My Morning Jacket comes to Mass MoCA

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — For the better part of a decade, Wilco has delighted many rock fans in the Berkshires by holding a biennial music festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. On Saturday night, its little brother will try to make a good first impression at the North Adams institution.

My Morning Jacket will be the latest big-name rock band to play at Joe's Field this summer, following May's Cake concert and June's Wilco performances at the Solid Sound Festival. Like Jeff Tweedy's bunch, five-man My Morning Jacket swims in the amorphous alternative/Americana/rock pool. In 2015, both Wilco and My Morning Jacket were nominated for the best alternative music album Grammy Award, and they toured together with Bob Dylan during the "Americanarama Festival of Music" in 2013.

"They've always kind of been our big brother band that we kind of look up to and follow in their footsteps in some ways," My Morning Jacket keyboardist Bo Koster said during a telephone interview.

Koster emphasized "in some ways"; he doesn't feel that, from a musical perspective, the groups are similar other than in a broad sense as genre-defying rock bands. (And, indeed, the Louisville-based band is more psychedelic and less country than Wilco.) But the parallels between My Morning Jacket and Wilco go beyond their material's nuances.

It starts, fittingly, with their frontmen. Tweedy formed Wilco in 1994 after the dissolution of his alternative country band, Uncle Tupelo. As lead vocalist and songwriter, Tweedy has been the driving force behind Wilco for more than two decades.

"Jeff shoulders a lot of everything with Wilco," bassist John Stirratt told The Eagle in an interview prior to this year's Solid Sound Festival.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Jim James is My Morning Jacket's Tweedy, a rare rock pioneer of this era. He started the group in 1998 and has propelled its last three albums ("Evil Urges," "Circuital" and "The Waterfall") to best alternative music album Grammy nominations. While the mix of Patrick Hallahan on drums, Tom Blankenship on bass, Carl Broemel on guitar and Koster on keyboard has been vital to those albums' success, the last of which, "The Waterfall," was released in 2015, Koster said the band goes as James goes.

"He's the captain of the ship, so we're always just following his direction," Koster said.

Then there's the matter of the music festivals. Four years after Wilco held its first Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA in 2010, James and company hosted One Big Holiday in Mexico's Riviera Maya. The festival's fourth rendition is scheduled for next March in Punta Cana.

While Koster may call Wilco his group's "big brother," there's certainly no sibling rivalry. "They're kind of buds of ours," Koster said.

This friendship helped inform Koster's opinion of the Berkshires. Koster has been one of several My Morning Jacket band members to tour with singer-songwriter Ray Lamontagne, who owns a home in Ashfield. Stirratt has also worked with Lamontagne (and will be touring with him this fall). During a collaboration with Lamontagne, Stirratt raved to Koster and others about his experiences in the Berkshires.

"He was just saying how amazing it is," Koster recalled.

Though My Morning Jacket has played in Pioneer Valley several times and Albany, it has never performed in the Berkshires, according to the group's website. Without a new album to promote and plenty of material from which to draw, audience members should assume a diverse set list, though "Circuital" and "Mahgeetah" have been fixtures of prior shows on the tour. Moreover, the band's unpredictability can stem from its members' psyches.

"We've been together for so long that inevitably one or two of us are going through something positively or negatively, and that all affects the music in a pretty profound way," Koster said.

So, what is My Morning Jacket going through now?

In an era of social media fixation and streaming music, Koster is doubting his vocation's impact — and the influence another My Morning Jacket album would have.

"Back in the day, when you sold records, there was a bit of a scorecard," he said. "You're like, `Oh man, a million people bought our record.' You know that you have a million fans out there. But now it's like — you're a little bit in the dark. You're like, `Are these [streaming] numbers real? What does this even mean? I don't even know. Who's listening to our music?'"

On Saturday night, Wilco country will have a chance to respond.



IF YOU GO...


WHAT: My Morning Jacket

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Joe's Field, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.

TICKETS: $46 for general admission in advance; $56 the day of the performance (additional discounts for MoCA members)

INFORMATION: Ticket holders get $10 off the museum's gallery admission. For more information, call 413-662-2111 or email info@massmoca.org.


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