Wisconsin Book Festival party. Readings by Michael Perry and Lorrie Moore (intro by Mayor Dave), and then after the signing, a nice set of music by Michael Perry and the Long Beds. I've seen Mike read on two previous occasions, but had never heard any of the pieces he read on Thursday. The Long Beds played a good, solid set of music - my favorite songs included the violin. I've said it before, but I love living in a city where a local-author book reading can come close to filling the Orpheum.
Liam Finn, Eliza-Jane Barnes, and Wilco in Memphis. Yes, Memphis. Saturday, free flight, good seat ... why not? I'd been obliquely promised a "fun show" last weekend, though I wasn't quite sure what that would entail. As it turned out, a lot that couldn't have been planned plus something that definitely was: Jody Stephens of Big Star jumping in on shaker and drums, and a jaw-dropping cover of Big Star's "In the Street." There was a period of time a few years ago when Wilco played cover songs with some regularity, but I hadn't seen it in so long I forgot it was possible. That, along with the non-acoustic live debut of "Country Disappeared," made for a memorable show.
I haven't even mentioned Liam and EJ's set. At their show in Madison, I was thrilled when they played one of two songs I hadn't seen yet and especially wanted to. In Memphis they played the other, "Red Wine Bottle." As a bonus, Glenn came out to play drums with them. As if that weren't cool enough, afterward there was a brief conference on the stage and Glenn stuck around for a blistering rendition of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." All that, plus Liam and EJ played a brand new song. I'm getting spoiled.
Beyond the main event, I did have a bit of time for Memphis itself on Saturday. I didn't get in early enough for any major tours, but did make it to Gus's Famous Fried Chicken for a very late lunch. (I had a slice of chess pie for dessert, and I still don't know what the hell chess pie is.) I also visited the Gibson Guitar Factory, wandered around Beale Street, and explored A. Schwab. The $1 pacifiers from Thailand were tempting, but I left empty-handed. I also caught a free performance at the Pepsi Pavilion off of Beale. No idea who was playing, but the vibe was happy and pleasantly buzzed. Oh, Beale Street and your open container laws.
We'd had the best of intentions to go see Norton Wisdom paint with some great musicians at the Poplar Lounge after the show, an event which we were assured had every chance of going strong until 4:30 a.m. (a.k.a. the time we had to leave for the airport.) By the time we left the Orpheum it was nearly 1:00, though, and we had to take a rain check or risk keeling over. Instead I got an hour or two of sleep before the flights back home. I couldn't afford to be totally dead the next day because...
Bon Iver in Milwaukee, with The Daredevil Christopher Wright opening. As this show was to be Bon Iver's last for an indefinite amount of time, I was thankful for the opportunity to attend. Sitting in the midst of a sold-out crowd at the Riverside felt different from standing against the stage at the Barrymore in Madison last December ... which itself, I'm sure, was a change from the Milwaukee show Bon Iver played in support of For Emma less than two years ago at Mad Planet. Less than two years, and so many accomplishments. So many new fans. Still, when Justin sat alone on the stage to play "Re: Stacks" - toward the end when he pulls back from the microphone a bit and everyone leans a little closer - the room felt very small. But when the crowd sang along at the top of its collective lungs with "Wolves," screaming over the final instrumental frenzy, the sound filled every inch of the theater's expansive size - and joyously so.