A Giant Bomb of Joy: David Wax Museum @ The 9:30 Club - 9/14/11

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Take a whole lot of joy, pile another dab or so, then mix in a little more joy and you’d be starting to get the idea of what the David Wax Museum performance at the 9:30 Club last week was like.

Comprised of David Wax on a variety of stringed instruments and Suz Sleezak on fiddle and donkey jawbone (yes, you read that right) this group from Boston blends Mexican and American folk music into a sound that at it’s best is a veritable party for your ears. But there’s more to it than just the party. Their music is an exploration of Americana that is as utterly familiar as it is engaging and fresh in its delivery.

And oh that delivery.

Look, I’m not gonna pretend that I think that David Wax Museum is writing songs for the ages. They aren’t…yet. What they are doing though is winning over audiences left and right by channeling an energy that comes from god knows where and then letting the audience tap into that energy in a way I’ve never quite seen before. I’ve attended 100’s of shows at the 9:30 but I’ve never seen a show where audience members en masse were moved to swing dance in whatever small space they were able to carve out around them. It was an explosive expression of pure, and here’s that word again, joy that threatened to infect everyone and anyone who got close to it…which by the end of the show WAS everyone.

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Driven to dance! Resistance was futile!So for sure, David Wax Museum has the joy thing going for them but that alone can’t make a great stand-the-test-of-time band and it doesn’t here either. When their songs are great, they’re  great (“Born With A Broken Heart”, “Yes Maria Yes”) but too often, the bands songs end up sounding like variations on a theme of those better songs. And don’t get me wrong, they’re still good songs. They just don’t approach the greatness that it would seem David Wax Museum is capable of. You can bounce along on a hypercharged stream of energy all night but ultimately without consistently great songs it can threaten to become a gimmick.

You can only have EVERYONE up onstage so many times before it begins to be cliché. Likewise you can only send musicians out into the audience once without it coming off as a little weird. It’s true that when the bands all came out into the audience and had everyone sit down while they performed, it was a fairly magical moment. But it was a moment that they had for the most part duplicated not 4 songs prior, thus robbing the actual performance in the crowd of just a tiny bit of it’s magic.

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David Wax Museum and their openers sing in, and for, the crowd. And really, this is all tough love. I want David Wax Museum to be the biggest band in the world. We ALL want them to be the biggest band in the world. All signs actually point to the fact that this might actually be the case very soon. In fact based on the new song that Wax performed solo during the encore I’d wager that any complaints I might have against the band stand to completely fade in the coming year as they perfect their songwriting further.

What it all comes down to is that you NEED to see David Wax Museum and you need to see them now. There isn’t a more uplifting band on the planet right now, and all my little criticisms and nitpicks simply fade away when faced with the reality that sometimes all you need is a little, or in this case a lot, of joy in your life, and David Wax Museum are the ones who are gonna give it to you each and every time. 

David Wax Museum performing @ the 9:30 Club. Photos by Kevin Hill