Farrar vs. Tweedy Cover Night - SOLD OUT
515-B North McDonough St.
Decatur, GA, 30030
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM
Farrar vs. Tweedy Cover Night
The Leafmore Group and Amplify My Community present No Depression: Farrar vs. Tweedy Cover Night. Come listen to some of Atlanta’s best alt-country artists perform songs written by pioneers Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, the founders of Uncle Tupelo and later Son Volt and Wilco. If you’re a Tupelo/Wilco/Son Volt fan, you’ll love this night. If you just like good music, you’ll love this night. All proceeds will go to Amplify’s work helping the homeless and impoverished throughout the South.
Bands playing the event include:
Connor Christian and The Southern Gothic, Eliot Bronson, City Mouse, Quaildogs, Jared & Amber, Slow Parade, Chris Stalcup & The Grange, Kristen Englenz, Mike Killeen, Spencer Smith and The Invisible Swordsman.
The Tupelo Saga
When Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy founded Uncle Tupelo as teenagers, they thought they were simply adding onto a legacy of traditional songs from American-folk mainstays like Woodie Guthrie, The Louvin Brothers, and Gram Parsons. But their addition of Ramones and Sex Pistols influenced punk to the forlorn sounds of American folk fused into a new genre, and alt-country was born.
Uncle Tupelo’s first two albums feature Farrar’s guiding hand and desolate lyrics bathing apocalyptic, depression-era folk, but mixed with Dinosaur Jr.’s brand of heavy guitars and stop-rock punk. Songs like No Depression and Still Be Around announced a new thing to the world both ancient and fresh. Though dwarfed by Farrar’s timeless voice, fans could watch Tweedy’s presence begin to form with raw tracks like Screen Door morphing into more fully-formed hitters like Gun.
When Nirvana blew up in 1991, many looked to Uncle Tupelo for the next alternative music hit. Instead, Tupelo pivoted. Recording March 16-20, 1992 in Athens, Georgia with Peter Buck, the band put away their Gibson SGs and created an acoustic album that could have been made in 1933. While the head-bangers were disappointed, the album was arguably their most distinct statement. Farrar’s songs from the album like Shaky Ground, and Wipe The Clock are boiled-down Tupelo at its purest. But the album shows the beginning of Tweedy stepping fully into his own as a songwriter with chilling songs like Black Eye and Fatal Wound. Meanwhile, the band’s rendition of traditional songs like Moonshiner fit seamlessly into the album, forging the stamp that would make the album a classic.
Tupelo’s final album, Anodyne, brought forward Farrar and Tweedy’s McCartney-Lennon genius and discord. Arguably Tupelo’s best album, the electric guitars came back and the fiddles stuck around too. Tweedy rips Farrar in No Sense In Lovin’ with lyrics like “I’ve tried to understand your abuse but you’ve got no excuse” while Farrar slashes back at his bandmate for riding his coattails for so many years with brutal lines like “you’ve schemed more than you have, borrowed more than you know” in Steal the Crumbs. The band would not last much longer.
The Split - Wilco and Son Volt
Tweedy, racked with insecurity - and yearning to get out of Farrar’s shadow - formed Wilco and set out to make it big with their first album, A.M. The songs are both a continuation of where Tweedy’s Tupelo work was headed and his yearning to make the charts. Songs like Box Full of Letters clearly reference back to Farrar and the pain of their breakup. The album, however, did not sell well and sent Tweedy deeper into depression.
Farrar, meanwhile, formed Son Volt, and immediately released what many still consider the band’s best album, Trace. Moving quickly past Tupelo, Trace features a newly set-free Farrar whimsically enjoying the vastness of America in songs like Windfall, where he chants “both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel, may the wind take your troubles away.” Drown, which is Farrar at his stop-and-go electric best, became a top-10 hit in Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and a college radio staple. The album would sell very well, while A.M. languished.
While Son Volt surged, Tweedy recalibrated, casting aside some of his Tupelo-related insecurities and writing songs that Tupelo could never have done. Being There is a double album with a bipolar feel that somehow comes across as cohesive. One minute, Tweedy’s sadness and derision of the music industry shows through as he scolds his fans, saying “I’d like to thank you all for nothing at all. Nothing, nothing…” on Misunderstood while his bandmates create chaos on unfamiliar instruments circa The Beatles’ A Day In The Life. The next moment, on songs like Monday, Tweedy bounces along on a high in feel-good rockers replete with horns. Being There arguably represents for Tweedy a passage from Uncle Tupelo into a new world of his own creativity. After Being There, Wilco albums would be signed with an extreme range of euphoria and nostalgia via songs like Heavy Metal Drummer, and destitute and crushing musical poems featuring lyrics like “she’s a jar, with a heavy lid, my pop quiz kid, a sleepy kisser, with feelings hid, you know she begs me not to hit her” in She’s A Jar.
Wilco would go on to make seven more albums after Being There, win a Grammy, become concert headliners, and change genres from alt-country to experimental pop to whatever they are now (experimental pop?). Yankee Hotel Foxtrot arguably marked their apex and rivals albums like OK Computer for its complexity and use of wild mechanical and computer generated sounds.
Farrar and Son Volt would go on to make six more albums after Trace. Still a cult favorite, Son Volt never beat the commercial success of its first album. Instead, Farrar dutifully refined and honed his sound. While Wilco jerked and slashed with wild departures from album to album, like including 12 minutes of ambient sound in A Ghost Is Born, Farrar’s albums kept a more linear path while still undulating to new territories. Albums like The Search feature haunting repetitions of phrases like “feels like driving round in a slow hearse” over and over in Slow Hearse as it feels like Farrar is beautifully torturing the listener. Yet Farrar’s albums kept constant with brilliant lyrics and stalwart rock-driven burners like Afterglow 61.
The incredible volume and innovation Farrar and Tweedy generated from Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco spawned - at a minimum - a new title and creative space for alt-country artists to flourish. In fact, the premier Alt-Country publication took the name of their first album, No Depression. Regardless whether they “created” the genre, it’s indisputable that without Farrar and Tweedy, the explorative space between alternative music and country music may not have been carved out for artists like The Jayhawks, The Old 97s, and Whiskeytown (Ryan Adams) and later acts like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell, and Gillian Welch.