The band Wilco has longstanding ties to the Bluff City, reaching back to their 1994 debut, A.M.
, recorded at Easley-McCain Studio.
Even then, in their alt-country days, they displayed a reliable knack for both classic songwriting and sonic experimentation: a perfect fit with that renowned Memphis studio in its heyday. That such a spirit has remained and evolved with the band over the course of 10 subsequent studio albums is a testament to their collective restlessness with indie-pop conventions.
While the group has seen personnel changes over that time — a stable lineup featuring Nels Cline, Mikael Jorgensen, Glenn Kotche, Patrick Sansone, John Stirratt, and, of course, singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy — it has endured since 2004. Now, in the wake of a marked ramping-up of Jeff Tweedy solo albums, they're touring to support 2019's Ode to Joy
, which strikes a middle ground between the solo Tweedy's more stripped-down approach and the wider sonic palette of previous Wilco albums.
Mellotron Variations at the Solid Sound Festival, 2019 (L-R, Pat Sansone, Robby Grant, Jonathan Kirkscey)
The band's spirit of sonic exploration has lately infused the most recent Memphis/Wilco cross-pollination, in the form of the Mellotron Variations
group, an ensemble of Mellotron players founded here by Robby Grant and Jonathan Kirkscey, which has grown to include John Medeski and Wilco's Pat Sansone. The group's concerts and rehearsals have made Sansone a more regular visitor from his home in Nashville, and when they played Wilco's Solid Sound Festival
in Massachusetts last year, the sympatico between Wilco and Memphis' flair for the unconventional was sealed.
Thus, Wilco's upcoming performance at the Levitt Shell
on April 14th (just announced Tuesday) has a certain resonance with the Memphis music scene. Part of the Shell Yeah! Benefit Concert Series held at the iconic outdoor stage every year, this will precede the Shell's regular Summer Orion Free Music Concert Series as a rare ticketed event
— one of four this year — designed to raise funds for the many free concerts staged by the Levitt Shell.
Shell Yeah! Presents Wilco, Levitt Shell, Tuesday, April 14. 8:00 pm. Tickets on pre-sale February 5, public sale February 7.