Wilco at the Ryman (and why fans should shut up sometimes)

I’m ashamed at the infrequency with which I’ve been blogging, but in my defense, I’ve had quite a few things going on in my life these days. I think my days seem to be getting somewhat back to normal, and that means you get a better return to the good ol’ days of reading my random musings three times a week.

So, I apologize for the delays, and I hope you’ll forgive me.

I recently returned from Nashville, where I saw Wilco perform at the historic Ryman Auditorium (I’m not sure you can refer to it without calling it “historic;” you have to pay some sort of Nashville tax if you don’t). While it wasn’t my favorite Wilco show I’ve seen, I have to say the band has never sounded better.

Some of that, I’m sure is due to the amazing acoustic at the Ryman – excuse me, the historic Ryman – while another part likely came from the fact the band was recording the show, hopefully for a DVD release (that’s my dream, at least).

Why wasn’t it the best of the shows, given that they sounded so great?

Honestly, the crowd sucked.

I understand that it’s a rock concert and that you’re supposed to be loud and such, but there are times when the band calls for quiet, intimate moments and needs the audience to respect the music. For some reason, this never seems to happen at Wilco shows.

In 2005, some jackass in Cincinnati kept yelling “turn up Jeff’s guitar” during the quiet beginning of “At Least That’s What You Said,” a soft, contemplative number that deals, in part, with domestic abuse. Jeff’s guitar was fine, and the only reason it might have needed to be turned up was to drown out Loudy McLouderson shouting for the extra amplification.

That guy would have been right at home in Nashville.

We had fantastic seats in Row T, and while we had an excellent view, we were too far from the stage for the band to actually hear us as individuals. Too bad the Extremely Drunk and Loud Girl five seats down from us could not comprehend this. During every quiet moment between songs, she would yell “Play ‘Tell My Brother,’” a song so obscure that I’m not sure if it’s a Wilco B-side, a Tweedy solo project or a figment of her drunken imagination.

During situations like this, the crowd will sometimes police itself, encouraging loud viewers to shut the hell right on up. Oh, not so here. Her friends/family thought her antics were the high point of comedy, egging her on throughout the night.

She later got vocal company from a bunch of idiots who couldn’t grasp the fact that a beautiful concert moment was unfolding in front of them. For the first encore, Tweedy came back sans band, bringing along only his guitar and opting to play without a microphone or any amplification. Very few venues have acoustics good enough for this, but the historic Ryman is one of the top spots in the world, so Tweedy did his thing, his raw vocals nearly killing me with the passion and emotion.

A few audience members, however, failed to realize the need for silence as he played. Whenever he would hit a lull between verses, some morons would hoot and holler, causing others to giggle. This went on throughout the whole song until finally one guy had enough and yelled “Shut your fuckin’ mouths.”

And they did.

Only Tweedy was finished with the song, and the moment was over.

Assholes.

To be fair, they weren’t the only idiots in the audience. There were far too many people wearing Wilco shirts to a Wilco show, which is a major concert no-no. Some people appeared bored, like the girl in front of me who played on her iPhone all night.

Maybe I’m just getting old (OK, that’s true), but really, is it too much to ask people to realize goodness when it’s right in front of them? I should probably cut them some slack, though.

After all, we were in Tennessee.

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7 thoughts on “Wilco at the Ryman (and why fans should shut up sometimes)

  1. You can alway blame the wonderfully acoustic historic Ryman for being able to hear all the Rude People.

    And don’t cut them any slack…you were in Tennessee, not Duke territory.

  2. I was also at the (historic) Ryman show. And I agree the band sounded super-tight, and Jeff’s voice was in rare form. I don’t feel like the audience ruined the show for me, however. Maybe it was just bad where you were, and I’m truly sorry for that. I’ve had concerts ruined by cretins before. I actually thought it was cool how the crowd tried to keep down the rabble during the sans-amp “Someone Else’s Song”. Some people are just stupid, and unfortunately, they like Wilco but only enough to pay for tickets and then talk through the freakin’ show.

    Can I put in two cents about how amazing their lead guitar player is? He’s the new Larry Carlton.

    I hope a DVD is released, just so I don’t wear out my memory.

  3. I was there as well, and aside from the guy in our row who had to grab a beer every 30 minutes (who always apologized for being “The asshole”), and the drunk who kept leaning in telling me,”This is f’ing awesome, isn’t it?”everything was as good as can be expected. People sang along when appropriate, and stayed quiet when called for. That does not excuse the iPhone duo in front of me, or the guy next to me who never moved without hitting me with his coat, but it was a great experience.

    Having seen Wilco at 3 other venues this tour, that is not always the case. Between people that feel a need to relate their week to all around them, to others who evidently judge themselves by their daily quantity of F-bombs, to those who must comment on the technical aspects of every played note, to just plain drunken assholes with no concert etiquette- I’ve seen and heard a lot. I am sorry you got a front row seat to that.

    I sincerely hope next time, you are fortunate enough to have people like the couple in front of me in Indy, who switched seats so I wasn’t behing the 6-5 guy. Buying a ticket does not grant one class. I have extremely polite family from the Nashville area, so please don’t blame such behavior on Tennesee. Idiots just abound these days.

  4. I think the problem is a nashville one. I saw jeff by himself about one year earlier and it was awful. people shouted before, during and after each song. they just wanted to talk, and so that’s what tweedy did. some girl tried to get him to say “hello” to her brother on her cell phone. It was mostly because of the Tweedy solo DVD. Some guy had to be the center of attention for the whole show. Wilco shows and jeff tweedy shows were a lot better before the dvd. …i also heard that annoying girl wanting to hear the golden smog song, “please tell my brother.” As a matter of fact when i saw tweedy by himself a year earlier he had told someone (probably the same girl) that he would never play that song again because he had just played it at his mothers funeral. The crowd still shouted non-stop. to conclude, i had a great time at the show, I was very sick, but made a four hour trek from lexington, ky. but i’m tired of assholes yelling every chance they get like the band, or anyone else cares.

  5. You’ll be happy to know that when Wilco played the Ryman in 2006, Jeff Tweedy came out alone for a third encore (which the audience spent at least five solid minutes cheering for), stepped in front of the mics and played “Acuff Rose” on acoustic guitar, sans mic or any amplification, to a nearly silent audience. Only time a show has ever moved me to tears. So don’t blame Tennessee, blame the people who got into Wilco just in time for the Sky Blue Sky tour.

  6. As a longtime Wilco fan from Seattle, I can tell you the true obnoxious, shallow pretender in the room is the writer of this blog, childishly trying to denigrate Tennessee. For God’s sake no state has given more substance and context to the music Wilco plays than Tennessee, unrivaled as the native homeland of Americana music. Nashville is one of if not THE coolest music scenes in the country, and this bloggers attempt to sneer at the place, and the whole state, over a few drunk fans, is beyond ridiculous. Get a life outside your own ignorance man!!

  7. I love Nashville and, to a lesser degree, all of Tennessee. The last line, in hindsight, was a cheap joke, but I make a living out of cheap jokes. However, in my defense at the time, you can’t imagine how obnoxious those fans were. They were truly ruining the moment for everyone.

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