|Moon Taxi's Latest Album: Mountains Beaches Cities|
Moon Taxi is an indie rock (jam) band which formed in Nashville, TN while all of its members attended Belmont University. The band’s original reputation was that of a typical jamband, concentrating heavily on live performances. In recent years, however, Moon Taxi has steered away from the “You have to see them live” mentality and has begun to focus primarily on studio works. They still put on a great live show, don’t get me wrong. Their songs have a strong and heavy, yet beautifully airy timbre. The band has an uncanny ability to switch from a euphoric, “up-in-the-clouds” feel to a heavy rock feel without any tension at all, which allows the audience to be swept away, as if on a… well… moon taxi to be quite frank (and maybe a little corny).
Up first, however, was Agori Tribe, Memphis’ gift to the psychedelic rock world. This incredible young band has an extremely bright future ahead of them. Their songs and jams are more like compositions, including many parts, or movements if you will. Their influences are obviously jazz-based, but their ability to use those influences to harness other genres, such as reggae and rock, provide them with incredible versatility. Even though they are a five-piece band, as a listener, I still felt as though there should have been more people on stage to create the almost symphonic jams that I was hearing. This past spring, Agori Tribe won a battle of the bands competition which landed them a spot at Wakarusa Music Festival. I expect big things from this talented group of young musicians.
Next up was Quiet Company. Apparently, this was a last minute addition to Moon Taxi’s tour, because the original bill advertised just Moon Taxi w/Agori Tribe. Now, I am never one to bash anyone for getting up on stage and doing their thing because I know from personal experience that it takes courage. However, I was not impressed with this addition to the lineup. They just didn’t seem to fit in this setting, and it completely killed the vibe. They are basically an emo band. It was all rigidly structured. I cannot remember hearing a single solo. All the songs were three or four minute tunes that sounded like their target audience was 12-year old girls. And if that is their target audience, then that is fine. There is nothing wrong with that. I just do not feel like it was a good fit for this bill, and a lot of the audience left until the next set. One thing I will say about them is that they had a lot of energy on stage, and they had some interesting audience interaction. They did a “Battle of the Sexes” thing where they gave the male audience members one part to sing and the female audience members another and judged which group was louder. Also, I said earlier that their songs were structured, but they were structured extremely well. They are just not pushing any boundaries that way, and it really lacks the sense of adventure that an audience should feel at a live performance.
Now, let’s move on to Moon Taxi which consists of Trevor Terndrup (guitar, vocals), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar, programming), Tyler Ritter (drums), and Wes Bailey (keys). Having never seen them live before, this was a real treat for me. The band started off with the opening track off their latest album, Mountains Beaches Cities, entitled “Running Wild,” the same one they played on their debut television performance on Letterman Monday night. This melodic tune possesses many of the qualities that permeate their past two albums; heavy bass, lyrical lead guitar and keyboard lines, and passionate vocals. After a psychedelic interlude, the band moved into a high energy jam with an awesome guitar solo from Spencer Thomson. Next came “All the Rage” off their 2011 album, Cabaret. It was a short rendition, but the band stayed together, and it kept the energy flowing. “River Water,” off Mountains Beaches Cities, followed, which, while fairly fast paced, is a low energy kind of tune. The guys brought it back at the end, however, with a beautifully executed build-up. After that was “Suspicious,” off the new album, followed by “Whiskey Sunset” off of Cabaret. “Whiskey Sunset” featured a heavy rock jam with some monster drum fills from Tyler Ritter. “Beaches” came next, followed by another one from the new album called “Morocco.” The deep bass, chill mood, and beautiful vocals of “Morocco” filled the room with good vibes. This tune also included a nice funky jam as a bridge.
The second set began with one of my favorite songs of the night, “Southern Trance,” off Cabaret. The song started out slow with a fantastic keyboard lead, then picked up the pace to double time, slowed back down again, built up and up and up, and then… exploded! The tune really lives up to its name, especially live. The next three songs were all off the new album. First was “Change” followed by “Hypnus” and “The New Black.” “The New Black” had a rockin’ guitar solo from Thomson, followed by a fabulous, cohesive rendition of “Gunflower,” off of Cabaret. The title track of Cabaret finished off the set. “Cabaret” featured an absolutely amazing keyboard and drum duet. The extended keyboard solo from Wes Bailey absolutely blew my mind. By this time, a lot of the crowd had fizzled out, but those who stayed were definitely rewarded.
Finally, the band played a two song encore. First up was an incredible four-to-the-floor dance rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Trevor Terndrup took his turn on the lead guitar as he led the band flawlessly through David Gilmour’s ingenious solos. And lastly, Moon Taxi ended the show on the opening track from Cabaret, “Mercury,” leaving the audience in a haze of good vibes.
Overall, I was impressed with the show. My only real criticism of Moon Taxi is that I do not believe that they are using their talents to their full potential. First off, their songs are extremely formulaic. They all have their own little variations to keep things interesting, but, all in all, they’ve found a formula and kind of stick to it. Second, they proved to me that they are all incredibly talented at their respective instruments, but it was all mostly in the last few songs: the keyboard solo in “Cabaret” and the guitar solos in “The New Black” and “Another Brick in the Wall.” I feel like they need to include more of that talent throughout the entire show. I understand the fact that they want to concentrate more on studio work, but I think these guys could broaden their audience and go really far if they use their talents to their full potential. Other than those couple of things, the energy was great, the passion for their music and their fans was obvious, and they are a really cohesive group of musicians.Words & Photos: Randy Harris
Moon Taxi Website
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