In the summer of 1997, I spent nearly every weekend house-sitting for friends of my parents. Their house was on a picturesque bend of the White River and they had some cool dogs I took care of. It was a glorious arrangement that allowed me to have small gatherings and drink booze underage in a responsible manner. Especially cool was that the house was in extremely close proximity to the local amphitheater that hosted all the various summer concert tours.
I had spent the previous year working and living at home, having been booted from my first college after freshman year. The only two things I learned at that school were:
1. Don’t get a bunch of dope in the mail.
2. Alt.country was great and I was completely absorbed in Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Wilco, and other groups of the genre.
In some weird quirk of scheduling, the local grunge/heavy metal radio station announced their summer concert line-up, which, among the Offsprings and Sugar Rays, happened to include Wilco.
At the concert, we passed a tent that has a sign indicating where all of the acts would be signing autographs there after their performances. Wilco played early in the day. Their set was pretty spectacular considering the time-slot, and as they were about leave the stage, Jeff Tweedy muttered something about signing records.
I bee-lined it to the autograph tent, hoping I could beat the throngs that will surely be running there to get merchandise signed by these American treasures. However, since nearly all the other acts are butt-rock and frat rap of some kind, not another single soul lined up to get autographs from the druggy country act.
I attempted to play it cool as Jon Stirratt and Jay Bennett sign my shirt. I made small talk about loving the Being There record.
It must be said that, while I’d listened to loads of Tweedy/Farrarr stuff, I was still only passingly acquainted with the histories of the bands. Google had yet to launch and the few written accounts I’d encountered about Uncle Tupelo and its dissolution were short blurbs that mentioned hard-feelings between Farrar and Tweedy. But I didn’t really know much about it beyond that. I figured the two lead singers were now independently successful, so how hard could the feelings be at that point? Jeez, it had been three years, right?
I finally got to Tweedy and told him how much I love the entire Uncle Tupelo catalog. He nodded solemnly. As I handed him my shirt to sign, I blithely asked, “Any chance you guys will have a reunion concert or something any time soon?”
Jeff Tweedy took his Sharpie and in careful, four-inch-high letters, wrote on my shirt, “NO.”