After a day or so of fighting our way through dropped calls and shitty cell reception, I get hold of Moon Hooch saxophonist Mike Wilbur somewhere in the middle of Idaho. He and his bandmates — saxophonist Wenzl McGowen and drummer James Muschler — are in the homestretch of their West Coast tour, which eventually will take them through Eugene. Wilbur is also audibly sick, which doesn’t seem to be getting him down in the slightest.
“Last night I had this experience where I got onstage just feeling like shit,” he explains. “Then during the performance, I felt like I was outside of my body, like in a dream, where you don’t feel any pain or really anything anymore. You’re just kind of watching the dream happen.”
He continues, “And I just started playing as I would if it was a dream. I’ve only felt that removed in a positive way twice in my life before, and the energy that came over me was just nuts.”
Of course you don’t need to be in Moon Hooch (or sick for that matter) to feel that transformative energy Wilbur tapped into onstage. With just two saxophones and a drum kit, the Brooklyn three-piece has managed to sweep up audiences for four years running with a sound that’s both primal and immediate.
“We call it cave music,” Wilbur explains. “It’s very raw sounding, very gritty and dirty, but also danceable.”
The band’s early signature was of a more gimmicky variety. After three years training in New York’s prestigious New School, the band fled the practice room for the street corner. They busked in New York Metro stops, tried sticking traffic cones in their horns for an even bigger sound and played sax in ways that sounded more Slayer than Sonny Rollins.
It’s live, when the band often scorches through entire sets with little or no breaks, when its force is most apparent.
“We’ve learned to step out of the way of the music and let it speak through us rather than try to control it,” he says.
And for Wilbur, the goal is to share a piece of that very feeling he captured onstage the night before with every audience the band encounters.
“I hope they have a cathartic experience,” he adds. “That’s what we’re going for onstage, to get out that primordial energy we all have.”
Moon Hooch will join fellow opener, the operatic Pinky D’Ambrosia, for Beats Antique — who have formulated their own singular blend of world fusion-inspired music and dance — 8 pm Friday, Oct. 30, at McDonald Theatre; $25 adv., $30 door. All ages.