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Wilco: The Product Guide

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 2, 2010 6:20PM

Photo by Michael Segal, via the band's MySpace page
Over the course of its illustrious career, Wilco has been many things: Offshoot of alt-country pioneers, up-and-coming act finding its own identity, experimental group making decade-definitive albums, and, finally, indie elder-statesman comfortable in their own skin. But everyone’s familiar with the band’s artistic evolution. What about all the band’s nominal food stuffs and athletic teams? In order to celebrate the recent screenings of Wilco’s concert documentary Ashes Of American Flags at the Gene Siskel Film Center, we decided to count down the list of recent products that have been either inspired or sponsored by the group.

Wilco: The Baseball Team
Wilco's Jeffy Tweedy has referenced his physicality before in self-deprecating fashion (saying in “Kicking Television” that he’s “working on his abs”), but a news update on the group’s website indicates that the band is more likely to hitting groundballs than doing sit-ups. That’s because Wilco is sponsoring not one, but two little league baseball teams in Chicago and Northampton, Mass., respectively. The Chicago team, the Royals, plays in the Warren Park Youth Baseball League, while the Mass. team is in the Northampton Little League, Junior Division. This seems like a natural place to make a joke about whether the teams will shift lineups as much as Wilco has, but who would do such a thing?

Wilco: The Festival
Wilco are a veteran festival act, so it makes sense that they would finally get one of their own, right? Back in April, Wilco announced the Solid Sound Festival which would be curated by the band, and include side projects and offshoots like The Autumn Defense and The Nels Cline Singers. Wilco announced a full-festival lineup which looks to rival heavy-hitters like Pitchfork or Lollapalooza. But the real Chicago-oriented coup d’grace comes in the form of Mavis Staples. Last Wednesday, it was announced on the Solid Sound Festival website that the legendary Chicago soul singer would join younger whippersnappers like Avi Buffalo, The Books and Mountain Man. Advance tickets for the three-day festival, set to take place at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art from August 13 - 15.

Wilco: The Sandwich
Despite the sweltering temperatures, summertime’s supposedly when the living is easy. While we contemplate the definition of “easy” by sweating enough to make Richard Nixon blush, we may help ourselves to a sandwich. Specifically, from the Sky Blue Sky Company in Toronto, Canada. As you may have guessed, the restaurant, which takes its moniker after Wilco’s underrated six studio effort, has sandwiches named after Wilco songs, like “Side With The Seeds” and “Hoodoo Voodoo.” The band informed its fans of Sky Blue Sky’s existence in March. You can look at the sandwiches yourself by perusing the menu.

Wilco: The Beer
On “Wishful Thinking”, a track from 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, Tweedy poses the following philosophical question: “Is any song worth singing, if it doesn't help?” It’s the kind of question that begs to be pondered meaningfully over a class of beer in a cool, dark watering hole. The imperial brown ale Wilco Tango Foxtrot, released by the Lagunitas Brewing Company based in California, is just the right kind of beverage to stir those musings. Our own Chuck Sudo recently reviewed the beer, taking note of its "rich flavor [and] bold hops". Brewsday described the brew as “rich, smooth, dangerous & chocolatey”, which also could double as a description for bassist John Stirratt’s vocal harmonies. Wilco Tango Foxtrot isn’t the only musician-inspired beer Lagunitas has released. They’ve also put out several Frank Zappa-referencing beers. (Before Zappa’s widow put the legal kibosh on the whole thing).