Tag Archives: Jim James

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Heavyweights on the Hudson

July 29th, 2013

My Morning Jacket/Wilco/Bob Dylan – Hoboken Pier A Park – July 26, 2013

(Photo: Eddie Bruiser)

What a view! What a bill! What a night! With a stage bracketed by the Empire State Building on one side and the Freedom Tower on the other—and just about perfect outdoor-concert weather—the AmericanaramA tour landed at Pier A Park in Hoboken, N.J., on Friday night. It was an evening for the skyscrapers of live rock and roll to strut their stuff on the same stage. My Morning Jacket began with “Circuital,” Jim James’s acoustic guitar sounding crisp in the summer air. MMJ are masters of the festival set, providing the perfect balance of fan favorites and special moments while packing enough of them into a limited time slot to make it feel like a much longer show. And so within the first four or five songs, the Jacket seemed to hit a couple dozen different spots and styles: “First Light” with a Flying V guitar, Carl Broemel on sax and funky keys from Bo Koster, “The Way That He Sings” with James belting it out to the crowd, a sweet spaced-out “Off the Record” with scrape-the-sky guitar work, and the steel-and-acoustic guitar summer-sun beauty of “Golden.” The special moments came when Brian Jackson joined in on flute, matching James’s howling on a great drums-and-bass-driven “It Beats 4 U” and adding a groovy R&B feel to the Gil Scott-Heron cover “The Bottle.” The action-packed set ended with opener Ryan Bingham coming back for a perfect sing-along cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “Don’t Do It,” in the style of the Band, multiple guitars manifesting the sound and energy of a full horn section.

Next up, Wilco, another fest-set vet, performed a set perfectly complementing My Morning Jacket’s. They opened with “Dawned on Me,” Nels Cline on a gigantic double-neck guitar that screamed, “Hey, why waste time with formalities?!” Like MMJ, they covered a wide range within the first few songs: “Misunderstood” heavy on the dynamics, the whole band playing to the perfection of the moment, twangy backdrop to Jeff Tweedy’s vocals on “Forget the Flowers” and a rocking “Handshake Drugs,” aka “Nels Cline Unleashed.” While Tweedy may never be Bob Dylan, songs like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” might make you reconsider. Friday evening, it was literally played for the gorgeous setting sun, a full-color sonic masterpiece with the line “and the city kept blinking” resonating against the Manhattan skyline. Again, the great set got better when they brought out guests, first Warren Haynes for a bluesy “Feed of a Man,” featuring a Godzilla vs. Mothra battle with Cline. (Ironically, Haynes left for the most Allman Brothers-y Wilco tune, “Walken.”) After a let’s-just-rock-out section of “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and “I Got You (At the End of the Century),” they invited Ian Hunter onstage for the end of the set, dedicated to Maxwell’s. The Mott the Hoople frontman led the band through a folkie, “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” The set finished in large, this-is-the-big-city fashion: first Haynes joining with some beautiful playing on a great “California Stars” and then all of My Morning Jacket and Bingham on a fun! wow! cover of “All the Young Dudes.”

Not bad, right? But wait, there’s more! The granddaddy of them all, Bob Dylan and His Band, closed the show. Dylan is still getting it done, the Chrysler Building to the taller and newer high-rises, his voice approaching old bluesman growl. His set featured plenty of newer songs and old classics—plus a cover of “The Weight” with Tweedy, James and the J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf—his band sounding great with a perfect mix of blues and country under a clear night sky. Compared to the opening sets, Dylan took his own pace, a natural gait of a man who’s done a few shows in his time. Personally, I was excited to hear two of my favorite Dylan tunes, “Tangled Up in Blue” and “She Belongs to Me.” What a night! —A. Stein

 

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A Collaboration Grows in Brooklyn

June 19th, 2013

The Roots and Jim James – Prospect Park Bandshell – June 18, 2013


Let’s face it, musical collaborations rarely pan out. With too many artists pulling a song in too many directions, before you know it, you’ve got “We Are the World.” But if there’s one group that can make collaboration worthwhile, it’s the Roots. As the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, they’ve thrown their musical superpowers behind plenty of visiting musicians, with the end result almost always turning out exceptional. So how would a collaborative “State of the Union” show in Prospect Park turn out between the Roots and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, one of the greatest, soulful voices to come out of recent history? Is the answer so obvious that asking this rhetorical question seems silly?

