Friday, June 17, 2011

Keep It Simple

In an effort to write a little more, I'm introducing a new feature to my corner of the interweb. It's called "Awesome or Lame." Let me break it down for you.

I consume a lot of entertainment options. And, shocking as it may be, I tend to have opinions about these things. But rather than apply a 1-to-5 rating scale, I prefer something a little more straightforward. Hence, "Awesome or Lame."

So, following those times when I take in (and these are listed in order of likelihood and/or frequency) a movie, television show, album, concert, play, musical, art gallery opening or poetry slam, I'll provide the definitive word on whether it's worth your time. Cool? Cool. Let's begin.

Awesome or Lame: My Morning Jacket, Live at the Riverside Theater, 6/16/2011.
Photo by Jeff Sainlar / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Having heard MMJ described as everything from "the best thing to happen to rock music in years" (yay) to "the jam band for people who don't like jam bands" (boo), my expectations were equally scattershot for this one. In retrospect, I should have set the bar based on the hour or so I spent in line outside the theater.

After the unflinchingly fawning reviews the band got last time through Milwaukee, I opted for tickets in the pit and thus found myself waiting with the rest of the throng on the corner of Wisconsin and Plankinton avenues, an intersection that must have been confused by the large, ethnically non-diverse group of people who remained there despite the many available buses that stopped to let people board.

In this scene from the 1985 classic "Better Off Dead,
 John Cusack takes crap from the guy just in front of me
 in line to see My Morning Jacket.
Those around me fell into two camps: people you would mistake as homeless except for the fact they had much nicer phones than me, and people who could easily pass for the villain in an early John Cusack movie.

In other words, these were individuals who fill most of their days with recreational drug use and coming up with ways to spend $80 on shoes that look like the ones my dad wore when he was scraping the crap from underneath the push mower. That left me, a person who gets his money from a company with a six-story building in downtown Milwaukee instead of his parents or tips at Sbarro, feeling a mite out of place.

Yet I remained hopeful. Having listened to and thoroughly enjoyed MMJ's last two albums, I entered the theater, fresh off my sixth chastising by Cusack villain to not cut in front of him and the rest of his friends, who no doubt were excited to exert their dominance somewhere besides the ski hill.

It's important you have a crystalline image of my linemates because of an important divide between them and me: I want—nay, demand—that a concert be high energy, fast paced and virtually free of ballads. They want a concert that sounds awesome right after (or while) you smoke a shit-ton of weed.

Guess who got their wish? I'll give you a hint: The people who, upon leaving the concert, said, "That was amazing," shortly thereafter said, "We should totally get some Qdoba."

Before I quickly break down the band's performance, one note: The first MMJ album I bought was "Evil Urges," which was largely derided by the faux-meless and Cusack villains for mixing a little retro-funk into a solid rock album. I mean, it only had three songs longer than 5 minutes! How the hell are you supposed to maintain a buzz when the music keeps ending after 180 seconds?!?!?! Anyway, I liked it.

So you can imagine my disappointment when MMJ's main set ended after 20 songs, exactly zero of which were from that album I so very much enjoyed. Meanwhile, the future Cheeto ingesters reveled in the 12 selections from the band's earlier efforts in between bragging about how long it's been since they washed their hair.

The footwear of choice for My Morning Jacket
lead singer Jim James, who lived up to
his childhood nickname, "Fuzzy Boots."
Still, the main set was incredibly entertaining, primarily due to lead singer Jim James' tirelessly magnetic stage presence, which was aided considerably by footwear nearly identical to what you see to your right. And eventually, the band tossed in a couple songs from "Evil Urges." That occurred just after the 12-minute jam that led off its first encore. Unfortunately, the contact high was only enough to tolerate 9 minutes of said jam, after which I left, thus missing what was likely some truly virtuoso saxophone work by lead guitarist Carl Broemel.

So, two hours, $120 and four PBR tall boys later, I would say ...

Performance: awesome.
Set list selection: lame.
Fellow concertgoers: super lame.
$4 PBRs: super awesome.

And just for fun, here's a song the band should have played but didn't.

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