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Wilco guitarist promises to 'keep it rocking' at Bloomington's Castle Theatre

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BLOOMINGTON — Nels Cline, the guitarist for Grammy-winning rock band Wilco, said they’re ready for Bloomington.

"We're happy to be playing and seeing each other, the audience, and to be back in the live music scene," Cline told The Pantagraph in an interview Friday afternoon. "It's marvelous, of course, the only negative is that it's like walking on eggshells with the pandemic."

Wilco will headline the Black Dirt Music Festival this weekend as part of the historic Castle Theatre's 10th anniversary. 

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Wilco will headline the Black Dirt Music Festival on Saturday at the Castle Theatre in downtown Bloomington.

Wilco will be joined by special guests Backyard Tire Fire, Chicago Farmer & The Field Notes and Althea Grace. The Castle's doors open at 4 p.m. Saturday and the show begins at 5 p.m. in front of the theater on Washington Street in downtown Bloomington.

The festival will be Wilco's first show on their micro-run tour. The band was supposed to play the festival in 2020, but the event was postponed due to COVID.

The band previously played in the Bloomington area more than 25 years ago, when they were first starting out. Cline also used to play in a band with a friend from Bloomington over 30 years ago, which is when he first became familiar with the area.

"I always look forward to playing and making music happen," Cline said. "I just don't want people to feel like they're at risk going to see live music. We used to be able to say, 'See you at the after show,' but we can't do that anymore."

Wilco released their 11th studio album, "Ode To Joy," in 2019, and will be playing pieces from that album. Fans can also expect to hear their regular, more well-known songs at Saturday's show. That includes songs like "Shot in the Arm," which Cline now declares as their "vaccination anthem."

"We don't really have 'hits,' so we don't have to worry about that, but we want to keep everyone moving, keep it rocking and play what people want to hear," Cline said. 

The band has been working on new music, which isn't necessarily "in live shape," Cine said, but he promised it will be coming in the future.

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Wilco will headline the Black Dirt Music Festival on Saturday at the Castle Theatre in downtown Bloomington.

The festival takes place on the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Cline recalled being on his way to Belgium that morning. He had sprained his ankle badly and was sitting in a hotel with his leg up watching the World Trade Center be destroyed on the news. He played in New York just a few days later and could still smell the burning in the air.

"Playing on the anniversary of 9/11 is just more of a way to memorialize those first responders who lost their lives; it's important to remember them," Cline said.

Cline said the band truly gets along and loves working together. They're looking forward to the show and their micro-run, watching bad movies and eating pizza together afterward. 

"For the entire band, it's a privilege to be coming to this town, or any town, to play music for people, and that people still care about live music," Cline said. "We don't take that for granted."

Advance tickets for the festival are available for $55 at Tickets will also be available for $58 at the door the night of the show.

For more information on the artists and the festival, go to

Contact Olivia Jacobs at (309)-820-3352. Follow on Twitter: olivia___Jacobs.


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