My Morning Jacket meet the Pops
By KERRY L. SMITH  |  July 14, 2006

Click on the screenshot to watch My Morning Jacket perform with the Boston Pops on Late Night With David Letterman
Kentucky quintet My Morning Jacket, no strangers to mixing a spectrum of musical genres (they’ve been cast as pop, rock, alt-country, and even psychedelic), will push even more buttons on the musical blender when they come off the road opening for Pearl Jam to take the stage with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall this week. It’s part of “Pops on the Edge,” which also includes Aimee Mann on June 28 and 29. What’s more, NEMO is presenting “EdgeFest Showcase” concerts before and after the main event — this week it’s Jake Brennan and the Confidence Men and the Unbusted at 7 pm in the Hatch and Cabot-Cahners rooms and the Slip in the Higginson Room at 10:15.

“You think because somebody plays in a rock band they don’t like classical music, or because somebody plays classical music they don’t like rock music,” says MMJ frontguy Jim James from the Pearl Jam tour stop in Chicago. “But I think most musicians have a wide palette.” Indeed, MMJ have gone out of their way to mix and match musical styles. On their latest album, Z (ATO), they move between songs that don’t have a lot of guitars (“Wordless Chorus”) or a lot of words (“Dondante”) to, as James puts it, “bigger rocking songs that are meant for bashing skulls on,” like “Lay Low.”

Forged from a mutual love for the likes of AC/DC and Alice in Chains, MMJ formed in 1998 after James joined forces with first cousin Johnny Quaid (lead guitar) and former church-summer-camp buddy Patrick Hallahan (drums) before recruiting Quaid’s friend Two Tone Tommy (bass), and later bringing keyboardist Danny Cash on board. Quaid and Cash have since parted ways with MMJ; the line-up now includes keyboardist Bo Koster and guitarist Carl Broemel.

BLENDERS: My Morning Jacket anticipate no trouble moving from the Pearl Jam tour to Symphony Hall.
Performing with the Pops on stage, says James, won’t seem strange. “We all listen to classical,” he says, citing Beethoven as his personal favorite. MMJ will join the Pops for a 45-minute montage of music from the band’s catalogue during the two-hour program in what he calls “kind of a greatest hits.” And he’s excited about the prospect of a fuller string section for “Wordless Chorus” and more vocalists to fill out the already plump choruses of “Gideon.”

It’s a far cry from opening from Pearl Jam, whom he says they played ping-pong with backstage. “I grew up listening to Pearl Jam. It’s surreal to see them making good music and find myself on stage with them. I don’t think of them as even having been gone, so I don’t consider it a comeback. There’s times when they’ve been more out of the eye, but they have a loyal fan base and a strong live show. They’ve always been a force.”

MMJ are hoping to be among the next generation of arena-rock forces. And the collaboration with the Pops is a way for James to experiment with the band’s on-stage repertoire. “You use different songs for different reasons. We don’t always want to be rock; sometimes we want to be nice and slow or be rhythmic or dancy. They all feed different purposes.”

MY MORNING JACKET + BOSTON POPS + JAKE BRENNAN AND THE CONFIDENCE MEN + UNBUSTED + SLIP | Symphony Hall, 301 Mass Ave, Boston | June 21-22 | 617.266.1492

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