The show kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. with James and his backing band. Despite the early start time and lousy weather, an impressive number of umbrella-wielding fans made it there on time. His set ran through most of his debut solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God, before closing with Monsters of Folk songs “The Right Place” and “Changing World.” The Roots followed with a formidable set of their own as the rain began to clear, starting off rather appropriately with “Table of Contents (Parts 1 & 2),” which dissolved into a cover of “Jungle Boogie.” One song often bled into another, keeping the music flowing and energy levels high, with the band using the massive stage to run from side to side, keeping the crowd’s attention. There were a few pauses to showcase some serious musicianship, with Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson blowing through a vicious sousaphone solo (yes, these things exist). Brooklyn’s own Captain Kirk Douglas ripped through a Pete Frampton-esque talky guitar solo on “You Got Me.”

Jim James returned to the stage when the clock struck 10, kicking off things with the 2.0 version of Monsters of Folk’s “Dear God,” which originated from the band’s appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. This was followed by a trifecta of covers: Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” a superfunky rendition of Bill Withers’ “Use Me” and ending with John Lennon’s powerful “Instant Karma!” Were it not for the park’s hard stop time, the show probably could have gone on forever, as the Roots and James were certainly enjoying themselves. The best we can do for now is hope that these two musical forces meet again, some time sooner rather than later. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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The Roots and Jim James Team Up Tonight in Prospect Park

June 18th, 2013

The relationship between Jim James and the Roots goes back at least to November 2009, when the Philly hip-hop crew backed Monsters of Folk doing “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It went so well that when the Roots put out their next album, How I Got Over, the following year, it featured the My Morning Jacket frontman on “Dear God 2.0.” So when James released his first solo full-length, Regions of Light and God and Sound, earlier this year, it came as no surprise that not only did he promote it on Fallon’s show, but also the Roots backed him again—this time on a staggeringly terrific version of “A New Life,” above. (The tune didn’t just appeal to viewers: Questlove made James promise to play the song at the drummer’s future wedding.) And now, building on that, Jim James and the Roots team up for one evening
of collaborative performances tonight at the Prospect Park Bandshell to help support the free programming at Celebrate Brooklyn.

 

 

 

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Jim James Lights Up Webster Hall

April 30th, 2013

Jim James – Webster Hall – April 29, 2013


Jim James is a human sunset: the multihued snapshot-worthy phenomenon bridging day and night. So it made perfect sense that the stage backdrop for his way-sold-out Webster Hall show last night was an array of LEDs spoked like the rays of the sun as it passes over the horizon—and it even displayed the colors to match. Opening with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” the lead track off his new Regions of Light and Sound of God album, James appropriately sang, “You need the dark as much as the sun” as his backing band laid down a vicious nighttime groove.

The rest of the show was essentially a live version of the album, a set that felt broken into a few smaller parts. The opening number coupled with the heavy keys-and-bass “Know Til Now” represented James’s “Don’t worry, Webster Hall, I brought my own disco” portion of the night, the audience matching the energy from the stage as best they could. Next was a quieter, more acoustic section, marked by the beautiful instrumental “Exploding” followed by the pretty-melody section highlighted by “Of the Mother Again,” the lights flipping between sky blue and cloud white while a very funky extended Rhodes vamp churned the crowd. The set closed with a dark last-purple-throes-of-daylight pairing, headed by “All Is Forgiven,” with a constant swell of bass guitar and a marked rise in intensity that was stretched out into wonderful, mysterious-shroud territory.

