I know kvelling about family members can be insufferable on blogs, especially if you have a tendency to overdo it (which I do), but how can I not mention my nephew Spencer’s unique celebration of his thirteenth birthday this week?
Spencer’s birthday fell on the last day of Wilco’s tour with Neil Young so the whole family hightailed it to New York to catch the last concert at Madison Square Garden. During the set, Jeff called Spencer to the stage to sit in with the band. As I’ve mentioned before, I think that Wilco’s drummer, Glenn Kotche, is one of the finest percussionists in the history of rock. I’ve spent many a Wilco show staring in awe at Glenn’s sweat-soaked genius. The only other drummer I know who is such a natural is Spencer Tweedy. From the time he was a toddler, Spencer has been drumming on anything he could get his hands on, whether it was the kitchen table, his car seat, or his little brother. He plays the drums in his own band and has already had gigs in front of appreciative crowds.
But nothing like the hordes who filled Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Before Spencer started playing, Jeff mentioned that it was his son’s birthday and the crowd sang their birthday wishes. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be sung to by 15,000 people, from Bill Murray and Amy Poehler to Donald Trump and thousands of fans who traveled across the country (and the world) to see this show. (The last time I heard “Happy Birthday” sung at Madison Square Garden it was Marilyn Monroe singing it to President Kennedy!) It brought tears to my eyes when I first read about the spontaneous birthday tribute to Spencer and I cried again when my sister sent me this shaky video clip of the moment:
What I really wanted to show you was the song itself. Spencer played “The Late Greats” with the band and he killed. But the clip wouldn’t come through my email, darn it. The only other video I have is the applause at the end of the song, another high point of my nephew’s birthday, I would say:
I laughed at my brother-in-law’s tongue-in-cheek comment at the end of the clip, following his son’s appearance in such a vaunted venue: “It’s all downhill from here, kid!” Of course he was kidding and I have no doubt both my nephews will go on to do amazing things, whether they are in the public eye or not. We would’ve been there cheering Spencer on but Tuesday was also the night my daughter opened as Snoopy in a local production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” (Leah was brilliant in the role but I’ll try to limit my insufferable kvelling to one family member per post!)
Happily, Spencer is far too grounded to let any of this go to his head. And that’s a good thing, because yesterday, Rolling Stone published an article called “Spencer Tweedy, Boy Genius.”
While the blockbuster tour featuring Neil Young and Wilco wound to a close last night at Madison Square Garden, Spencer Tweedy was celebrating his coming-out party. Spencer—son of Jeff Tweedy—celebrated his 13th birthday last night, playing drums on the A Ghost Is Born gem “The Late Greats” during Wilco’s set. Then, the entirety of MSG sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Spencer has been playing drums since he was two. He formed his first band when he was six—their repertoire consisted of one song, Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer.” The band was called the Blisters, then changed their name to Tullymonster. (They discovered that there's another band called Tullymonster, so Tweedy's trio is currently nameless.) “Hopefully we'll have our #1 album out by next year,” he says.
When he's not performing, Tweedy enjoys reading—he's almost done with the Christopher Paolini's fantastical novel Brisingr—and venting on his blog. In fact, prior to his trip to New York, he wrote: “On my birthday, I will be with my family for a hopefully and surely amazing rock concert. My dad, Jeff Tweedy, and his band, Wilco, will be performing before the iconic rock legend, Neil Young, takes the stage. I absolutely can’t wait.”
Above are backstage photos of my nephews with the brilliant Will Arnett and Amy Poehler (the Lunt and Fontanne of modern comedy) and one with Jack McBrayer who plays NBC intern Kenneth on our favorite show, “30 Rock.” (My sister said she expected McBrayer to sound totally different from his character but he was surprisingly like Kenneth. He even called her Ma’am!)
Just a typical thirteenth birthday celebration, right? Let’s see, on September 4, 1972, the day I turned thirteen, I spent the evening in my room watching Mark Spitz win his seventh gold medal and getting engrossed in a rerun of “Marcus Welby, M.D.”
Happy Birthday, Spencer!