David Mooney's Posts


David Mooney's Photo I'm a volunteer writer and music lover in St. Louis.

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Concert review: Matisyahu (with the Constellations) lift spirits at the Pageant, Wednesday, November 14

Matisyahu at the Pageant. Photo by Abby Gillardi.

Memories were made and lives were changed on Wednesday night thanks to Matisyahu and his songs of love, perseverance, acceptance and thankfulness.

The Pageant walls vibrated with anticipation as Matisyahu lovers of all ages filed in one after another in hopes of a show nothing short of transcendent. Before Matisyahu and friends took the stage the Constellations from Atlanta opened the show with sounds of Southern rock, swamp rock, soul and hip-hop. The band created quite an arousal for the fervent crowd and listeners responded with plenty of woops and hand waves. The highlight of the set was the funky and fresh “Right Where I Belong” from the Constellations’ most recent album “Do It for Free.” The band came equipped with tight drums, overdriven guitar and an afro’d bass player who used his hair pick as a guitar pick at one point.

Intermission came and went, the gear was changed and the lights were finally dropped to present the moment we were all awaiting for. The pulsating introduction featured the guitarist and bassist both on synthesizers and the drummer striking every drum within his reach. After the brilliant intro and light show, Matisyahu clad in a leather jacket and shades came out with his signature prayer-like chant. He may have dropped his Hasidic image but his intensity and energy has yet to be altered.

Several songs like “Crossroads” from his newest album featured more of Matisyahu’s elongated and ornate calls and chants with nothing but soft and repetitive bass, guitar and drums following him. Throughout the show, Matisyahu made all fans happy and played several songs from all of his albums including slightly reworked versions of well-knowns “King Without a Crown” and “Youth.” Even with these more popular tunes it was somewhat difficult to hear what he said but it was surely felt.

Later on in the night Matisyahu introduced St. Louis native, Micah Manaitai to sing “Sunshine” with him and the band. Micah won the opportunity by covering the song in a YouTube contest and was personally picked by Matisyahu to perform the song. The young St. Louisan led the crowd in bursts of fresh and raw energy that was contagious to all, including Matisyahu.

The band played mostly that old familiar reggae and dub that we know Matisyahu for, but they also delved deeply into hard rock, electronic and noise to create a spiritual experience. It was clear that Matisyahu was under the spirit as well — smiles abounded and he even faithfully leaped open-armed into the crowd on two occasions during “King Without a Crown.”

To close out the night, he chose the visionary and hopeful tune “One Day” as encore. During the song Matisyahu invited as many people as possible on stage to help him sing and dance. Several fans stood arm-in-arm with Matisyahu singing out the last of the song. The night wrapped up like the end of a feel-good blockbuster that seemed to stick with the crowd well beyond the venue walls.

Concert review and set list: Milo Greene and Bahamas beguile the Firebird, Wednesday, November 7

Milo Greene at the Firebird. Photo by Jarred Gastreich.

First impressions are important. Both Milo Greene and Bahamas made excellent ones down at the Firebird on Wednesday night during their first stops ever through St. Louis.

Bahamas didn’t formally introduce themselves until somewhere after the seventh song, the band’s presence was felt by all from the first hit of the hi-hat. The Canadian group brought a drummer, a guitarist and two supporting side singers. I won’t call them “back-ups” because they weren’t really behind anyone and the term does injustice to the beauty presented by the female singers on every song. Guitarist and lead singer Afie Jurvanen sounded like what might come about if the Black Keys and M. Ward hung out and did an album together.

His songs of love lost were set to tender, soul-filled guitar and swelling angelic harmonies that encouraged a sway and a smile. Each track was accompanied by drums done in a style reminiscent of an Al Green record and driven by Jurvanen’s ability to play rhythm guitar, lead and a bass line — all at once. An instant ear-opener, “Lost in the Light” was presented in a smooth and simple manner and the two side singers became a gospel choir with heavenly hums.

Another stand-out, “Hockey Teeth,” was written about “a really good-looking girl” that Jurvanen used to go with and lock lips with on a frequent basis. Although Bahamas’ music was a different style than Milo Greene’s, the band surpassed the requirements of a solid opener.

Despite never appearing in St. Louis and having only one album to its name, Milo Greene drew St. Louisians to the Firebird in healthy numbers and in even healthier spirit. And to be honest, prior to the Los Angelenos’ opening song, I had never heard any of their songs before, but I left a fan. Their emotional intensity and obvious talent made it was to dig their sound. Sporadically throughout the show influences of Local Natives, Explosions in the Sky and bits of an ’80s sound could be heard.

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Concert review: Frontier Ruckus (with Believers and Water Liars) lives up to its name at Old Rock House, Friday, October 26

facebook.com/frontierruckus / John Hanson

Frontier Ruckus writes brokenhearted songs for the lonely. Most think this doesn’t go well with a Friday night, but with some help from their friends they proved that sometimes it feels damn good to feel damn bad.

