Committed to consciousness and environmentalism, veganism and philosophy, as equally as they are to their music, Moon Hooch saxophonists Wenzl McGowen and Mike Wilbur and drummer James Muschler first came together busking on New York City subway platforms, where they were so popular that the NYPD banned their impromptu shows as a public-order hazard. Find out what Manchester thought of their 2017 UK tour as they took to Band On The Wall.
A few weeks after my interview with Saxophonist Mike Wilbur of the band, I snuck into the back of Band On The Wall around 9pm on a very cold November 14th. I thought I was late but the crowd were still calmly sipping their beers, making amicable chat with each other, some with excessively long hair and floral shirts, others looking like they'd come straight from their very important office. I relaxed, stupidly unsuspecting of the fact that everyone in that room had come to dance.
The second Moon Hooch were on the stage the sound erupted from what felt like every angle. The crowd didn't miss a beat as they too sprung into action, jumping and jostling for room in the increasingly warmer black box of BOTW. The whole room rippled to life, continuously bouncing for over an hour of energising self-coined cave-music. There is something so visceral about Moon Hooch's sound, it's as if dancing to it is a primal instinct, non-optional.
How much of what you do now is still improvised or do you tend to stick to a set when you perform?
"We have a set that we play but there’s a lot of improv within it and we’d like to add more, I think by nature we’re all improvised musicians, at least I can definitely say that for myself. I’d rather be improvising; to me it feels like the most honest you can get as a musician because it’s you and your current ideas coming straight through the instrument. Obviously there’s a lexicon that you pull from when you’re improvising just from having practised for so many years and having things under your fingers but when you’re improvising, if you can step out of the way, it definitely feels like an open channel of creativity."
It's hard to believe that such full-bodied music can come from just three people. The two saxophones audibly dance with each other, each one taking the spotlight at a time while the other momentarily rests. Played through a reverse-DJ setup there were drones and other-worldly sounds through the monitor as well as some almost heavy-metal vocals on one track. Just when you think the spirit of the gig might plateau Moon Hooch level up again as a traffic cone gets used as an instrument and the crowd were right up there with them.
The incredible energy level stays on high throughout and the effect is almost like a rave. The music is verging on drum and bass but is more talented than that, it's all about creativity and living in the moment... it's jazz. The wealth of musical practice these musicians must have to pull from is evidently immense and I already can't wait until they are next in the UK.
To find out more about Moon Hooch and their philosophy read my full interview here.