It’s Getting Easier for David Wax Museum

December 3rd, 2012

David Wax Museum – Mercury Lounge – November 30, 2012

It’s always a treat to see a band on the verge of taking the next step—to share and revel in the giddiness as they go from a Youth XL to a plain old Small. That giddiness was on full display as David Wax Museum played to a packed Mercury Lounge Friday night, shared in equal parts by the band playing to their biggest New York City crowd yet and those who just came to hear good music. Suz Slezak joked that she was an airline stewardess, proclaiming, “We know you have lots of options, so thank you for choosing us!” and explained that even though the band had been touring for months in support of their new album, Knock Knock Get Up, this was the real album-release show. They just wanted to make sure they had everything sounding right before bringing it to NYC.

Wax’s sound is a triad of influences: equal parts folk, indie rock and, most interestingly, Mexican folk and mariachi. Much of the set, focused on the album, found a happy middle ground among the three: full horn section, Wax on ukulele or guitar and Slezak, the secret weapon, playing donkey jawbone, accordion or keyboards depending on the song. “Dog in This Fight” and “Leopard Girl” were representative highlights. At different points in the set, though, the band went full tilt in one of the directions.

So there was a moment when the horns departed and the David Wax Museum went “full indie,” with Slezak playing an Andrew Bird–esque violin. Another found the nucleus of the band huddled around a single microphone, going “full folk” with a wonderful gospel bluegrass “Let Me Rest (In the Wake of the Lord),” which drew a spontaneous sing-along from the crowd. Late in the show, they went “full mariachi,” hopping into the crowd where, improbably, a real honest-to-goodness mariachi band—complete with a woman stomping on a box in the middle of the floor—appeared seemingly out of thin air to join in. The set concluded in strong fashion with a great “Harder Before It Gets Easier,” which, judging from the show and the crowd’s reaction to it isn’t necessarily true. —A. Stein