The Old Rock House saw a healthy collection of good music on Friday night, featuring Believers, Water Liars and the headliner Frontier Ruckus.

The opening band, Believers served up a fine mix of Vampire Weekend and the Strokes-inspired pop-rock tunes. With two swirling guitars, a drummer, a standing percussionist and a highly ornamented bass, they cruised through seven or eight syncopated dance numbers that led all in attendance in a strong foot tap.

Although a young band from Columbia, Mo. Believers’ songs had a mature and practiced sound. Along with the bright “Contra” guitars and the afro-beat bass, the lead singer adds in his gentle bass croon to provide listeners with an easy one-way ticket to dance land. They sure made a believer out of me.

Next on stage was former St. Louis denizen Justin Kinkel-Schuster of Water Liars. If anything on this night was definite, it was that dancing time had stopped abruptly and intense self-reflection and longing had taken its place.

Justin’s howl-at-the-moon vocals and his overdriven semi-hollow body cut right to the heart and exposed the truth and honesty that sometimes hurts. His songs — delivered solo without bandmate Andrew Bryant — were filled with heartbreak and infinite regret as told through the lyrics “I’ll have no more excuses for the way I treated you” in the death-bed song “On the Day.” From start to finish the ride was an emotional one, perfectly preparing the crowd for the looming sadness about to ensue.

The headliners from Michigan, Frontier Ruckus, put on a near perfect show. While echoing sounds of ’90s college alt-rock and sentiments of the Cure, their banjo-and-guitar-driven songs created a warmth that was perfect for the chilly fall night waiting outside of the venue walls. Their veteran status showed continually throughout the performance and quieted any hushed attempts to criticize.

The boys from the North Country played a polished set of tunes spanning five years, four albums and another full-length set to be released on January 29 of 2013. The new album, “Eternity of Dimming, consisting of 20 tracks, is a nostalgic paean for things that are lost for many of us — childhood, the ’90s, starter jackets, rug burns and birthday parties at Little Ceaser’s.

They also rocked well-knowns “Mona and Emmy”, “Ontario” and “Silverfishes” from their earlier alt-Americana catalogue. All of these songs featured musical backing as beautiful as the heart-straining words of lead singer and lead writer Matthew Milia, who at any point during the show, gripped by the emotion, would drop down to his knees with his Epiphone guitar by his side.

Matthew’s lyrics were somewhat difficult to crack into upon first listen but they command a second listen, and a third and a fourth. His voice honest combined with his colorful language to paint an intimate picture of his hometown and his years before this one.

The show peaked with the final three tunes: Frontier Ruckus stripped down, unplugged their gear and migrated to the middle of the floor. During the folky, night-inspired “Dark Autumn Hour” the venue floor became a campfire pit and the audience old friends that grew up together. Matthew led the crowd in a series of hushed sing-along “ohs” and head bobs while banjo, guitar and melodica rang out and feet stomped in unison.

Concert review and set list: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three (with Colonel Ford) rock back the clock at Off Broadway, Friday, September 28

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. Photo by Kate McDaniel.

A strong scent of PBR and hair pomade filled Off Broadway this Friday night in late September as a packed house of St. Louisans showed a side that time will not allow us to forget.

Hometown heroes Colonel Ford and Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three brought that old-timey feeling via a show that spanned over 80 years of music — connecting the past, the present and the future.

Opener Colonel Ford took stage studded in cowboy boots and blue jeans and provided the excited crowd with an hour’s worth of well-done, clean-cut country music. Armed with two guitars, an upright bass and drums, the band delivered a fine mixture of covers and originals. These country connoisseurs sifted their way through timeless tunes done by the likes of Buck Owens and Charlie Feathers and gave all in attendance an especially beautiful four minutes with a cover of the great country standard, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke.”

Throughout the hour the band sent the crowd swaying and foot tapping into a sense of longing nostalgia that turned the venue into a hazy, smoke-filled honky tonk somewhere down in Texas. Colonel Ford came in and did what all great openers do — play great music and warm the crowd for the night’s main event. Their Hank Williams-era songs with a honky-tonk approach proved to be just what Off Broadway needed to start the night off right.

Between the break a feeling of restlessness and excitement began to move throughout the sold-out crowd. The venue became a collection of sounds: glasses clanked in the back, George Jones played over the speakers and countless murmurs and chatter dedicated to the iconic young men set to take stage any moment.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three walked coolly on stage to the soundtrack of screams and cheers that only a hometown crowd could offer. After a quick soundcheck and introduction, Pokey and the boys got down to business, starting their set with a Fred Rose dance number entitled, “The Devil Ain’t Lazy.”

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