So, finally, my trip to Iowa to see Wilco.
Sometime in early September, shortly after I had my wisdom teeth pulled, my friend Jack asked, hey, do you wanna go see Wilco in Iowa City in November?
Since I didn’t know my schedule and I was on lots of nice happy painkillers, I thought this sounded like a tremendous idea, especially because I always end up missing their pre-thanksgiving show here in Chicago (which they’re actually not doing this year).
I also liked it because there was a possibility mentioned of meeting Wilco, since the girl we’d be staying with works at the Iowa U. radio station, and said concert was being held at the university. I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a few years now, so I was like, sure, what the fuck.
My participation in this endeavor was crucial, since I was the only one of the interested parties with a vehicle. This was also a very loosely organized trip, so I didn’t find out until about 3 days before we left that we would be leaving on saturday.
By this point, I was drowning in work and looking desperately for a job, and not finding a bloody thing (I’ve since found out I have two interviews next week, so hopefully that’s a sign of better things to come).
I suddenly wasn’t so sure I wanted to go, but I couldn’t back out, so I decided fuck it, I need to get out of Evanston for a couple of days, I don’t care how much work I have.
I drive a Subaru Legacy Outback station wagon, which I’ve nicknamed The Green Monster, and it’s supposed to hold 4 people other than the driver. We proved this weekend that it can hold 5, so long as one doesn’t mind riding in the trunk with everyone else’s shit.
Our intrepid travelers were: Jack, his girlfriend Kate (whose best friend we were staying with in Iowa City), Pat King (who I never refer to by only his first name, for no reason whatsoever), Anne, and MDep (Mike DePilla).
So we left around 1 on saturday, getting to Iowa City around 5:30. We stopped along the way at the Iowa 80 rest stop, one of the sketchier places I’ve been to in my interstate travels. It appeared to be one of the preferred places to stop of Harley denziens on their way to the Sturgis rally.
Anyway, by the time we got to Iowa City, most of us (including the people who inhaled hamburgers at the rest stop) were getting hungry. So Brittany, Kate’s friend whose floor we were all commandeering, suggested her favorite Mexican place, which she asserted was 25 minutes away.
So after getting gas, we got on the interstate, and drove. And drove. And drove some more. We drove through Cedar Rapids, which, according to the good folks at MapQuest, is 34 miles from Iowa City. Even at 80, that’s not 25 minutes.
Anne, Kate, and Brittany had gone in Brittany’s car, leaving me and the guys clawing at the windows of my car, trying to figure out where the fuck we were going and if we’d ever see food again.
We finally got to the place, Papa Juan’s, and it was…decent. I think part of the reason we scarfed down so much food is that we were all starving by this point. It certainly wasn’t bad, but frankly, I think most of us would have been more than happy to eat in Iowa City.
We got back to Brittany’s place, and had the fun and entertainment of listening to her fight with her roommates (who are apparently not cleaning up after themselves, so I felt bad for her, because I’ve dealt with that before) while watching various combinations of people play Mario on Super Nintendo.
We are an exciting bunch.
The next morning, everyone hauled themselves off the floor and started trying to accomplish things. When the fun of that wore off for most, everyone except me and Jack (who were buried under piles of work) went down into the city to go to a bookstore.
Then they all came back, and Pat King, who often tells entertaining white lies, says in a very nonchalant voice, “Oh, yeah, we met Wilco at a record store.” Jack and I were like right, whatever.
Then Brittany came back, and she was obviously really excited, and we were like waaaaaaaait a minute. And then Anne whipped out her digital camera and showed us this. Jack and I couldn’t believe it.
If that doesn’t illustrate my luck lately, I don’t know what does.
After a quick dinner at some sort of noodle type place, we went over to the Iowa student union, where the concert was taking place. We froze our (insert body part of choice here)s off, but we were near the front of the line and thus got to be at the front of the hall.
This was definitely not an advantage for the openers, whose names I never learned. The openers were supposed to be Koufax, who are supposed to be a fairly decent emo/punk band, which I would have been fine with.
These guys, however, were rotten. They were apparently Friends Of Wilco, since Tweedy had told my friends that ran into him to “keep an open mind.” I tried doing so for about a minute and a half. They had their chance. They failed.
I can deal with some kinds of experimental music. However, when it makes my head hurt, it loses.
Their main problem was that it always seemed as if they weren’t playing the same song for most of their set, and when they did seem to be playing the same thing, it sounded like a frieght train approaching.
I had a bad headache after about five minutes. Fortunately, the guitarist’s cord flamed out after about 20 minutes, and he was dumb enough not to bring a backup. At first, I couldn’t tell if he was fucking with the cord as part of the act or if it was really broken.
Then, after having the Iowa people for some reason unbeknownst to…well, anyone, turn the lights down like 10 minutes before they came on, Wilco finally came on.
And god damn, did they rock.
I’ve been to 60+ concerts in the last few years, and this was definitely in the top five. It was their last show of the year, so they just broke everything out, including almost half of their first record, A.M., which they almost never play more than two songs off of.
And that version of “Sunken Treasure”….wooooooooooow. Words cannot describe how amazing that wasI would have driven all those miles just for that.
I’d describe more of the concert, but I’d go into even more excruciating detail than I already have. Suffice it to say I heard most of my favorite songs of theirs, and they opened with “Via Chicago,” which was both awesome and weird at the same time.
And if anyone knows of someplace where I can get a bootleg of that show, please, please, let me know.
The drive back wasn’t too bad, though we did almost get run off the road by a psycho truck driver who was trying to drive while sleeping. Then again, it was 2 in the morning. And I’d like to thank MDep for listening to my rantings while I tried to keep myself awake by annoying the living shit out of him.
All in all, it was a pretty good trip. And I even managed to get a 93 on my 11am Italian test, despite the fact that I didn’t get to sleep until 5:30am.