Tag Archives: Monsters of Folk

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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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Conor Oberst Doesn’t Disappoint

November 26th, 2012

Conor Oberst – Carnegie Hall – November 21, 2012


Outside Carnegie Hall last Wednesday, scalpers were offering tickets for Bright Eyes the night before Thanksgiving. What the what? Bright Eyes at Carnegie Hall? ’Twas true, as one Conor Oberst headlined a sold-out Stern Auditorium. From musical wunderkind to revered label chief, the 32-year-old’s long career was on full display in the famed hall’s confines. Covering material largely from his band, Bright Eyes, Oberst was dressed to the nines with a Calla lily boutonniere adorning his breast pocket and began his set solo with “The Big Picture.” Crooning the last line of the song from Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, his vocals reverberated throughout the hall.

Joined by multi-instrumentalist Ben Brodin, Oberst introduced new material early on with “Common Knowledge.” Getting comfortable, he joked that it was great to kick back in a venue that reminded him of shows back in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. Adding more company on the vast stage, Oberst called upon Rachel Cox to accompany him on “Classic Cars,” and long-term Bright Eyes member, Nate Walcott, sneaked onstage unbeknownst to Oberst until Walcott seated himself with trumpet in hand for “Southern State.” The number was thoroughly enhanced with classical keys from the black Steinway, which was one of the most expected instruments at the hallowed venue. Having played “At the Bottom of Everything” in 2004 for the Tibet House Benefit Concert, Oberst revealed it wasn’t his first time performing at Carnegie Hall.

Women play a big part in Oberst’s songwriting canon, which was also the case with “You Are Your Mother’s Child,” a new song. With James Felice on accordion, Oberst continued his female-inspired musings, playing “Ten Women,” a song he described as being careful what you wish for. The oldie “Laura Laurent” was a fan favorite, although its material sadly chronicles Oberst’s struggles with his depression-stricken ex. Not to enshroud the setting with too much emo, he picked up the tempo, dedicating the Monsters of Folk ditty “Map of the World” to fellow Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis, who was absent for the night. Oberst rocked out as his long locks whipped with every guitar strum. Not to leave fans wanting more, his encore included “Lua,” with Cox filling in for Gillian Welch, “Make War,” and the Felice Brothers crew on “Waste of Paint,” leaving no one disappointed as they exited the lush, grand venue. —Sharlene Chiu

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Such a Night

May 14th, 2012

M. Ward – Webster Hall – May 11, 2012


It felt like summer had just arrived in New York City on a warm Friday night. Things were even hotter inside sold-out Webster Hall when M. Ward descended on to the stage as the “Post-War” interlude slowly grooved. Those in the crowd cheered as he dug into the older album Post-War, early into the show, and then sang along to “Poison Cup” and “Chinese Translation.” Ward was packing oldies but goodies to please longtime followers (pre–She & Him). He even delved deeper into his catalog, touching upon “Fuel for Fire” from Transistor Radio. Although the singer-songwriter let his tunes speak for him most of the show, Ward confessed, “It’s still early in the night, but you’re my favorites.”

Upon cheers he sang, “New York, I’m falling into a deep, deep depression.” But those lyrics from “Pure Joy,” the last track on his latest, A Wasteland Companion, were the opposite of what he was feeling. Chris Scruggs added the melodic reverb of the lap steel on “Clean Slate,” another off his latest. Ward’s twangier rendition of “Magic Trick” had quite a few couples dancing. And he treated the audience to a few covers, like John Fahey’s “Bean Vine Blues, No. 2,” Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” which appears on his last record, Hold Time, and Daniel Johnston’s “To Go Home.”

Rachel Cox provided backing vocals for “I Get Ideas,” and also stepped in for Zooey Deschanel on the rollicking Budweiser-selling “Never Had Nobody Like You.” There was no doubt there would be an encore and Ward sure didn’t disappoint. He unveiled a sweet take on “Such a Night,” made famous by Elvis Presley, followed by a floor-shaking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” The latter was a special Record Store Day–release B-side. While the longtime live favorite would have been enough, Ward brought out one of his Monsters of Folk cohorts, Conor Oberst, to end the night with “Vincent O’Brien.” —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mina K

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Monsters of Folk – United Palace – November 6, 2009

November 9th, 2009

Monsters of Folk - United Palace - November 6, 2009

Photos courtesy of Dino Perrucci | dinoperrucciphotography.com

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See Monsters of Folk This Weekend!

November 5th, 2009

Monsters of Folk play United Palace tomorrow and the Beacon Theatre on Sunday. Check them out, above, playing “Dear God” with the Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

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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.)