My Morning Jacket, other acts wow indie fans at 29th A&O Ball

Patrick St. Michel

Weinberg freshman Susie Zhao doesn’t like Kanye West and other big-time bands.

“Personally, I would appreciate smaller acts,” she said. “I vehemently oppose bringing big artists because they already have exposure.”

Zhao and many other Northwestern students who packed into Patten Gym Saturday night got their wish at the A&O Ball, a concert featuring indie favorites Stephen Malkmus, The New Pornographers and My Morning Jacket. A&O Productions sponsored the annual event.

Zhao said she looked forward to Malkmus the most.

“Originally, I was really excited for My Morning Jacket and The New Pornographers,” she said, sitting in the front row. “My brain blew a fuse when they announced Stephen Malkmus was performing.”

Some students stood in line for more than an hour waiting for doors to open.

Weinberg freshman Dillon Styke was also excited for the event.

“I’m a fan of My Morning Jacket and Stephen Malkmus,” he said. “I bought (the tickets) the first day they went on sale.”

Malkmus, the opening act and lead singer for renowned indie band Pavement, performed several songs from his solo albums. He took the stage at 7 p.m., armed with an acoustic guitar. After performing several of his solo songs, he wowed the crowd with Pavement pieces “Trigger Cut” and “Range Life,” the latter driving the crowd to sing along and cheer for an encore.

Canadian power-pop outfit The New Pornographers graced the stage next, as lead singers Carl Newman and Neko Case blared out energetic songs such as “The Laws Have Changed” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” The band became chatty with the audience when a fan asked them about Canadian television.

“I love Degrassi,” Newman said of the Canadian teen soap opera.

The band regained musical focus and finished out their performance with fast-paced pop song “Letter from an Occupant.”

Kentucky five-piece band My Morning Jacket headlined the A&O Ball, performing country-tinged songs such as 2003’s “One Big Holiday” and the reggae-flavored “Off the Record,” the first single from their 2005 album, Z. Throughout the band’s set, lead singer Jim James energetically leapt around stage while headbanging. Between songs, the band didn’t address the crowd often, unless they were poking fun at the venue.

“I understand you don’t have a fencing team here at Grover Cleveland High,” James said, making fun of the gym setting. “We will do our best to change that.”

The group rounded out the show with rock numbers “Anytime,” “Wordless Chorus” and “Mahgeetah.” The group thanked the crowd for coming out, and said they enjoyed the other musicians as well.

“I’ve always wanted to see Stephen Malkmus perform,” James said. “It’s been a great night for music.”

Reach Patrick St. Michel at [email protected]