Thursday, November 29, 2012

In and Out Lost in Mercury

It's interesting how a beer joint keeps pulling me in.

Yet again, I found myself back at Capital Ale House, only instead of a Moliere reading, this time it was for a Nashville band.

We started at the bar with a bottle of Autumn Hill Cabernet Franc and the house spiced Virginia peanuts to pass the time until the doors of the music hall opened.

When they finally did, we segued seamlessly to the big, empty rain, taking the front banquette table to ensure a view of the band over the crowd.

An hour later, the cavernous room was feeling pretty cold and drafty and it seemed like a crowd was unlikely to materialize.

It wasn't my problem. If Moon Taxi had to play for us alone, so be it.

I've always found Cap Ale's menu a little staid, but last time we'd scored with a few well-chosen items, so this time I went hoping for more.

I found it on the chalkboard outside which advertised half a chicken braised with Coca Cola and soy sauce and a hash brown casserole.

We began with a nice house salad and garlic bleu cheese dressing just full of chunks of cheese.

The obscenely large half a chicken came bathed in a near-black sticky sauce that was especially divine on the chicken skin.

As we chowed down, a few more people trickled in the room and found tables, but it was still very thin pickin's.

It was during dessert - apple pie with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce - that the opener, locals the young-looking Shack Band took the stage.

By that time, there were a few of their fans in the house for their funk-based rock.

The long-limbed keyboard player seemed to be vying with the exuberant guitarist/vocalist who couldn't stop bouncing and jumping to get the crowd engaged.

Eventually they launched into Bill Withers "Use Me," although I saw no recognition on the crowd's faces of the '70s classic.

But it was obvious that the bass player was in heaven.

Afterwards, the enthusiastic keyboardist said, "That's an old Bill Withers tune. Look it up and add it to your iPod."

You heard the man, kids.

Next they called up Trevor, the lead singer of Moon Taxi, the band we'd come to hear.

His stellar voice and harmonica playing were a welcome addition to a song with a lyric, "Tennessee, you got the best of me."

And then Tennessee was about to deliver the highlight of the evening.

Moon Taxi began their set with a stage filled with lighting, two zig-zag lights on the sides and many light sticks sitting around the instruments.

The lights proceeded to change color and flash throughout, a nice touch but certainly no Dave Watkins, either.

And finally, the crowd had arrived, filling every table.

The five piece (guitar/vocals, bass, keyboards, drums, guitar/synth) took off with Trevor's outstanding vocals and a wash of sound that pretty much dominated for the duration.

Well-written songs, hints of folk and just a touch of hip-hop influence had me thinking Maroon 5 meets jam band.

"All the Rage" was plenty catchy, but then so was Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do?" inspiring waves of dancers to abandon tables for the floor in front of the stage.

1973, anyone?

The blur of the flashing lights and the band's long jams kept every dancer transfixed.

So you can imagine what Moon Taxi did to them when they played their "Southern Trance."

During a discussion at our table about the band's place in the music world yielded the suggestion that these guys were "post-pop," as good a description as any I could come up with.

They did "Mercury," with its rolling waves of sound as their last song, but fortunately gave us an option afterwards.

"You want one more?" Trevor asked the adoring crowd.

Yes, please.

No, I'm not a jam band fan.

Yes, I was impressed with the densely-layered sound and the musicianship of all five of them.

At times, my ear was trying to choose between the impressive keyboard and synth parts, but only when I wasn't fixated on the essential talent of drums, bass and guitar.

And always, it came back to the amazing voice (and charisma) of the lead singer/guitarist.

and nothing to lose
Sweet sensation 
that you can't refuse
Take it inside 
and play the song
Could you be loved?
My number one

Turns out a beer joint was just the place to hear a really talented Tennessee band and eat some Co-Cola yard bird.

Okay, his dimples didn't hurt.

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