Written by Cat Fitzpatrick, Music Editor and Contributor.
The air at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards was thick, rife with anticipation. The moments leading up to the the Best Alternative Music Album likely plagued the mind of Chicago-based Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, who spent reportedly “every waking minute” perfecting the orchestration of the group’s latest 2015 release, Star Wars.
When describing the album, Tweedy, furnished with a scruffy beard and heavy bags under his eyes, was said to have had a far-off look in his eyes for a moment, while he gathered his thoughts. “It makes me feel limitless knowing there’s still possibilities and surprises in the world,” Tweedy proclaimed, looking at a fellow orange-line commuter for guidance, “you know?” The young man that Tweedy was talking to, a student, apologized, not realizing at first who Tweedy was nor that he was addressing him directly. “I couldn’t hear him at first,” the young man said. “I had my earbuds in.”
When Tweedy inquired as to what the student was listening to, the young man was quoted as saying, “Sound & Color, the new Alabama Shakes album. Have you heard them? They’re pretty good!”
Tweedy was seen glaring at the Brittany Howard, lead singer and guitarist of Georgian blues rock band Alabama Shakes, for much of the Grammy Awards. He was sporting a pair of Ray Bans, hiding behind his unkempt beard like so many fallen stars. One Alabama Shakes fan who was in attendance–a busty blonde dressed in cliched cheerleader garb, supposedly the paid escort of Rivers Cuomo–remarked that Tweedy looked “suspicious, menacing, not to be trusted.”
“I was worried about Tweedy,” Parks and Recreation star Rob Lowe told reporters months earlier, as he put down his saxophone and began oiling his six-pack abs. “It had been a while since his band earned any recognition. But they were great on the show! They were literally the most professional musicians I’ve ever worked with!” The age-defying actor laughed as he invoked his character Chris Traeger’s signature line.
Lowe wasn’t lying. Wilco won their last Grammy Award for their 2004 release, A Ghost is Born, for Best Alternative Music Album. Since then, the band has earned Grammy nominations for Best Rock Album in 2008 and 2012 (Sky Blue Sky and The Whole Love, respectively) and for Best Americana Album in 2010 for Wilco (The Album). They were also previously nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album back in 1999 for Mermaid Avenue.
Later that month on a music talk show, longtime Wilco supporter, fellow Chicagoan, and current U.S. president Barack Obama told Jay Z, “The thing of it is that Wilco defies musical categories.” He paused as he took a long drag of his cigarette. “Nels’s riffs on Sky Blue Sky were just too goddamn legendary and high voltage to place the band in one of their previously held categories. On the other hand, while Tweedy is a spectacular songwriter, his vocal sensibilities are a bit on the soft side.” When asked to elaborate, Obama simply said, “Shit’s rigged… he didn’t growl like a rabid dog enough to compete against and beat out Dave Grohl’s iconic rock n’ roll voice.” Jay Z, fascinated by Obama’s precise commentary, nodded in agreement.
As the announcer proclaimed “Alabama Shakes!” for Best Alternative Music Album, Jeff Tweedy’s face grew noticeably red with fury. But no one could stop what came next as, unexpectedly, as Howard and the rest of her band took the stage, Tweedy lunged at her like Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, wrestling Howard to the floor like an indignant R.P. McMurphy fed up and determined to put Nurse Ratched out of commission.
Alabama Shakes guitarist Heath Fogg attempted to jump to Howard’s savior with a roundhouse kick, but to no avail, as Tweedy had successfully wrestled Howard’s trophy from her hands and bolted off the stage and out of the venue before anyone could figure out what they had seen.
Tweedy, who was understandably upset over past losses to Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, took it upon himself to contact law enforcement officials to demand ransom. In addition to holding Howard’s trophy, he admitted he had sneaked up on a drunken Grohl after the singer left a bar, knocked him in the back of the head with a wooden bowling pin, and carried his unconscious body to his car, where he stuffed him into the trunk.
Now, weeks after the Grammy Awards, Tweedy is still in midst of a stagnant hostage negotiation. Refusing to give up Howard’s trophy, he has stressed that Shakes is far too new on the scene and that they haven’t “paid their dues.” He has also refused to release Grohl until a better deal can be agreed upon to appease all parties involved.