Wilco & The Punch Brothers 6.22.12

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock

If you asked me what my first show at Red Rocks would be this summer I probably would not have guessed Wilco. A dear friend of Amy’s and mine, Marco, called us a week before to let us know that he was headed up and had a couple extras. It turns out that he is an old friend with Glenn Kotche the drummer from Wilco. Glen has been performing one of Marco’s late wife Diane Izzo’s songs solo and Wilco has even sound checked it with the full band. Diane was an amazing songwriter who was taken from us at the staggeringly young age of 43. Marco has taken it upon himself to produce a tribute album featuring Diane’s songs and some stellar musicians including Glen and My Mooring Jacket’s Jim James. I look forward to hearing the album when it comes out in the near future.

We hung out in the Upper North Lot for a bit before heading inside. MusicMarauders made arrangements for me to snag a photo pass. Shooting in the pit at Red Rocks is an honor so I was stoked to be there again. The Punch Brothers came to the stage to start the night with their brand of irreverently beautiful bluegrass. Led by mandolin extraordinaire, Chris Thile, the band opened with a “Movement and Location” off their latest album Who’s Feeling Young Now. This new sound is a woeful and meandering, but the lyrics are deep and thoughtful. Next up was the title track from the new album. The highlight of their hour plus set was a snappy rendition of The Band’s “Ophelia” and their set closing “Rye Whiskey.” I love the Punch Brothers’ take on bluegrass and their relatively new direction of mixing their darker tunes with their classic repertoire. They were a bucket of fun and I was happy they took the opening slot for Wilco.

I headed back down to the pit to shoot the main event. Basked in blue light they opened with “One Sunday Morning.”

SET I: One Sunday Morning, Poor Places, Art Of Almost, I Might, Side With Seeds, Spiders (Kidsmoke)(Acoustic Arrangement), Impossible Germany, Born Alone, Open Mind, Handshake Drugs, Whole Love, I Must Be High, I’m Always In Love, Heavy Metal Drummer, Dawned On Me, A Shot In the Arm

ENCORE: Via Chicago, Remember The Mountain Bed, California Stars*

2nd ENCORE: Theologians, Monday, Outtasite (Outta Mind), Hoodoo Voodoo**

*w/ The Punch Brothers
**w/ Music Tech Josh on Cowbell

Wilco played a massive two-hour set with a double encore that seemed to stretch on and on. Wilco has the ability to play music like a warm pillow and rip into high gear like a rabid bear. Their show on Friday night at Red Rocks saw both. As a younger man I saw Wilco play and didn’t understand the attraction. That being said in my older age I have found Tweedy to be an intricate songwriter and the band consisting of Nels Cline and company to be impeccable. The night was filled with musical highlights, however a few songs floated to the top of the froth. Their rendition of the now classic “Handshake Drugs” got me dancing in a planter during my quick trip up to the top. The rowdy “Heavy Metal Drummer” got the crowd energized.

The audience seemed wholly engaged with the band. The people that made it down to this add-on show were truly fans. With their Saturday show almost sold out they added the Friday date. With the late addition the Rocks was only about two thirds full, which still made for a sizeable crowd for the show. They closed their set with a powerful “A Shot In The Arm.” Wilco is famous for performing multiple encores, this night in the mountains saw two sizeable encores, which may as well have been a second set. They invited the Punch Brothers up for an elaborate version of “California Stars.” The entire band came back for a few more and ended the night with “Hoodoo Voodoo” that saw their tech come out to play cowbell with the band. The show was everything a Wilco fan could want. It was a great night that ended with me heading backstage and getting a chance to check out the famed tunnel. It was a wonderful night all around and a great start to my summer at Red Rocks.

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