A Love Letter to Wilco

Last Sunday, I was sitting in DAR Constitution Hall waiting for Wilco to come on stage.

I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Wilco perform. But this was the first time I saw them play “Sunken Treasure.” Or at least, it was the first time since last spring when I lapsed into a funk so deep that the only music I could stand to listen to for a solid month was Being There. For a while, I could only listen to the first disk, but then for a time I could only listen to “Sunken Treasure” on repeat.

But there is no sunken treasure
Rumored to be
Wrapped inside my ribs
In a sea black with ink

I don’t know if this kind of thing happens to other people. I don’t know what other people mean when they say they feel alone.

I’m not around people very much in my day-to-day life, but it’s not that I’m incapable of having human connections. I’ve felt left out at times, but I’ve never felt completely like an outcast. I have family I’m close to and dear friends that I have retained from various periods of my life.

I feel alone in a different way. I don’t feel human sometimes–or even alive. Sometimes I feel like a shadow. I feel like I’m going through human motions that don’t match how I feel inside or match what I believe in or what I think is real.

Sometimes I can’t translate my thoughts into words. I can’t convey meaning, and, even if I could, it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.

Our connections to other people are based on persona. If you know me, you know some version of me that I have projected.

Who I am is filtered through who you are. I am your interpretation of my projection. When someone says, “No one understands me,” it’s not bullshit. You don’t know what it’s like inside me anymore than I know what it’s like inside you. This is alienation. Rarely do we get validation for who we are.

But sometimes when I’m losing myself, I can listen to a song that resonates with me in such a way that I feel human again. Sometimes I can hear words that someone else wrote, notes and rhythms that someone else arranged, and I feel like myself, alive, again.

I could give you a list of songs or albums, but I could also just give you Wilco. The only consistently good thing in my life the last decade has been Wilco.

So when I was sitting there in DC last Sunday, I was alive again.

I teared up over Sunken Treasure. I laughed at Jeff Tweedy’s Super Bowl jokes. I cheered along with everyone else at Nels’ “Impossible Germany” solo, at John singing “It’s Just That Simple,” at Mikeal playing a melodica. At one point during the show, the guy to my right was playing air keyboard, the guy to my left was playing air guitar, and I was playing air drums. And I wasn’t alone.

I don’t know why anyone else loves Wilco, but I was among people who do.

I also don’t know what Jeff Tweedy was thinking or feeling when he wrote “Sunken Treasure,” but, the thing is, it doesn’t matter. That’s between Jeff and himself. 

Music is my savior
I was maimed by rock and roll
I was maimed by rock and roll
I was tamed by rock and roll

That’s the thing about music, about lyrics, about meaning–it doesn’t matter how you interpret a song, because music still manages to connect us when we are at our most disconnected. A song can validate our feelings, our outlook, when nothing else does. Even when I feel alienated from the meaning I try to generate from within, I still have Being There and Sky Blue Sky et al.

I am almost entirely convinced that Wilco is, in fact, the love of my life.

I hope you have something like that. I hope you have a Wilco.

This isn’t all of our arms open wide
A sonic shoulder for you to cry on.
Wilco will love you, baby

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