Local musician gets dream opportunity

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BRATTLEBORO — Most of us only dream of getting to sing onstage with our favorite musicians.

For Eben Viens, it was a reality on the first night of the Solid Sound Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art last month. He had won a contest for fans to sing karaoke with Wilco, the Chicago-based band that created the festival in 2010.

"It's still surreal to look at the photos," the resident and musician from Brattleboro said. "It's hard to believe it even happened."

Viens said about 10 fans were chosen after posting videos of themselves singing Wilco songs on Instagram or YouTube. At the festival, he recalled going to a dressing room, where he met crew and family members before being pulled into a small room for rehearsal.

"It was definitely a trip for me," he said, describing "a very, very, small backstage room," where winners of the contest played through the selected songs with conversations about how to begin and end them.

Viens performed "Monday," a song that appears on the 1996 album "Being There."

During Solid Sound, Wilco plays different sets involving the crowd. In 2013, the band performed 27 cover songs that had been requested by fans.

This year's festival had attendees from about 48 American states and more than 30 countries, Viens said.

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"They have some super fans who travel distances for this thing," he said, noting that the band's staff told him they hold the festival for their fans.

Viens estimates he was about 6 or 7 years old when he became a Wilco fan himself. He's 27 now.

"So it's been a long, long time," he said.

Viens said he felt the support of the band as well as their tour manager, staff and fans. People stopped to give him "heartfelt comments and critiques and thoughts" throughout the festival. He received a free pass for the weekend.

It was his first time going to the festival even though the venue is only about an hour away.

"I don't know what's kept me," he said. "I'm definitely going to be going back in the future."

Viens has been playing music since about the same age he started listening to Wilco. He writes songs and performs live. Earlier this year, Viens released an album he recorded in Putney. It's called "Big Star."

"It's kind of very pop rock, definitely some Jeff Tweedy influence in there, which is hard to get away from," he said, referring to Wilco's frontman. "I'm hoping this might propel me to do a little more, get me to write a little more and work on the next album."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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