By Christopher Vaughn
When Jim James and his fellow Louisville, Ky., rockers in My Morning Jacket visit New York for the holidays, they aren’t thinking “Silent Night.”
The group’s last two December dates were three-hour-plus, floor-stomping celebrations that filled Madison Square Garden. This year, the soulful Southern rock collective will move their season-time spectacle to the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester for a three-night run.
Through Saturday, the band will occupy the venue as a part of their “Spontaneous Curation Series,” a tour where, prior to the show, fans select their favorite singles, deep album tracks and rarities online for the group to perform live.
This leaves for an unpredictable evening.
Casual listeners will surely recognize rock radio mainstays like “I’m Amazed,” “Off the Record” and “Holding on to Black Metal” from the Grammy nominated album, “Circuital.” Tunes that appear on their first whiskey-soaked country record, “Tennessee Fire” are expected from a fan-administered set list as well.
The five-piece ensemble started as Americana-strumming folkies, but since have harnessed elements from funk, dub, hip-hop, electronica and a music-lover’s roll of other genres over the band’s 14-year career.
Exploring these styles across six studio albums would have been risky for most modern rock bands, but MMJ, an alternative rock band that held fast to its core tumbling-guitar and big-riff sound, has a mix that landed the band on both the “Billboard 200” and critic’s lists.
“This is a band that could play anywhere they want to,” Tom Bailey, general manager of the newly reopened theater, says. “We are honored and delighted they choose to bring their name here.”
The Capitol’s 1,800 capacity is a departure from MSG’s stadium-sized seating, but not from their arena-quality sound. The historic theater is notable for its acoustics and was once a preferred rehearsal space for Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel.
Many also remember the heart of downtown Port Chester as a necessary stop on the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and James Taylors’s tour schedules in the 1960s and 1970s. It was frequented by The Grateful Dead; from 1970-1971, they played 18 times and had a six-night-rally from Feb. 18-24 in ’71.
Bookers at The Cap aim to re-ignite close-knit relationships with extended performances by bands like MMJ, who are known for settling on a stage for multiple nights.
“Performers couldn’t be more supportive,” says Bailey, who lives in Port Chester. “We are starting to see the same faces.”
Regardless if a MMJ devotee bought one ticket, or finagled three — all who attend will be able to hear Jim James’ angelic falsetto resound throughout the 85-year-old space. The venue will email each stub-bearer an MP3 of the performance they went to.
“I know the quality of the theater,” Alice Meisel, a Manhattan resident who was at a show at The Cap the other day, said. “It’s small, it’s intimate, it’s fantastic and I’m coming up for My Morning Jacket.”
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