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Monsters of Folk @Philadelphia Academy of Music 11/9

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

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Monsters of Folk would like you to think that they exist as somewhat of a joke.  Here we have a band, comprised of four towering names on the indie marquee, whose mere presence is enough to have rock nerds – like myself – collectively salivating onto their copies of Paste.  Taking such a band seriously simply invites too much dork lust… and hope.  God forbid these titans – Jim James, M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Moggis (Oberst’s musical partner-cum-producer) – create something vastly inferior to their individual output.

I think it has officially been agreed upon that the album which emerged was not a failure, but nor was it a triumph.  The vibe I’ve picked up on, is that a fan who hasn’t heard it should imagine a collection of the b-grade songs from each artist’s best albums.  So it could be worse, it could be better.  Quite frankly, I think that’s better for everyone involved.  The album will be a pleasant, semi-forgettable footnote in each of these guys already-storied careers.

I’m thrilled to announce, though, that the live experience is far from forgettable.  It was one of those ‘experience’ shows.  One that two fans will be able to have a great conversation about in 3 years.  “Oh, you saw THAT tour?!”  Look, the whole project is, as I noted, a dream for the fans.  But the live show is where that dream is fully realized.  It’s rare that you get a concert with such a variety of emotion.  There were tender moments, there were dark moments, there were explosive moments – almost all of the latter courtesy of Jim James, My Morning Jacket’s captain and one of the most exciting men in rock and roll.  I won’t lie, I was there for Jim James.  That there were a noticeable amount of MMJ fans really brought me back to the sweaty, glorious, baptisms of the Jacket shows.

However, just because I’m a MMJ fanboy, does not mean I was distracted from the very real talent on stage with James.  I had always been a casual follower of Oberst’s work, but had shied away from the live show for fear that he would be a bore on stage.  This, I found out, is not true.  Oberst is most likely one of these guys who’s painfully shy in person, but uses the live show to erupt into the big personality he secretly wants to be.  Either way, it’s clear that both he and his songs were born to be on stage.

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(I’ve always desperately wanted this guitar.)

If James and Oberst were the personalities, then Ward and Moggis were the talent.  Each man played every instrument (except drums), but only Ward and Moggis seemed comfortable on anything other than a guitar.  Now, Moggis – whom I actually met before the show, and was incredibly gracious – has made his name by on musical versatility, and is no stranger to almost any instrument with strings.  However, while I always knew that Ward ripped on the guitar, I had no idea he was confident on bass, keys, and pedal steel.  The two men were very impressive, and I’m sure gained a slew of new fans by night’s end.

The MOF show was my first in which the cast on stage differs from song to song.  For instance, Oberst and Moggis performed an assured “We are Nowhere and it’s Now”, only to be followed by two solo M. Ward outings, only to be followed by the full cast performing James’ “Golden” in all of its luster.  If nothing else, the boys succeeded in their attempts to create a modern version of Dylan’s famed “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour, which popularized the rotating cast approach in the mid 70’s.  It was palpable that the boys were living their own version of a rock dream, and the Dylan allusion must have been the cherry on top.  Unfortunately, their sound is probably more akin to the Travelling Wilbury’s – another piece of the Dylan mythology – than the dusty war-cry of the “Revue”.

Lastly, I want to say a little something about the venue.  Too many young, broke, rock fans – myself included – get too comfortable seeing shows in gyms, basements, and other less-than-dapper establishments.  I have a message for all of them: take the hit, drop some bills, and see a show in a classy, upscale venue – much like the Philadelphia Academy of Music.  There’s just something about venues like this – with the their velvet, high ceilings, and chandeliers – that create a sense of intimacy you can’t find in a normal, standing room.  They make you feel entitled, which, whether you are or not, makes the show that much more enjoyable.  Plus, there’s something undeniably awesome about rocking out in the same seat as a half-dead octogenarian the following night.

gallery_enlarged-_mg_1737*photos courtesy of stereogum

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Categories: Music Tags: , ,

Jimmy James

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

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If I would live in a mansion, I’d probably just sleep out on the deck. – JJ

Categories: About Me Tags: ,

Food for Thought…

October 7, 2009 Leave a comment

wesley-willis

“You are handsome like Gretel… you are a good friend… you are on my side… you are on my side with the Midas touch.”

Wesley Willis 1963 – 2003

Categories: Music Tags: , ,