A couple times a year, Starbucks, STG, and KEXP team up to put on the Little Big Show – a little show with a big impact – where 100% of the proceeds go towards helping the arts stay alive for young people. This evening’s sold out show raised over $14,000 for The Vera Project, the non-profit all ages music venue at the Seattle Center where artists at any age can hear music, participate in the music scene, learn to screen print, and more. But the beautiful thing about the Little Big Show series is that people end up supporting the arts whether they like it or not, because the bill is always too good to pass up. Tonight’s show was no exception. Jim James headlined in support of his fantastic debut solo record Regions of Light and Sound of God. Together with London based soul group Cold Specks, the Little Big Show’s sixth installment was an astounding success.
To anyone who’s seen James play with My Morning Jacket or Monsters of Folk in the past, it’s no secret that the man is a prolific musician and an eclectic jam band guru. On the record, Regions is a gorgeous exercise in brevity. Each song begs to go on for another five minutes, grooving out in each possible direction, but each ends in a perfectly manageable fashion and leads on the next without any hesitation. But Regions as a musical body of work can only be fully understood in the live setting. James and his band played the record track for track in order, but not once did the audience have an idea of what would happen next. Each track evolved into an individual animal onstage. Opening with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”, James floated from one side of the stage to the other, dancing with the groove and hashing out the verses with infinite precision. But as the energy built, the band only got tighter, and once all of the Neptune was moving along with the beat, James picked up the electric guitar and lit the house on fire.
The most rewarding tracks were the ones where James ventured furthest from the template. After the psychedelic groove of “Know Til Now”, the band played a 10 minute version of “Dear One”, involving another heart-stopping guitar solo and a maniacal 4 minute drum solo, which ended with the band all coming back on stage and ripping into the chorus one last time. The simplistic beauty of “A New Life” shifted the energy back down to a whisper, but only long enough to build back into another extended folk groove. “Of The Mother Again” and “Actress” both had the crowd dancing nearly as much as James. But the highlight of the live variations came with “All Is Forgiven”. As the song faded out, a staticky, glitching drum n bass beat came over the speakers as James picked up his saxophone and threw down a tribal solo line as the band played alone. Only at a Jim James show.
For the encore, James further pleased fans with “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”, from the My Morning Jacket record Circuital, as well as smattering of tracks from the Monsters of Folk release. With each, James continued his jam band tendencies of letting the track ride out as long as it needed to. This was, of course, not a problem at all for the audience. He left us all with our ears tingling and our sense of awareness newly refreshed. Another iteration of the Little Big Show went off with flying colors! The next Little Big Show will happen in October! Keep listening to KEXP in the coming months to find out who will play and which organization will benefit! And check out more incredible pictures of Jim James below: