Darien Lake, NY
July 18 2013
The weather report called for very hot temperatures and possible thunderstorms. The sky was looking a little dark but it didn’t rain yet. Temps were already over 90 degrees at noon. There was a nice breeze at Darien Lake that was a blessing from above. No one seemed to care that we were hanging out in the theme park lot, having a few drinks and listening to music. Security went by once and I just waved to them. When 3:00 came around we headed into the back lot and were feeling pretty good. We were surprised at the small number of cars, but were thinking maybe they will arrive later. I actually had a feeling before going, that the attendance level might be down for a few reasons: 1) They cancelled one of these shows in Columbus, Ohio due to not enough ticket sales which is mind boggling considering the lineup. 2)When we saw MMJ at CMAC in Canadaigua in 2010 there were only 2,000 people out of a 15,000 capacity venue. 3) It was on a Thursday & the heat was supposed to be pretty fierce 4) Bob Dylan was the main draw and I’ve heard more than a few people complain about how his voice had seen better days. 5) A few friends that I asked to go, turned me down because they were going to Furthur at CMAC the next day. I’m sure that didn’t help ticket sales.
The parking lot was very mellow and not even close to full. Somebody told me, they heard that only 4,000 people were expected. The maximum capacity was around 21,500. Unreal! Even with the above reasons that I posted, there is no reason the numbers should be that low with talent like this. Bob Dylan is a legend and Wilco & MMJ have headlined festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo & Mountain Jam. Basically there are 3 headliners at one show and they are having trouble filling seats. It is sickening to me, being a diehard music fan that people in Central New York don’t seem to be coming out to see great bands like MMJ & Wilco, when WAY less talented musicians have no problem selling out the same venues. You would think Bob Dylan alone would be able to sell more than 4,000 tickets. People I have talked to in bigger cities like Chicago and LA have said that this same tour is selling out pretty quick, so at least it isn’t happening everywhere. I know from a personal standpoint, that many people in my area, including close friends, have never heard of bands like MMJ & Wilco. In a way, I kind of like it that the mainstream is not putting an overwhelming chokehold on bands like this. But in another light,it would be nice to see them get the recognition they deserve. It’s a fine line I guess, that is always being debated. That line of being too mainstream or not. Either way, it’s a shame that I’ve seen MMJ two times where the venues weren’t even halfway filled. It’s hard to believe seeing that both times I’ve seen them were about as good as any band I’ve ever seen live.
Ryan Bingham was the first to go on and it said on the tickets that show started at 5:30 and that’s when he was going on. Well they were wrong. I heard later that gates actually opened at 4:30 and he went on right away. It wasn’t a big deal for us because we didn’t really planning on seeing him because we had a long day of heat and plenty of music ahead. That being said, I did check out some of his stuff beforehand and he is very talented. He had some songs on the Jeff Bridges movie, Crazy Heart back in 2009.
Now, it may not have been a very big deal that we missed Bingham, but the blunder by Darien Lake also meant that My Morning Jacket was hitting the stage at around 6:00, when we thought it would be more like 6:30 which almost caused us to miss some of the show. They are one of my favorite current bands so that is a big deal to me. Fortunately, we were close enough in the parking lot that we could hear when they started their set. They opened with “At Dawn” which they’ve only done one other time on the tour. The set was pretty mellow and they busted out some obscure songs that they don’t normally play much like “Lowdown” & “Just One Thing.”
When I saw them in 2010 they played a longer set, but this time they only played 2 songs that they played for that show, which I think is pretty amazing. They played 5 songs which I haven’t heard live yet. The lead singer for MMJ, Jim James was engaging with the crowd as usual. He sported a towel on his head because of the heat for most of the show and busted out his cape, which he likes to “rock” on occasion for part of the show. They sounded crisp. “Victory Dance” was one of my favorite moments of their set. It was beautifully placed & gained some serious momentum. They closed with an epic version of “Phone Went West” which is off the album “It Still Moves.” That is a song that I kind of overlooked in the past, but I am now a big fan of after seeing that version. I really would have loved it if they came out for a 2 or 3 song encore but they never did.
I understand that time was limited in a tour like this but a brief encore isn’t asking for too much. Maybe if they started the music a little earlier, that could have happened. I know that it had to have been sweltering on the stage for the musicians, so it’s easy for me to say, but an encore would have brought the set to the next level. They didn’t play hardly any of their “bigger hits” including “One Big Holiday,” “Dondante,” “Gideon,” “Mageetah,” “Golden,” “Circuital,” Touch Me I’m Going to Scream-Part 2,” or “Wordless Chorus.” It really surprised me that they didn’t play any of those songs but the set was still incredible. That shows how strong of a band MMJ is, when they didn’t play virtually any of their core songs and they still awed everyone with a great (but too short) set. If it was my first time seeing them, I may have been a tad disappointed, but I was mostly satisfied with it. I didn’t hear anyone else complain either. It just made me want to see them again as soon as possible. The heat could have been one of the main factors for the more laid back song choices. I recommend the dvd Okonokos for people trying to get more familiar with MMJ. It is a video of a live secret show that they did back in 2006. The location is unknown, although some think it was around the San Francisco area.
Wilco came on next and were outstanding. It was my first time seeing them and I left wanting more. Partly because of the shorter than usual setlist and partly because they were so damn good. I was pretty satisfied with the set list. “Art of Almost” & “Bull Black Nova” are 2 of my favorites. I was really hoping for “Poor Places” and/or “Handshake Drugs” too, but they didn’t play either. I really enjoyed some of the songs that I am less familiar with too. Other standouts for me included “Impossible Germany,” “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “Cars Can’t Escape” & “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.” Their frontman, Jeff Tweedy, who is known to be a bit of a grouch at times, seemed to be in good spirits. He has a phenomenal voice and has to be considered one of the best current lyricists in music.
Their guitarist, Nels Cline is an absolute beast. You don’t hear him get the praise that maybe he deserves. Saying he’s underrated would be putting it mildly. He is intense to watch with his combination of precision and distortion. MMJ came out for one cover, which they have been doing the whole tour. They brought up Bob Weir & Richard Thompson instead of MMJ most other times. MMJ also came out the show before this one to play Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” For this one they played Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny bout) Peace Love & Understanding”. It was one of my highlights of the night for sure. Wilco, unfortunately didn’t come out for an encore either. The crowd seemed to be very pleased with both bands so far. If you’re not very familiar with Wilco, I recommend the 2002 documentary “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” which journals the making of their epic album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”
BOB DYLAN SET LIST:
Things Have Changed Love Sick High Water (For Charley Patton) Soon after Midnight Early Roman Kings Tangled Up in Blue Duquesne Whistle She Belongs to Me Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall Blind Willie McTell Simple Twist of Fate Thunder on the Mountain All Along the Watchtower Encore: Blowin’ in the Wind
Wilco Set List:
Cars Can’t Escape Bull Black Nova Sky Blue Sky Hesitating Beauty Impossible Germany I Am Trying to Break Your Heart Born Alone Radio Cure Art of Almost Passenger Side (What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (Nick Lowe cover) (with My Morning Jacket) Hate It Here Dawned on Me Heavy Metal Drummer I’m the Man Who Loves You I’m a Wheel
My Morning Jacket Set List:
At Dawn Wonderful (The Way I Feel) Outta My System Lowdown Lay Low War Begun Just One Thing Heartbreakin Man Victory Dance The Day Is Coming Off the Record Phone Went West