Number 82 guitarist of all time

Wilco guitarist Nels Cline remembers playing San Diego

Nels Cline, far right, says his time playing in Wilco doubles his audience at shows with his new outfit The Nels Cline 4, “and I’m grateful for this.”
  • Nels Cline, far right, says his time playing in Wilco doubles his audience at shows with his new outfit The Nels Cline 4, “and I’m grateful for this.”
  • Courtesy of Blue Note Records
Past Event

The Nels Cline 4

  • Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 7 p.m.
  • Loft, 9500 Gilman Drive, San Diego

Nels Cline, who was listed by Rolling Stone at number 82 in the “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time,” is probably best known to the general public as the lead guitarist of the band Wilco. Cline will be making a rare San Diego appearance with his own band the Nels Cline 4 featuring fellow guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Tom Rainey on Tuesday February 19 at the Loft.

Cline’s aesthetic runs the gamut from free jazz to experimental rock. I asked him what fans could expect from his upcoming show.

“We’ll be playing music from the new album, Currents, Constellations and maybe some new tunes of mine,” Cline said via email. “It depends on our mood, though we generally start with a short directed improvisation that leads into the opening song on the new record.”

Cline grew up in Los Angeles, and I wondered if he frequented our town when he was coming up.

“I haven’t played there very much, I’m afraid. I used to come down to play the Casbah in the ’90s with either Mike Watt or the Geraldine Fibbers, which is how I heard the amazing San Diego band Clikatat Ikatowi. Anyway, without [Fresh Sound promoter] Bonnie Wright, I’m not sure if I would have made it down there, because I had no idea how to book a concert of forward-leaning music down here.

“My standout memory is of playing a festival at San Diego State with Mike Watt and the Crew of the Flying Saucer in ’95. We were on second to last, after bands like Sublime, Bush, Better Than Ezra, and Matthew Sweet. After Watt it was Duran Duran! The contrast was pretty hilarious. Simon Le Bon was prancing around in his pink vinyl pants after Watt played a set where he broke a string and changed it in two minutes while talking to the crowd. That was a memorable night in San Diego!”

Joining Wilco in 2004 must have been a life changer.

“It’s changed my daily reality considerably. People say hello to me on the street and in airports, and they say nice things. I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be happening if I hadn’t joined the band. And while I’m not sure if Wilco fans are always down with a lot of my recordings or collaborations, they are at least curious and supportive enough to double my audience at shows, and I’m grateful for this.”

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