Photo by Tanya Wright. (Go to nashvillescene.com to view more photos.)
We know we should know better. My Morning Jacket. 8 p.m. Riverfront Park. No mention of an opener. On a Titans game night. More people downtown plus blocked off streets equals less available parking than usual, so we do have an excuse at the ready—but honestly, there’s no reason why our first whiff of MMJ’s earcandy should’ve come as we were passing B.B. King's, getting ready to enter, while the eponymous track from their latest, Evil Urges, was just entering the last of its two dueling-guitar breakdowns. Fortunately, MMJ has a catalogue. One they’re not afraid to dip into. Which means that despite showing up 45 minutes late we were still treated to two solid hours of Louisville-bred rawk, with some unintentional punctuation from the pyro crew at LP Field.
Now, to be sure, there were at least three different concerts last Friday night. The first occurred up front, by the stage, amid the pack of sweaty campers who’d staked their spots early. Theirs was a hands-up, hopping, rowdy mess, with an occasional rainbow spray of tossed glowsticks, the same ringed bracelets that came to life on the stage floor when the lights went down. The second group was the outer ring revelers. Brahs and Brah-ettes who’d laid down blankets between grassy tiers and staked spots close to the beer lines and port-a-potties. MMJ as picnic music. Fortunately for them, the sound of Jim James & Co. carried crisply in the acreage between the stage and the candy apple cart. And the extra space allowed for some serious hip-grinding, especially during two Urges standouts: Drummer Patrick Callahan added a little Run DMC dropstep in the lead-up to straight-ahead sing-along “I’m Amazed"; and freak-out funk track “Highly Suspicious,” played halfway through a six-song encore, proved to all naysayers that MMJ’s Prince fixation pays dividends for everyone. Sure there’s less reverb, but these guys make dance music now. And it’s fucking good.
But there’s one group we’ve neglected to call out yet: the troglodytes who paid $30 to see America’s Best Band and ended up parked in front of the Miller Lite camper, watching the Titans on a flat-screen. They missed James Rockette-ing his way through a solo from “Dancefloors.” Missed it when he literally tried to bunny hop Nashville resident and MMJ guitarist Carl Broehmel out to the front of the stage. And they missed James’ love note to “Nashvegas,” when he name-dropped some of his favorite local landmarks to raucous “I’ve been there!” applause: Eastland Café, Margot, Grimey’s, etc. Of course, the game did eventually end. And as the mouth-breathers shuffled away from the tube, MMJ crescendoed into another top-this chord-burner while the sky lit up with post-game fireworks.
So who cares if we were late? After all, when you’re talking about the party of the summer, all that really matters is that you were there at the end.