My Morning Jacket have a well-deserved reputation as one of rock’s most exciting live acts, and from their earliest days the band has been treating Boston to monumental performances. The group will visit the city again when they headline Boston Calling on May 23rd. On the eve of their latest lengthy jaunt on the road, we caught up with drummer Patrick Hallahan at home in Louisville, where the band formed, to chat about some of his favorite moments in Boston, his thoughts on playing at City Hall Plaza, and what he is looking to accomplish on this trip that has eluded him on other visits to the Hub.
Dig: You guys have been playing here for a long time now. I can remember l seeing you play upstairs at the Middle East.
PH: I remember that one very well (laughs). We were driving in and I had this idea to come on to some “Walk In” music that I can’t even remember right now, but it was smooth and we had to wait for this particular moment which was probably about two and a half minutes into the song! I was like, “Guys, we’re going to walk out at this precise point,” and we walked out and nothing happened. The people were all still listening to the song and didn’t even notice us! So, my first moment playing in Boston was one where I realized I probably shouldn’t be picking our music for a while.
That show was a lot of fun and that venue left a huge impression on me in terms of the energy in the people there and the overall setting of where it was. That’s the first place that I played in Boston with the Jacket [after replacing original drummer, J. Glenn and then replacement Chris “KC” Guetig].
Dig: You have since played some big ones here. There was an opening slot for Wilco at Agganis Arena and then your own headlining show there on New Year’s Eve in 2012, but you built the audience up steadily leading to that.
PH: Yeah, there was a bunch of smaller shows. I remember the club over near Fenway Park, the Avalon, was a real good one. They had this amazing backdrop, like a starry night backdrop. It was like a backdrop full of white twinkling lights and this was before we carried a lighting package with us and we were like, “Okay, turn down the house lights and we’re just going to play in front of this thing for a couple of songs.” It was one of the best feelings ever and because it was right across the street from Fenway we got to catch a game so that day was really special.
I passed by there not too long ago and saw that it had become a House of Blues, which is a good and bad thing. House of Blues is a good establishment, but it’s sad when a privately-owned venue gets eaten up. But, what are you gonna’ do?
Dig: And in the summer, you’ve played out on the water at what is now known as the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, but will always be known to locals as Harbor Lights.
PH: Absolutely, yeah, that place is incredible. We played there for the first time with Foo Fighters, opening up for them. I’ll never forget that moment and that was actually the first time I met Jack Black, he was back there hanging out with Dave Grohl. I just remember forming little bonds with those guys and our manager got us a bunch of fresh lobsters so we had a nice lobster dinner right there next to the water before we played a show. Pretty sweet, and again that overall energy of a Boston crowd is particularly amplified at a place like that because all of the applause, or booing (laughs), is contained within that huge white sail. That venue can get super intimate because the sound is contained so well.
Dig: So, this time you play right on City Hall Plaza, the heart of the city.
PH: My brother actually works for the Boston Beer Company and he was telling me about Boston Calling last year, it seems like a great location. It’s right there smack in the middle of the city, right? I think that it’s great to play all different locations in a town to really get to know it. Putting an outdoor stage where there wouldn’t normally be a music venue, I’m just looking forward to a different scene, a different scenario and a different feel for where we play. We’re a product of our environment and anytime we play somewhere like that we immediately kind of take on that energy. We’ll see what an urban setting in Boston feels like.
Dig: And, as you once told me, you were a foodie when they just called it being hungry, so I am guessing that’s on your agenda?
PH: Boston is one town that I unfortunately don’t know a lot about from a culinary sense. That is something that I very much need to, and plan on, working on because I collect restaurant knowledge like some people collect baseball cards. I learn about chefs like you’d learn about a musician so pulling into Boston I am hoping to get my mind blown by something I haven’t tried yet. I guess I’ll just turn to people that I know and trust to figure out some good places to start falling in love with. I’ve seen so much of this country but for some reason I just haven’t gained the Boston knowledge that I want. There you go; I want some homework!
BOSTON CALLING W/ MY MORNING JACKET. FRI-SUN 5.22-24. CITY HALL PLAZA, 1 CITY HALL SQ., BOSTON. 12PM/$75+. BOSTONCALLING.COM.