While one side of Zilker Park was vibing with godhead Stevie Wonder, the other was being bathed in volume and industrial melodies by My Morning Jacket, who continuously make good on their tag as one of the best, if not the best, live American rock bands in the past decade. Opening with "Victory Dance" from this year's recent Circuital, the band was clearly audible to those near the Wonder stage, as the R&B architect's set started late.
It seems to us that confirmed soul devotee and MMJ honcho Jim James was trying to blow one of his idols off his own stage, or at least letting the Wonder crowd know what they were missing.To some people, even the idea of us splitting our time between Wonder and anyone else seemed criminal given our job title.
The last time we saw MMJ, back in May, our feet were sitting in sand on the beach in Alabama for Hangout Fest at Gulf Shores. This time around the music was dialed up to the hilt, and even hundreds of yards back they were almost metal-loud. The work from 2003's It Still Moves, namely "Golden" and "Mahgeetah" has been festival-ready from it's inception.
The woozy "Outta My System" came halfway through, and the song, with that line "They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn't listen," was pitch perfect for the crowd, already two days into an ACL skunk. "Smokin' From Shootin'" was a highlight, with James kicking and jumping against imaginary psych-ward walls.
The roots-disco of "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2" was a tad shaky, with that killer guitar break where all Heaven breaks loose disjointed and off-time, but we may have been only of a handful to notice.
But by far it was the addition of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for the last three songs of the set that clinched the set for us. MMJ had collaborated with the collective in the past, but with both bands playing within hours of each other Saturday, a pairing was inevitable. A version of "Dancefloors" with both bands playing at full power, and the brass and drums propelling James figuratively into the Austin sky was a moment for the ACL 2011 yearbook.
Personal Bias: The whole feet in the sand thing back in May, with owning all the MMJ works sort of sealed the deal long ago.
The Crowd: Plenty of folks were going back and forth between Wonder and MMJ to hear snippets of musical history and bombastic theatrical weapons-grade Americana. If you could swing both, you left musically nourished for days.
Overheard in the Crowd: The cheers of the college football fans watching games on the big screen yards away from the stage, and the complaints of Wonder exiles talking about the lack of volume on the Bud Light stage.
Random Notebook Dump: We really wish that Wonder had closed the weekend out and played Sunday night so the whole park could have been devoted to him, instead of having to battle with MMJ on a Saturday evening. Oh, this review was supposed to be about MMJ only?
MMJ SET LIST
Victory Dance Circuital Off The Record I'm Amazed Gideon Golden Outta My System Mahgeetah Smokin From Shootin Run Thru Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2 Wordless Chorus Holdin' On to Black Metal (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band) Dancefloors (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band) One Big Holiday (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)