‘Victory Dance’ – My Morning Jacket Captivates Fans with Magical Live Performances

The door to our hotel room slowly clicked open at 5 a.m.

I grumpily shifted in my sleep on June 14, 2008 as I heard my brother Steve creep into the DoubleTree hotel room. He quietly tried not to wake Brian and me after spending all night at Bonnaroo, but I was already up.

After opening both eyes, I saw his feet and legs were covered in mud, while the smell of sweat, rain and humid Tennessee air filled the room.

“Are you just getting back now?” I asked.

Steve triumphantly looked at me and said, “Yes, My Morning Jacket played for four hours in the rain at Bonnaroo tonight. It was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.”

“Was it really worth staying out all night?” I asked.

“It was. You guys should have stayed,” Steve said.

“No artist is worth standing in the rain for four hours in the middle of the night to watch,” I said.

“Your loss,” Steve said with a victorious smile.

“Whatever,” I tiredly muttered and rolled my eyes as I went back to sleep.

Sadly, he was right. It’s not often I admit that, especially since I’m the younger sibling. (Steve will do a victory dance when he reads this part.)

I didn’t reflect back on that memory until two years later when I stood in the rain at My Morning Jacket’s May 2, 2010 show at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio.

Jim James performs at a May 2, 2010 My Morning Jacket show in Columbus, Ohio.
Jim James performs at a May 2, 2010 My Morning Jacket show in Columbus, Ohio.

It was my first My Morning Jacket show. The Louisville, Ky.-based group had embarked on a short tour with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the closest show for us was in Columbus. I wanted to see why the music media and fans constantly raved about the “magic” behind My Morning Jacket’s live shows.

I saw the “magic” unfold as frontman Jim James (or Yim Yames) victoriously danced on stage in a black cape holding an NES Zapper.

I chuckled at the sight of the Zapper, since Steve and I had a similar one when we were kids.

During the band’s 23-song set, I intuitively sensed My Morning Jacket’s connection with fans. Their Southern-rock-meets-psychedelic sound energized the crowd, despite the heavy spring showers that soaked us to the bone.

The crowd emphatically responded with cheers, hollers and shouts throughout the entire set. Together, My Morning Jacket and their fans entered into a symbiotic relationship that night. One could not survive without the other’s energy and sustenance.

Like the hardcore fans that surrounded me, I fed off the band’s energy. With each passing song, I became entangled in the band’s web of musical delight and couldn’t escape.

Even the Millennial crowd surfer who fell on me couldn’t break my hypnotic spell. I peered at the band through my bright yellow child-sized poncho in the spring rain in a trance-like state.

Then, something inside me clicked.

This was it! The My Morning Jacket “magic” Steve spoke about.

I danced victoriously on the wet pavilion concrete at the realization.

The “magic” was simply a nonverbal, intuitive connection I had built with the band. It’s a moment when I had become one with the music and tuned out everyone and everything around me.

It’s the real reason why I love music and live shows. If a band or artist can make me briefly forget what’s going on in my life for one night, then they’ve succeeded.

My Morning Jacket plays the first of two sold-out shows at Red Rocks on May 28.
My Morning Jacket plays the first of two sold-out shows at Red Rocks on May 28.

The “magic” of My Morning Jacket drew me to several shows at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza as well as tours in 2012 and 2015.

In February 2015, Brian and I flew to Riviera Maya, Mexico for My Morning Jacket’s four-day music festival called One Big Holiday, which returns Feb. 4-8, 2017.

We took the trip for our 16-year wedding anniversary and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel resort. By day we toured Mayan ruins and by night we rocked out to four nights of music by The War on Drugs, Band of Horses, Dawes, Dr. Dog, Sylvan Esso and My Morning Jacket, who played three sets during the festival.

The My Morning Jacket “magic” grew more powerful at One Big Holiday since we were surrounded by the band’s most dedicated fans.

Two of the band’s most interesting fans hailed from Melbourne. I randomly met Kentia while attending a Mayan ruin excursion one day during our trip. We talked throughout the excursion and then hung out with her and her husband in their suite at the resort.

We had a fascinating conversation about My Morning Jacket, indie rock music, concerts and Australian life while we sat on their balcony overlooking the turquoise-colored Caribbean Sea and saw pelicans gliding in the breeze.

It’s one of those life-changing musical conversations I’ll never forget – making a brief, but memorable connection with two fans from the other slide of the globe.

Another reason My Morning Jacket’s “magic” continues to fascinate me.

Nearly 16 months later, the “magic” powerfully returned during My Morning Jacket’s May 28 show at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo., which is located about 20 miles west of Denver.

The band played two sold-out shows over Memorial Day weekend at one of the country’s most beautiful venues. Once again, I stood in the rain waiting in line for the show.

Hardcore fans traveled from New York, Nashville, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities to see My Morning Jacket play at the iconic amphitheater, which was a venue I could finally scratch off my bucket list.

My Morning Jacket fans cheer on the band at Red Rocks.

My Morning Jacket’s hardcore fan following is reminiscent of The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam, but on a smaller scale.

The fans are part of a growing musical community that travels nationwide to see the band and celebrate with like-minded friends. That combination of music and camaraderie is one of the most “magical” things I’ve ever seen.

We attended the May 28 show on our 17-year wedding anniversary and sat in the front row awaiting another memorable experience. The crowd was abuzz with excitement and eagerly awaited the band’s arrival one stage.

Nearly three hours after the venue opened, My Morning Jacket energetically arrived on stage and kicked off the show with “Victory Dance,” the opening track from their 2011 album “Circuital.”

Jim James sings the opening lyrics of "Victory Dance" at Red Rocks.
Jim James sings the opening lyrics of “Victory Dance” at Red Rocks.

More than excited 9,500 fans instantly jumped to their feet and did the victory dance along to the first tune in My Morning Jacket’s 27-song, three-hour setlist, which also included songs from their 2015 album “The Waterfall” and other fan favorites.

As I heard the following “Victory Dance” lyrics, “Hey there, I’m flying up above/Looking down on the tired earth/And I can see, I can see potential/Speaking through you, speaking to you/From all of heaven’s possibilities … Hope to watch the victory dance/After a whole day’s work is done/Hope to watch the victory dance/In the evening’s setting sun” I felt the “magic” fall over the crowd and me.

Just as the lyrics indicated, the sun was about to set a few minutes later. I peered at the band through my navy blue “My Morning Jacket” hoodie and turned around to briefly glance at the crowd.

The “magic” had surrounded me yet again in another spell-binding musical moment that would repeatedly play on in my memory.

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