Greetings from Manchester, TN, where the present conditions are RAIN and I’M SOAKED, much as they were for approximately 85% of My Morning Jacket’s slow-starting but ultimately epic, three-hour midnight set at the Which Stage last night. There was a full day of photos before that, which we’ll get to later — including Metallica, and M.I.A.’s “last gig ever” (don’t worry she was joking), and Chris Rock, and etc. — but this is the start that feels right, ’cause Bonnaroo’s all about the late night. To that point, looking at the schedule yesterday I’d have thought tonight’s Sigur Rós set at 1AM followed by Kanye at 3AM would be the best of the fest’s nocturnal emissions. An Erykah Badu cover, a Kirk Hammet guest solo on “One Big Holiday,” and the advent of MMJ as the world’s greatest funk-cover-wedding band changed that. And I have the incredibly shitty, rain-drenched photos to back it up. But first, some more babble.
The “Evil Urges”/”Off The Record” set opening was perfectly sequenced for Bonnaroo: “Evil Urges” is a microcosm of the far-flung sounds of this festival — part virtuosic and spacey groove, part Dead-headed Jerry-meandering guitar lines, part rapid-fire roided up Southern Rock — in much the same way My Morning Jacket is the quintessential Bonnaroo band. But still, it was all uphill for that first hour. Cooling off. Getting wet. And the setlist wasn’t doing us many favors by way of rock distraction. By the time “Sec Walkin’” hit around 1AM, I wasn’t sure what to think. It was pouring, we were tired, and Jim was singing gently about his ambulatory process in a farmer’s hat.
It’s not easy for a band and a crowd to find a mutual groove in those conditions, especially as the weather continued to weed out the weak from the audience, but it all aligned around 1AM for “Lay Low”: the rain started coming down even harder to the point of hilarity just as Jim and Carl hit into that dual guitar solo bit, shades of the Allmans on the harmonizing lines. The rain swelled, the band leaned into it, the crowd roared, and it was ON. Giddiness. A few songs later I turned to my friend and said “I don’t know this song, must be new, but it sounds exactly like Badu’s ’Call Tyrone.’” And then Jim laid it out … “I think you better call Tyrone…” It wasn’t highly recognized amongst the now relatively intimate crowd huddled around the Which Stage, but I cut quite an image as a cackling Badu-quoting goofball in the drizzle.
The other thing I kept telling my friend, particularly during the ebbs in the set’s flow, was “this crowd needs ’One Big Holiday.’” When it finally came, at 2AM, Jimmy James introduced “an up and comer” named Kirk Hammett and MMJ capped their power hour with the six best minutes of live music I’ve seen this year. Of course, it was all in the moment: drenched but pumping arms, making friends with the other equally imbecilec folks silly enough to think the time waiting through the rain for something like this might be worth it (it was). The shit jammed, because it is the ultimate MMJ song. Insider tip: Kirk can solo. This is his back, in a hat and in the rain:
And then, “We’ve got a lot left in us, we know you have a lot left in you.” SET BREAK. Ha. I waited (and waded) through it and promised myself I’d stay ’til 3, and so I did. As a result, I witnessed the aforementioned advent of MMJ’s funk incarnation: James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” (with Jim doing a JB shuffle across the stage in a cape and hat), Funkadelic’s “Hit It And Quit It,” and “Get Down On It” by Kool And The Gang. Yes, Kool & The Gang. And yes, My Morning Jacket are available for your next bar mitzvah or corporate function. We laughed, danced, cheered. Look all I’m saying is, they’re the best festival band in America. We said it before. Nothing about that is controversial after you’ve seen ’em lay it out for you.
Now here’s the sadness: I knew leaving early I’d miss something. And I did. MMJ covered Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” with Zach Galifianakis as Little Orphan Annie. I don’t even know what that was about. But I bet there were beards involved.
Here are my terrible photos (I will make it up to you on the Metallica post, coming up…):
SETLIST (via mymorningjacket.com)
01 “Evil Urges”?
02 “Off The Record”?
04 “Hot Fun In The Summertime” (Sly & the Family Stone) *?
05 “Highly Suspicious”?
06 “What A Wonderful Man”?
07 “I’m Amazed”?
08 “Thank You Too”?
09 “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 1″?
10 “Sec Walkin”?
12 “Two Halves”?
13 “Lay Low”?
14 “Hit It and Quit It” (Funkadelic)?
15 “Tyrone” (Erykah Badu)?
16 “Steam Engine” –>drum solo?
18 “Aluminum Park”?
19 “Easy Morning Rebel” *?
20 “Dancefloors” *?
21 “One Big Holiday” (w/ Kirk Hammett)
22 “Cold Sweat” (James Brown) *?
23 “Get Down On It” (Kool & the Gang) *?
24 “Across 110th Street” (Bobby Womack) *?
25 “Wordless Chorus”?
26 “Phone Went West”?
28 “Oh Sweet Nuthin” (The Velvet Underground)?
30 “Bermuda Highway” (Jim James solo)?
32 “Run Thru”?
33 “Smokin From Shootin”?
34 “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2″?
35 “Home Sweet Home (Feat. Zach Galifianaks as Little Orphan Annie) (Mötley Crüe)
* w/Jeff Coffin on saxophone and the Nashville/Louisville Horns
My Morning Jacket are playing a New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden this year. If you have the means to get to NYC, that is what you’re doing on 12/31 right there. Thnks fr th mmrs, MMJ. No pressure, Jonsi and ’Ye.
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