The purchase I’m talking about today wasn’t actually made on Record Store Day. It was a Record Store Day release, that is true, but I couldn’t get a copy until about a month later. I looked high and low to get my hands on one, but every time I’d go to a record store, they were either sold out or never got the item. When I finally did get it, I found it in the most embarrassing of places: a Best Buy.
That didn’t hold me back from picking up this live DVD by Wilco, my favorite band. Ashes of American Flags had been at the top of my list since the day I heard about it a few months prior to Record Store Day. It’s a compilation of five small venue stops on their tour that makes me jealous of a town in Alabama-a feat I never imagined possible.
Along the way the audience is shown the America that Wilco sees when they go on tour. Highlighting some of the “poor places” that we generally forget about. It’s a sad sight for those of us who have never been to these areas, and a harsh reminder for those that have. John Stirrat shows some of the photos he’s taken on tours, and he has a great eye for capturing despair in a polaroid.
We also get to see a band suffering for their art. Drummer Glenn Kotche can barely make a fist due to the soreness of his hands. Guitarist Nels Cline spends much of his onscreen time laying on a couch because his back is so messed up from the way he plays guitar.
The live performances are nothing short of amazing. They even make me enjoy songs that I find a bit lacking on record. In particular, the version of “Kingpin” that they play at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. I’ve never found that song to be anything special, but Nels solo work and seeing the sweat pour from Glenn’s head makes the song pop in a whole new way.
I’ve seen Wilco live enough times to know that they give their all every time out, and that is definitely true of the shows highlighted on Ashes of American Flags. If you’ve never seen them before, or if it’s been a while, I would run out and pick this up immediately. You’ll be treating yourself to not only some of the finest songs written in the past 20 years, but also to the best live band working today.