I listen to a lot of WXPN. I like to pretend that it is a way for me to keep up with the music kids are listening to these days. In fact, I am the exact demographic- a radio station for old music heads who have limited time (though more money) and love learning about new music that older people (like myself) like. In any case, I was listening one day and this song “Guesthouse” came on and it felt both incredibly familiar yet new. When I learned it was the David Wax Museum I kept an eye out for them and was delighted to learn they were playing a sold out show at Johnny Brenda’s, an awesome music venue that holds, maybe, 100 people during the summer, i.e. with no coats, less during the winter. There were two openers, but a long day only allowed us to make only the second opener, Darlingside.
Darlingside is a quartet of young men. Not sure what the definition is of a string quartet, but among the four of them there were 12 string instruments (and a tambourine) and two man buns. The man bun count has absolutely no bearing on the definition of string quartet, it is mostly to give you an idea of their age and demographic. They were really great. Had a very sweet and gentle sound, great harmonies, at times a bit too earnest, but incredibly pleasing. And they all played an enormous amount of instruments. Every song, each young man picked up a different one. They were also very appreciative when people sung along with them, which I found quite endearing. They sang about simpler times and it was really sweet, not snarky. There was a lot of banjo playing during their last song, but not bluegrass-picking banjo. Not what I am used to, but loved it all the same.
David Wax Museum was up next and they did not disappoint. From their website, “The roots of David Wax Museum stretch back nearly a decade, and all the way from New England to Mexico. As a student at Harvard, Wax began traveling south of the border to study and immerse himself in the country’s traditional music and culture. Back in Boston, he met fiddler/singer Suz Slezak, whose love of traditional American and Irish folk music fused with Wax’s Mexo-Americana into a singular, energetic blend that captivated audiences and critics alike.” After I heard their song on XPN, I started following them and saw they played something like 17 shows during SXSW this year. They had a lot of people periscoping their shows so it seemed like every time I was on Facebook during SXSW, I was watching some live footage. And they were equally excited and joyful for each show. They were even joyful, if not delirious, walking down the streets of Austin on to their next gig. It is contagious to be in the presence of a band who so enjoys their craft, you can’t help but be caught up along with them on their journey.
The band members played a multitude of instruments, including guitars, basses, drums, accordion, fiddle, bone thing and ukulele. They had this peppy sound, but David also sounded like a modern Bob Dylan with American twang to him. You could definitely hear and feel the Mexican influence and they even sounded a bit tejeno at times, but in an American folk way. The main thing I loved about them was their sheer joy of playing there and at Johnny Brenda’s. They were so appreciative of the concert being sold out and could not thank folks enough for supporting them. They were just so damn humble. Even to the point when I went to the merch table, Suz introduced herself to me. Uh, yup, I kind of know who you are- I just watched you rock and roll and rock that accordion out for two hours like nobody’s business. How cute was that?
They called for Darlingside to join them for a song and they all left the stage and played acoustic in the crowd. Sadly, two members of Darlingside did not join in since they were packing the van and needed to leave immediately for their next gig, a festival in Knoxville, TN. That, my friends, is the very glamorous life of an up and coming band.
I have no idea if these two bands will be around for long or “make” it. I do know that they were a pleasure to watch, their joy was infectious and their appreciation of their fans was downright humbling. These are the bands I will always support and cheer on. I always say there are two types of people in this world- folks who can make music and those who cannot. And the responsibility of those who cannot is to support those who can. Therefore, it is my obligation to support bands like David Wax Museum and Darlingside. On Saturday night, it was also my absolute honor.
9 shows to go, 68 days left…