My Cedar Park Vacation with Wilco

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I feel like Blue Eyes and I are on vacation. For one thing, we have two date nights in a row, with baby sitters and everything, which is as close to vacation as we get these days. And for another, we are leaving the Austin city limits, using Google maps on the iPhone to help us find our way to the Cedar Park Center for the Wilco concert…

Wilco is my very favorite band of all time, except for the Beatles maybe, and I’ve seen Wilco enough to know that they should be playing downtown, outdoors, where everyone stands and sways to the music and there are two guys behind you who are singing every word to every song a little too loud.

But this time, Wilco is playing the new Cedar Park Center, the home of the Texas Stars minor league hockey team, in the suburbs, indoors, with LOTS of air conditioning. Let me tell you first about the air conditioning. I don’t think I even own a coat that could have kept me warm. An usher explained that they keep the center at 62 degrees because of the ice that is underneath the folding chairs on the concert floor. Well, I live in Texas for a reason, mainly because I don’t like being so close to ice. I bought a t-shirt, half because it was cute and half because I could wear it over my other shirt and be at least a few degrees warmer.

Another odd thing was the $10 parking fee. So, if Wilco plays downtown, in a densely populated area in a venue with no parking lot, I can drive around for a bit and still park for free. But, here in the suburbs, surrounded by empty space, with a huge parking lot, I have to pay $10 and walk just as far because it is a really big parking lot. I don’t like hidden fees, I’d rather have an honest ticket price.

We get inside and walk around, checking out the beverage choices, Coors Light, Bud Light and tooty fruity pretend margaritas of different colors served in tall, thin, funky plastic cups. Oh, my, this isn’t right for Wilco. I can’t drink a tooty fruity while I listen to Jesus, Etc. Blue Eyes and I walk and walk and finally find a nice beer in a regular plastic cup and that is nice.

The crowd starts filling in and the opening act, Liam Finn, plays. He was pretty amazing. He plays a pattern on one instrument, then does some magic trick so the pattern keeps repeating while he moves onto another instrument. It is him and one other person, Eliza-Jane Barnes, but they sound like ten people. I wonder what made him play with the technology to get the big sound with just two people, if he is an amazing genius or is he so hard to get along with that his band mates kept quitting. He plays the drums and guitar with such intensity that I hope he is an amazing genius, for Eliza-Jane’s sake.

There is a long break between bands and Blue Eyes wonders what bands do while everyone is waiting for them to play and if the long wait is supposed to make us happier when the show finally starts and if Wilco knows how early our kids get up in the morning.

Then Wilco comes out singing..

Are times getting tough?
Are the roads you travel rough?
Have you had enough of the old?
Tired of being exposed to the cold?

Stare at your stereo
Put on your headphones
Before you explode
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Wilco, Wilco
Wilco will love you, baby

I LOVE this song. It is cheesy and a little arrogant, but I feel that it is also sincere and I love Wilco back.

Everyone is standing and dancing and I’m not a large person and it isn’t like I’m doing disco moves or twirling my partner, but there isn’t room enough to dance even a little. I have to stand just at the right angle, looking off to the side to see the band, if I want to avoid hitting the cup holders with my legs. And speaking of cup holders, because the whole row is sort of dancing at an odd angle, and because there are a couple of empty seats, I keep loosing track of which beer is mine and I keep drinking the beer of the guy next to me. I’m glad I’m not at hockey game, because this might get me in some real trouble. I tell the guy I’m sorry and he thinks it’s funny and buys himself a new beer and keeps it on the other side of his girlfriend.

Then Jeff Tweedy gets us ready for a sing along and the band starts playing the music and Jeff Tweedy isn’t singing, he is asking us to sing on our own and we do, not just the chorus and not a simple song, but a beautiful poem…

Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
tuned to chords
Strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around

Don’t cry
You can rely on me honey
You can come by any time you want
I’ll be around
You were right about the stars
Each one is a setting sun

And I know that Wilco can play anywhere in the world they want to play and I’ll be there. Tonight may not be my dream vacation to Greece for three weeks, but a night out with Blue Eyes, swaying next to each other, holding hands, listening to beautiful music, this is a good night.

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