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Watch Wilco’s Nels Cline perform a hair-raising guest solo onstage with Japanese Breakfast

Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, Nels Cline of Wilco
(Image credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Coachella / Ebet Roberts / Gettyq)

Nels Cline was invited onstage during Japanese Breakfast’s performance at Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA on Saturday (May 28) and produced a genuinely epic guitar solo for the occasion.

Cline joined Japanese Breakfast – the moniker and band name for songwriter and guitarist Michelle Zauner – for the penultimate song of their set, Posing For Cars to improvise a reported five-minute solo. 

Fan footage of the event shows various clips of Cline’s contribution and it is indeed a remarkable thing: airy, exploratory and full of clever changes of pace, from shreddy counter-melodies to spine-tingling bends. 

We didn’t think you could describe a five-minute lead workout as restrained, but somehow Cline manages to make it all sit gracefully within the wider framework of the track. 

It’s characteristic of a player who last year told Guitar World he “had no desire to gyrate and hump my amplifier and set my guitar on fire – I wanted to take a modest path”. 

Indeed, at points Cline seems to be almost shuffling off stage in an effort to avoid taking the spotlight. It clearly went down well with Zauner, who took to Twitter soon after to register: “Nels Cline just ripped a fucking solo on my fucking song.”

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Fortunately, Zauner was later given the chance to return the favor, when she appeared onstage during Wilco’s headline set later that day to perform vocals on Jesus Etc., from the band’s landmark 2001 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  

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Meanwhile, Cline and the rest of Wilco are keeping busy, having just released their huge new 21-track album, Cruel Country, which they performed in its entirety across the first of their two sets at Solid Sound Festival, on May 27.

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Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.