Wilco fans (from left) Jeff Wolniakowski, Kris Erickson and Brooke Brown play The Traveling Willburys' "Handle with Care" with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy at a private house concert in suburban Chicago. (Uyen Phan photo)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Music fans sometimes go their entire lifetimes without ever meeting the people who've made the music that changed their lives. Most of the time, the best they can hope for is a decent seat at a live show.Three weeks ago, Charleston's Brooke Brown got to play a song with Jeff Tweedy, the front man and creative force behind alternative rock band Wilco
."This guy is the Bob Dylan of my generation," the 39-year-old Brown said. "He's just an amazing songwriter."Through a Chicago-based charity auction, Brown and about a dozen others banded together to bid on a private living room show with Tweedy, who lives in the Chicago suburbs."Jeff has been doing this for about nine years," Brown said. "I'd heard about it through other fans and even had a couple of friends who'd gone to these shows."These were all friends he met through the band, just from being a fan. Some of them Brown said he only knew from talking online, but when the opportunity to participate in the auction arose, he didn't hesitate to contribute to the pool.Brown declined to say how much the group bid to have Jeff Tweedy play for them or how much he contributed."We all put in what we could," he said.
But they won, and Tweedy was obligated to come play a show for about 30 people.So, on Oct. 26, Brown and his wife flew to Des Plaines, Ill., where they attended the show at the house of his friends, Kris and Alison Erickson. Brown said all of them were allowed to submit song suggestions in advance. These could be from Wilco's catalog of music, Uncle Tupelo
(the band that preceded Wilco) or even cover tunes Tweedy knew."And Jeff likes people playing with him on a song," Brown said.
So Brown asked about a couple of them playing The Traveling Wilburys' "Handle with Care."
Tweedy said OK, and eight songs into his set, he invited Brown, Jeff Wolniakowski and Kris Erickson to join him."I'd practiced like crazy," Brown said.
When the time came, Brown played and sang one of the leads, while Tweedy played along and sang the chorus. Brown said it was an amazing moment but over in a flash.Tweedy finished his set, mingled a bit, signed autographs (including Brown's guitar) and referred to Brown and his friends as The Dingleburys."I'm pretty certain it was a term of endearment," Brown added.Tweedy went home, but the people at the house stuck around and played music for a while.While he said it was just an incredible experience to meet someone whose music he admired so much, Brown said what really stuck with him was how the music had brought them all together."I've known some of these people for 10 years," he said. "They came from all over the country, from San Francisco, New York, Maryland, Oklahoma and Texas."
Brown didn't say he had plans to embark on some kind of music career of his own."I've played guitar for year. I've always just strummed on it, played it for fun, but I've never ever played it in public."But it was an amazing experience."The crowd was singing along, and I really felt the support of the people in the room. It was just an amazing experience. I don't know how you top it." Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org