David Wax Museum at Carnegie Hall

A rainy night in Lewisburg, but there’s music to be heard, something not the run-of-the-mill, something young and different. Something with a girl and an accordion. Something with a nice young man in a suit and his sweetly scruffy companions. David Wax Museum, fresh from just plain busting loose at last year’s Newport Folk Festival, jamming it up at Bonaroo, and masterfully and melodiously conquering many odd little venues along the way. They were a new discovery for me, though they’ve been on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Mountain Stage, World Café, and more. You can hear all of these by going to their website www.davidwaxmuseum.com and clicking the link to NPR. They were discovered for us by Lynn Creamer who heard an intimate Living Room Concert in SoHo, after which she set about booking them in our little burg.

The quartet took the stage, Indie in category, a little bit hipster in appearance, but more sincere and authentic than either. They began with a slow selection, Big Heart of Yours, to feel us out. We were intrigued, and wanted to see what else they had for us. This is a band that blurs genres and styles, as well as blurring borders with their signature Mexo-Americana music. There was rejoicing in the music. There was improvisation all through their firm arrangements of much original music, Latin rhythms, exact harmony, varying instrumentation. There was very present and lovely communication among the duo of David Wax and Sue Slezak and their cronies. Suz, as she was called, played an interesting array of instruments, including keyboards, violin, the jawbone of a donkey (I am not making that up), and the red red accordion I had just dreamed of acquiring while I slept the night before. The others played various stringed guitar-like instruments, along with bass and drums, but with five strings or eight strings, ukulele-sized but with a bigger sound. I should have done my homework and asked them more about them.

They gave us their music, they said to us musically, this is what we are, this is what we do, and the audience, a little younger than usual, ate it up. They did a few songs, all new to my ears, which spoke to my heart. Suz, who hails from Virginia and is yet to have her tenth year class reunion, began Look What You’ve Done to Me, with the lovely lyrics, “See how I am trembling, I can barely breathe, There’s something I wanted to tell you, But from my mouth the words won´t leave…”and then there perfectly sweet harmony, with a mildly distorted guitar sound riding over the sparseness of the arrangement. They moved through sing-alongs, banned Mexican folksongs, occasionally gathering around just one microphone at the far side of the stage to give us a taste of the real sound without “the Wax Museum Prism”. The intimacy of these moments reminded me a bit of Gillian Welch and David Rawings, not so much in sound as in closeness and spirit. The beautiful girl danced from time to time. At one point they came off the stage and tenderly surrounded the only child in the audience, giving her a memory of gentle music, at that moment, all for her.

They played a song that stayed with me called “Beatrice”. “Have you ever seen a badger and armadillo kiss? Have you ever watched a sidewinder flail and twitch? Beatrice

Once when the moon hung low like this, Beatrice, Two tamarind trees bent to touch through the mist, Beatrice…” Just great.

After intermission, they came back just as genuine and relaxed, and gave us a lovely second half. They started with The Rumors are True, which had a few heartbreaking phrases between lamb and wolf, “Sometimes with the wrong keys the doors unlock, I keep wringing your tears from my shirt, I wish I knew how to touch you without making it hurt…”

She was a completely gracious hostess of the stage, the lovely Sue Slezak, with her gratitude for everything from the welcoming audience to the meal they had been served (reciting the entire menu as if she was introducing the band). And long after I was home, I knew the thing I would remember most, aside from the message of their music, was the joy of watching that pretty girl with the teal-blue dancing shoes. Really, really lovely.

– Susanna Robinson Kenga, LBSPY 33 (May 20-June 3)

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