My Morning Jacket, Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA, 9/7/12 – As soon as I saw the ad for the My Morning Jacket show in my goto punk rag – The Stranger – I immediately hit the interwebs, went to the Ticketbastard web site and got two tickets and invited my wife. My wife doesn’t go to many shows – sadly she has rheumatoid arthritis and can’t join me at the club gigs where you have to stand for a few hours. Not that she’d want to – our music taste differs slightly. But, I had the feeling that a summer night at Marymoor outside with a picnic dinner and some lawn chairs would be an easy sell. Gladly, it was.
I’d never been to Marymoor Park, although we’d tried once before. We had tickets to the park to see Death Cab for Cutie a few years back, but I’m pretty sure I accidentally put those tickets in the mail. I learned to stop putting tickets in envelopes in the same place as the outgoing mail at our house. I hope someone got to enjoy the show. Given that I’d never been, had screwed myself out of going once and that I am a recent and passionate My Morning Jacket (MMJ) convert, I was very much looking forward to the show.
I’ve experienced MMJ in reverse order. I’d heard some songs from their recent records “Z” and “Evil Urges” on our beloved Seattle KEXP, had heard enough to intrigue me to sit down and really give a serious listen to their latest, 2011’s “Circuital”. It’s awesome, from beginning to end. Not a bad track on it. A great blend of psychedelic rawk, upbeat toe-tapping folksy tunes and none of it takes itself too seriously. They play somewhere in the space between Wilco and Kings of Leon. Thankfully closer to the Wilco side. I found myself many a time singing to myself playing the album near full blast in the car. It completely satisfied and had me wanting to start back again from the beginning.
From there, I went back and got a feel for “Z”, an album I actually had in my digital collection but hadn’t really explored. It was the first album that saw the departure for the band from their earlier, southern folk rock sound. I like to think that bands like MMJ or Wilco have been influenced by Radiohead to push the boundaries of their rock sound. Probably my Radiohead bias creeping in, but I think there’s something to it. MMJ could have been a largely forgettable band had they stayed on the course set out on their early records. Whatever had them adding to their sound, it’s a course I very much appreciate. The follow up to “Z” was “Evil Urges”, which finds lead singer Jim James exploring some falsetto levels of his voice. It firmly established the more fun side of the band. I almost think of the two records as one experience, since I really heard them both for the first time so close to one another. Through all of this MMJ broke into my current top 10 bands, no small feat for someone who always has a crowded musical mantlepiece.
Marymoor Park is a great place to see a show. Their summer musical calendar is kind of limited, but if you can find a band you’d like to see there, I highly recommend it. The live stage is tucked into the corner of a very large state park and holds about 5,000 people. My wife and I had big plans for the night (more on that later) and had someone bringing our daughter home from day care, so we were fee and clear to get to the spot early and enjoy the evening and have a bite to eat. The rules are very lax at Marymoor Park, also making it super enjoyable. Just don’t bring in booze or glass and you’re fine. Bring in a beach chair, a picnic, sit and enjoy. Swing on over to the beer tent and bring a beer back to your spot. My wife picked up a box of Ezell’s Fried Chicken and we packed a cooler full of accoutrement and were well on our way.
I’ve never eaten fried chicken at a concert before and I highly recommend it. I wasn’t immediately hungry, so I didn’t start eating until MMJ had started and there was still a bit of light in the sky. I highly recommend that experience if you can get it. Nice night, sitting in a beach chair with my wife, drinking a beer, eating fried chicken and listening to some live rawk music from one of my favorite bands. I loves me a good rawk club show, but it’s hard to beat the rock n’ roll high life.
So, how was the show itself? Great. Although I didn’t think so at first. The show played out the same way as their catalog, with their earlier stuff coming first, and the more psychedelic later catalog coming later in the show. It made me nervous at first that I wasn’t going to know as many songs or enjoy the show as much, but it turned a corner for me mid way through the show. I started to recognize a lot more songs and enjoy the set a lot more. Their sound is so well suited for an outdoor setting. Big, spacey drawn out sonics driven by a great Southern rawk tradition that keeps it from ever getting too jam bandy.
It is the 2nd half of MMJ’s career that occupies that psychedelic space that I like the most and I was glad to see the concert head in that direction. They played many of the songs I wanted to hear. Now, I’m realizing that I didn’t catch up on one of their records – It Still Moves. I’m looking forward to going back and seeing what that sounds like. Kind of works in my favor though, since we left the show a bit early and missed a few of the encore tracks from that record. See a link to the set list below.
I typically don’t leave a show early, especially one that I look forward to this much for a band this good. But, my wife and I were going to a club opening here in Seattle. Yeah, we’re that cool and I’m that vain to mention it. This never happens anymore for this married couple with a 3 year old. A concert and a club opening in one night. Any kind of club opening for that matter. Turns out our night was kind of like the two halves of MMJ’s career as well – the earlier, mellow, but awesome part and the later, crazier and a bit more wild part. Two flavors that go great together!