LIVE: David Wax Museum w/Kingsley Flood @ The 9:30 Club - 4/4/13

All photos by Joy Asico (joy@chunkyglasses.com | www.asicophoto.com)

The slot of the opening band can be a weird space to occupy. Sometimes it’s filled by the headliner’s label mates, sometimes it’s their friends and sometimes, and perhaps more cynically, it’s a package put together by a PR firm to maximize ticket sales. However the pairing happens, the end result is usually a show that opens with a satisfying but obviously “greener” act that you may catch if you get there early enough, but one that fulfills their duty of warming up the crowd in fine fashion, albeit little consequence.  In the case of David Wax Museum’s latest stop through DC though it was clear that somewhere, someone gets it, because the pairing of the mexi-folk outfit from Rhode Island with up-and-comers Kingsley Flood proved to be a winning combo that played more like a high octane double bill than the average tour package that many have come to expect.

Kingsley Flood took the stage to a half empty room and proceeded to take no prisoners – which is what they just seem to do these days. The DC / Boston based band – lead singer Naseem Khuri resides in the District (watch our interview with him here) while the rest remain up north – has been rising through the ranks of the music world over the past few years, and their live shows in support of their latest release Battles  is a huge reason why.  On record and on stage the band has a bigger-than-life rock star personality that leaves the audience feeling like they just witnessed a stadium-worthy show instead of a barely-out-of-the-bar-band from Beantown, and last Thursday’s performance was no exception. Much like headliners David Wax Museum, Kingsley Flood takes musical inspiration from a wide variety of influences – folk, punk, gypsy, even British Mod – to craft music that is helping to shape a new Americana, one that’s about a whole lot more than an acoustic strum and a torch song.

By the time David Wax Museum opened their set with the sublime “Big Heart Of Yours” from their 2012 release Knock Knock Get Up, the crowd wasn’t just warmed up, they were well nigh spent from Kingsley Flood’s set.  The slight downshift in intensity was only temporary though –  if you’ve seen David Wax Museum then you already know that their shows are joyous, life affirming events that leave crowds beaming from ear to ear. Previously the band had adopted a more hippy aesthetic that, on the surface, fit well with the music they were creating, but these days Wax’s leather vest ala Easy Rider is replaced by a dark suit, possibly as a nod to the maturity and complexity on full display with their latest album.

After burning through a set that mixed  Knock Knock tracks “Vivian” and “Will You Be Sleeping” with fan favorites like “Yes, Maria Yes” and “Born With A Broken Heart” from their 2011 breakout album Everything Is Saved you’d be hard pressed to find any less enthusiasm in the delivery, despite the change in wardrobe.  While some of the subtleties of Knock Knock’s songs may have gotten lost in translation from record to stage – part of that record’s charm is how densely layered it really is – it was hardly missed thanks to the showmanship of Wax and his crew. Not once, but TWICE, they ventured out into the rapt audience to hold court, and even though the move was a repeat of their last visit - they even acknowledged as much before their first venture out into the crowd - the resultant  intimacy felt nothing less than completely and sincerely heartfelt.

It’s in those quiet moments that the true power of David Wax Museum’s music is revealed. Based heavily in Mexican folk traditions, their work is as much about love, life and exaltation as it is about community, and works best when that community is gathered around them erasing the line between performer and audience to leave just a shared experience. It’s something that only the very best of artists can pull off, and David Wax Museum makes not only look easy but makes their show – especially if Kingsley Flood is on the bill – one that’s not to be missed when they come to your town.

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