LIVE: My Morning Jacket @ MASS MoCA, 8/12/17

My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Warm and peaceful, the Saturday afternoon started to change unnoticed at first in the sky above MASS MoCA in North Adams. The crowd of several thousand assembling on Joe’s Field was primed and ready to see and hear My Morning Jacket. The technicians were making last minute adjustments on the sound gear for Philly-based band the Districts to come onstage as the opening act.

The minutes to 7:30pm counted slowly at first, and then faster and faster. The lights came on, and the Districts came out rocking without a hitch. They launched into their first, second, third and fourth indie-rock songs while to the west, storm clouds had gathered in the sky and were moving fast toward the museum’s compound of buildings. Then at 8:50pm, a lone female voice came through the PA system, stopping the band and directing the thousands to exit Joe’s Field and seek shelter indoors.

Running with the herd, I entered the main buildings and ran up to the second floor, where I stopped, dumbfounded by Nick Cave’s “Until,” an amazing exhibit in a huge room that was anchored by a large floating glass sculpture full of colorful, brightly lit glass pieces that hovered in the center of the room.

Thousands of additional hanging objects, mostly of reflective metal, on various levels hung all around it in a dense pattern that reflected light from corner to corner of the exhibition space. There in part of the room was a yarn quilt that was bigger than life. Hundreds of people were snapping cell phone photos of this fantasy landscape. Outside the large windows, bluish lightning flashes were seen from time-to-time. It added to the drama of the moment with frequent thunderclaps also punctuating the ambiance. The steady downpour of rain added the static noise of a snare drum that blended in with the atmospheric mix.

Minutes turned to hours, and the question on everyone’s mind was, “Will the concert be cancelled?” But there were no real crowd problems. No fights, no stupid behavior – just pleasant folks ready to lend a helping hand, say “hello” or just smile at one-an-other. MASS MoCA just gives off that kind of vibe.

By 10:40pm the rain, thunder and lightning had subsided into an almost silent drizzle, but there was still no official cancellation of the show. As it turned out, MASS MoCA folks had been, all this time, talking to the City of North Adams about lifting its 11:30pm sound ordinance/curfew to let the performance continue when the all-clear signal would be sounded.

Finally at 11:05pm, the gate keepers at the foot of the bridge let the deluge of fans flood back onto Joe’s Field. People ran in and took their places in the pit and all along the rolling hill in layers away from the stage. They all were fans of My Morning Jacket and despite the three-hour delay, they were ready to listen to the band. They had come from all over the east coast to see a concert by an amazing band that now, after almost 20 years, has what is akin to a cult following. And rightfully so, because their music is the bomb…

The stage hands quickly removed the rain-protecting tarps and tuned the instruments on stage for My Morning Jacket, whose members stood off to the side of the stage watching their audience re-assemble while everything else going on. A microphone was quickly added to the mix at the left side of the stage. Within 15 minutes, Jim James and his bandmates were joined by the Districts, gathering around that lone microphone to sing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” albeit with some updated lyrics to reflect the current political crisis involving Trump, climate change, North Korea and more.

It was all there – with the audience singing along to that and other songs deep into the morning…

Give Peace a Chance (Plastic Ono Band)
I’m Amazed
Spring (Among the Living)
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
I Will Sing You Songs
Compound Fracture
Victory Dance
Wordless Chorus
Off the Record
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
One Big Holiday > Give Peace a Chance

Jim James
Jim James
Patrick Hallahan
Patrick Hallahan
Tom Blackenship
Tom Blackenship
Carl Broemel
The Districts
The Districts
The Districts
The Districts
Waiting out the storm in the Nick Cave's installation in Building 5
Waiting out the storm in the Nick Cave’s Until installation in Building 5

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