Moon Hooch Turns Out Not to be a Cosmic Stripper

Organic dupstep band drops the jazz
by Steph Colombini
Earwax Editor

Moon Hooch jazz-ing out on a rooftop.
Moon Hooch jazz-ing out on a rooftop.

I knew popular music was getting weird when I saw my teen sister and her high school class go positively berserk as Skrillex blasted through the speakers at their Senior Ring Day celebration. What’s going on guys?! You’re not even on drugs! Knowing Skrillex only too well as Sonny Moore, former lead singer of “cut my wrists and scream about it” band From First to Last, I can’t even try to take him seriously; yet he’s got six Grammy’s.

I once feared that the seeping of House and Dubstep into every corner of the music world would end in the computerization of everything, that music might one day lose its organic nature. But a few months ago, I saw a light appear at the end of the tunnel, and its name was Moon Hooch.

Moon Hooch consists of saxophonists Wenzi McGowen and Mike Wilbur, and drummer James Muschler. “WTF?!” you might ask, “Where’s the guitars? How ‘bout the bass?”

To that, I say “So. Not. Necessary.”

Graduates of the New School of Jazz in Brooklyn, these guys know their music. They combine their classical training with inventiveness to create sounds I only thought a computer could make. For example, Wenzi plays Dubstep’s (in)famous womps in some of their songs by inserting a cardboard tube into his sax. The first time I heard it, I went wild, and the crowd was right there with me.

I consider myself lucky because I got to see Moon Hooch live having never heard their music before, a rare opportunity that made the experience all the more life-changing. They graced us with their presence here at Fordham last semester when they performed (for free!) at Rodrigues. Let me add that when I saw them that night, I had just rushed over from work and was stone cold sober. I feel the need to say this, because I know most college kids can relate to the fact that squeaky-clean trips to concerts are few and far between these days. It’s only a testament to their greatness, because from the moment they started playing I danced like the hardest raver in the crowd.

They classify their style as Cave Music – “It’s like House, but it’s more wild, more jagged, more free, more natural to live in” – sounds about right. The energy during a Moon Hooch live show is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

I saw them again in January as they toured nationally with well-known jam band Lotus. This time it was in the Best Buy Theater in Times Square, the polar opposite environment of Rodrigues. The colorful light show wove seamlessly with the music, which in itself is a sensory overload, and heightened the good vibes. The success of the concert shows how dynamic this band is; they can perform well in any kind of venue. Subway stations is where they got their start, and I only wish I knew them back then so I could join in one of the several riots they provoked in L train stations after their music drove fans and passers-by alike wild.

I have two favorite songs: “Number 1” and “Number 9.” Moon Hooch names all of their songs like this; they don’t get crazy with titles because that’s not what their music is about. There’s no message, except to dance and have a damn good time. “Number 1” has a melody that just screams happiness. Listening to it, I see the color yellow and feel the brightness of sunshine glowing in my soul. Sounds cheesy, but that’s how good it is. There’s no word to describe the drums in “Number 9,” but “insane” comes pretty close. It feels like there’s a magnet pulling my hands to air-drum the entire four-and-a-half minutes, which gets particularly exhausting during the drum solo – always nice to see in a song – which still ceases to blow my mind.

I went to see them again this weekend at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, a home base of sorts for the band. We were shocked to find a line down the block, and the show sold out before we even made it to the door. Devastation aside, it was a sign of how big this band is getting, and I was happy to see that their fan base is growing at exponential rates. I’ve learned my lesson, and will be on the prowl to buy tickets in advance for their next show. I suggest everybody do the same. Until then, check out Moon Hooch’s self-titled album and put your dancing shoes on, you’re gonna need ‘em.

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