Okonokos, last week in an effort to further acquaint myself with the band's live aesthetic, but what I was really given upon viewing was a mere taste of the viscous attack that these Kentucky-rockers unleash upon unsuspecting fans.
My night started off closely mirroring the unfolding events of the DVD - an oddball party guest drifting in and out of eavesdropping on conversations at a bourgeois estate in the country. Slowly losing his grip on reality, he befriends an outcast llama and the two make their way out of the house and into the forest, stumbling upon My Morning Jacket burning down The Fillmore in San Francisco. The only differences were that I was at Stubb's, and I wasn't wearing a top hat. The llama was overdressed.
After fellow Kentuckians Wax Fang ended their loud, fuzzy, stoner rock set, the crowd quickly grew, and with no shortage of plaid pearl-snaps around, that Southern Rock vibe was thickening. It is no secret that for most of their catalogue, My Morning Jacket has been likened to Skynyrd (the hair might be something to do with it), it just sort of goes with the territory if you're from Kentucky and your sound works well in a festival setting like Bonaroo. But what I was looking forward to most this night was the slight departure and immense promise '05's Z showed. The near perfect combination of reverb-soul and melodic rock riffs that emerged from that album was filling me with excitement leading up to the show. As the house lights went down and the quick melody to "One Big Holiday" picked away, you could see that same excitement and anticipation being let loose with hairy head-banging.
With the last note pounded out, the guys all dropped their instruments and joined together center-stage, arms locked, and towels out. Waving goodbye and goodnight with thanks, they left the stage and the confusedly entertained crowd wanting more. They returned momentarily and proceeded with what would be the greatest encore of all time.
Ripping through tracks off of 2001's At Dawn and 2003's It Still Moves, My Morning Jacket did nothing but please. Newest members Bo Koster and Carl Broemel justified their positions at keys and lead guitar, respectfully. The latter tearing through extended jams on "What A Wonderful Man," "Off The Record," and the amazingly melodic end to "Lay Low." Drummer Patrick Hallahan was impressive in his outright smashing of the skins, his hair giving off a mystifying glow in its nappy, backlit haze. Frontman/ideaman Jim James was, in one word, satisfying. His high yelps on "Wordless Chorus" sent the Skynyrd fans into unfamiliar territory as he single handedly formed the setting into a soulful reggae jam, and the almost natural echo to his voice added to "Dondante" the extra special anguish only a blues song can. Bassist Two Tone Tommy suffered one of the only downsides to Stubb's outdoor stage, his thumping somewhat lost in the open air.
James even helped set the scene for the crowd, explaining his love for the feel of the grotto. His description almost sounded like a cryptic plug for their new live release, narrating the feeling that the crowd had inadvertently stumbled upon this show as they wandered through a forest.
After actually heading off stage in preparation for a "second" encore, I felt the crowd begin to rustle. Taking this as a cue to head inside and close a tab, I felt the similarities to the DVD creep back up. As the bartender handled my tab, I watched My Morning Jacket slowly join back on stage, James clutching a stuffed Mastodon, Broemel bobbing back and forth. The noise grew louder as I walked back out to the building climax of "Mahgeetah" and "Anytime," cymbals crashing, hair flowing. My Morning Jacket had hit the crowd perfectly on this chilly November night in such a way that you didn't feel the bite in the air.
With a true goodnight and giving of thanks, the group headed offstage and I, like my DVD counterpart, was now left to make my way out of the forest, and into the concrete jungle where I parked my car. The only thing standing in my way was a giant man-eating grizzly bear. OKONOKOS!
"One Big Holiday"
"Off the Record"
"Just One Thing"
"It Beats for You"
"O is the One that's Real"
"Phone Went West"
"Tonite I Wanna Celebrate with You"
by Kyle Rother