David Wax Museum brought the band’s border-crossing, world-spiced Mexo-Americana party to the Union Stage in DC with barely 24 hours left in the year. The core (and married) duo of David Wax and Suz Slezak took to the stage with percussionist/ trumpeter Danilo Henriquez and bassist Ben Kogan, warming the audience on this December night, smiles beaming like spring flowers around the whole club, stage to bar.
Energy endless, boundless, infectious — everyone in the audience may as well have had kazoos and party hats (peep this video from a DWM show at Newport Folk Festival to get a taste of it), as young and old danced and sang along, an impromptu dance floor forming in front of the stage shortly into the set on Dec. 30.
Theirs is a sound that defies easy description, with a tree of influences from Veracruz (Mexico) to Appalachia, but it bears fruits meant for dancing, singing, and occasional reflection. Ripping through songs from most of their catalog, from Carpenter Bird to Guesthouse, as well as some new tunes, David Wax Museum entertained and enthralled.
Consummate storytellers, the band enraptured the audience with more than their musicianship — from tales of their last time in DC when they blindfolded the audience to the mythology inherent to their songwriting, they regaled the crowd again and again. Most of their stories are told with the collective stomp of feet, the rattling of donkey jawbones (quijada), and the quick untangling of sprite melodies matched with crashing rhythms and triumphant horns.
Stream Guesthouse by David Wax Museum on Spotify:
They began the show with standby, “Every Time, Katie” and slipped into a new song, “How Do You Know If You’re Dreaming?”, which we can only hope is on the forthcoming album. As they told the story about their last time in DC at the Pearl Street Warehouse — during which they blindfolded the audience — Suz asked if anyone had been there, and a fan through a bandana onstage. Suz remarked that the fan had kept it and that it smelled good, before giving it back, and then inviting the woman onstage to model her, “Yes, Maria, Yes,” shirt for the audience. As the woman stepped offstage, the band smiled and opened the dance floor to the just-advertised song.
A fan’s night is made as she’s pulled onstage. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
David Wax Museum jaunted through several more new songs and a few off Knock Knock Get Up before crowding around a single mic to sing “Let Me Rest,” bringing stained glass windows to these beer-soaked floors. The crowd surged forward, magnets to the stage, providing unplanned choral arrangements. The band returned to their spaces, but the audience stayed close, re-creating a mini-dancefloor at the corner of the stage, as the set blazed to a concluding conflagration on “Colas” and “Guesthouse.” They waved goodbye, but couldn’t leave the audience to smolder alone, returning to jump off the stage, carrying their instruments, and to sing “When You Need Somebody” on the club floor, surrounded by the audience.
David Wax Museum will be returning to the area for a house show in January (Club 603 in Baltimore), which has already sold out (sorry). I hope you’re one of the lucky ones.
Here are more photos of David Wax Museum at Union Stage on Dec. 30, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Matt Ruppert.