Sunday, May 3, 2009

ashes of american flags

i just finished up my first viewing of the new Wilco documentary Ashes of American Flags. if you are unaware, Wilco is probably the most creative and innovative band around--America's answer to Radiohead, if you will. since the demise of Uncle tupelo in 1994, Wilco has been steadily blazing it's trail across the world and into the hearts of millions.

at the center of the band is jeff tweedy, primary songwriter and vocalist, and one of the biggest musical influences in my life. but again, i am not biased. they really are a fantastic band.

with each album release, wilco gets a little bigger and a whole lot better, and their concerts are quickly becoming more of a spiritual awakening for the concert goer than a mere ticketed event. i could go on and on about the many great virtues of this band, but i digress.

AAF is the second full-length DVD release for the band, with i am trying to break your heart in 2002 being the first. while the latter is definitely more of a documentary about the recording business in general, AAF is a full on concert film collecting footage from 5 different venues from across the country. i have seen wilco half a dozen times now, and this is as close to the real deal as a fan can get.

while the band does play major stadiums often, each of the venues chosen were some of the more classic theaters that america has to offer, with cain's ballroom in tulsa and the ryman auditorium in nashville being the most iconic. performing in such a venue provides the viewer with a much more intimate feel, and was a wise choice.

the sound quality, thankfully, is incredible, and the concert footage really does put the viewer right in the middle of the party. the only thing better would have been a double disc edition, as wilco is notorious for putting on 3 hour shows consistently. the special features, however, more than make up for this containing 7 additional live performances. the sweetest deal though, perhaps, is that by purchasing the dvd, the viewer is entitled to a free audio download of all the performances contained here in. as someone who thrives on getting the most bang for the buck, this is about as good as it gets.

on a side note, there is a very touching moment near the end of the film where tweedy addresses the fact that wilco has gone through many personel changes over the years, with himself and bassist john stiratt being the only two original members. he goes on to say that "this band could probably absorb another long as it is not John." as someone who has always admired stiratt's musicality, was it nice to hear tweedy profess his loyalty to his fellow band mate and friend.

it was also nice to see tweedy wearing what appeared to be a gram parson's original "nudie suit" throughout most of the film. if you do not know what that is, please google "nudie suit" now.

so, if you are a fan of Wilco already, Ashes of American Flags is a must purchase. if you have no idea who Wilco is, then this film is the perfect introduction. upon viewing, if you are not convinced of the band's greatness, then you probably never will be. and may God have mercy on your soul...

...or at least grant you the wisdom to open you mind and ears.

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