another vocal layer as well.

Tweedy joked as the band went into the closer, “I Hate it Here” from the “Sky Blue Sky” album (2007), “This song is in no way about the place we are in…also, this is the part of the evening where it maybe has dawned on you that we will not be playing the song that you came to hear…there are pamphlets in the front,” he said to laughter, “but the only cure is to buy more tickets to more shows.”

The incredible thing, though, actually, about watching bands that reach Wilco’s tenure and stature is in a two-night stand like this one, they can play an impressive 20+-song set with no filler–all career-spanning highlights–and still have plenty of ground to cover the next night.

The band came back out strong with a hearty four-song encore set with golden oldies like “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” from second album “Being There” (1996), one of its probably top three most beloved songs “Jesus, Etc.” from “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (2002), and two other hard-rockin’ classics from that same cherished album, “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” to close out the set to an ecstatic crowd that spilled out onto Gay Street to glow about the set before dispersing into the summer night.

For those counting, although the band did burn through some big ones (“we’d better leave some songs for tomorrow” Tweedy quipped at one point), the first night’s set still leaves a plethora of fan favorites from throughout Wilco’s career they didn’t play last night, like “Via Chicago,” “Hummingbird,” “California Stars,” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Passenger Side,” and many more that are possibilities for tonight’s show. Also, a review of past two-night stand set-lists from the band reveals that they will sometimes repeat key Wilco classics for those who might have missed them the first night, and a few key songs are played at almost every single Wilco show, so while no promises can be made, that may be a predictor of some balance to the second night set.

Also, while both nights are technically sold out, during Night One, there were some folks we talked to outside who had bought extra tickets for friends who couldn’t get sitters or couldn’t attend for other reasons and were looking to sell extra tickets at face value or lower, so don’t absolutely count on it, but there may be potential to get into the Night Two show yet by coming by the Bijou a little early tonight.

As of about an hour after the show last night, at least four setlist.fm users had logged in to post their takes on the full-length official setlist the band played on Night One, which was in agreement with ours and went as follows:

  • 1. “Hell Is Chrome”
  • 2. “Whole Love”
  • 3. “War on War”
  • 4. “If I Ever Was a Child”
  • 5. “Cry All Day”
  • 6. “One Wing”
  • 7. “Shouldn’t Be Ashamed”
  • 8.”Either Way”
  • 9. “Company in My Back”
  • 10. “You and I”
  • 11. “Impossible Germany”
  • 12. “Born Alone”
  • 13. “I’m Always in Love”
  • 14. “Forget the Flowers”
  • 15. “Someone to Lose”
  • 16. “Remember the Mountain Bed”
    (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
  • 17. “The Late Greats”
  • 18. “Locator”
  • 19.”Dawned on Me”
  • 20. “Random Name Generator”
  • 21. “Hate It Here”
  • Encore:
  • 22. “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)”
  • 23. “Jesus, Etc.”
  • 24. “Heavy Metal Drummer”
  • 25. “I’m the Man Who Loves You”

Enjoy and we’ll see you out at the Bijou Theatre, same time (doors at 7pm, show at 8), for night two of Wilco’s hotly anticipated return to the stage!

Review written by Luke Brogden

Morgan Wallen Performs to a SOLD OUT Crowd!


Morgan Wallen Performs to a SOLD OUT Crowd!

Last Friday, Morgan Wallen performed to a SOLD OUT crowd at Knoxville’s favorite, The Mill & Mine! With HARDY and Lainey Wilson setting the stage, the crowd was revved up for the 25 year old country star! A few of Wallen’s most popular songs include “The Way I Talk“, “Whiskey Glasses“, and his biggest single, “Up Down” featuring Florida Georgia Line. Playing fan favorites and radio hits, The Mill & Mine filled with people singing along to the mullet-rocking East Tennessee singer. Before setting out on his first headlining tour, Wallen toured with country music giants including Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.

Photos by Eli Johnson

Written by Tess Waibel

Colony House Revs Up Knoxville!


Colony House Revs Up Knoxville!

Sunday, indie rock band, Colony House brought their tour to Knoxville’s historic Bijou Theatre with The New Respects opening, a show that undoubtedly kept the vibrant crowd up and out of their seats for the night.

For those unfamiliar with The New Respects, listen to them. Like now. This Tennessee quartet of young twenty-somethings brings a bright-eyed twist to indie rock with a blues, gospel, and motown inspired sound. The band is comprised of Jasmine Mullen–daughter of Christian singer Nicole C. Mullen–and her three cousins, Lexi, Zandy, and Darius Fitzgerald. With hits like Trouble and Something To Believe In, Colony House’s Fall Headline Tour isn’t The New Respects first tour. With over four years in the business, The New Respects have opened for Switchfoot and Robert Randolph & the Family Band as well.

