Jacket Goes Best With a Joint

My Morning Jacket

At the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday, May 13

Halfway through a meandering set that seemed specially tailored for B.C. pot smokers, My Morning Jacket singer Jim James made a small confession. The horrifically hirsute frontman copped to enjoying a small preshow ritual with his Louisville, Kentucky, bandmates. Seeing as how the night was dragging like summer in the Old South, everyone expected James to announce that he was higher than the Eiffel Tower. Instead he revealed that the quintet had gotten primed for the show by watching a Miss U.S.A. Fitness Championship on TV. If he was telling the truth, My Morning Jacket isn't the kind of act that gets pumped up by sporting events.

If the laid-back performance was a disappointment, it was mostly because of heightened expectations. There's been no shortage of hype around the group, with NME gushing in 2002: "Sure, you've heard that 'next big thing' tag being bandied about too many times already this year. But take it from us--My Morning Jacket are the band to fall in love with." Vancouver did just that during NewMusicWest 2003, with the group's Richard's on Richards showcase ensuring bragging rights for everyone lucky enough to be there. The word was that the act rocked like Skynyrd with a serious taste for Nashville Pussy. This raises the question, "What in the hell was going on last Thursday?"

It's not as if My Morning Jacket is completely incapable of kicking ass southern-style. Every now and then, the beer-bong noodling would stop and the band would shift up a couple of gears. The hemipowered "Lowdown" got the audience of 600 stomping around the dance floor, and "Steam Engine" started slowly but eventually exploded into a flying-sparks rocker. But mostly MMJ played the kind of aimless, solo-heavy songs made for doing drugs and eating lots of Pringles to.

The group's molasses-slow, southern-fried stoner rock wasn't totally unenjoyable. Had the band been playing a Kentucky farm during a harvest moon, "The Way That He Sings" and "Golden" would have made a perfect soundtrack. New guitarist Carl Broemel added some nice atmospheric touches on the pedal steel, and trucker hat--adorned keyboardist Bo Koster looked as though he'd just stepped off an Idaho combine, which gave the night's alt-countryish moments added authenticity.

When he wasn't impersonating The Addams Family's beloved Cousin It, James looked thrilled to be there, thanking the audience for showing the band a northern version of southern hospitality. By night's end, with My Morning Jacket plowing through an admittedly smoking "Mahgeetah", he was standing at the front of the stage, hands clasped in prayer, grinning as if he'd just been handed the keys to the kingdom. Maybe he was high on life, but as God is my witness, it looked more like he was giving thanks for the lethalness of B.C. bud.