Jason Isbell, Wednesday team up for Riverside Theater show
Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires — arguably the first couple of Americana — opened up to the world in a big way a few weeks ago with the release of the HBO Max documentary, Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed. The pair, along with the rest of the 400 Unit, will bring that hard-earned chemistry to the Riverside Theater on Sept. 12 for a show that also features fast-rising band Wednesday.
The HBO Max project quickly joined the must-see pantheon of music docs — no surprise considering its director, Sam Jones, also put together 2002’s Wilco-focused I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. But it’s far from the only thing Isbell, Shires and company have in the pipeline.
On June 9, they’ll release Weathervanes, which ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson called a “collection of grown-up songs. Songs about adult love, about change, about the danger of nostalgia and the interrogation of myths, about cruelty and regret and redemption. Life-and-death songs played for and by grown-ass people.”
Like a lot of albums coming out right now, the pandemic had a part to play in the material. But, unlike pretty much all of those albums, so did Isbell’s time on the set of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. That’s where he wrote at least one of the tracks on Weathervanes while also observing Scorsese’s very egalitarian approach to making art.
“It definitely helped when I got into the studio,” Isbell said. “I had this reinvigorated sense of collaboration. You can have an idea, and you can execute it and not compromise — and still listen to the other people in the room.”
The show has a very simpatico opening act in Wednesday, another Americana-tinged rock outfit with a creative frontperson and increasingly collaborative setup. Led by Karly Hartzman, the band took two very large steps forward with 2021’s Twin Plagues and — just a few weeks ago — the universally lauded Rat Saw God.
Wednesday’s music is confessional and confrontational and very geographic, painting vivid scenes that make you feel like you’re standing in the middle of Hartzman’s memories. “Hot rotten grass smell.” “Bottles call you from their seats on the choir riser.” “Heard someone died in the Planet Fitness parking lot.” They’re songs very much of a place, even if you hear them sitting in a 2,500-person theater in Milwaukee.
Which you can! Tickets will be available during an eMember presale that starts at noon this Thursday, April 27 (code: RAIN), as well as a general sale at 10 a.m. the following day online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.