Throughout, James’s presence was the focus. His activity was like an ’80s movie montage of motion, touching the extended fingers of those in the front row with his own, like E.T. with a cosmic cure-all, dancing away like an extra in Footloose with uninhibited glee and even doing some sort of mutation of Daniel LaRusso’s crane technique. Still, when it came down to it, his band carried the show. Whether it was an early set drum solo, full-groove keyboard playing, heavy guitar distortion or the constant funky bass, members of the audience were constantly craning their necks to see who was playing what and from where which sound was coming. As they followed James through a five-song, B-sides and rarities kind of encore that included “His Master’s Voice” and “The Right Place” off the Monsters of Folk album, it seemed this band needed their own name, an identity of their own. I think Jim James and the Sunsets has a nice ring to it. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(Jim James and the Roots play Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park on 6/18, and My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan play Pier A in Hoboken, N.J., on 7/26.)

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Jim James on 4/29

April 23rd, 2013

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My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James comes to Webster Hall next Monday in support of his terrific solo full-length, Regions of Light and Sound of God. The show sold out quickly, as expected (although you can see him alongside the Roots at Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park on 6/18), but The House List is giving away two tickets. Want ’em? Then try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Jim james, 4/29) and a brief message explaining your favorite tune on the new album. Eddie Bruiser, who will neither confirm nor deny he was onstage for this performance, will notify the winner by Friday.

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Jim James Is a Force of Nature

February 20th, 2013

Jim James – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 19, 2013


Fans of My Morning Jacket’s perpetual motion machine, Jim James know there are (at least) three sides to his music. There’s the arena-rock star, there’s the folk crooner … and there’s the sexy soul machine. And while all three sides of his equilateral triangle were in evidence last night at the sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg, it was the latter that was in full force as James grooved and swayed his way through songs from his solo release Regions of Light and Sound of God. He took the stage beneath swirling crushed-velvet purple lights, and opening with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U),” his voice was equally violet: half cool blue, half red hot.

This was a powerful start to the set. His band—heavy on the slinky electric piano and bass—seemed fully formed, well rehearsed and up to the task in only their fourth gig. The lights were perfectly synched to the song, going to black for dramatic effect when James sang “power going out” over and over in the coda. The energy only built from there with James singing “Know Til Now” and “A New Life” like the second coming of Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie. “Of the Mother Again” was a highlight, with its distorted scratch-your-back guitar solo from James melting into some sugary keyboards, leading to the inevitable, and effective, use of the disco ball hanging above the packed dance floor.

Like all of James’s projects, this felt like anything but “something on the side.” Songs like “All Is Forgiven” had the band behind the man displaying a range of sounds, this one digging darker and mysterious with a sultry Arabian Nights changeup. The set closed with a long, seething slow-burn jam led by the superb bass player, as James eventually walked offstage while the band kept churning along. Of course, being supersexy can eventually become a tease if you don’t give ’em what they want, so the encore was an audience-gratifying miniset of My Morning Jacket songs: a solo acoustic “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” followed by “Wordless Chorus,” “It Beats 4 U” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2,” all perfectly handled by the band. While that would have been a complete 90 minutes of music, with Jim James, there’s always room for one more, so he went full rock star, closing out the night with a high-energy “Victory Dance,” the sexy snakeskin shed for one song, but not for too long, I’m sure. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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My Morning Jacket Blasts Off

December 28th, 2012

My Morning Jacket – the Capitol Theatre – December 27, 2012


Last night was a bring-your-own-seat-belt kind of affair as My Morning Jacket played a thrill-ride roller coaster, the first of three sold-out shows at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. Before the main event began, though, Deer Tick treated the crowd to an opening set that felt more like a second headliner. With their keyboardist “on a plane,” the Providence, R.I., band coalesced in quartet form, tight and rocking and totally polished. The set was an open-the-next-beer-before-finishing-the-last kind, constantly propelling through songs like “The Bump” and “Main Street” before exploding with a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” the audience singing along, and finally closing with “Born at Zero.”

With that, the stage was reset and MMJ came out loud, frenetic and intense from the get-go. The superlative light show at the Cap includes lifelike projections on the venue’s walls, which can suggest an alternate reality for those inside. The music dutifully provided an otherworldly soundtrack: When the walls showed a spooky, psychedelic, come-to-life forest, “Outta My System” delved deep into a dark guitar jam and later, the walls literally went to steam as the band chugged through “Steam Engine.” Throughout there were plenty of wonderfully disassociated moments—jams in stretched-out intros or outros or just standing alone as heady instrumental moments between songs. Jacket classics like “The Way That He Sings” and “Off the Record” were glued together with blistering ad hoc guitar riffs, ambient-noise jams and techno-tinged grooves.

