My Morning Jacket
Touring offers an unknown adventure in a different city [almost] every day, and spontaneous musical moments that push and pull [with the] magical swirl of energy that flows between band and audience. [While] recording is documenting a similar set of energy-filled moments shared between the band members, [it's] more like a never-ending slumber party and mom keeps ordering strange food from down the street and you rarely get to play Nintendo.
story by Angela Schiappacasse
photo by Autumn de Wilde
Don’t confuse Two Tone Tommy for Tommy Tutone. One is the bassist for My Morning Jacket while the other is an ’80s favorite who will best be remembered for the hit song “867-5309/Jenny”, which painfully lives on in college bars across the country. And while one has already made history as one of the neon decade’s most memorable one hit wonders, the other’s final impact remains to be seen — with a band that has not yet fully made its mark but is steadily gaining ground with a rabid fan base in tow.
Since My Morning Jacket’s major label debut in 2003, It Still Moves (ATO Records), the group has evolved into a summer festival staple — making waves at this year’s Bonnaroo for the fifth time with a set that will certainly go down in the history books. MMJ rocked out for almost four hours from midnight to 4 a.m., taking on covers and original fan favorites alike in an experience that Two Tone Tommy (a.k.a. Tom Blankenship) painfully described as “humid” and “rainy.”
“I missed every band I wanted to see,” Blankenship recalled of the event, adding, “No more IHOP, please.” So while it may have been less than magical for Blankenship, those who caught the marathon 35-song set had nothing but raves for the band’s dynamic covers ranging from The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” to Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” to Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It.”
Currently, Two Tone Tommy, Jim James and the rest of the fellas are wrapping up their U.S. tour before heading out to Europe on the heels of their fifth full-length release, Evil Urges, which was released in June and cracked the top ten on the U.S. charts. Needless to say, the modest band has come a long way since auspicious beginnings in 1998 in Louisville, Kentucky, when Tommy and James (along with former drummer J. Glenn and former guitarist Johnny Quaid, both of whom have since left the band) formed My Morning Jacket — naming it after a coat that James had found amongst the remains of his favorite bar which had burned down.
Evil Urges follows the band’s highly acclaimed 2005 release Z, but it’s the live setting in which MMJ’s reverb-heavy and jammy psychedelic Southern rock really comes alive. For Tommy, life on the road breaks down into roughly 70 percent sleeping and waiting with the rest of his days filled with playing shows, eating and hanging around. His top choice for wasting time? “Reading. Writing. Doodling. And iPod listening,” he says.
When he’s not on tour, the bassist prays he won’t have to return to the video store he used to work at between gigs. “[I] still don’t believe that I won’t have to return to the nine-to-five,” he says. “I’ve been blessed that my nominal skills pay the bills but there ain’t no guarantees.” Given the band’s recent surge of success, it doesn’t look like he’ll ever have to go back to the daily grind. Instead, Tommy will probably live out the rest of his days flip-flopping between touring and recording, both of which he says he enjoys equally.
“Touring offers an unknown adventure in a different city [almost] every day, and spontaneous musical moments that push and pull [with the] magical swirl of energy that flows between band and audience,” he says. “[While] recording is documenting a similar set of energy-filled moments shared between the band members, [it's] more like a never-ending slumber party and mom keeps ordering strange food from down the street and you rarely get to play Nintendo.”
My Morning Jacket :: Chicago Theatre :: October 9 and 10.