“That is the strangest competition I’ve ever performed,” stated Jeff Tweedy, to a spherical of laughter from an intimate viewers of his most passionate congregants. The strangeness derived each from the timing and the venue: It was round 1 p.m. this previous Sunday inside a second-story, glass-enclosed operate room on the Miami Seaside Bandshell, a part of the three-day GroundUp Music Pageant. Not more than 70 Tweedy followers had been gathered on mustard-colored sofas to look at a brief brunch set whereas having fun with freshly ready ceviche, vegetable fried rice, candy potatoes and hen cutlets. It wasn’t precisely rock ‘n’ roll; in reality, Tweedy supplied, “it’s extra like a cult assembly … is anybody taking the minutes?”
The Wilco frontman was in excessive spirits for the mid-day gig, conversing with us, taking requests, and joking about his impractical-looking white footwear and in any other case all-black apparel, which Tweedy insisted ought to be the official cult wardrobe transferring ahead. Then, after simply 5 songs, he was completed (the marketed time listed Tweedy performing for 40 minutes, however c’est la vie), the mini-set serving a preview for his correct live performance at 6 p.m. that evening on the Bandshell.
We stayed for the intervening 4 and a half hours of this “Tweedy sandwich” and had been simply as impressed with the maybe lesser-known artists who performed in between. That is form of the purpose of the genre-hopping GroundUp Music Pageant: Keep for the one or two artists you understand, and increase your ears whereas discovering the opposite wonderful expertise. And with two levels and no overlapping performances, there’s no excuse to not dip into new sonic waters.
In reality, the centerpiece of your complete day proved to be Arizona’s Rachel Eckroth, recent off competing for Finest Instrumental Album at Sunday’s Grammy Awards. The keyboardist for St. Vincent and Rufus Wainwright, Eckroth can also be a formidable singer-songwriter and composer in her personal proper. At GroundUp, her hybrid jazz/indie music confounded expectations, usually touring to the outer limits of interstellar musical area.
Heavy with echo, reverb and vocoder, and aided by an exploratory, free-jazz sensibility from her three distinctive bandmates, Eckroth conjured alien sounds, generally instrumentally, others that includes her lucid vocals and poetic lyrics. On keyboards and synthesizers, she might be as punky as Devo and as funky as Herbie Hancock, whereas bassist Tim Lefebvre laid down an impregnable basis. Drummer Christian Euman proved to be a joyous presence behind the equipment, performing with the seemingly easy virtuosity of Elvin Jones. The eclectic set jogged my memory of a number of artists, from Radiohead and Jeff Buckley and David Gilmour to Seaside Home and Angel Olsen. Most spectacular was Eckroth’s potential to not solely hopscotch however grasp so many of those modalities.
Opening with the “Cheers” theme and shutting with a model of Invoice Withers’ “Beautiful Day” that introduced the home down, Dallas, Texas act Shaun Martin 3-0 adopted instantly with a riveting set of jazz trio favorites within the electrical fusion custom. I additionally heard Parliament’s “P. Funk” someplace within the set, however the group’s improvisations had been such that ideas of “cowl” and “authentic” blurred. It was all aural pyrotechnics, molten guitar solos and songs that lasted perpetually; I feel I consumed a whole empanada in much less time than Michael Mitchell’s heroic drum solo; I felt like I used to be experiencing the Tony Williams Lifetime at its peak. Towards the tip of the set, watching Martin lead from the keys, you can see him very a lot “within the zone” and never wanting to go away it—a sense that was mutual among the many crowd. Martin is a born entertainer with charisma to spare.
Our evening ended the place it began, with Jeff Tweedy, wearing black with an acoustic guitar, in full-on folk-singing troubadour mode. Cuts from Wilco’s celebrated new launch Merciless Nation had been plentiful and beautiful; the title track and “Ambulance” actually struck a chord on this stripped-down milieu. As for “Let’s Go Rain,” the track took on a heightened that means given the scattered showers all through Sunday’s occasion, however by the tip of that tune, it was all clear skies, which was very a lot Tweedy’s intention. (“Each time I play that track, there’s a rainbow someplace,” he added.)
Tweedy targeted the again half of his set on outdated fan favorites from the classic catalogs of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco or, as he put it, his most “festive” tracks for a beachfront amphitheater gig. This together with rousing, sing-along renditions of “Passenger Facet,” “Shot within the Arm” and “Hummingbird.” In the course of the latter, Tweedy couldn’t assist cracking up whereas whistling the outro melody.
That, in any case, is the form of environment GroundUp fosters: looseness, conviviality, the liberty to experiment. It was my first expertise attending the eclectic competition, and I can’t wait to return subsequent yr—hopefully for all three days.
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