I have always had a soft spot for Jeff Tweedy. Now, thanks to The Tweedy Show, I have a crush on the entire Tweedy family.
If you don’t know, The Tweedy Show is an Instagram Live show that began at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Jeff in the tub. It now airs several days each week at 9 p.m. CT and is essentially Jeff Tweedy and his kids shooting the shit and playing music, with Susie Tweedy behind the camera, recording and adding commentary.
Spoiler alert: Jeff hasn’t been in the tub since episode one.
The show began as an act of community building— something light and fun to do while we were all sheltering in place in our respective homes. The Tweedys welcome viewers into their Irving Park home, occasionally showing off some of their whimsical collectables or Jeff’s guitars, and the effect is decidedly greater than the sum of its parts.
There are some superfans who will have a different take than I do, but here are the ways The Tweedy Show has helped me maintain my sanity over the past few months.
I tune in for the music. The low-key, acoustic, singer-songwriter vibe is my favorite, so it appeals to my tastes. Sometimes Jeff sings. Sometimes Sammy (the youngest Tweedy) sings. Sometimes Spencer sings. They all play instruments. And they sing and play together.
On occasion, Spencer’s girlfriend Casey Gomez Walker joins in, and she is a bright star in her own right.
The playlist is eclectic — Wilco songs, covers, folk, rock, punk. etc. So while the show might not be for everyone, it kind of is for everyone.
The Break, The Distraction
By the time the show starts, my kids are tucked in bed and usually (hopefully) asleep. This means that it’s also the first quiet block of time in my day. I must use it wisely. I multitask: pour myself a whiskey, bring out the rower, and set up my iPad.
I relax, exercise, and get some entertainment all at the same time. In my normal, non-Covid life, it’s not a habit to sip whiskey while I work out, but for me, this spring has been a time of throwing away all previous rules and habits. I’m just trying to get through each day.
The Tweedy Show has been the one thing that has consistently helped me remove my brain from whatever cyclical spiral it is in, and for one hour, I listen, find distraction, and scribble down songs to look up later.
It has been a real gift. It sounds a bit silly, probably. But before I really knew how much I was enjoying the show, they changed up the cadence a bit (as well they should), and I found myself missing them on the nights when I was rowing and sipping whiskey to nothing.
I tried other things, but it wasn’t the same.
I would not call them normies, but there is something refreshing about the Tweedy family. They are authentic, and it doesn’t seem like an act.
Jeff Tweedy doesn’t have to be relatable. He is in an industry that is usually blind to how to make that kind of approach work.
As it were, Jeff usually wears pajama bottoms during the show. He rotates 3–4 different shirts. Some viewers (i.e., “clients”) commented on this, and he responded with sincerity, “They’re just my clothes.” He puffs up with pride when his kids play, and when Susie gives him a hard time, he responds like any man who knows his wife is the boss of the home.
The boys (Spencer and Sammy) are gifted and sweet, and even though their talent is immense, they are grounded and real when they’re sharing something for the first time, when they make a mistake, or when they share their thoughts on the current state of the world.
When the current protests began, they too were gutted at the ongoing violence and disregard for black lives that is so deeply ingrained in the history of our country. They, like many, grappled with big questions. Jeff opened a conversation, saying, “[The Tweedy Show] seems meaningless to do at this moment. Does it provide a purpose?”
Since then, the show has aired less frequently, but it is my sense that their questioning, uncertainty, and desire to show up in a useful way allows other white allies to feel a collective sense of acknowledgement that showing up messily is better than not showing up at all.
There are many artists and performers who have gone live throughout the pandemic. Some have been great — some not so great. Some are fundraisers, some are one-song events, some a bit masturbatory.
The Tweedys, on the other hand, are asking for nothing. They seem surprised when 1,000–1,500 people log on to watch them. They appear as a nice midwestern family, hanging out in the neighborhood adjacent to my own, trying to navigate these very troubled and bizarre times together, with the help of music.
I think that is because that’s precisely who they are.