Big Names, No Game Next Week

Jeremy Gordon

I’m a little disappointed with the bands coming to Northwestern in the next week: Wilco and Andrew Bird. This is to say nothing of A&O Productions’ impressive ability to book two somewhat high-profile bands, but I wish they had gotten someone more interesting – like Art Brut or the Wu-Tang Clan. Jurassic 5, as good as they are, didn’t have the charisma to get the stagnant Northwestern crowd to move when they visited back in Fall Quarter; can you imagine the RZA accepting the hipster crowds such shows inevitably draw? I would pay just to listen to him berate the crowd in between each set.

But that’s getting away from the point. I like Andrew Bird’s music, but as a live act he is nothing less than pretty boring. He is like the Classics professor of indie rock, which means he’s good in theory but you’re mostly going to be standing around not paying attention. Seeing Bird twice in concert has made me realize that there is no emotional connection to his music. As catchy as his songs are, all he sings about are palindromes and awkward love in a hyper-literate way, instead of anything people can relate to. He’s like a one-man music prodigy version of The Decemberists, except without the energy or the irony – it is endless fun to listen to his records, but if this concert was more than free I wouldn’t go. But it is free, which is why I’m going to miss watching Heroes in order to see him twitch his way through a set. What is wrong with me?

Wilco is coming as well, which I will be missing because of a prior engagement with an out-of-town friend. However, I don’t think I’d have gone anyway, other than just to go, which is a pretty stupid reason to spend $10.

Wilco is one of those alt-country bands, which is a genre that befuddles me: it combines one of the most inauthentic, bored styles of music with the most passionate, sincere type. Speak ill of country if you want, but there is no denying that it is rooted in basic emotion, no matter how embarrassing it may be. On the other hand, alternative music is mostly about doing anything to look cool. Who thought it was a good idea to mix these two genres?

As a result, I just can’t believe Wilco. They sound like they’re posturing themselves to appear genuine, like a cross between Pavement and Gram Parsons. Pavement had a sense of humor and Gram Parsons drank himself to death (about the most genuinely depressing thing I can think of). Jeff Tweedy is serious and just went through rehab, so where does that leave them? However, this is not to say that I hate their music, I mostly find them boring and wish Tweedy took more guitar solos.

Next year, I’m going to try to join A&O in order to bring my dream lineup to Northwestern: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists in the fall, Wu-Tang Clan in the winter and something awesome like a reunited Guided by Voices in the spring (Note: This is probably 100% unlikely to happen).

I wish we would get bands that could make their audiences move. When Wilco comes, I’ll be in the city, and during Andrew Bird, I’ll probably be thinking about my Italian homework. But what alternative is there?4

Medill freshman Jeremy Gordon is a PLAY pop culture columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]