I’ve yet to read a concert review that begins with the line: “It was a dark and stormy night…” but it would be apropos of this one. Despite the chilly rain falling on Sunday night, the hardy souls that made their way to Union Stage were rewarded with a light, lovely and warm performance by David Wax Museum.
Touring in support of their newest release, Line of Light (Nine Mile Records), David Wax (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and Suz Slezak (violin, accordion, keyboards, tap-dancing, vocals) along with Ben Kogan (bass), Danilo Henriquez (percussion), and Anthony da Costa and Sam Dechenne (trumpet) gifted us with carefree, multicultural Americana/rock music, warm, funny stage banter, and the feeling that nothing else matters except being here now at Union Stage on Dec. 29.
The evening opened with long-time DMW lead guitarist, Anthony DaCosta, performing a 40-minute set of his solo material, a pleasing and deceptively complex power pop incorporating Matthew Sweet’s gift for melody, Elvis Costello’s vocal delivery, and the attack and energy of REM guitarist Peter Buck.
Watch the official video for David Wax Museum’s “Yes Maria Yes” on YouTube:
Soon David Wax Museum was onstage, diving into the Mexican ranchera of “Yes Maria Yes,” from their 2011 release, Everything Is Saved. The first of many tracks from Line of Light followed, “Uncover the Gold,” with “Big Sur,” “Little Heart,” “Equal in the Darkness,” among several others performed throughout the evening.
See David and Suz perform “Big Sur” live on YouTube here:
About halfway through the set, as they were introducing the next song, Suz and David reflected on past, ahem, crushes, teasing each other mercilessly (“well, since you went there…”). The hilarity quickly turned to sweetness as Suz thanked the crowd, musing aloud, on how grateful she and David are to their fans’ support for the “words and sounds that we’ve made for thirteen years.” After the appreciative applause had quieted, Suz and David delivered a heartbreakingly beautiful performance of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter classic, “If I Had the World to Give.”
But as they sang, my mind began to wander. After following David and Suz social media posts’ for some time now, and the remarkable extent to which they share with fans the personal and professional, I’m struck by what it takes to get to those totally focused, and sublime, three minutes onstage. Contrary to the rock star image so many of us carry, most musicians aren’t riding in limos with entourages catering to their every need. Rather, they suffer travel delays, juggle work-life realities, and are wracked by the same self-doubt and buoyed by the same victories as most of us.
Suz explains (from the website): “But after a dozen years of making music with David I feel like I’ve reached a turning point. I don’t crave the outside endorsement anymore. I can finally see our music for what it is… It’s beautiful and fun and imperfect and has so much room to grow. But I am at a point where what matters to me is how I feel about the show. Was I focused or distracted… Was I letting music flow through my hands or trying to control it? Was I listening or lost in my head? This is the important stuff for growth. This is what I am after. The critical acclaim will come or it won’t come. The shows may or may not sell out. We may make enough money to own a house one day or we won’t. These things are not in my control.”
Control. There’s nothing harder than relinquishing it — especially when it’s your creation: a song, a painting, a child. The music of David Wax Museum offers that, a chance to give up control, to live in the moment, to listen, to feel, and to dance. And that’s exactly what we found, and gave up, on that dark and stormy night.
David Wax Museum will surely be back on the road in 2020; be sure to catch the band next time they’re near you.
Here are some pictures of David Wax Museum performing at Union Stage on Dec. 29, 2019. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark Caicedo.