Modern Cave Music Outshines Veteran Geek Rockers

It is a rare occasion that an opening band outshines the band they are opening for, but at Thursday night’s show at the Vogue, Moon Hooch did just that.

Opening up for They Might Be Giants, Moon Hooch instantly grabbed the crowd’s attention.


Photo Courtesy of Moon Hooch Facebook Page

The band is comprised of two saxophones and a drummer, an interesting combination creating what they call, “Cave Music.”

Cave music, as described on the bands website, is, “like House, but its more wild, more jagged, more free, more natural to live in.”

The story of the band is an interesting one. Wenzl McGowen, James Muschler   and Mike Wilbur never had the intention of creating a band. They graduated together from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan in 2010.

Initially, Wilbur and McGowen, the two saxophonists, had a mutual distaste for one another; each thinking the other was cocky. However, they overcame this when they ended up living next door to each other in an apartment in New York City.

The trio began performing in subway stations and parks throughout New York, quickly obtaining a reputation for starting subway raves wherever they were performing.

Their dedication to performing in public paid off and Mike Doughty, who saw them performing on a train platform, asked them to come on tour with him.

Since then, the band has released their first album, titled, “The Moon Hooch Album,” which was recorded in one day and has been selling out every show of their six month residency at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory.

Moon Hooch started the show feverishly. McGowen, with a cardboard tube fastened to his saxophone, created an intense womp sound as the band launched into the most enjoyable dubstep song I have heard in ages.

Throughout their 45 minute set, the band seamlessly transitioned genres, with elements of house music, dubstep, rock and jazz intricately intertwined. To achieve such a diverse arrangement of music with only two saxophones and a drummer was a sight to see and made me wish we had that level of street performers in Indianapolis.

In traditional jazz fashion, each of the members took turns soloing, as the music left room for improvisation. Muschler, wearing some sort of ridiculous hat, absolutely killed a drum solo, invoking a tribal sentiment that brought the crowd into frenzy.

Toward the end of their set, the music of two saxophones and a drum started to become repetitive. Seemingly aware of this, they decided to switch it up a bit by adding a harmonica and vocals to the mix, which created a more robust sound.

Moon Hooch appears to like to keep their lyrics simple. “Love one another when it’s time to breed,” Wilbur repeated throughout the song.

In a time when EDM DJ’s are a dime a dozen, it was refreshing to see a creative new take on electronic music.

After a brief cigarette break, in which I heard a fan say, “I played saxophone in high school, and what those guys are doing is amazing,” it was time for They Might Be Giants, who are on tour to support their 16th studio album, “Nanobots,” which is comprised of 25 short and quirky songs. The album was released on March 5th.

Spotlights circled the crowd to the sound of a drum roll as They Might Be Giants took the stage to the thunderous cheering of the crowd. Sadly, the introduction for the band was more exciting than their first song, “When will you Die?”

After the mind blowing and energetic performance by Moon Hooch, the straight forward, alternative rock they mightbegiantsmusic was painful to listen to. I agreed to review this show on a whim, unfamiliar with the band, but open minded. However, the crowd was comprised of long time fans and I felt like an outsider, missing the context of an inside joke.

They Might Be Giants have been performing for over 30 years and the crowd was predominately comprised of matured couples who’ve likely been following the band for as many years. To me, their performance felt stale; the audience, however, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying a night on the town (and perhaps a relic of the past).

The band took time after their second song to share their thoughts on the venue by complaining about the smell of cat pee in the Vogue, saying that it is a good way to get the band to come on stage quicker. They also mentioned that at every venue they play, they are told that the air conditioner broke that day and that they are still gullible enough to believe it. The crowd appeared confused at this as a few people cheered.

They Might Be Giants put on a lengthy show, playing just under 30 songs, including two encore performances.

There was even a break in the music for a puppet show, likely a result of the bands previous ventures into children’s music, which led into the song, “Put your Hand Inside the Puppet.” It could be my lack of imagination, but it came off as forced and gimmicky.

Overall, They Might Be Giants were underwhelming, however there were a couple of captivating moments. The band’s cover of, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” was fast paced and fun (check out a cartoon interpretation the track below) and Dan Miller, the bands lead guitarist, had an impressive guitar solo at the end of, “Dr. Worm” as the band to left the stage before returning for their first encore.

In the end, the crowd left the Vogue satisfied and I, for once, left happy that I came out early enough for the opening band.