David Wax Museum: Joe’s Pub 9 January 2012

First concert of the new year and I’m at the newly renovated Joe’s Pub with rtb and violaleeblue. They moved the entrance to inside the Public Theater and because my brain couldn’t adjust it felt like they had moved the stage instead. The bar is smaller and the terrible VIP section is gone. And now you have to call to reserve a seat (like City Winery) so there’s no standing in line and hoping to grab a good seat. The food is better – no hot food but the salads and sandwiches are fresher and tastier.

It turned out that this show was part of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference. There were shout-outs to APAP several times from the stage and the three of us may have been the only non-APAP attendees. When violaleeblue had purchased the tickets she said most of the club was sold out but there were a lot of empty seats the entire evening, so seats set aside for APAP people weren’t used. Which is a shame because it was a fun show.

Bhi Bhiman was first up – a pleasant singer/songwriter, solo on acoustic guitar. He seemed to have some major fans in the room and it turned out he knew the people at the table right next to us. His cover was The Staples “Freedom Highway” and that’s a major plus in my book. His songwriting was not as strong as his singing and I don’t know if this is the best he’ll ever be.

The Parkington Sisters are four young pretty classically trained sisters who were doing other projects on their own and joined together in 2005, starting on the streets of Provincetown. Rose, Nora, Sarah, and Ariel make beautiful music together – gorgeous harmonies and they’re very playful. Each sister has a very distinct personality, which is obvious as soon as they walk out because they were each dressed so differently. Two of their covers were Dan Auerbach’s “Trouble Weighs a Ton” and Radiohead’s “There, There.” The women switched around from violins to violas to guitars to toms to other percussion to piano to accordion. Their songwriting isn’t as strong as their singing and playing but once that catches up they’d be unstoppable.

David Wax Museum is one of those bands that looks like they are having so much fun that you want to jump on stage and join them. They sing a mix of American roots music and Mexican folk music – everything in English but there’s the Mexican call and response and rhythms in addition to the American folk rhythms and harmonies. The band is actually a duo (although there were others on stage). David Wax is on acoustic guitar and Suz Slezak plays a donkey jawbone (sounds similar to a güiro), fiddle, and sings harmonies. Other musicians who have performed with them are David’s cousin Jordan Wax (People’s Republic of Klezmerica) on accordion and piano, Mike Roberts (Wooden Dinosaur) on upright bass and electric guitar, Greg Glassman (The Sacred Shakers) on drum kit and requinto, Jiro Kokubu on mandolin and dobro, Alec Spiegleman (Cuddle Magic) on baritone sax and clarinet, Brian O’Neill on percussion and Sam D’Agostino on upright bass and tenor sax. I’m not sure who we saw but I think it was Spiegleman on clarinet and Glassman on drum kit and requinto. I got so caught up in their joy and the fun that I almost didn’t realize that there wasn’t much there there. The songwriting isn’t strong and Wax isn’t a strong singer or player. This is one of those instances where the performers’ joy infects the audience and carries them to places that their skills can’t.

But it was a fun evening and certainly worth the price of admission.

By Carene Lydia Lopez