My Morning Jacket @ KFC Yum Arena 10.29.10

My Morning Jacket’s show on Friday couldn’t have been a bigger celebration of local flavor if you’d had Will Oldham riding around piggy back on David Pajo. The biggest band to come out of Kentucky was backed by the Louisville Youth Symphony Orchestra at a hometown show in the brand-new arena built by a company based in the same city. It was a Louisville sandwich six layers deep — and it was delicious.

Having seen My Morning Jacket a few times now, I’ve got to seriously wonder if they aren’t the best band in America. The Roots might be a little tighter and ready to go with less practice, but they don’t exactly have a “One Big Holiday” or “Gideon” under their belt. And while I’m convinced there’s no better place to see MMJ than at a late night show at Bonnaroo, this symphony-backed show was a close second.

With the band fresh off their five-night stay in New York playing the entirety each of their studio albums, it was really anyone’s guess what the setlist would look like. But with about 25 highly recognizable hits to their name, there really wasn’t that much wiggle room in the setlist. here) The only omission in my opinion was my favorite, “Run Thru,” but they did a tease of the ending tacked on to “Smoking from Shootin.” That and the inclusion of “The Way He Sings” made up for it.

So about two hours in and we’ve had a lovely show with great backing from the orchestra (which you could often not hear, but that’s not the point) — how do you top it? Why with costumes and an insane encore, of course! During the encore break, someone came out dressed up as a chicken. I elbowed my friend and said “pretty gutsy to come in a chicken suit to the KFC arena.” Then, as if to one-up my joke, Jim James came out fully dressed as Col. Sanders. He and the chicken passed a heart around and then he grabbed a guitar and sang incredible versions of “Bermuda Highway” and “Librarian.” Let me also pause for a second and say that “Librarian” has definitely become a huge fan favorite. I thought it was just one that I enjoyed, but the crowd went nuts when he started into it.

After those two solo songs, the entire band came out dressed as Col Sanders. We got what few megahits were left, followed by a cover of “Move On Up” and a great performance of — you guessed it — “One Big Holiday” to close. For the last song, the band brought out the giant puppet walkers who had been in the lobby earlier. It made the stage a bit crowded, but was a really joyous way to end it all.

Lots more photos after the break

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Wax Fang @ KFC Yum Arena 10.29.10

Of the many jaw-dropping moments at the Yum Arena show this Friday, Wax Fang had the first when they came out in full glowing Tron gear. They took the stage in near darkness, lit only by the glow of their apparently home-made suits. It was a pretty dramatic entrance that probably won them more some added attention from those in the crowd who might not have known who they were. People tend to pay attention to you when you and your buddies walk into a room dressed as Tron guys.

The obvious thing I have to cover about their set was that they were some unfortunate technical difficulties. After powering through a few songs (which sounded great, minus the slight buzzing), Scott Carney realized that his suit was causing his amp to buzz. So sadly they had to switch it off, causing Scott to remark “well now I just look like a little leage baseball coach.” But even losing one of the Tron suits couldn’t put a damper on how great it was to be without that buzzing. Good thing too, because they closed with a song that requires all your attention, their new 15-minute track “The Astronaut.”

“The Astronaut” is pretty much a 180 from Wax Fang’s last two records. It’s part experimental and part solid rock. And with such a long runtime, it’s got room to breathe and flow. They brought out two extra members to help with the song. One played keyboards and switched on and off drums, the other was a man in an astronaut suit who stood perfectly still until it was time for him to play two saxophones.

[HPX] Great Lake Swimmers @ St Matthew’s Church 10.22.10

Great Lake Swimmers are a fantastic band to see at a church show. They’ve got such tender, folksy songs backed up with such power behind them that it makes for an encompassing show. They opened with “Put There By the Land” and “Pulling on a Line” and quickly grabbed the audience’s attention. It’s crazy, but in all the years I’ve been a fan this was my first time seeing Great Lake Swimmers. And really, I’m kind of glad that I waited to have such a perfect setting a such a great performance. Seeing a band you love for 20 minutes at SXSW at nice, but seeing them do a full show in a well lit church, well that’s just about unbeatable.

More photos after the break

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[HPX] In-Flight Safety @ St Matthew’s Church 10.22.10

I wrote down in my notes that Halifax’s In-Flight Safety sounded like a “English U2.” Later when someone said they sounded kind of like Coldplay, I realized that that’s a much shorter, better way to explain it. So yeah, I’ll go with the formula that they’re 10% Grizzly Bear, 30% U2 and 60% Coldplay. And you know what? It makes for a good mix. They were the only band I saw at the church that sounded like they could just explode out of the venue. It was really powerful music with the only drawback of all sounding kind of the same.

[HPX] The Darcys @ the Seahorse 10.21.10

The Darcys were a load of fun on my first night at the Halifax Pop Explosion. They sounded like a mix of White Rabbits and Local Natives for most of their songs, but suddenly turned into a Radiohead clone for one (it sounded kinda like “2+2=5” if I remember correctly). I don’t remember if they’re from Halifax, but they’re the kind of band everyone should have in their hometown — they just make you want to cheer them on.

[HPX] Boats @ the Seahorse 10.21.10

The weird thing about seeing Boats was that I didn’t even realize that I’m already a fan of the band BOAT. Weird. So there was no awkward moment of “boo! hiss! another band has a similar name!” and just loads of silent enjoyment — which is great, because Boats were great! They were billed as being one of those toy instrument bands, but I really wouldn’t put them in that category. They were just some good pop in the vein of HHBTM records.

[HPX] Dance Movie @ the Foggy Goggle 10.21.10

First of all, let me say that Halifax is a really cool city. Big thanks to the people at Halifax Pop Explosion for bringing me in to cover the festival and speak on a panel (1pm at the conference center if you’re attending the fest!). I hope to go explore Nova Scotia tomorrow for a bit, so I might post photos of that as well. But for now, the music…

The first band I caught at HPX 2010 was Dance Movie at a really cool bar named the Foggy Goggle. So far Halifax has been one of those towns where every bar has been super cool to the point where I’m starting to hate the bars in Lexington even more than I normally do. And yes, the Foggy Goggle with its painted walls and beautiful layout didn’t help that jealousy any. Unfortunately I wasn’t exactly bowled over by Dance Movie. They were a good introduction to the fest, but not really my thing. They kinda sounded like a less rocking version of the Heartless Bastards, which strangely enough would probably appeal to a lot of you. But for whatever reason I wasn’t really feeling it and shuffled over to the Seahorse to catch the next band.

Idiot Glee @ Al’s Bar 10.13.10

Wednesday was the difference between “think” and “know” for me. On Tuesday I thought Idiot Glee was great — his show Wednesday proved it to be fact. Believe it or not, that was my first time seeing James play live as Idiot Glee. He seems to be playing every two weeks in Lexington, but I’m just always in the wrong place at the wrong time. But after catching that show, it’s apparent that I’m going to have to start making time for Idiot Glee. We all are.

MP3: Idiot Glee – All Packed Up

Let me tell you what really convinced me, though. It wasn’t “All Packed Up” or his cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Those local hits are great, but not what did it. The first was “Trouble at the Dancehall,” a new track whose sampled riff he described as sounding like a “snake charmer.” Of all his great songs, that one might be my favorite. The next was a track I’d never heard before that was one of the best of the night. Making that great of an impression with an unheard track is a really great sign. No wonder he made such waves opening for Women in Europe.

To close, James was joined by Women to play “Don’t Drink the Water.” It was great to get a preview of what he’ll sound like with a full band at our Halloween party — except, you know, playing Fleewood Mac covers…

More photos and video after the break

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