The Chicago rock band founded in the mid-’90s by singer, guitarist and songwriter Jeff Tweedy last year launched and headlined the inaugural Solid Sound Festival, while Tweedy produced and wrote two songs for the Grammy- winning release by soul legend Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone, which won Best Americana Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in February.
Staples joined Wilco, Avi Buffalo, Vetiver, the Baseball Project and more to perform at the first Solid Sound Festival, held Aug. 13-15, 2010, on the grounds of MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), a converted textile mill in North Adams, tucked away in the scenic Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.
Wilco has already announced the second incarnation of Solid Sound June 24-26. Along with a pair of headline performances by Wilco, this year’s version features the Levon Helm Band, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, New Zealand rocker Liam Finn, alt-country duo The Handsome Family and folk couple Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion. Also performing are soul singer Syl Johnson, jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas and Chicago retro-soul band JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, plus indie-rockers Here We Go Magic, Sic Alps, Purling Hiss and a rare live set by Pillow Wand, a collaboration between Moore and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. Comedian John Hodgman hosts this year’s Comedy Cabaret, featuring Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac and comics Eugene Mirman and Morgan Murphy. Tickets are available via solidsoundfestival.com.
Also, Wilco this winter founded dBpm Records, headquartered in Easthampton, MA, to release future Wilco albums. Speaking of which, the band is currently recording the follow-up to its Grammy-nominated 2009 release Wilco (The Album) at the band’s studio in Chicago, The Loft.
It’s the latest chapter for Wilco, which Tweedy founded in 1994 after the dissolution of his previous group, Uncle Tupelo. From its raucous roots-rock origins, Wilco over the years has expanded its sound to encompass classic pop and genre-spanning experimentalism on acclaimed albums including 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (the subject of Sam Jones’ 2002 film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart) and 2005’s Grammy-winning effort A Ghost is Born. Wilco also teamed with English singer Billy Bragg in the late ’90s at the invitation of Woody Guthrie’s daughter, who invited them to collaborate on setting to music some of the folk icon’s previously unrecorded lyrics, resulting in a pair of highly regarded Mermaid Avenue albums.
The current Wilco lineup solidified in 2004 with the addition of guitarist Nels Cline and guitarist/keyboardist Pat Sansone, who rounded out a roster featuring Tweedy, founding bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen. Kotche joined the band during the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Jorgensen helped with live sound manipulations on that tour before switching to piano and becoming a full-time member of Wilco.
In life beyond Wilco Stirratt and Sansone play together in the folk-pop group Autumn Defense, Jorgensen fronts the pop-rock band Pronto and Cline performs in multiple side projects, most notably with the free-jazz instrumental group The Nels Cline Singers. Kotche performs with bassist Darin Gray in On Fillmore and as a composer and a solo percussionist. He has also collaborated with Tweedy on the Loose Fur side project.