In his new hometown, Jim James reminds us why he’s one of the most gifted songwriters out there

Jim JamesBy Josh Herwitt //

Jim James with Twin Limb //
Orpheum Theatre – Los Angeles
December 9th, 2016 //

If you want to know what’s been on Jim James’ mind lately, just listen to his new album Eternally Even. The frontman and primary songwriter for My Morning Jacket released his sophomore solo LP last month just prior to Election Day, and it’s by far his most political effort yet in his ongoing quest to promote worldwide peace, love and equality.

In that regard, you might think James Edward Olliges Jr. sounds like a modern-day hippie. Sure, Jerry Garcia is one of his many heroes (at least according to this Instagram post), but with all the turmoil at home and abroad right now, James’ message remains a particularly important one that each of us should apply to our own lives. Because no matter what your political beliefs are, we can all agree that the world needs more compassion and empathy, right? In the new world order of President-elect Donald Trump, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

But for as inspiring as James’ lyrics are on Eternally Even, it’s his songwriting that shines through brightest. While his debut solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God had its moments, it lacked the cohesiveness that the Louisville native’s latest studio work offers. From the opening notes of “Hide in Plain Sight” to the closing title track, the record flows seamlessly from start to finish — and no song embodies that better than the two-part “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger” (sadly, we aren’t). Neither is James, and yet, at age 38, he has become one of today’s most prolific and gifted songwriters. Between his work in MMJ, indie-folk supergroup Monsters of Folk (with Conor Oberst and M. Ward) and the Dylan-inspired collective known as The New Basement Tapes (featuring Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford and more), it’s incredible that James even has the time to take on another side project, let alone make an album that sounds as good as Eternally Even does in “a couple weeks” from what he told LA Weekly.

Jim James

James is in rare company these days, amid a dying breed of guitar-rock gods like Jack White and Josh Homme who are not only capable of playing anything on six strings, but also on a myriad of instruments. And while Eternally Even feels in some ways like an opportunity for him to finally experiment more with keyboards, James made sure to remind his fans at the 90-year-old Orpheum Theatre last Friday that shredding is still a priority. Performing in his new hometown after officially moving to LA this year, he assumed the role of lead singer for much of the show as he and his bandmates from Twin Limb (also opening for James on this tour) played all of Eternally Even and half of Regions. But propped up by a stand onstage the whole time was James’ black Gibson axe, and you knew at some point during a two-hour set that he was going to unload some sick riffs like we have become accustomed to seeing from him at Jacket shows.

In a similar vein, James’ propensity for live covers extends far outside the realm of MMJ, and at the Orpheum, we were treated to his own renditions of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free” and Parliament’s “Come in Out of the Rain”. He even gave a nod to the New Multitudes, which James formed alongside Jay Farrar, Will Johnson and Anders Parker to commemorate Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. But no cover resonated more with the crowd than The New Basement Tapes’ “Down on the Bottom”, as James demonstrated why his guitar playing can transfix a near-religious experience for celebrity fanboys like Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who plays the character “McLovin” in the 2007 movie “Superbad”) only a few rows away from me.

As he has done for most of this tour, James wrapped things up with a forewarning about our growing dependence on technology in the form of “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”, ripping into one last guitar solo to the sound of cheers from the audience. It was the perfect way to cap off a performance that mixed James’ psychedelic tendencies — his knack for getting weird, if you will — and his undying appreciation for soul music. That sonic marriage ultimately lays a lot of the groundwork for Eternally Even, with James paying homage, whether purposely or not, to his other musical heroes, be it Marvin Gaye or Bill Withers. And although James may not be quite there yet as far as stature goes, we just might look back on him in the same way one day.

Setlist:
Hide in Plain Sight
Know Til Now
Same Old Lie
In the Moment
A New Life
The World’s Smiling Now
True Nature
Dear One
Here in Spirit
I’m Set Free (The Velvet Underground cover)
We Ain’t Getting Any Younger Pt. 1
We Ain’t Getting Any Younger Pt. 2
Eternally Even

Encore:
Changing World (New Multitudes cover)
Of the Mother Again
Come in Out of the Rain (Parliament cover)
Down on the Bottom (The New Basement Tapes cover)
State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)

Outside Lands 2014: Lineup locks, likely acts & long shots

OSL_Windmill-Scene-by-Tim-HampsonPhotos by Tim Hampson // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

As we inch towards springtime, leading to summer, and Coachella is within a month’s reach, some Bay Area music freaks (like us) begin to speculate about who is gonna be gracing those stages freckled throughout Golden Gate Park come August. Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is set to return to SF on August 8th-10th.