Once The New Respects left the stage, the crowd was warmed up for Franklin-based quartet, Colony House. Known for their high-energy stage presence, the band had fans jumping in no time. Colony House has toured with fellow indie rock favorites including NEEDTOBREATHE, Ben Rector, Switchfoot, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and most recently performed at Moon River Music Festival in September. Playing fan favorites like, 1234, You & I, and Moving Forward, the Bijou ignited with people singing along–it was a true celebration of music and the emotion it brings!

Photos by Rebecca Potzner

Written by Tess Waibel

Chris Stapleton Captivates Knoxville!


Chris Stapleton Captivates Knoxville!

A cold, rainy fall evening couldn’t keep throngs of fans from crowding into a packed house to catch Chris Stapleton and his all-star Nashville band churn through a barn-burning set of country, rock and soul during his All-American Road Show tour stop at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Friday night, October 26.

The show opened fast and furious with rip-roaring outlaw country from up-and-comer Brent Cobb, touring behind Providence Canyon, his second major-label album release on the Low Country Sound label, an imprint of Elektra Records. His first major label album Shine On Rainy Day (2017) was nominated for a Grammy and peaked at Number 17 on Billboard’s Top Country charts. Later in the night, Stapleton brought Cobb back out during his set for a rousing rendition of “I Might As Well Get Stoned,” Stapleton’s party hit from the 2015 Traveller album.

Once Cobb and his band had the crowd nice and warmed up and late-comers continued to arrive, filling the arena towards capacity, it was country, bluegrass and Americana legends Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives who took the stage and whipped the eager crowd into a frenzy with hits like “Lesson in Love,” “Honky Tonk is What I Do Best” and rousing covers of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and “Orange Blossom Special” complete with an intense mandolin solo, along with a rowdy rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” The audience was wowed as well by the Fabulous Superlatives’ Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Paul Martin’s deft ability to take over the mic for lead vocal duties on various eclectic surf rock, rockabilly and gospel songs and Stuart’s sizzling lead electric rock riffs, acoustic guitar and mandolin finger-picking, and all-around showmanship and panache on stage. Stapleton brought Stuart back up later for a rocked-up rendition of Stuart’s “Now That’s Country” where the two traded hot licks, as well as a wild Waylon Jennings cover: “I Ain’t Living Long Like This.”

The lights went down low during the final change-over and excited murmurs rippled throughout the sea of Stapleton devotees excited to see the longtime Nashville songwriter, who recently came into his own as a major solo artist after the explosive success of his 2015 solo debut Traveller, which went triple platinum and reached number one on the Billboard Top 200, scoring him the Grammy for Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance for the titular song.

Major performances of “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 Country Music Awards, where he also won Album of the Year, and a recent SNL performance with Sturgill Simpson, catapulted the songwriter–who’d already penned hits for the likes of Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Sheryl Crow, and more– into the national spotlight for his passionately soulful voice and incendiary rock soloing. He’d toured opening for artists like Eric Church and then began touring with his current All-American Road Show format as an undisputed headliner in his own right. His 2017 album Songs from a Room: Vol 1 again won CMT Album of the Year and Volume 2 is selling well currently.

The house lights went black and the house PA blasted The Band’s beloved Southern-funk hit “Cripple Creek” as the band walked on stage in silhouette to tune. The lights hit and Stapleton blasted into “Midnight Train to Memphis,” “Them Stems,” “Nobody to Blame” and “Hard Livin,'” all from the Songs From a Room Vol 1 and 2 albums.

Stapleton welcomed the crowd, saying “We’ve played here a few times before,” listing barrooms like Cotton-Eyed Joe’s, Barley’s and Preservation Pub where he played either solo or with the Jompson Brothers, and the WDVX Blue Plate Special gig he did several years back with his old bluegrass outfit The Steeldrivers. He then paused for a minute, seemingly to appreciate how far he’d come, surveying the vast arena crowd in front of him, adding, “there’s a lot more of you now.”

The band then tore through “Millionaire” and “Fire Away,” the duet from Traveller with his wife Morgane, a successful songwriter in her own write who he met when they worked at adjoining publishing houses. The band played the aforementioned songs with Cobb and Stuart, and a few other highlights including “Broken Halos,” “I Was Wrong,” and “The Devil Named Music” with a special “Freebird” intro, before Stapleton eventually introduced the band in humorous extended sing-song tributes over the “Tennessee Whiskey” bass and drum groove before launching into the crowd favorite to end the set.

The crowd gave Stapleton and his band a standing ovation and for the encore they returned to rock hard once more on “Outlaw State of Mind,” setting guitars down in front of amplifiers at the end of the song to let audience members walk out in the dark to the emanating feedback fuzz, ears ringing with rock.

Written by Luke Brogden

Photos by Eli Johnson