Everyone remembers their first time. Whether good or bad, we all remember it.
Jim James, lead singer for My Morning Jacket, performs in June 2011 at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. (TMP File Photo)
There’s a feeling that is difficult to explain when you hear a group or artist the first time before they rise to fame.
You feel like you have something special and you just want to hold on to it or, on the other hand, tell everyone you know.
Driving down the road last week, a live cut of My Morning Jacket’s “Nashville to Kentucky” shuffled through my iPod, and it immediately made me reminisce about the first time I heard the group.
More than 10 years ago, long reddish-brown hair covered the face of lead man Jim James as he would move about the stage with a totally different lineup for the group during their start.
Catching the band around the “At Dawn” and “Tennessee Fire” albums, there was a feeling that hit you while witnessing their jump from tent to stage, to larger stage, to opening up for Pearl Jam and finally headlining the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.
My brother and I loved this group during its early days, even to the extent that we thought it was one of our premiere rock ‘n’ roll moments when its bus driver let us hop in the tour bus after a show and meet all the members and take photos.
When you have those rock ‘n’ roll moments, they just stick with you and always make for great stories, I might add.
Another case of catching an artist on the rise for me was The Avett Brothers.
I recall seeing them when no one was really paying attention; when they were on stage and had time to sign posters after the show.
Then year after year, they saw record crowds at Grimey’s and booked double nights at the Ryman while climbing the ranks through the festival circuit.
Other groups I’ve followed over the years have been The Black Keys and Modest Mouse.
When I thought the band would peak with the “Attack and Release” album, The Black Keys proved me wrong.
It was a good signifier of what was next, but the band took it one step further and are one of the biggest names around today. Its shows are now a far cry from its early two-man setup of playing dirty, distorted, blues-rock.
It took many years for Modest Mouse to hit the masses with “Float On,” but there were days in college and high school where I undoubtedly enjoyed introducing its first album and EPs to music fans.
There are many more artists that I’ve seen in clubs or small venues over the years, and there are also those who never get to the next step but still continue to crank out album after album.
When you find hidden gems, you definitely cherish them. They become more important than the major players at times. There is a massive amount of accessible music these days, so there is always someone new to hear every day.
Of course, there is a fair share of storytelling that comes along with catching someone when they first get their wings.
Some of my favorite conversations come from my parents talking about seeing The Band or James Brown and my mom’s account of a 12-year-old girl watching The Beatles arrive by plane in Memphis.
My uncle always amazes me when he speaks of hitchhiking from Georgia Tech to see the Rolling Stones perform at Auburn University or seeing a man named Jimi Hendrix play “The Star Spangled Banner” in Atlanta, only months before he kicked it out at the little festival called Woodstock.
And then there’s that Led Zeppelin show that he saw, of which I’m still somewhat jealous.
While these stories have already been written, I’m hopefully going to continue writing my own to pass down the line.