One of my favorite summer traditions in DC is the seemingly annual My Morning Jacket show at Merriweather. Tuesday’s show with opener Brittany Howard was the band’s 8th show in Columbia since they graduated to amphitheaters in 2010. I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve been to all of those shows, but I’ve seen most of them and the 2011 and 2015 shows still stand out to me. The Circuitual tour show in 2011 might be the best show I’ve seen the band do locally.
Merriweather was a little over half full on Sept. 7, which was actually a wonderful thing. If you wanted to experience the show in a crowd, there were plenty of people around to remind you how that felt, pre-COVID. If you were still a little freaked out by maskless people singing and shouting along to the music, there were plenty of empty spaces to claim and still have a great vantage point for the show.
Oh yeah, the show. This was the band’s third performance in 2021, after a COVID case forced them to reschedule a Georgia show the previous weekend. So early enough in the tour where it took the band a few songs to find their legs, but also early enough to hear just the third-ever live performances of “Wasted” and new single “Regularly Scheduled Programming,” which opened the show.
A somewhat shaky version of “Wordless Chorus” was third up and could have meant trouble for the rest of the night*, but the band found the pocket two songs later with a bouncy version of crowd fave “Off the Record.” Sometimes a My Morning Jacket show doesn’t officially start until you hear “that” riff. A pounding “Spring (Among The Living)” followed by a touching “Golden” and everyone could breathe easy, we were officially off to the races from there. A few songs later we were treated to A Tennessee Fire’s “War Begun”, played for just the fourth time since 2018.
The meat of the set soon arrived, starting with “Dondante” and personal fave and sneakily best MMJ song to play air-guitar along with “Lay Low”. The aforementioned “Wasted” closed out the set and it’s easy to see this song becoming the foundation of the band’s set going forward. The chonky, mountain-sized riff that closes this song was seared into my brain and it’s literally all I can think about since the show ended. It’s that good.
“Victory Dance” started the encore and then Jim James and Co. brought “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2” out of the mothballs. It’s dancey backbeat proved a nice change of pace from the other songs in the set before closing out the night with “One Big Holiday.”
I’ve been to a few small shows in the last three weeks, slowly dipping my toes into returning to live music, but this show was such a great reintroduction to proper shows at large venues. The band found their form and played a great (some might even say life affirming! Yes, I really missed going to concerts!) set, the staff at Merriweather did a great job of getting people in and out of the venue and the weather was damn near perfect. I chatted with friends through Brittany Howard’s set (she was great, what little I saw) and it was a great reminder of how wonderful experiencing live music can be.
*For the record, the band not firing on all cylinders for their third performance in two years is totally understandable. I pride myself in being a ninja in moving around the photo pit but I bumped into and straight ran over my friend Joy no fewer than four times while shooting this show. We’re all relearning how to do things that used to be second nature. We’ll get there.
Regularly Scheduled Programming
Off the Record
Spring (Among the Living)
Climbing the Ladder
Lucky to Be Alive
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
One Big Holiday
Here are some pictures of My Morning Jacket performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 7, 2021. All photos copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.