My Morning Jacketless: Jim James at High Sierra

Tahoe Onstage

Jim James on the Grandstand stage at the High Sierra Music Festival on Saturday, July 6.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage images

If Jim James’ solo albums and My Morning Jacket masterpieces didn’t convince music lovers of his prowess, his live show seals the deal.

MMJ last performed at High Sierra Music Festival in 2011. James returned to Quincy this summer with a new band, but the same tenacity, musicianship and amazing light show.

No matter what, his concerts seem to end up in a King Crimson-esk psychedelic groove, but also with strong pop sensibilities. The combination is highly unique.

His clear low voice and charming falsetto are accented by his lead guitar skills. He’s somewhere between Neil Young and St. Vincent. A very sexy place to be indeed.

James had a kinship with his friends onstage. He touched heads with multiple band members during different solos as they circled around the stage like wrestlers. One was Amo Amo frontwoman Lovelle Femme, who sat-in on more than half the set with bandmate Omar Velasco, both singing background vocals.

A few longer jams toward the end of the set were pinnacle. Music at its finest. Building at the right spots, releasing when needed. And never more than a minute away from something impressive created by bending metal or stretched vocal cords.

If James only sang, he’d go down as a legend. But he is also continuously impressive on the guitar as well. He’s a spiraling ball of hair swinging around the stage with a guitar attached. The interludes remind me again of Crazy Horse, they are vibey and full of guitar hooks, control and virtuosity.

James’ music has it all. My metal soul is headbanging while the flower child next to me is realigning her chakra.

Have you ever seen two adult women have a spirit dance-off?
They clear out space and spin like performing birds. One forever outdoing the other with technique or finesse. Passersby sigh and choose an alternative route. They are the straightedge moshers of hippy culture. I digress.

James finished the final solo by releasing a huge scream followed by his band making a few false stops, some drum solos and guitar dissonance.

“Thank you. We love you,” James said to a crowded Grandstand audience.

— Tony Contini

About Tony Contini

Photographer and journalist Tony Contini graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in art photography. He loves working with bands and telling stories. Photography portfolio:

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