It may be time to begin appending the words “The Great,” in front of the name of Wilco. At least that’s my unvarnished reaction to their headlining performance at the inaugural edition of their own Solid Sound Festival, held last weekend in North Adams Massachusetts. Where in the hell is North Adams you may ask, why across the Mohawk Trail is the answer. I once had a friend, upper crust Brahmin Bostonian he was, and his mother used to rhapsodize about “motoring along the Mohawk Trail. She must have been speaking about the end of the trail (otherwise known as Mass Highway 2), nearer to Boston because getting to N. Adams from Interstate 91 is an exercise in going up one side of a mountain (granted in Massachusetts mountains top out at like 900 feet above sea level so we’re not talking friggin’ K2 here), and down the other. It’s not a road for older ladies for whom cucumber sandwiches with the crusts left on is a big step.
No matter how you feel about the whole New Orleans fiasco—my two cents: Ray "chocolate city" Nagin’s lack of chops are now going to be exposed posthaste—there are parts of that town that cannot be allowed to go away, first and foremost the musicians, many of whom still teeter on the brink or have fallen head first into the abyss of financial ruin.
Before I even turn on the recorder, Willie Nile is telling me his theory of how the granite under Manhattan Island conducts electricity, which accounts for the perceptible charge that many people feel makes New York City so special. It's also what draws artists like flies, none more passionate than singer-songwriter Nile, who's personally contributed a few volts during his years in NYC.
"You see that empty space?" says Willie Nile, motioning toward a lot between buildings on Bleecker Street, an impish Irish grin flickering across his face. "They haven't built anything there yet because Anna Wintour lives around the corner. And that red-brick house over there, the one with the white door? That's where Dylan lived. I used to see Bob around the neighborhood now and again."
There's almost no gray area when it comes to Christmas music. You either love it and feel it's charming, or it's a holiday plague that you endure, cringing instinctively every time a bell jingles and someone wants a "figgy" pudding.