By: Dennis Cook
Nashville's Moon Taxi redeem the notion of a "jam band," a descriptor that's grown into an epithet in the larger musical world that implies endless, limp noodling and lack of compositional or vocal substance. Not so with Moon Taxi, who are a jam band in the same way Little Feat or Bob Marley & The Wailers are jammers. Like these ancestors, Moon Taxi synthesizes divergent elements into a cohesive, concert-ready rush. It's pumping hard onstage where the real animal emerges in such bands, which makes Live Ride (self-released) a prime intro to this vibrant group who incorporate roots rhythms, Latinismo, Phish-y riffs, complex fusion and gutbucket, blue collar rock (a la early Doobie Brothers, actually…) into a pretty enjoyable ball they hurl with serious gusto.
Live Ride follows their studio debut, Melodica, and features eight previously unreleased songs as well as fan favorites. The crowd roar that hits when you press "play" seems indicative of the uplift they generate in concert, and these performances capture some part of that energy, a going-for-the-jugular dedication that looks for the folks in the back of the room not getting off and strives to make them pop. While I've never seen Moon Taxi with my own eyes, this set makes it easy to imagine the amorphous, joyful roiling in front of the stage. In their mixture of interesting time signatures, feel good melodies and genre-snubbing diversity, they are kin to archetypal jam bands like God Street Wine, String Cheese and the aforementioned Phish, but, like those bands, possess their own identity, their own way of handling the raw materials. Most aspects of this set are boldly delivered and curved with modern touches that recall Cafe Tacuba's tweaking of dance floor fare and slow burners.
What one finds on Live Ride is well played, well sung music with clever, satisfying touches galore tucked into songs – the smooth boogie piano breakout at the end of "Here To Stay" and the livetronica tail on "Morning Time" being just too highlights. Moon Taxi seems interested in music without borders, and that alone marks them as one to keep an ear bent towards in the future.
Moon Taxi is hitting the road with New Mastersounds and DJ Logic starting April 22 in Asheville, NC. Should be a hell of a bill. Full Moon Taxi tour dates are here.
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