Published on June 15th, 2013 | by Jared Booth0
Review: David Wax Museum, Unplugged and Electrified
David Wax Museum
Pour House, June 13
Boston-based, folk-and-everything-else darlings the David Wax Museum put on an energetic and passionate show Thursday night at the Pour House. It seems that the road-running band has toured just about everywhere except Charleston, including Europe and Asia, so it was great to finally get a chance to catch them here.
The well-dressed foursome mainly played songs from their most recent album, 2012’s Knock Knock Get Up, starting with “The Rumors Are True.” Frontman David Wax crooned and wailed to the upbeat tempo as he played the jarana, a small Mexican-style guitar. Matching his enthusiasm was Suz Slezak, who sang along with him on most tracks while shuffling between several instruments, including fiddle, accordion, keyboards, and a quijada – a percussion instrument made from a donkey jawbone.
Propelled by the electrifying rhythm section of Greg Glassman on bass and Phillip Mayer on drums, the band began really hitting their stride in the second half of the second track, “Vivian,” another foot-stomper. Driving the melody on the accordion was Slezak, who pulled off a gypsy-chic look with ease, in red earrings and a long, flowing blue skirt.
The crowd participation continued its uphill trajectory on the sing-along “Yes, Maria, Yes,” from the group’s previous album, Everything is Saved. Wax and Slezak romped around the stage, oozing infectiousness as they belted out the catchy chorus.
After ramping the energy up, they tore it right back down, with Slezak moving to the keyboards to sing “Will You Be Sleeping?,” the swoopy lead track from Knock Knock Get Up. “Wondrous Love” followed. It was an almost saccharine love song, on which Slezak did pretty much everything — plucking the melody on her fiddle, singing the entire song by herself, and unleashing a gorgeous fiddle solo.
The four members then de-electrified and crowded around a big microphone at the side of the stage, singing a fast-paced song entirely in Spanish. All four sang, relishing the twists and flourishes they could play around with in their non-native tongue. Mayer expertly tapped on a cajon, showing off with an eye-yanking solo. Slezak ripped a killer fiddle solo, too. The audience was giddy after the display of bravado.
After playing the dynamic ballad “The Least I Can Do,” Slezak asked the crowd, “Would you guys be into us coming down there and playing a song with you?” All four members followed her down into the middle of the floor, as the crowd gathered around. Slezak led the beautiful gospel number “Let Me Rest” with her fiddle, leading the instrument-less band in an intimate four-part harmony. As easy as it is to characterize the band for its Latin influences, which are manifold, this song demonstrated the band’s heavy influence of Appalachian roots music.
As David Wax Museum opened up with harder and/or faster songs like “Dog in This Fight” — the only song on which Wax played an electric guitar — and “Born with a Broken Heart,” it became increasingly obvious that Mayer’s drumming was close to masterful. As much as the eagerness of Wax and Slezak immediately pulled my eyes to them, I found myself unable to look away from Mayer’s hands, which were never still and operated with the precision and artistry of a fine woodworker.
The band finished their set with “Harder Before it Gets Easier,” which turned into a round, with Glassman’s essential harmonies rounding out the full vocal collage. Wax returned to the keyboard to lead the encore, the stark and gorgeous “Lavender Street.” The harmonies serenaded the crowd, this time with a poignant lullaby that slowed the heart rates of the late-night crowd, letting them down easy for the ride home.
Photos by Rebekah Collinsworth.
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