The greatest indicators are the group’s touring schedules — Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal and Pickathon in Oregon have announced their schedules the weekend prior to Outside Lands (with Lollapalooza to still be announced). Squamish Valley Music Festival in British Columbia is the same weekend as Outside Lands, but Vancouver is close enough for artists to double dip.

Conversely, we can confirm some big acts that won’t be on the bill due to scheduling conflicts. But if this is even close to what the Outside Lands 2014 lineup looks like, the Bay Area should be in for a delicious, fog-enhanced treat.

UPDATE 4/7: The lineup has been announced!

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Lock It In (we think)

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: A new album on the way and a lack of dates out West makes him a solid candidate for top billing this year. Also, keep in mind that OSL has never repeated headliners, as well as the fact that Super Fly (Bonnaroo), who along with Another Planet Presents, handles the bulk of the booking.

Arctic Monkeys: [CONFIRMED] These festival stalwarts announced an extensive tour with a noticeable gap in the western demographic which leads to speculation that they’ll return for a sub-headlining set. Confirmed for August 10th at Osheaga.

Chromeo: [CONFIRMED] A Red Rocks date on August 5th is a good sign that these party starters are en route back to San Francisco for a possible Twin Peaks headlining spot. 

Modest Mouse: Confirmed for Osheaga, and with no California dates on the calendar for the recently announced tour, Modest Mouse is starting to look like a lock.

Cut Copy: [CONFIRMED] Cut Copy and Chromeo are on parallel tracks. Both will have played APE shows in the past year, and their tour buses are aligning toward the Bay in early August.

CHVRCHES: [CONFIRMED] Confirmed for Osheaga, it just makes sense that one of the the biggest breakout acts of 2013 will triumphantly return to the Bay after playing the Independent, Mezzanine & Fox Theater Oakland over the past year.

Flume: [CONFIRMED] It’s due time for this EDM heat-seeker to return to San Francisco, and what better place and time than Outside Lands. Flume’s popularity could land him Twin Peaks headlining duties.

Tycho: [CONFIRMED] Having become the darlings of Another Planet, what better progressive act to grace the bill than Tycho. Sold out shows in the coming weeks lend to a strong demand.

Foster the People: Performing at Squamish Valley Music Festival Friday lends a good possibility that Mark Foster and band will trek down to Golden Gate Park for a Sunday set. A slot at Osheaga Festival the weekend prior says they’ll be hitting many large events as they support their latest release Supermodel.

Iron & Wine and Glen Hansard: These two artists are booked to play Hollywood Bowl on August 10th, leading most savvy music aficionados to make the leap that these acts will be present.

Danny Brown: A lack of Bay Area dates coupled with spots on the ‘OSL crossover’ festival, Squamish, could mean we are in for a ‘Kush Koma’ with oddball, Danny Brown. 

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Likely To Appear

Elton John: The announcement of Sir Elton playing Bonnaroo has fueled this rumor nicely, even if questions of availability swirl. The main issue would be surrounding a clause with Caesars where John has a residency. However, this Vegas run ends in April, so it looks possible.

Green Day: These Bay Area legends have surprisingly never played Outside Lands, and it seems possible we’ll see them grace the main stage for a night with Billy Joe and company. 

Coldplay: New music on the way, coupled with scheduled appearances at South by Southwest is a clear sign that Chris Martin and lads are gearing up to re-dominate the world with their anthemic rock. Also, never headlined OSL.

Tiësto: [CONFIRMED] Ranger Dave likes to book some of the biggest names in the EDM world to ‘compete’ with headliners, attracting a slightly younger crowd to congregate at Twin Peaks on most evenings. Tiësto’s production would fit nicely into the bigness of past DJ spotlights.

