My Morning Jacket at Starr Hill
Mark my words: Louisville, Kentucky, is the next big thing in the world of indie music.
With success stories like the Strokes and White Stripes making indie the "in" thing (and thus "out" for the premature curmudgeons who can't stand bands with fan bases or names less cumbersome than Godspeed You Black Emperor!), it's easy to imagine that alt-country is going to be the Next Big Insider Thing.
And what better epicenter than Louisville? It's big enough to draw big-name rock and country acts, has a large and varied music scene, and has enough legitimate homegrown cred to pull it off.
Besides, they've got My Morning Jacket, critical darlings of the indie-Americana idiom. This five-piece fronted by born-and-bred Louisvillian Jim James have been getting a lot of press coverage this year and are signed on to open for Guided By Voices’ tour later this summer (that’s a good sign, right?).
For all the talk of indie-ness and alt-ness, though, there's not much separating My Morning Jacket from the guitar-heavy soundtrack of aromatic smoke-filled apartments everywhere. You know: Led Zeppelin, The Band, stuff these young’uns were probably conceived to.
Take a look at MMJ's song lengths, fondness for plaid, and truly grotesque quantities of hair– My Morning Jacket is a classic rock jam band in indie outfits. They’ve got a penchant for the epic in their jams, which usually works out pretty well, and they get a lot of mileage out of their two-guitar-plus-keyboards set up.
Sure, James sounds kind of like Neil Young (although sometimes he goes in for a bit of Eddie Vedder), but his vocals have little impact on MMJ’s live show, which is largely instrumental.
Stand with your feet 18 inches apart. Cross your arms. Put on some old Roy Orbison. Keeping your toes planted, raise and lower your right heel to the beat and nod your head knowingly. This was the dance performed by most of the crowd at Starr Hill, and it's a testament to the driving power of their songs.
With the exception of Jim James' tepid solo excursion (lead singers really need to learn not to do that), the show ranked higher on the Starr Hill rock-o-meter than Frank Black did (but not up there with Built to Spill… yet).
Word on the street was that local music titan/capitalist Coran Capshaw, whose bedtime may explain the show's absurdly early 9:30pm start, was taking a gander at My Morning Jacket as a possible addition to his ATO Records roster. I’d say, “Go for it, Coran.”
Never hurts to bank on something from Louisville.