One of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to was about 10 years ago, when Wilco played at the Wiltern in L.A. I haven’t seen them since because they seem to pass through L.A whenever I’m out of town.
Before leaving I knew one of the things I wanted to do was see Wilco while they were touring in Europe. I originally thought about seeing them in Paris, but then realized it would cost a fortune, mostly with finding a place to stay. So I went to Padua or Padova, if you’re an Italian. The theatre, was outside of the center of Padova, about three miles. Having missed my original train, I arrived later than I had planned, and ended up taking a taxi. In the taxi I realize I have no cash, just enough to cover my ride. I figured when I got there I could pay with a card or there would be one of those ATM’s that charge an exorbitant fee on top of my own American bank fees.
But I was wrong. I can’t buy food or drink, because the bar only takes cash. They have a separate stand to buy concessions with a card but the card machine is down. I ask multiple people working at the venue, but there is no ATM anywhere. I start to feel very American with my over reliance on my ability to pay with a debit card everywhere. So now, not only can I not eat or drink, but I don’t know how I’ll get back to where I’m staying. And while this is a concern I can’t stop thinking about, Wilco goes on.
The crowd is full of Gen X Italian men, who could be stand ins for Gen X Los Angeles men. The theatre is big like an airplane hanger, and there are seats everywhere, from front to back and there’s no assigned seats, so you can choose to sit wherever. And for some reason, I don’t know if this was the choice of Wilco, or the venue, but it was pretty dark, dark like a movie theatre dark. I’m still pretty fragile from earlier in the day. If you don’t know why, then read this. There are definitely points where I cry, but because the auditorium is so dark, I don’t think anyone can see me. And if they can, people probably think I’m just some crazed fan.
The first two songs Wilco play are new and kind of warming up the crowd, and they themselves are feeling out the crowd. And then the next song was ‘I am Trying to Break Your Heart’ which is a classic, popular, and an all around good song. I kept waiting and looking around for people to stand up but nobody did. They all stay sitting. And I know Wilco fans are aging, but no standing? Dancing? Swaying? Nothing. The crowd is into the band but not into them enough to rise to their feet. They all just continue to sit, it’s like being at a very attentive lecture.
But overall the show was great. Wilco can still bring it, and they keep the show interesting by playing different variations of their classic songs.
They played an encore, where the crowd was on their feet and into it. Jeff Tweedy, the singer, said “Where did you guys come from?”
The show ends, and the one place where my debit card is actually usable was at the merch table, where I buy a poster. Not the most convenient thing to travel with.
I start walking back to where I’m staying, because I have no other choice. There are people in front of me who seem to know where they’re going and I figure between them and Google maps, I’ll be ok. This couple that’s in front of me turns and asks me if I know where I’m going. And I respond by saying “Kind of, but I was also following you.”
The three of us walk back to the center of Padua together. They’re from Berlin, and I didn’t even learn their names, but they walked there with their paper printed out map, which seems so German. We were chitchatting along the way and I asked them what they thought of the show. And the German woman said she thought it was weird that no one was standing. She said “I thought Germans were serious’ apparently not as serious as Italians. I was relieved to think I wasn’t the only one who thought this.
I am thankful for their company in what was some serious poor planning on my part. We make it back to the center of town in an hour, and when I finally collapse into bed, it is well after 1 AM.