The Flat Five

Wed. Feb 22

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

The Chicago Theatre

$49.50 - $85.00

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."
The Flat Five
The Flat Five
The Flat Five is a Chicago-based pop vocal super-group — Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, Alex Hall — five in-demand musicians who individually spend much of their time touring and recording with bands like Neko Case, NRBQ, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Mavis Staples, Iron and Wine, Jakob Dylan, Robbie Fulks, Alejandro Escovedo, The New Pornographers, and many other heavy hitters. These five folks stay very, very busy. Yet for the past ten years, these shameless harmony junkies would come together, like a moth to a porchlight, to make music as The Flat Five. Purely for the love of singing together. For the mother-effing fun of it.

At first The Flat Five existed only as a once-a-year sold out holiday show in Chicago. Then came quarterly SRO gigs, and then month-long jam-packed residencies, and then…slowly…the idea for a record grew out of the band's shared love of the repertoire of genius oddball songwriter and performer (and big brother to band member Scott Ligon) Chris Ligon. The Flat Five were already performing many of Chris's songs in their set, and thought that making an entire record of his compositions would be a good way to shoot up a flare and give more folks a chance to hear his amazing and unique music.

Ligon hears something almost spiritual about the group's vocal interaction.
"We have lost the importance of what singing harmony with other human beings means," he says. "It's something that is really important in society, a good example of people working together to create something beautiful. Now that I have this with these friends of mine, I can't live without it."

From the laid-back simple to the oddly romantic to the slightly subversive, there is a heart of wide-eyed sweetness coloring Chris Ligon's songs. The smooth southern soul of "Bottom Buck" will have you kicking off your fringed leather boots by the river to lay back and watch the dragonflies flit past. Beneath the gentle, Donovan psychedelia of "I Could Fall In Love With You" is a love song built on prom-night innocence that's both goofball and beguiling. "It's Been A Delight's" suave Cole Porter-era charms will unbutton the tux and pop the champagne. And if you can keep a straight face and resist the urge to shimmy during the Mills Brothers-styled aphrodisiac romp "Bug Light" well, friend — it might be time to visit the doc.

The charms of the album are manifest. With in-the-pocket and over-the-moon harmonies, the genre-hopping It's a World of Love and Hope is loveably diverse and hits every stripe on the ROYGBIV spectrum. The many touchstones (a gamut stretching from The Beach Boys and The Boswell Sisters, to Trip Shakespeare and Dr. Dog) were gathered on the shores of late night AM radio and get tossed at the listener with a giddiness that jumps outta the grooves. This is a band that's made more than a few laps around the roller rink on Saturday night.
Venue Information:
The Chicago Theatre
175 N. State Street
Chicago, IL, 60601