Wednesday brought Tennessee’s Moon Taxi to the Fine Line Music Café. The first impression immediately is this place was packed early and that was because their opening act was New York’s Too Many Zooz, the infamous viral sensation and “brass house” trio. They released their first LP back in June of 2016, Subway Gawdz. Matched with the Bluesy rock of Moon Taxi, it was going to be a fun evening. Moon Taxi has been making waves recently with their new single, “Two High”, which marks their new relationship with RCA Records who will be releasing their new album.
What was most interesting to me upon further investigation is that Moon Taxi has been around since before their first album, Melodica release in 2007, and have steadily come out with five albums (on their sixth), with four studio albums and one live, over the last ten years, only recently and started getting picked up by radio (again SiriusXM for the win) and growing a larger presence with large bills like Coachella and Firefly music festivals in 2016. Persistence is key.
Too Many Zooz takes the stage. Led by Leo Pellegrino on baritone sax, Matt Doe on Trumpet, and David Parks (aka “The King of Sludge”) on percussion. My first thought was, this trio would sell out the Dakota Jazz Club in a heartbeat on their own, but when you back up Beyoncé (which they did last November for her CMA performance), you are destined for better things, like open for rock bands.
For those of you that didn’t take concert band or orchestra, the Baritone sax is basically the saxophones answer to the tuba. It’s large, deep sounding, and heavy. When I was in high school and messing around in percussion, the tallest kid in my grade, who was 6’6”, was begged by the band director to play Bari sax, and honestly, he was the only one that could carry the thing. You get the idea. Leo plays this thing like it’s as small as a piccolo. They jump into their set, their performance is hard hitting, aggressive, and the crowd loved every song of their 45-minute set. The sounds Leo can make with his sax is pretty damn impressive. He flutters notes, one hands his sax to amp up the crowd, and even no hands it. His footwork is as amazing in person as you’ve seen online. Lots of kicks, shimmies, butt shaking, and jumping around all to the great response from the crowd.
Matt does an impressive job of leading and backing up Leo on Trumpet. I can really only describe Matt’s playing style as flight of the bumblebees with tactile precision. Solid examples of this their hits, “Warriors” and “Subway Gawdz” off their new album. About three songs into their set, their percussionist, David, was pouring with sweat. He has to take off his kit every few songs to adjust and wipe off the sweat. He has a plethora of instruments to bang on. Near the end of their set David grabs a small stuffed rat and holds it above his head to a loud roar from the crowd, this is an inside joke of the band’s that I am unfamiliar with. If I had to guess, I would say it’s a joke about coming from the subways of New York and is an homage to their roots. As team they have it down. They were a lot of fun to watch. Leo and Matt actually came back up for a couple songs with Moon Taxi that were fantastic.
The only reference I had for Moon Taxi was a few of their singles, “Two High”, “All Day All Night”, and I’m pretty sure “Mercury” from a few years back. The five-piece rock band comes from the South. Fronted by Trevor Terndrup (vocals and guitar), him, Tommy Putnam (bass), and Tyler Ritter (Drums) are from Alabama originally. They met other guitarist Spencer Thomson (from Kentucky) and keyboardist Wes Bailey when they moved to Tennessee. They’ve kept their Southern roots alive and well in their music with their bluesy rock sound and it certainly packed the Fine Line. Honestly, I was just sweating from standing there.
On their third song Trevor welcomes to the stage Leo from Too Many ZOOZ. Leo is wearing a wild duster. It looks like something a magician in the matrix would wear. Trevor and Leo have a great time up there jamming together as Leo does the sax for “Make Up Your Mind”.
Moon Taxi, as individuals, pretty much keep to themselves. They don’t roam around at all, they have their spots stick to it except for Trevor, who moves around a ton and gets people amped up. Trevor has a big smile on his face the entire time. He’s wearing a camouflage t-shirt and has longer than shoulder length hair. He whips it all over the place. He has a very kind, extroverted personality on stage. I feel like he’d pull over on the highway to help you change a tire.
As they got into the core of their set list, they started to break things down a bit more, they started to take their time on the solos, they didn’t rush, their songs went from more hard hitting to bluesy and people loved it. Trevor will take a solo and throw it to Spencer and Tyler will just back them up on drums. I really liked that their keys were straight keys, there wasn’t any modulation to them. Wes, their keyboardist, took solos and is fantastic. Everyone got a solo. Near the end of their set Tyler gets a three minute drum solo to bring the band back in and it’s incredible.
I’ll also take the time to note the lighting was very cool. They have a pretty extensive grid, every band member gets their own light. They covered three songs during their set. Their first, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)“ by the Eurythmics was solid. I love when bands take songs sung by the opposite sex and make them their own. The second, “All Along the Watchtower” (written by Bob Dylan but the band performed it the spirit of Jimi Hendrix as he did). It was great. Spencer nailed some nasty hammer-ons in the song. He really let the solo have it with the reverb on the guitar. He sounded like he was right out of the 60s. Speaking of the 60s, their last cover was of “Imagine” by John Lennon. “Imagine” is one of my favorites of all time, who doesn’t love that song? Trevor has a tremendous voice and does the song justice as they transition into “River Water“.
As they transitioned into River Water, it was just Trevor and Wes on keys. It was fantastic if people didn’t stop talking to each other. This was the odd part, people were so used to yelling over the music to talk to each other that when it was just Trevor and Wes playing a stripped down opening to the song, you could hear everyone talk. Luckily, Trevor busted out a harmonica and shut everyone up. It was pretty magical.
Moon Taxi has a lot of soul in their music. Trevor sings really beautiful American songs about traveling around the country, love, women, hope, and cars. A solid example is their song “Run Right Back“. He’s a country singer trapped in a rockers body and it’s remarkable to watch. There was a great mix of older and younger generations attending. I’m positive it’s because Moon Taxi, at times, feel like they’re from another time.
We get to the end of their set with “Two High” and Trevor brings up Leo (who has changed into another jacket) and Matt from Too Many Zooz. Matt’s trumpet is on the bass line with Tommy while Leo is riffing the sax part with Trevor. It’s incredible. This is Moon Taxi’s big hit this year and everyone loves it. “Two High” is a reference to sticking two fingers up (it’s on their drum face). I’ll say honestly that photos honestly don’t do this show justice because the last half of the show is so damn good. The solos, the accompaniment, it’s fantastic. With the addition of Too Many Zooz, it’s a unique and stunning show. Definitely check it out.
Here is their set list:
- Make Up Your Mind (w/ Leo Pellegrino from Too Many Zooz)
- Whose To Say?
- Not Too Late
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These) – Cover of the Eurythmics
- Year Zero
- Young Journey
- All Along The Watchtower – (Cover of Bob Dylan)
- Run Right Back
- Imagine (by John Lennon) -> River Water
- Moving to the City
- Drum Solo (awesomeness)
- Two High (featuring Matt Doe and Leo Pellegrino from Too Many Zooz)
- Red Hot Lights
- All Day All Night
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