Friday, April 18, 2014
Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine
I’d heard good things, but had never seen David Wax Museum and was also quite unfamiliar with their music. I’m so glad I got to remedy that situation and finally see them live—what a blast! I absolutely recommend you check them out when they’re in your town! I knew they’d won an online contest to play Newport Folk Festival in 2010 and were so impressive that they were invited back in 2011. They were even named one of the “25 Best Live Acts of 2011” by Paste Magazine. They were so much fun to see.
This was a perfect start to the beginning of my April vacation! I got to catch up with Nate over gelato at The Gelato Fiasco, had tea with Megan, and met Andrea at Empire in Portland for dinner before the show. We had a delicious meal (as always) and were entertained and confused by a very outgoing woman at the table adjacent to us who kept bothering women around her to sign for a picture (in American sign language) the hashtag her husband “invented” for himself—wait for it–#mattisadick. The production easily lasted twenty minutes and at least half of the restaurant was involved or at least watching with curiosity. The good news is that the hashtag fiasco was an icebreaker and Andrea and I met Vivian and Sheri (hi, ladies!!) at the table next to us who were pumped to be seeing David Wax Museum that night as well.
Andrea and I made our way to Port City Music Hall and took our spot up front just as Boston’s Kingsley Flood was wrapping their set. We set our stuff down on the floor at the base of the stage as David Wax came by and dropped his earpiece (don’t worry—we helped him find it). The David Wax Museum is genuinely impressive live. They dance all over the place, smile constantly, have an obviously strong group dynamic, harmonize with ease, and play instruments beautifully and soulfully. I kept looking over at Andrea and smiling—totally caught off guard by how fun they were to be watching.
David Wax and Suz Slezak form the core of The David Wax Museum (DWM). They met in 2007 (and are married with a five month old baby now) and make upbeat, harmonic, danceable music together. They call their music “Mexo-Americana,” which works just perfectly to explain what a leona (think ukulele), upright bass, percussion, fiddle, keys, accordion, and donkey jawbone combine to become. It’s so fun.
A fun Maine connection is that the last two of DWM’s albums (their most recent is Knock Knock Get Up) were made with Sam Kassirer at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonfield. If you saw Lake Street Dive play at The State Theatre, you got to see Sam playing keys with LSD on a couple of songs as he also produced their latest album. Sam was at the DWM show and the band was excited to see him and reminisce.
David said they hadn’t headlined a show in Portland in three years (there’s my excuse) and were glad to be back in town. I really liked “Beekeeper,” which is an older one of their songs that’s mellow and folky—just how I like my music. Jordan Wax (David’s cousin) played keys and accordion and led a whole-crowd dance along from the center of the floor (he taught us choreography, folks). Talk about a guy having a good time on (and off) stage. Greg Glassman on bass and Philip Mayer on drums (even a cajon drum at one point) rounded out the group on stage that night.
I was impressed by DWM’s songs in Spanish, but couldn’t keep up with them lyrically (boy, they sing fast when they get going!) as I tried to translate in my head. David told us that Suz toured until she was 37 weeks pregnant and that her dad is on tour with them and their little one to make it work for them to travel. They sang a song about parenthood called “Everything Changes.” I loved when they all gathered around a single mic and sang “Let Me Rest.” The whole band grabbed their instruments and walked to the center of the room to play an unplugged song for us. Talk about a band that knows how to work a crowd and make us feel like we’re part of something. Well done, DWM!
I loved the flamenco dance introduction on “Yes, Maria, Yes” and loved “Singing to Me,” a song they dedicated to Bart—a former road manager from Portland who was at the show and singing and dancing along all night long. They talked about how they wrote the song because Bart would say that Tift Merritt (who they’d opened for on tour) was “singing to me” and how much they loved the ability music has to cut right through and connect the artist to the audience. That perfectly sums up why I write whatbreesees!
David thanked us and told us that one of their very first shows was up the street at One Longfellow Square six years ago. They asked us to sing along for their final song “Harder Before It Gets Easier.” We gleefully sang along and cheered for an encore. Suz and David came out to play “Lavender Street” as a duet (which was lovely and you can watch here). I loved the lyric “I need you like the grass needs the rain.” The rest of the band joined them for “Born With a Broken Heart,” which gave me the energy I needed to drive home late on a Friday night. What an awesome show. Thanks for coming, David Wax Museum! SO glad I didn’t miss out this time!