The Bowery Presents


Jake Xerxes Fussell

Wed, March 22, 2017

Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Beacon Theatre

New York, NY

$89.50, $69.50, $55

Sold Out

This event is all ages

“Enough of this 20th anniversary already,” Jeff Tweedy says, with something like indifference, to the retrospective weight of the event which will mark his two-decade long career with Wilco. In almost the same breath, he adds, “here’s something fresh,” redirecting attention to Star Wars, Wilco’s ninth studio album. Released with no advanced warning on July 16, 2015, and offered as a free download for a month, the album surprised and delighted fans. Why? Because, “what’s more fun than a surprise?”

Tweedy reveals the release of Star Wars during a live interview in Chicago, the day before Wilco is to play Pitchfork Music Festival. They open their headlining set by playing the new album in its entirety. In the four weeks following its release, while it was available as a free gift, the album received over half a million downloads worldwide.

Wilco has been known to release its music in a similar way before. In 2002, when their mainstream label (Reprise Records) disapproved of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco stood strong and released it anyways, to both critical and commercial success. That album, in many ways, set the precedence for what Wilco is now known for; which is as a band with unwavering artistic integrity. However, it is still, perhaps, the 20th anniversary occasion that prompted their decision to make Star Wars available in this way.

Tweedy says, “We’ve been feeling very fortunate lately being reminded of how long we’ve been able to do this.” While acknowledging the precarious times of the music industry, Tweedy maintains that the gesture was “not intended to be a comment on the music business, just one band’s wish to give our fans a jolt of joy: a fun surprise.” The decision to release the album in this way reinforces the Wilco philosophy; “this is a recommitment to the idea that music is more important to our lives. Art is more worthy of our striving. And fun is more sustaining than cash.”

When Wilco reconvenes at the loft, the band’s Chicago recording studio, in the fall of 2014, Tweedy plays the rough material he’s had in progress for other band members. Their reaction, he says, is something like “Hey, it sounds fucking great. What should we do?” Then, as they do with every album, Tweedy and the band take a different approach to the recording process: “There isn’t really one track on the record where everybody was there at the same time. I was just kind of having different members of Wilco come into town when they were available to just kind of jam in the studio.”

The song “You Satellite” is the result of one of those sessions with the band members, percussionist Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline. Tweedy explains that “it’s pretty much a live take, and then everybody else in the band overdubbed on it.” When it came to writing the lyrics to the song, Tweedy says “the music was casting some spell to me that felt really, really exciting and I tried to translate that into some lyrics that felt like the musical environment that they were in. Lyrically, it’s really kind of pointless. I just really try and write lyrics that don’t break the spell.”

As the songs quickly take shape, Tweedy soon realizes that they have enough material for not only the ninth, but the tenth Wilco album too. When asked why he didn’t just combine them, Tweedy says “it was more that these songs sounded great in this sequence, and what I wanted to do was make sure that almost everything was over a certain beats per minute, for the most part.”

When asked about the band’s decision to release the album all at once and for free, Tweedy says, “I was really dreading the modern rollout pattern. I think it’s done a disservice to our records, the way they’ve been heard in dribs and drabs, and a lot of people think they’ve heard a whole record after just hearing one song. That’s not the way Wilco records work.” With the way Star Wars was released, Tweedy says “I’m thrilled. I got to put it out and basically kind of stay home¬¬¬—and now I’m about halfway done with the next record.”
Jake Xerxes Fussell
Jake Xerxes Fussell
Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell’s self-titled debut record, produced by and featuring William Tyler, transmutes ten arcane folk and blues tunes into vibey cosmic laments and crooked riverine rambles. Jake Xerxes (yes, that’s his real middle name, after Georgia potter D.X. Gordy) grew up in Columbus, Georgia, son of Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer who hails from across the river in Phenix City, Alabama (once known as “The Wickedest City in America” for its rampant vice, corruption, and crime.) Fred’s fieldwork took him, often with young Jake in tow, across the Southeast documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included recording blues and old-time musicians with fellow folklorists and recordists George Mitchell and Art Rosenbaum (which led Jake to music, and to some of the songs herein) and collaborating with American Indian artists (which led Jake eventually to his graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers.)

As a teenager Jake began playing and studying with elder musicians in the Chattahoochee Valley, apprenticing with Piedmont blues legend Precious Bryant (“Georgia Buck”), with whom he toured and recorded, and riding wild with Alabama bluesman, black rodeo rider, rye whiskey distiller, and master dowser George Daniel (“Rabbit on a Log”). He joined a Phenix City country band who were students of Jimmie Tarlton of Darby and Tarlton; he accompanied Etta Baker in North Carolina; he moved to Berkeley, where he hung with genius documentary filmmaker Les Blank and learned from Haight folkies like Will Scarlett (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Brownie McGhee) and cult fingerstyle guitarist Steve Mann (“Push Boat”); he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. He did a whole lot of listening, gradually honing his prodigious guitar skills, singing, and repertoire. In 2005 he moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he enrolled in the Southern Studies department at Ole Miss, recorded and toured with Rev. John Wilkins, and, last year, met up with acclaimed artist William Tyler to begin recording his first solo album.

Collaborating with Tyler and engineer Mark Nevers in Nashville was a conscious decision to depart cloistered trad scenes and sonics for broader, more oblique horizons. Tyler, a guitar virtuoso known for his own compositions that untether and reframe traditional six-string forms and techniques, helmed the push boat in inimitable fashion, enlisting crack(ed) Nashville session vets Chris Scruggs (lap steel, bass, mandolin: Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Marty Stuart), Brian Kotzur (drums: Silver Jews), and Hoot Hester (fiddle Bill Monroe, Ray Charles) to crew.
Venue Information:
Beacon Theatre
2124 Broadway
New York, NY, 10023