Who is this guy? Standing on the side front lawn of his cozy Germantown home. Where is his family? Do they know their loved one is struck, standing outside like a turkey in the rain? Not quite there. This was probably just a spasm that happens every once in a while. Grandpa will disown his white hair and believe he is a fairy. The other fairies call him from the sky and he’s so seduced by their pleading choir that he actually gets out his chair to go outside and listen. He stands and listens to the sounds that fairies make.
It was supposed to storm this evening, when My Morning Jacket would reign in another sold-out hometown run — and again the following day — in Louisville’s only amphitheater venue at the overlooked, but righteous, Iroquois Park. And I was on my way to the show Thursday night when I saw that hopeless white man on his lawn staring at the sky. He could have been looking for the rain — hey grandpa, I’m was searching too. But it turns out even if the most essential item to bring that night was not an umbrella, but a supply of argon oil to accommodate all of that gorgeous frizz on stage, you’re still not allowed to bring umbrellas into the venue. Mine is somewhere in the bushes.
MMJ’s lush stage setup comprised of potted trees and arrangements of tulips, roses, and assorted blooms. It was my first time seeing My Morning Jacket in my 8 years of being a music fan living in Louisville — Gonzo Today asked me to write about the show based on this fact. The stage was so visually welcoming… I couldn’t expect to have an awful experience after seeing that. And thanks to an event volunteer named Kara, who handled the press people better than anyone else, I watched it in full frontal view.
The show, overall, felt like a long, warm hug after a cold bullshit-laden day. The hug lasted for just under two hours, and my editor (who was in attendance taking photos) said it was the “soberest” MMJ crowd he’d ever seen. While he got into some gonzo drama with the venue security, I tried to stay focused on what was going to happen on stage. The show had not even started before a security staff member berated him more than once for merely standing in the aisle, pre-show, and with visible photo credentials.
It was a pretty special set for Louisville-based trio, Twin Limb, who opened the evening with unhurried momentum. The crowd could not shut the fuck up, at first, but the fairies on stage weren’t really fazed. They knew what they had to do… What doesn’t come right away, only makes drummer Maryliz Bender bang harder and Lacey Guthrie belt louder… and not necessarily by exerting force on her full-size keyboard accordion that she will on occasion swap for electric keys. No. Momentum is forced through the instrument. Between them, Kevin Ratterman’s neck hung over an electric guitar. They faced each other on stage communicating shit, and we were just listening in… then I had a passing thought about putting them on one of those rotating platforms like Billy Joel uses for his piano. You just feel what they play. At one point Jim James joined in with an acoustic guitar to cover Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.”
Trees, blooms, artificial bulbs…
MMJ took the stage. If there isn’t music playing, I’m noticing clothing… Blankenship, Hallahan, Koster, Breomel, and their favorite stuffed bear, dressed routinely suave. James wore his jacket and a pair of red shades with heart-shaped frames.
The band spoke to me during the most unspoken breakdowns, forgetting lyrics to play around heavy rhythms on tops of rippling chords, layered textures (that aren’t too fancy) with the added sass of James’ guitar playing. He hadn’t said shit to the audience by the first encore. And they had only played one Prince song, “Purple Rain,” with members of Twin Limb to close the first set. The weight of Prince’s death was still very present as James treated the solo like a sore wound. I hoped, at least, he’d seen my Prince & 3RD-EYE-GIRL shirt writhing in the front row before he tossed a tulip in my direction at the end of the show. The moment was ruined, however, when this bitch next to me reached out to snatch the bulb right off, and I’m left holding this green stem like a turkey in the rain.
I know that hometown shows are added pressure and that we all really miss Prince. This was only my first encounter, but I can see that my editor was probably right. If not completely sober, then somber at moments, and all done in love.