New Haven Blues… Connecticut Rocks?… Fast Times at Mogehan Sun…
I recently started attending concerts again after a long layoff. Before I moved to Connecticut, I lived in New York City and Nashville, and used to go to shows as often as I could. One by one, I scratched all of my favorite bands, big and small, off my bucket list.
Covid and fatherhood hit and I stopped going to concerts. I said goodbye to that particular yellow brick road (an Elton John farewell tour reference. Stick with me.)
I came back for Tame Impala. They were the only band I hadn’t seen live on my “need to see live list,” which once included The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. Their new album The Slow Rush had been a steady companion during quarantine. And they were playing at Mohegan Sun, for a reasonable price. Also, they live in Australia, so you never know when they’ll be this way again.
The show was epic; it made me feel good. Tame Impala are like the best combination of Beatles and Pink Floyd-inspired lysergic rock, and modern-day dance music. The visuals were sumptuous, and the sound quality was spot on. And the free parking wasn’t bad either.
And now I’ve decided that Connecticut is a decent state to live in for music fans.
Joe Rogan hates us. All the venues are bad. All the people are weird. He mentioned we’re the state where both he and Dave Chapelle ended their sets early because of how lame the crowd was being – a bunch of Connecticut Karens.
Bridgeport’s Sound on Sound Festival didn’t work out so well. I knew from the get-go that it should be skipped, although I like most of the bands that performed. My wife really wanted to go see Stevie Nicks again, and Brandi Carlisle was performing. Then there was the acoustic fury of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. Their show was ultimately cut short by lighting. Many lawn chairs were trampled over the weekend, and a bad time was had by all.
I made multiple trips to College Street Music Hall and the newly opened Westville Music Bowl this summer. I saw a lot of great guitar bands. Bands that can tastefully shred. Wilco. Built to Spill. Courtney Barnett. Australian Pink Floyd.
But My Morning Jacket might have out-guitared them all.
To me, this was a revelation.
I once wrote a column called “What’s All The Racket About My Morning Jacket,” complaining that I didn’t get it (this was at the start of their career; they’ve since changed lineups and dropped the “bathe-every-song-in-reverb” approach.) I get it now. Songs like “One Big Holiday” make you feel like you’re at a 10 for the entire song, until they kick it up to 11 at the end. The songs are relatively uncomplicated but soar and crackle with electricity. It’s as if they’ve taken the basic recipe of rock, and perfected it.
Singer Jim James and lead guitarist Carl Broemell make a potent team, snaking their guitars around each other, the keyboard, and the drums, creating a spiritual vortex of amplified heat. Somehow, even Wilco’s Nels Cline (an avant-garde shred machine) and Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch (a buddha of the electric guitar) couldn’t match the soul power My Morning Jacket was cranking out.
I was thinking about the show lately, and knew there were a few videos from it on YouTube. But the last time I searched, I found the entire show. What a world we live in, where not only can we hear every album and watch every TV show and movie, but we can revisit entire concerts we’ve been to before. For free.
It was through YouTube that I realized that I really should have gone to the Bright Eyes show at College Street Music Hall earlier in the year, when I was still avoiding shows. I was afraid it wouldn’t have been that good…based on other recent YouTube videos.
Here, watch it yourself:
(If the link went missing, I apologize.)
Now I await my next two concerts — Arcade Fire at Mohegan Sun next week, and Bruce Springsteen in March. Both could be religious experiences.
Both have elements of uncertainty. Will Win Butler save his wretched soul? Will Bruce Springsteen survive old age? Will I survive the ride home? Will anybody annoying sit next to me?