The Palace at 4am

We got some rather sad news this past weekend. Jay Bennett, a former member of Wilco, passed away in his sleep saturday night. He was one of those musicians that was very, very special to me.

You know how Summerteeth is a lushy and full of wonderful power pop? That way Jay. And how Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was so weird at times? That was Jay. His solo effots ran from bizarre (Bigger than Blue), to middling (Whatever Happened I Apologize) to just plain Wonderful (The Palace at 4am Part 1, The Magnificent Defeat).

I never got to see Jay play with Wilco, although Jason did many times. The first time I saw him was shortly after I moved to Portland, I’m gussing in May or June of 2002, at Dante’s. He was playing with his friend and collaborator Ed Burch. They did songs from their debut album (palace 1), a cover of Sweet Jane, and ended the evening playing “Junior” while sitting on the edge of the stage without a PA. I got him and Ed to sign my CD for me.

Even though its one of the stupidest songs ever, Juinor is one of my favorites. A straight up country number about being driven home from a bar by your 7 year old son who thinks all driving is like the plot of Smoky and the Bandit.

I saw him again a few months later at Berbati’s. Again with Ed Burch and I believe members of centromatic? This time they covered Gorilla, You’re a Deperado and a lovely version of One Too Many Mornings by Bob Dylan. In Portland tradition, the ended the evening with Junior and Jay refused to play until everyone was quiet. It took some time. afterward I had my photo taken with him.

Then he fell off the map for a long, long time. One night in December of 2006 Mary called asking if I wanted to be her plus one to see Jay that night. We didn’t even know he was going to be in town! So Jason, Mary and I saw him at Rotture. It was pretty sad. There were about four people in the audience, and only two of them paid to get it. But Jay was wonderful. He did a bunch of straight up rockers from his latest (and possibly best) album The Magnificent Defeat. We were so happy for him, the rocker was back! He ended the evening with a beautiful stripped down version of Like A Photograph.

Jason, Mary, and I hung out with him at the bar for a long time afterward. Then he had to go, had to get in the van to go to San Francisco. I offered him a place to stay next time he came through town. Jason thanked him for everything he ever did.

I guess that’s where to leave it. I’m heartbroken that he’s gone. I’m going to miss him terribly.

Thank you Jay, for everything


2 responses to “The Palace at 4am

  1. jeneraldisarray

    What a lovely goodbye…

  2. I was lucky enough to be in a band with Jay when I was 18 (he was 23) I instantly adored Jay and he and I became very close ( I was the little sister he never wanted 🙂 Jay was an amazing friend to me and I was enamoured with all he did. Although Jay and I have lived in the same town for about the last 5 or 6 years, I hadn’t seen him since we were both in Nashville on the same night almost 6 1/2 years ago. We spent the entire night (after his show) driving around and talking–I finally took him back to my sister’s house w/me (she was in the band too) and he crashed on the couch only to be awakened by my 4 year old niece asking, “Are you Uncle Jay?” to which, Jay laughed and answered in his cracking, low voice, “…well, yeah.” I loved Jay dearly and was already missing him before his departure. Thanks for posting such a nice story about our guy.

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