Over the past few years, the Boston-based David Wax Museum has made a name for itself and its Mexo-Americana music in Washington. Bouncing from living room to living room, the group has played more than 20 shows in the District in venues provided by their fans.
Though the 9:30 Club is a bit bigger than a standard D.C. living room, that didn’t prevent the band from maintaining the same level of intimacy in their performance. Even with the first song, Wax sang part of a verse at the edge of the stage, away from his microphone, immediately turning an audience that had been chatty during two opening acts into an attentive and engaged one.
Once they’d grabbed the room’s attention, the band played two upbeat tunes (“Beatrice” and “Chuchumbe”) that kicked off the clapping and dancing that would continue throughout the evening. They also marked the night’s first appearance of the band’s most unusual instrument, the donkey jawbone.
There was ebb and flow to the band’s overall set. When they played their country folk ballads the room swooned and swayed, softly singing along. They went completely off-mic for “Jalopy Heart,” which was clearly crowd favorite. When they moved into their Mexican-inspired tunes whooping and dancing erupted.
On several occasions the two opening acts, D.C locals the Second String Band and New Yorkers Pearl and the Beard, joined the Wax Museum onstage, and sometimes in other parts of the venue.
During one song members of the Second String Band emerged from parts of the crowd for a brief bluegrass jam in the middle of the room. (This writer was nearly taken out by a fast-moving upright bass. Notes will be taken less attentively next time.)
Another song shortly after was performed by band members who appeared out of nowhere in different parts of the venue. Wax appeared singing in a balcony above the stage. Suz Slezak perched atop a railing near the rafters. Shortly after they were joined by every performing musician present in the center of the floor for a soul-stirring rendition of “Let Me Rest,” with the audience crouched and kneeling around them.
One thing became certain during this show: This band has a genuinely great time when they perform. That exuberance spread to the audience, most of whom didn’t seem to mind that they missed the last Metro trains of the night by staying to the end.