BY IAN HRABE
Having now seen Magnolia Electric Co. four times, I can honestly say that I've never seen them put on a show that was anything less than great. The big thing I realized seeing them Sunday night at the Jackpot was that regardless of the fact that I only knew half the songs, every song was excellent, and the ones I didn't know I wrote down lyrics from to look up later.
Though main songwriter Jason Molina constantly relies on the same images (try to find a song of his that doesn't reference ghosts, highways, the moon, or the blues), there's a resonance in his voice when he sings a line like, I'm as lonesome as the world's first ghost, that stops you in your tracks.
Though Lawrence was the last stop on the group's most recent tour and they looked pretty tired, that didn't stop them from delivering some righteous alt-country. There were guitar solos everywhere (occasionally performed by Molina but mostly by axeman Jason Groth), and while a sick guitar solo in the middle of "Leave the City" might not have worked in such a sad, heartbreaking song, it totally did.
They sounded looser and more at ease than the last time I saw them. While the set featured older jams like "The Dark Don't Hide It" and "Hard to Love a Man" from the first proper Magnolia Electric Co. release, What Comes After the Blues, the set was mostly comprised of newer songs from 2007's excellent Sojourner box set and tunes from their forthcoming LP Josephine, which is slated for a July release on
Judging by the new songs, Josephine could be their masterpiece: tunes like "Little Sad Eyes," "O! Grace," and the title track were all showstoppers. An encore performance of Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy," cemented Magnolia Electric Co. as one of the most consistent live bands out there. Though the Neil Young & Crazy Horse comparisons are always going to be inescapable, it's great to see these guys getting tighter and more confident every time I see them.
Openers and Lawrence favorites Drakkar Sauna delivered a headliner-length set of their typically weird but always wonderful folk jams and were even joined by members of Magnolia Electric Co. on the last five songs. Apparently those dudes are guesting on the upcoming Drakkar Sauna record and Drakkar Sauna are guesting on the new Magnolia Electric Co. record which sounds like a party to me.
Drakkar Sauna were preceded by one-man act Thousand Arrows (Pete Schreiner, bassist for Magnolia Electric Co.), who sang bearded-dude singer-songwriter songs over an acoustic guitar, sounding like a generic version of Richard Buckner.