The band has promised no repeats for this three-night run, providing some free-form fun in the set list, which was up and down while maintaining a glorious MMJ intensity all the while. Slower songs like the red-lit “Strangulation” seemed to build to heavy hitter at a perfect pace and eventually segued into a mallet-to-the-head “Smokin’ from Shootin’.” A late-set take on Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” was a highlight. Here, the walls seemed to go to oil slick, shimmering alive with liquid rainbow colors while the band slow-burned a long, groovy space jam to match.

The set peaked more than 100 minutes in with a monster feedback jam that fed into a loop-de-loop “Mahgeetah.” Still, plenty of track remained for Jim James and Co. as they came out and did a mini-set encore that encapsulated the energy of the show with another 40 minutes of music that included a quieter acoustic-guitar section highlighted by a solo version of “Bermuda Highway,” James ensconced in spotlight, his voice carrying the room. As the night came to a close, the walls went spacey, stars flying by at unnatural speeds as MMJ went into an intergalactic “Gideon.” The song built to yet another climax, entire galaxies floating by the audience. There were only a few questions to be answered: Were we returning to terra firma after a cosmic journey or had we finally left the atmosphere? And more important: Was your seat belt still buckled? —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

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Such a Night

October 4th, 2012

Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012


Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.

There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”

And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.

The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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This Jam Is Your Jam

March 15th, 2012

Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Yim Yames and Anders Parker – Webster Hall – March 14, 2012


While the stage was loaded with talent last night show at Webster Hall, the real MVP might have been the lone roadie/guitar tech. The crowd watched this guy tune about a zillion guitars—acoustic, electric, bass—getting the stage ready. It was an impressive feat and all that work was absolutely necessary because  every single instrument was used to its fullest extent over the course of an awe-inspiring show. This was a modern day supergroup playing music written to accompany unfinished lyrics and writings of Woody Guthrie. The band is Jay Farrar (Son Volt, et al.), Anders Parker (Gob Iron, et al.), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Will Johnson (Centro-matic, et al.), who nominally played rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and drums respectively.

They performed with a communal spirit that would have made Guthrie proud, sharing lead vocals and swapping roles throughout the night. As far as supergroups go, this one is about halfway between Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Blind Faith, matching hefty harmonies with all-out rock and roll. The first part of the show was expected as the band rolled through all the material on New Multitudes. It was great to watch each member take the lead role and see the others transform into a backing band in the style of that leader. So that Farrar’s opener, “Hoping Machine,” embraced Son Volt’s twang-with-grit feel while James’s “My Revolutionary Mind” had a distinct MMJ arc, starting with a focus on his voice and then exploding into a flesh-crawling rock jam. Practically every permutation of two-, three- and four-part harmonies were realized, with each voice distinctly on its own making powerful music together. My personal highlight was “Chorine My Sheba Queen” with James sweetly harmonizing with Johnson’s lead vocal while Parker and Farrar beautifully laid down atmospheric drum-melody behind them.

The set lasted about an hour, and the crowd, which had been a perfect balance of enthusiastic and attentive all night, howled for an encore. What they got in return would better be described as a full-on second set as each member played a solo acoustic tune of his own, capped by James’s spine-tingling sing-along version of “Wonderful (The Way I Feel).” Again the show felt satisfyingly complete, but the band wasn’t yet finished, as each member highlighted another of his songs with the whole band in tow, each seemingly topping the previous in a playful we-rock-harder competition. As the “encore” reached the hour mark, the band played a ninth song with every member taking lead for a verse. What followed was a blistering, jammy  rock out with noisy guitar interplay shaking Webster Hall that went on in glorious feedback, surely exactly the way Woody Guthrie diagrammed it many years ago, until each musician left the stage one at a time to rousing applause (and a nod to the guy who had to tune all those guitars). —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Carnegie Hall – January 7, 2012

