ead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.
Hey kingpin, what it is?
Things are good here, a little crazy, but what else is new? I’ve been full of all this pent-up nervous energy and anxiety for the last few weeks, with precious little opportunity to get it out of me. I think it’s a combination of factors working to make it this almost unbearable feeling of unrest—not much to do, too much alone time, that lull you always get near the end of winter before spring finally shows up. In short, there is nothing to do, no one to do it with, and too much time to do it in. Not a particularly uplifting combination, eh?
Anyway, with all this in mind, I was especially excited a few weeks back when I went to see Wilco here in C-Town at the new-ish House Of Blues downtown. It was a Friday night, the gig was sold out, and I had really been digging Wilco for the last few months. It would feel really great to get out, especially for a show that I had really been looking forward to seeing.
So the show was really great, and if you can catch the band with this new expanded six-piece line-up you totally should. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but Nels Cline is a motherfucker. Like, in the Miles Davis sense, not the bad way. Anyway, the set was cool and featured a lot of stuff that I wanted to hear, and a lot of cool surprises as well, including covers of Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding,” Randy Newman’s “Political Science” (which I’m convinced a solid 70% of the crowd totally didn’t see the irony in, but oh well, we are a Red State now, aren’t we?), and a closer of Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air.” My favorite moment was when someone tossed a “Clear Channel Sucks” T-shirt onstage just before they kicked into “The Late Greats”—one of those perfectly synchronous moments there. “You can’t hear it on the radio” indeed...
So yeah, for the two hours-plus that the band was on stage, I had a really great time. It was the rest of it that really got me down.
I haven’t been attending many gigs at all for the last few years. I used to go to three or four a month, then down to seven to ten a year, and now I’m looking at maybe once every six months, if that. I think it is a combination of factors that have led to this—first and foremost, I don’t really like going out alone and that is what I have been faced with for the last few years. The ex-wife and I never went to a show together the entire time we were together; most of my friends don’t live around here anymore, and those that do are generally too busy with their own lives to go out regularly; I don’t really socialize with any coworkers; Melanie’s schedule is a bit topsy-turvy to put it mildly, and I think the precious time we do have together is better served by something a bit more quiet and intimate than a sweaty crowded club. That’s about all of my options there.
But like I said, I figured the show would be good and that I would probably run into people I knew there. Turns out there were a few in attendance, but I managed to not see a single one of them outside of some old AP coworkers who were up in one of the VIP balconies and likely wouldn’t have had much to say to me anyway.
I did briefly meet one college-age couple who were standing near me at the show. One of them asked me the time or something and we chatted for like three minutes. Turns out the girl’s name was Melanie, which I found to be sort of ironic. For the most part, outside of the very polite bartender who charged me $8.50 for a scotch (not even my brand, no less, and in a freaking plastic cup) and these strangers, I don’t think I opened my mouth once the whole time I was there other than to shout back at Tweedy when he asked the crowd to do so during “Kingpin.” It is a rather odd sensation to be in a sold-out hall surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people with at least one common interest (namely Wilco) and yet feel so totally isolated and alone. Somehow I managed to pull that one off though.
So I don’t know, man—I think that concert-going may just no longer be for me. I still love music, and when the band kicks into high gear and the crowd is feeling it and all of that, it still gives me the biggest rush ever. I can still feel this—it isn’t dead within me and it never will be. It happened when Wilco played “A Shot In The Arm” that night, and again during “Outtasite (Outta Mind).” I guess it's just that before and after wandering around that is too much for me. Then again, maybe not going is part of the problem and I just need to get back in the swing. I don’t know. Maybe I need to start utilizing Friendster more or something.
I remember when I was a teenager going to shows all the time and wondering who those toothless, sad-looking older people in the seats were, that they looked like they might as well have been 100 and in wheelchairs. Now I know—they are me. But hey, at least they were there, right? Maybe once the flowers bloom and I’m feeling more social, this will all go away. Maybe one of that shortlist of bands I currently want to see will actually hit this stupid little podunk burg. For now, I’m keeping that cautious optimism out there. Any advice on how to deal would be much appreciated.
And if you could move back to town, that would be even better...
Your man in the Midwest,