Bob Weir & Bill Frisell Join Wilco For Perfect Closing Set of Mount Tam Music Fest

Posted by Billyjam, September 19, 2016 05:06pm | Post a Comment

Longtime post-Americana alt rock faves Wilco finished their headlining set on Saturday (Sept. 17th) at Mount Tam's Sound Summit festival with an encore set that featured surprise guests Bob Weir and Bill Frisell. Guitar genius Frisell, who had done an earlier afternoon Guitar In The Space Age themed set at the Marin mountaintop festival, joined the headliners for two songs before the Grateful Dead member (who plays Amoeba Hollywood Sept 27) plugged in his guitar and joined all seven other musicians for "California Stars" and an inspired multi-guitar fueled rendition of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." This closing to an already killer set by Wilco, their sixth Bay Area concert in the past two weeks, topped off a perfect day at the third annual music festival that also featured Los Lobos, The Stone Foxes, and Matt Jaffe  Long a hip-hop music fan rather than rock, admittedly I was not familiar with Wilco's music before attending Saturday's all day event at the 2000 foot altitude amphitheater. But en route up the winding Marin mountain drive to the concert I was accurately informed by a colleague that, "Wilco are the sort of band that even if you don't know their music, you'll immediately feel like you do!" Depending on your level of enthusiasm or your level of cynicism, that could be viewed as a good or bad thing. For me it was a good thing. But for Amoeba Wilco bio writer John Schacht not as much. "Churning out the most bland music ever made that people actually like," he wrote of the band but in reference more to their earlier work before they began to explore new musical directions, something I learned all about during Saturday's
satisfying show.

The Chicago based band formed 21 years ago and their current six-member lineup, including founding members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt, has remained constant for the past dozen years. The songs in the first part of their concert on Saturday, with the band's lush rich full sound coupled with singer/front man Tweedy's Dylan-ish vocals, reminded me not so much of Zimmerman senior but his son Jakob's band The Wallflowers. But before I could pigeon-hole Wilco's sound, they'd already shifted gears and smoothly morphed into some totally different sound. They went off on experimental musical tangent and did it well, then later they nailed a soaring acid rock guitar jam, and then later drifted off into country rock: a sound I learned that dates back to their Uncle Tupelo roots.

At Saturday's sold-out show the adoring audience, many who had also attended their recent five nights at the Fillmore in SF, sang along to every song with audience and band having an undeniably strong rapport with one another. This I credit in part to Wilco's tight musicianship and ability to effortlessly deliver a studio-like sound in a live show. But much of the band's appeal, it seems, can also be credited to their warm and charismatic front-man Jeff Tweedy and the chemistry he and such a large audience had going on. The crowd, some wearing Tweedy t-shirts, clearly loved him and hung onto his every word including his fun self-effacing commentary between songs. "If you enjoy being as sad as some people do, you've come the right mountain," quipped Tweedy following the band's rendition of "Cry All Day." The chorus of the Tweedy composition goes: "And I cry, Cry all day, Cry all night, Cry all day, Cry all night, all day." Smiling and making eye contact with many in the crowd, he joked how he was tempted during the previous act's upbeat set to bum-rush the stage and make a disclaimer. "I wanted to come our during Los Lobos set to announce that this is the happiest it will get."  But despite any of the lyrical content, Wilco's music was uplifting and their set a good length by standards.  At the one hour mark into Saturday's set, typically when most bands would be saying good bye, the wide smiling lead singer announced "Alright. We're warmed up!"

Saturday's show included tracks from the brand new, September 9th released Wilco album Schmilco (also on LP) including the aforementioned "Cry All Day" and "We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)." They also played music from last year's Star Wars album on the band’s own dBpm label. Among the songs that resounded most loudly with the audience was "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" during which, when the band deliberately stopped playing for a few beats, the crowd enthusiastically joined in on the refrain that goes: "What was I thinking when I said hello?" The song is off Wilco's storied 2001 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [also avail on LP]. That album was controversial, ultimately making a loud statement on the staid old music industry business model. The album would go on to inspire the name of a beer by local Lagunitas brewery out of Petaluma who were on hand at Saturday's event with cold brews for the hot day.  Meanwhile the song title inspired the Sam Jones documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco on all the drama behind the landmark album that was initially rejected by their label.

After Tweedy poked fun at the whole faux concert practice of will-they-or-won't-they come back out for an encore, Wilco ended the day with the perfect encore, and in the perfect setting. As Tweedy admiringly surveyed the environs of the mountain top, he stressed how impressive Mount Tam was to a guy like him who hailed from "the plains of Illinois." With Bill Frisell first joining the band Tweedy exclaimed that, "This is heaven!" That energy got further amped up with the arrival of Bob Weir on stage. "I hear he's from around these parts," said Tweedy while introducing the Grateful Dead living legend. Weir joined in on "California Stars" which is off Mermaid Ave. that Wilco and Billy Bragg collaborated on. That 1998 album contained all previously unheard Woody Guthrie lyrics, with new music by Bragg and Wilco complimenting the words of the American folk legend. [For more on this view the documentary Man in the Sand which was released in 1999 and is included in the 4 disc set Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions] Then all eight musicians on stage jumped into an extended jam of a loose, mostly instrumental interpretation of the (considered by many as the best ever) Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows" from the 1966 album Revolver. The encore acted as the perfect closing to the day-long Sound Summit festival on Mount Tam.

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Los Lobos (11), Wilco (11), Billy Bragg (8), Bob Weir Upcoming Amoeba Hollywood In-store (1), Bill Frisell (3)