New Multitudes Honor Woody Guthrie @ Mayan Theatre, LA 3/7/12

The busy music month of March in Los Angeles begins…

Last night at the Mayan Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, the supergroup known as New Multitudes (Jay Farrar, Jim James, Anders Parker & Will Johnson) played for the second time ever together. The band was assembled this year to honor the late Woody Guthrie, whose catalog was made available to them by Guthrie’s daughter, Nora. Per the press release, the four songwriters were “offered the chance to plumb and mine the plethora of notebooks, scratch pads, napkins, etc. for anything that might inspire them to lend their voices and give the words new life.”

The almost two-hour performance was mostly made up of material off the just released New Multitudes album, with a few songs from each individual’s other band(s) (Son Volt/Uncle Tupelo, Centro-matic, Gob Iron, My Morning Jacket). All four musicians shared vocal duties and switched up instruments on the regular. Jim James (or Yim Yames as he’s billed for this project) handled bass guitar for most of the night, switching to acoustic guitar when needed. As evidenced in a few videos, Yim was certainly one of the more energetic bass players I’ve seen, roaming, and jumping back and forth all night. His lead bass lines did not get lost in the mix, that’s for sure. Think Flea with much longer hair. Jay Farrar led with his electric/acoustic while Will Johnson and Anders Parker switched off between drums and mostly electric guitar.

A standout was the old Uncle Tupelo tune “Still Be Around” performed solo by Farrar. Also making up the encore was a cover of My Morning Jacket’s “The Way That He Sings” off At Dawn. Hearing Jay Farrar on lead guitar for the MMJ tune, while James offered his signature vocals was pretty cool. The last few songs of the night incorporated the Mayan Theatre’s large disco ball which was lowered and turned the theatre/club into a psychedelic mix of sparkling purple to close out the evening.

As with most supergroups and the Philadelphia Eagles, I was worried the New Multitudes would have an outpour of talent but no chemistry — thankfully this was not the case. Each song seemed developed with a full band sound in mind — not just three backing up one. I hate to compare this to Monsters of Folk but this side-project has much more staying power. There was a psych-rock theme throughout anchored with Yames using his pedals to create feedback for intros and segues and Farrar and Parker stepping over that with a gritty/grunge all their own. I did notice that whenever Will Johnson was on drums the band seemed more confident in stretching out of a few of the songs too. Each musicians style seemed to work together and I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep this project going beyond this short tour, even hitting the festival circuit. The show had that extra side of sauce you always want but hate having to ask your waiter for. The band took the genius of Woody Guthrie and although in tribute, made it all their own.

Here’s a few iphone photos from last night:

and here are a few videos I captured:

 

The tour continues on the West Coast then heads East with a few shows in NY and Boston.

The New Multitudes Tour Dates

March 9 – Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
March 10 – Showbox – Seattle, WA
March 12 – The Birchmere – Alexandria, VA
March 13 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
March 14 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
March 16 – Paradise – Boston, MA