Must See Music: David Wax Museum

A Journey Through the Desert

Seeing a show by the self-described "Mexo-Americana" band David Wax Museum is like catching a glimpse of a mirage of an oasis while stranded, thirsty in the Arroyo desert. Oscillating in size throughout their Thursday show at the 9:30 Club, the band deployed horns and backup guitar to flood on and off stage with sound. Rotating instruments for nearly every song, lead singers David Wax and Suz Slezak played a musical version of Russian Roulette, creating a lush and whimsical melodic terrain. Transcending the rarefied genre of "Mexo-Americana," David Wax created a glorious soundscape that made wandering in the desert worthwhile.

The band began with a slow, murmur of a song with David on lead vocals and guitar, Suz on violin, and two horns and a clarinet adding body to the conventional bass-and-drums setup. From here, the group morphed several times reaching a caffeinated equilibrium for Yes, Maria, Yes, a joyously mocking mariachi-style song singing: “Your careless heart/Invites me in just to see me go.” This song saw David on ukulele and Suz playing a percussive instrument that looked like a ram's horn.

During Vivian, Suz accompanied on accordion for a Klezmer-like overlay. In the Mexican folk song La Guacamaya, David and Suz chanted along to in Spanish. Harder Before it Gets Easier, a song about a prickly relationship, saw the audience invited in for a chorus: "Knock, knock, we were unprepared/Knock, knock, fate it does not care."

Songs for the DC Crowd

Retaking the stage for an encore, David was deliriously sweaty. The horn section was disheveled. The hair on Suz's bow were peeling off and swaying about the stage like a spider's web. This was the perfect look for Unfruitful, a naughty swing tune, "I thought of all the gas we’d guzzled/And the love that we’d kept muzzled." Suz treated the audience to a raw, aggressive violin solo. Hopping around the stage like it was littered with tamales, David visited with other members of the band, engaging in an impromptu guitar duel with the backup guitarist.

The most powerful moments in the show occurred whenever David and Suz abandoned the stage to venture onto the 9:30 Club floor. How I Love When You Are Still, an acoustically-accompanied lullaby, entranced the rambunctious audience. Gathering around troubadours David and Suz, the audience put down their phones caught up in, "The world I’ve built walks on stilts. Oh watch how it falls down with such ease." Did David and Suz deliberately choose this song for their overworked, over ambitious DC? It certainly reminded me of the singular pleasure of stillness.

In a show overloaded with the gregariousness of Latin folk, David and Suz proved one doesnt always need to be loud to be listened to.


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