January 9th, 2012


Photos courtesy of Michael Jurick | music.jurick.net

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The South Rises in Williamsburg

August 2nd, 2010

Appalachian Voices/Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Music Hall – July 30, 2010

matusbence

Appalachian Voices with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Two ends of the roots-music sonic spectrum were on display during Friday’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, as New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Kentucky’s Appalachian Voices teamed up to bring a diverse night of Southern sounds to the Brooklyn landscape. Approaching its sixth decade of exploring the traditional jazz of the Crescent City, Preservation Hall opened with a rollicking 35-minute set covering such vintage classics as “Short Dressed Gal” and “Sweet Substitute.”

The Appalachian Voices singers joined the fray with Jim James grinding on a dirty “Blue Yodel No. 9” and Daniel Martin Moore guiding a gentle “Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea.” James closed out the collaboration by swinging a towel over his head and howling through an incendiary “St. James Infirmary,” significantly ratcheting up the intensity in the room. Inspired by the boisterous response, Preservation Hall’s Clint Maedgen immediately led the band through a more tribal and equally intense reprise to close out the set before an obviously excited crowd.

Headliner Appalachian Voices reversed the vibe with a subdued and poignant antidote to the opener’s raucous set. With James thanking the audience for remaining quiet and focusing on the evening’s messages about the beauty of Appalachia and the dangers of mountaintop removal, the quartet combined elements of folk, blues, bluegrass and jazz throughout their nearly two-hour performance. While the My Morning Jacket canon would be unavoidable, including a particularly explosive “Smokin’ from Shootin’,” rock star James often faced upstage and yielded the attention to his less-famous-but-nonetheless-worthy coconspirators, Moore and cellist Ben Sollee, the latter delighting with spiraling and occasionally funky cello solos that were met with loud ovations.

Singing of the Appalachian people, pathos abounded in stirring songs, like “Try,” “My Wealth Comes to Me,” and Lead Belly’s “Sylvie,” in which James thrillingly channeled Roy Orbison. The encore featured a droning, thunderous combination of both bands on “Dear Companion” and a driving cover of “Save the Last Dance for Me,” which sent the enthused assembly buoyantly bounding off into the Brooklyn night. —Brian Ferdman

Photo © Matúš Bence | http://idijot.tumblr.com

(My Morning Jacket plays Terminal 5 five times in October. Tickets remain available for the 10/18 and 10/19 shows.)

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Spend Two Evenings with Monsters of Folk

November 3rd, 2009

Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes), Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and M. Ward have put together their significant talents to form Monsters of Folk and to record a terrific self-titled album (stream three songs here) that has taken them out on the road and earned them favorable comparisons to the Traveling Wilburys and Crosby, Stills and Nash. They recently played Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit, and tonight they’re performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. But if you want to see these MoFos in person—playing a mix of originals, covers and songs from their respective catalogs—you’re got two chances: They play United Palace on Friday and the Beacon Theatre on Sunday.

(Check out the the video for “The Right Place,” above.)

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Beware of Monsters of Folk!

September 15th, 2009

Monsters of Folk
Like Godzilla or that thing from Cloverfield emerging from the East River, the Monsters of Folk are descending upon our fair city (United Palace on November 6th and the Beacon Theatre on November 8th). Although these monsters—singer-songwriter and guitarist M. Ward, Bright Eyes’ singer-songwriter and guitarist Conor Oberst and multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis and My Morning Jacket’s singer-songwriter and guitarist Jim James—are far more talented than scary. This supergroup formed in 2004, and they finally have an album, Monsters of Folk, coming out next week. The tour begins next month, and you should expect at least a two-and-a-half-hour “musical event” consisting of well-crafted material from the album, covers and original My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes and M. Ward tunes, plus a whole lot of guitar. But don’t just take out word for it, check out this American Songwriter interview with the four-headed beast. And if you want to get on this ride, get in line ’cause tickets are going fast.

(Check back with The House List next week for some more Monsters of Folk info.)