You’re the first-chair saxophone in the high school band. You sit in the mildewy basement with your friends, honking and wailing before practice, generally causing a ruckus. (Is this why they put the band room in the basement?)
You have a new riff to show your pals today. You close your eyes and perfect your embouchure, preparing to play the first few notes of the Simpsons theme song. Everything is perfect — your friends are waiting to hear the sick new beat and ... out comes a shriek. You try to cover it up, you got this! The rest of the song is perfect, totally rhythmic and groovin'. But your friends laugh over it (years later, you’ll realize that they’re actually, legitimately mean), but then it’s time for real practice. For a brief moment, you envisioned yourself up on a strobe-lit stage, music pumping, heads bobbing along to the beat of your squeaks.
“One day,” you think to yourself, “The squeak will be cool.”
And you were right. Or, maybe, you made it cool.
Moon Hooch is the realization of these band dreams, the ones who made it out of classical training and into the freedom to be so incredibly loud. The saxophone-percussion trio formed by Wenzl McGowen, Mike Wilbur, and drummer Ethan Snyder began busking in New York City subways before they released their eponymous album in 2013. The subway grunge still shines through in their music — each song borders on abrasive before rolling back into the main melody.
This intensification and subsequent retreat is at times disorienting, but never wavers out of control. McGowen and Wilbur, while maintaining the groove, frequently look up to survey the audience, making eye contact with the members up front in a way that the configuration of Antone’s almost encourages, with a narrow line in the center of the venue for the audience to fill in. This control is seen through almost every song, when the expression of each band member is celebrated and then reeled back to the flow.
It’s angst, energy, and the overwhelming need to make a whole lot of noise rolled into one ecstatic, transcendent experience. It is, quite simply, cool.