Moon Taxi | NYE | Nashville | Review

Words by: Wesley Hodges

Scroll down to check out a couple of videos from the night!

Moon Taxi :: 12.31.10 :: Exit/In :: Nashville, TN

For many, New Year's Eve is pejoratively referred to as “Amateur Night”, due in large part to overhyped/overpriced New Year's parties that never quite meet expectations, sardine-packed bars, and the sheer number of people getting twisted on libations and losing their wits. Those who frequent this web site and likely attend one of the choices on the full menu of live music events being offered nationwide probably share the sentiment that New Year's Eve is the night of all nights in the live music world, a chance to see one of your favorite bands stretch it out, try on a few musical costumes and put their signature stamp on the back end of the year. After Widespread Panic in ’09 and My Morning Jacket in ’08, this year the show of choice was Moon Taxi in Nashville, and a chance to see a band I’ve been lucky enough to watch progress from the very early days playing tiny bars and college parties in Music City.

At Nashville’s famed Exit/In down on Elliston Place, the local workhorse virtuosos displayed a level of professionalism and precision only attainable from weeks of planning and practice. As a musician friend aptly put it, this show was a statement for the band. The performance included a host of covers, the band’s genre- bending and well sung array of originals, numerous special guests, and a blinding assortment of pop songs from 2010 to bade adieu to the year in impressive fashion. The Alabama-bred and Music City based quintet has relentlessly toured over the past several years and organically attained a sizeable and loyal fanbase in the Music City, as well as their native Birmingham. The past couple years have been especially prosperous as Moon Taxi continues to gain notoriety nationwide as a rising star in the jam scene, in large thanks to numerous major festival appearances and supporting slots on major tours. This year’s event sold out in advance, perhaps indicating that a notch up to a larger venue for the occasion in 2011 may be in order. Musically, there are few young bands out there brimming over with this level of talent and a genuinely infectious enthusiasm that emanates with every note. Particularly, guitarist/vocalist Trevor Terndrup has the rare ability to engage the person in the back of the room and command their keen interest, the sort of lead singer who actually sounds even better in person than on record, a rarity.

As any band should know, New Year’s Eve calls for a little something extra (which is usually built into the ticket price – however, this one was a bargain considering what we got) calling for a few additional days of practice to learn some new cover songs and a rearrangement of some originals. After Friday, it is evident that this is a familiar formula that Moon Taxi already seems to have mastered for their New Years shows. The venue’s web site misstated the starting time for the show, but luckily we got down to the show early and only missed the show opener, walking into an already roaring scene as the band took on the relatively older song “Mustang” from 2007’s debut LP Melodica with it’s appropriate lyrics for such a bacchanalian occasion: Raise my glass tonight/I say we can fly if the wind is right. After a chunk of newer songs and a couple including a drum line (which didn’t make too much of a difference until their guest spot on the encore), a guest tenor sax player joined in for a first-rate take on MJ’s “Thriller” towards the end of the first set. The lighting display was demonstrably thought out and a nice accent to the music onstage, and notably pronounced, even in the relatively small 500 or so person venue. Before taking a set break, the band seamlessly tore through an incongruous, yet cohesive medley of radio-friendly hit songs from the past year, which included verses from Justin Bieber’s tear-your-ears-out/annoying song “Baby”, Mumford and Son’s, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Vampire Weekend, Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You” and amusingly capping the medley with “Bed Intruder Song” (easily the crowd favorite of the medley), the YouTube sensation-turned hit “hide yo kids/hide yo wife” song. The medley was a brief, year- in-review style retrospect on the good, bad and the ugly from pop radio and a jaw-dropping display of this young band’s canyon-esque depth on both a musical and vocal front. One of those wow moments that had everyone turning to the person next to them, wide-eyed and grinning, asking if that really just happened.

After a brief intermission, the band returned to the stage just minutes before midnight, counted down, raised a glass and busted through “Auld Lang Syne” amongst balloons and a confetti cannon shower, creating a unique and colorful scene inside the generally dark and drab venue (endearing qualities generally speaking). With the lighting display and New Years decorations, Exit/In actually took on a little bit more of a festive demeanor for the special night. Next, it was The Who classic “Baba O’Reilly”, an excellent cover choice to ring in the new year, giving keyboard player Wes Bailey an opportunity to show off his remarkable ability on this tune, certainly staking a claim as a rising star on his instrument of choice. A lightning fast run through the Talking Heads “Life During Wartime” was an ideal mid-stride second set addition to help keep the high-energy crowd thriving. Throughout the evening, lead singer Trevor Terndrup showcased his exceptional vocal talent (in the musical progeny of Sublime’s Bradley Nowell) that seems to work best within the reggae/dub milieu, but is limber enough to sing metal, rock and country when duty calls for it. The inspired presentation oscillated healthily between lighter, groovier fare and New Years raucous-inducements (including the first successful stage dive I’ve seen in countless shows at Exit/In), as evidenced by the oxymoronic new slow jam “Square Circles”, the dead ringer dub odyssey of “Here To Stay”, and the proggy second set closer “Whiskey Sunset”. Finally, the tribal/drum-line’d take on Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” helped send the crowd on their way into the soggy night in a blissed-out stupor, raving about what they had just taken part in, as local DJ Kidsmeal kept the after party spinning late into the night.

Moon Taxi :: December 31, 2010 :: Exit/In :: Nashville, TN
I: Skipping Stones, Mustang, Mercury, Square Circles, Common Ground, Cabaret (w/ drum line), All the rage (w/ drum line), Thriller (Michael Jackson - w/ sax), Information center> 2010 Medley (included verses from Justin Bieber, Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Cee-Lo Green, and the Bed Intruder Song), Pennies From the Grave (w/ DJ Kidsmeal)

II: NYE Countdown > Auld Lang Syne, Baba O'Riley (w/ sax), Who Do You Think U R (w/ sax), Life During Wartime (w/ sax), Southern Trance, Hypnus, Around The Sun, Gimme a Light, Here to stay, Gibson > Whiskey Sunset > Drums > Whiskey Sunset

E:Hideaway, River of Dreams (Billy Joel - w/ Sax and Drum line)

This Ride Ain’t Stoppin’ Anytime Soon
Nashville

Moon Taxi - River of Dreams (Billy Joel cover)

Moon Taxi - Whiskey Sunset

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[Published on: 1/7/11]

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