Soaked in Reverb & Second-Hand Reefer Smoke: My Morning Jacket at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, night one
At 620 pm, we started the car and started scraping snow. On the road from Lafayette by 630pm. By 710, we're driving through the slippery streets of downtown Denver. God! the blackened piles of snow in the parking lots resemble the mountains in these parts.
Found parking on the street and walked quickly through the surreal chill. By 730pm, we're inside the Ogden. My, this place is small—and basically empty now, even so close to show time. I visit the coat check and get a PBR for only $4 (the cost of a sixpack of PBR, but still, a pretty cheap beer for a show). Rocky (my stepson) and I find a place by the first railing, just above the small section of front floor (the entire lower level being separated by tiers).
(My wife and anticipated date for the night is home with her daughter-in-law-to-be, nursing a cold and waiting on tomorrow night, when all four of us will check out the show.)
We debate about getting right up front, but this spot we found has such an incredible sight line and expected sound, that we decide to stay there. At this point, having only see 'em at the Ryman and the 'roo, I am still utterly shocked by both the small size of the venue and the sparse crowd so close to curtain. Are people just fashionably late or intimidated by the weather? Either way, I'm grateful for the generally mellow and not-too-crowded vibes.
Just after 8, Elvis Perkins and his band take the crowded stage. Speaking the pure language of what's come to be known as freak folk (and reminding me of Dylan, Nick Drake, and Devandra Banhart), this group grooves with acoustic guitar, harmonica, stand-up bass, trombone, and an antique marching-band bass drum. Center stage, there's also something strange and sounding from the keyboard family that my limited knowledge and vocabulary cannot surely name, perhaps a close relative to the concertina, squeezebox, or harmonium. Given the story that they got stranded on the way to Salt Lake and missed last night's show and how utterly tiny the crowd still is at this point, this ensemble puts on an emotive and playful set, only making me wish I'd made myself more familiar with their stuff before tonight.
Elvis Perkins and people exited the stage around 845pm. By this time, the club finally started to feel full, and during the break, more people came in from the cold. But, compared to some shows, it was still really easy to move around and get to the bathroom and bar and back in plenty of time for the buildup to lights down and jacket up. Around, 925pm, the place went black, the old-school pre-show music filled the room, and the Jacket was with us. “One Big Holiday” proves the perfect opener, and we're off.
The show had many breathtaking, mind-stretching moments. When Jim's pipes climbed to the high, high notes at the end of “Wordless Chorus,” the “weeowoohwah” or whatever-it-is-so-angelic-and-eerie-that he does struck itself inside my soul. He finds a similar synthesis of soul-soothing and spirit-shocking inside “It Beats For You.”
Just as Jim finds such elusive epiphanies with his vocal yoga, the band bends its own massive metaphors when channeling the classic-rock gods—as in the spacier, harder, longer, let's-not-call-them-jam-band-moments of tracks like “Lay Low,” “Run Thru,” Steam Engine,” and “Mahgeetah.”
As good as it is in such a small room with such great sound and friendly folks heating up a hideously chilly night, there's something just a little off about it all. Our bassist Two Tone Tommy needs a chair to sit for a few tracks and seems generally woozy or grumpy or something. In general, the whole band has an end-of-the-leg leeriness about it, an understandable “We just risked our lives getting here, and we're tired as fuck” mood.
In one of his few moments of speechifying between songs, Jim referred directly to the death-defying drives, of trusting the tour bus driver to face the snow drifts safely. He also mentioned a flu in the whole crew, suggesting that no-one kiss the band-members tonight.
When we think about the 115 minute set in the context of how utterly whipped they all must be, we can understand how heroic they still are in spite of it, giving 200% for the fans who risked as much just getting there, too.
Our family member reverb can be defined as “the acoustic environment that surrounds a sound.” One very cold Colorado Friday night, the Ogden Theatre patrons were soaked in sacred reverb and smoked-out by second-hand reefer fumes. By the end of the show, I could loosen my scarf and feel the heat of: Carl and Jim's dueling guitars; Patrick's cymbal-riffs rocketing through my head; Tommy's bass bad-assedly thumping my third-eye; and Bo's bopping keyboard cool keeping it soulful and real.
The show lacked any cover songs and several favorites we might wish for tomorrow tonight, when I expect they'll mix it up just a little and play longer, as Jim made more than one remark to those he expected to see two nights in a row.
Setlist (please forgive and correct any errors):
One Big Holiday
What a Wonderful Man
The Way That He Sings
Phone Went West
Off the Record
It Beats for You
Knot Comes Loose
photo by Anu