Frank Ocean: Frankie is mounting his come back after a relatively quiet past few years. His billing on Bonnaroo fuels the speculation that Super Fly booked him, and other acts, for more than just Roo.

The Flaming Lips: [CONFIRMED] Wayne Coyne has had a busy past few months with a recent release and some serious Fall touring. Now, as summer looms, it appears the Lips will be omnipresent at summer festivals. Recent Another Planet shows coupled with Bonnaroo presence make these weirdo legends a likely booking.

Lorde: Has any act ever gone to sub-headliner status this quickly? Based on her popularity and the way she’s altered the pop landscape, Lorde deserves it. She’s confirmed to play Osheaga and her April dates at Fox Theater sold out immediately.

Chance the Rapper: No longer Chicago’s secret, Chancelor Bennett needs to get better acquainted with the Bay Area. There is a gap in his schedule, and the Acid Rapper is confirmed for Osheaga.

HAIM: [CONFIRMED] For being California girls, sisters Este, Danielle and Alana could show a bit more love to the Bay Area (They’ve played in England over 20 times). Their first ever show in the Bay was at Treasure Island Music Festival last year, and their fauxchella Fillmore dates were tough tickets to snag as they sold out in seconds.

Lykke Li: [CONFIRMED] Confirmed for Friday of Squamish, it’s very possible the breathtaking Swedish singer-songwriter could grace Outside Lands on Sunday.

Foxygen: Even though there has been turmoil (broken legs, inner-band conflict), the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic should come play “San Francisco” in it’s namesake. The group is confirmed for Pickathon as well.

Mikal Cronin: [CONFIRMED] The singer-songwriter has become quite the popular local musician and would be ideal for a showcase of SF rock. Booked for the Oregon Pickathon means he’ll be active around this time. 

Valerie June: [CONFIRMED] The American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is playing Pickathon and other West Coast dates prior to Outside Lands. June’s sound will fit nicely into the festival’s curation net.

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It Could Happen

Kanye West: [CONFIRMED] As it appears OutKast will not be the infamous first hip-hop headliner, we look to Kanye West as an outside possibility as the debut of rap taking center stage one summer evening. Inclusion on Bonnaroo’s docket makes a reasonably strong start to an argument for Yeezy.

Eminem: Already a rumored headliner for Lollapalooza, Slim Shady has also booked a co-headlining date with Rihanna at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena the Thursday before Outside Lands while also confirmed for Squamish on Sunday the 10th. Starting to trend toward “likely”, should we be adding RiRi as a rumored headliner?

Tool: Already playing two SF shows in March, would it be that much of a surprise to see Tool headlining one night? Certainly they are big enough to handle top billing duties.

Pharrell Williams: A Ranger Dave’s “hat” tweet has led many to speculate the possibility of Williams’ presence on the festival grounds. Limited dates pepper his itinerary, so it’s anyone’s guess.

The Avett Brothers: Having not played the event in over five years and select festival appearances over the summer, one could make the argument that Avett will return. Bonnaroo booking also helps this case.

Kendrick Lamar: K-Dot’s touring schedule is open, but there are no obvious indicators an Outside Lands appearance will happen. But for a festival that’s usually short on hip hop & rap, it would be too fun to see the Outside Lands stage and surrounding area get crazy during “Backseat Freestyle”.

Gogol Bordello: The Gypsy-punk freaks are confirmed to play Osheaga, and they played Outside Lands in 2010. A return seems possible.

Jagwar Ma: [CONFIRMED] Being rather active in the festival realm in 2014, these party-starters can easily jump from Osheaga over to SF. A previous Another Planet-booked show at the Independent demonstrates there is communication present.
 
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Long Shots: Already booked elsewhere (don’t count on it)

OutKast: Andre 3000 and Big Boi might be playing over 40 festivals this year, but Outside Lands won’t be one of them. OutKast is confirmed for Flow Festival in Finland the same weekend as Outside Lands.

Arcade Fire: Win Butler and company are performing at Squamish Valley Music Festival, but they have a date set at Shoreline in July, and they headlined three years ago.

Jack Johnson
Queens of the Stone Age
Robert Plant
Santana
Neutral Milk Hotel
Janelle Monae
DARKSIDE
Mac Demarco

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