By Mike Sembos
2:20 PM EST, December 27, 2012
My Morning Jacket
Thu., Dec. 27 (w/ Deer Tick), Fri., Dec. 28 (w/ Antibalas) & Sat., Dec. 29 (w/ Floating Action), 8 p.m. The Capitol Theatre, 149 Westchester Ave., Port Chester, NY. (914) 937-4126. thecapitoltheatre.com. $56.
When My Morning Jacket settles in for a sure-to-become-legendary three-night residency at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester this weekend, it'll be up to you to help choose what they play. The band is letting fans vote for songs they feel should be on their setlists via Twitter: For Thursday's show, use hashtag #mmjPC1 to make your request. For Friday it's #mmjPC2, and Saturday #mmjPC3. There will be no repeats from one night to the next, so it's probable that some truly unique performances will result.
MMJ first utilized the concept on their summer tour, and they dubbed it the Spontaneous Curation Series. Using this method for three back-to-back shows with no repeats will further enhance the benefits of the idea.
Bassist Tom "Two-Tone Tommy" Blankenship, who's been in the band since its founding in 1998, explains:
"It's fun," he says. "It's like a Choose your Own Adventure kind of thing, at least for fans. It keeps us on our toes and it keeps us from creating the same set list over and over again. Sometimes you kind of get stuck in that rut of what's comfortable and what combinations of songs really work out."
A couple years back, in a similar multiple-show situation, the band played five nights in a row at Terminal 5 in NYC and they played a different album in its entirety each show. It forced them to rediscover some old songs that hadn't yet been played by the current five-piece MMJ lineup. "Butch Cassidy" from the 1999 album The Tennessee Fire, for example, had never been played in front of a crowd until then.
"It's become one of my favorites to play live," says Blankenship. "With this lineup we're doing songs that we'd never done with the five of us and it really feels like [the songs] have a new spirit and life to them."
Frontman Jim James is releasing his debut solo record Regions of Light and Sound of God on February 5th, and while he's touring in support it's going to give the rest of the band a well-deserved rest and an opportunity to pursue other projects. (Guitarist Carl Broemel is working on another solo record; drummer Patrick Hallihan is working around Nashville; keyboardist Bo Koster is doing some producing. Blankenship is starting a new project in New York.)
These three shows at the Cap will be followed by a New Year's Eve show in Boston and a Hurricane Sandy benefit in Jersey on January 2nd, but then that's it — there are no more shows scheduled. Most likely that signals the end of the album cycle for the 2011 release Circuital. The plans for the follow-up album and the next step in the band's trajectory are happily open-ended and malleable.
"We're kind of playing it by ear right now," says Blankenship. "Especially because Jim has concrete plans in place with his solo album and a tour. It's more just making sure we're all good and rested and ready instead of committing to a time this early on. We're trying to do it healthy. We've learned the hard way that we've come to push ourselves a little bit too much or take on a little too much responsibility. We're lettin' it kind of come to us when the spirits let us know it's time. It's a good opportunity for us all to go off and do our own things, and then when we get back together, hopefully in the spring... It's one of those things, at least for me, where whenever I play with other people it's so fun, so exciting and different, but it also makes me appreciate the dynamic that we have working together, and how effortless it really is. Next year's going to be exciting, for the band and for us individually."
For the recording of Circuital, the band holed up in an old church in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to escape the sterile studio environment and to try and capture more natural, live performances without too many overdubs and studio trickery.
"I know that we won't return to the same place we were at last time," Blankenship says. "It was like a boy scout lockdown on this last record. We had no clue where to put anything and just kept testing things out. It's fun, because I think you find different soundscapes that you wouldn't normally find. Some of my favorite records are ones where you can close your eyes and you feel like you're in the room where you recorded. It's hard to say what it'll be this time, but it'll probably be a mixture of what we did last time and wherever the machine that is My Morning Jacket is going to take us. It's hard to predict where we'll be once we reconvene next year."
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