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Saturday, November 14, 2015

The David Wax Museum: A New Sound

WFPK’s (91.9) first Winter Wednesday of the season opened at the Clifton Center with two very different musical groups and sounds.

Daniel Martin Moore’s excellent voice on the mostly low-key, laid-back songs was largely drowned out by the too-heavy percussion of the first set. Like the title of Moore’s album, “How It Fades”, my eyelids and I were fast fading.  In fairness, the audience seemed to appreciate Moore and his back-up band more than I did so maybe my reaction had something to do with the sound at our second-row seats. But my expectations were particularly low for the next group about whom I knew nothing.

Then the David Wax Museum burst onto the stage and their sound knocked the sleep out of my eyes. I had gone to the concert a blank slate. I came away wowed.

They brought a variety of instruments, riotous appearances and a sound totally unexpected. Wax, with earthy vocals, played guitar and a small, guitar-shaped instrument that looked a little like a ukulele. He also channeled Jerry Lee Lewis on keyboard. On “Guesthouse”, also the name of their latest album, Wax seemed to channel Paul Simon’s vocals and rhythms.

Slezak played everything from accordion to keyboard, fiddle, bells, and a donkey jaw. She also has a fine voice. Together they and their band which included an upright base, percussion and what appeared to be a mandolin, performed a range of music with strong Hispanic roots, gospel and dance music. Will Oldham contributed one strong guest song. By the time the set was ending the audience was on its feet dancing and calling for more.

After the concert, a little research revealed that David Wax, and Sue Slezak  combined Mexican-American and American and Irish folk music to produce a mind-bending genre of Mexo-Americana music.

The apparel choices of the band demand mention. Wax wore two toned-pants—the front aqua and the back black--with a wide, off-white belt and a short sleeve shirt with epaulet-type treatments. Slezak graced black jeggings and a floral, tropical-print bustier. And guitarist Charles Rivera wore what could have passed for a mechanic’s jumpsuit in royal blue with matching headband. By comparison, the other musicians’ clothing was not memorable.

The husband-wife team of Wax and Slezak credited not only WFPK, the Clifton Center, and the band’s on-site support team, but also an aunt and uncle back at their hotel who were caring for the couple’s two-year old son. Our thanks also to all, including that aunt and uncle for making this first Winter Wednesday concert most memorable.

This morning we enjoyed hearing “Guesthouse”, the album, with breakfast. The David Wax Museum’s web site shows an extensive touring schedule. If they are playing at a venue near you do yourself a favor and see them. If not, listen to at least one of their albums. You won’t fade away.

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