The war for Wilco

Turns out Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy dangled his honorary Duluth band status in front of Madison, in a show that followed their performance here this past Friday.

From the Cap Times:

"Last night, the mayor of Duluth made us an honorary Duluth band," Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy jokingly griped to the audience. "And we’ve only played there twice. How many times have we played Madison? A lot. No key to the city, no certificate, nothing."

This is true. Tweedy mentioned near the beginning of Friday’s concert that a "teenaged boy" had approached him with a certificate making them an honorary Duluth band. (Teenaged boy, of course, being Mayor Don Ness). Photo evidence is here. And a draft of the Duluth proclamation: 

Whereas, most Duluth bands have many of the following characteristics:

1) At least one band member looks like a musician-sized lumberjack

2) Occasional use of banjos, washboards, spoons, second banjos, and/or fiddles.

3) Some sort of connection (real or imagined) with Al Sparhawk

4) A musical style that could be in part described with the word “roughneck” (i.e. roughneck folk, roughneck blues, roughneck indie rock, etc.)

Whereas, it appears that Wilco (the band) meets at least a couple of these important characteristics,

Whereas, the Wilco show held on September 4, 2007 was an authentic Duluth experience that featured fog, a stiff cold wind, an ore boat, and a band that seemed to thrive in these elements. The band seemed to appreciate it every bit as much as we did.

Whereas, Wilco’s 2007 fog show in Duluth was the equivalent of two young lovers thrown into a phone booth to wait out a downpour (if the weather wasn’t so bad we’d still just be holding hands)

Whereas, Duluthians have a special appreciation for talent, authenticity, creativity, and a lack of pretense that Wilco represents – (it’s probably a Midwest thing)

Whereas, Wilco is generously supporting two Duluth charities: Little Treasures and the Duluth Community Garden program with sales of tonight’s concert poster.

Now, Therefore, I, Don Ness, Mayor of the City of Duluth do officially proclaim

Wilco as an “Honorary Duluth Band”

Be it further resolved that such status makes Wilco officially eligible to play Homegrown Music Festival (as long as the submitted demo doesn’t suck).


Which led to a resolution being drafted, probably introduced, and likely voted on during a council meeting on March 2 in Madison, which Cap Times city government reporter Kristin Czubkowski wrote about on her blog

The resolution (sponsored by Rhodes-Conway and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz at this point) reads:

"Title: Declaring the band Wilco and its members Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone, honorary citizens of the great City of Madison, Wisconsin.

Body: WHEREAS, Wilco has visited Madison and played concerts here at least thirteen times since 1995 (including a show at Club DeWash in February of 1995); and,

WHEREAS, Jeff Tweedy says of Madison: ‘We really like it here’; and,

WHEREAS, Wisconsinites generally have a love/hate relationship with all things from Illinois but the sold-out show at the Overture Center on February 21, 2010 (sic) had only love for this band from Chicago; and,

WHEREAS, at least one member of the Common Council attended the show and can attest to its excellence; and,

WHEREAS, The Isthmus called Wilco ‘America’s shiniest rock object’; and,

WHEREAS, Duluth, MN may be cool, but we would not want it said that either that fine city or its mayor are cooler than Madison and our mayor (even if Mayor Dave is not sure who Jeff Tweedy is); and,

WHEREAS, the City of Madison looks forward to many future visits by Wilco; and,

WHEREAS, It is generally true that late is better than never,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Common Council and Mayor declare the band Wilco and its members, Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone, honorary citizens of the great City of Madison, Wisconsin."

This sparring for Wilco’s love and affection has led to Chicago Public Radio reporter Andrew Gill telling Duluth and Madison to "back off." 

Anyone who knows Wilco knows they’re a Chicago band through and through. Just glance at the cover of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or listen to the tune “Via Chicago” for proof. Now some of our regional neighbors are trying to bask in the band’s glow.

Gill went to the mayor’s office to see if Chicago, Wilco’s hometown, has ever done anything similar to recognize the band — and was told there has never been any demand.

Here’s where the Strib talks about it. (Jon Bream opens with an important question: "Is Jeff Tweedy running for office? Or does he just like to bait his audiences?") Pitchfork gets in on the action. And City Pages use the word "whine" to describe Wilco. The Daily Swarm talks about it, too, but they use a different word than "whine."

Anyway, the resolution in Madison makes them honorary citizens, whereas the one here makes them an honorary band.


Here is a comment from Ness, noting the differences between the two awards (and his suggestion for how this could be added to the story in an aesthetically pleasing way). From Ness: 

A couple important differences jump out – Duluth vs. Madison (possible chart):


Delivered before the show
Proclamation used prominently during the show Official Proclamation of the Mayor Proclaimed them "honorary band"
Mayor Ness at the concert


Delivered only after absence pointed out by Band Not available to be used during show Resolution passed by city council Resolved members "honorary citizens"
Mayor Dave "is not sure who Jeff Tweedy is"

Note: Mayor Dave’s got a blog post about this here. And in a phone message to the DNT, he refuted the claims that he doesn’t know who Jeff Tweedy is: "Thanks so much for allowing me to correct that malicious rumor, everyone knows Jeff Tweedy lead singer of Snow Patrol," he said.