With its American roots jam music and low-key 1970s concert environment, Moonalice will travel from San Francisco for its first Center for the Arts show Friday. The venue announced this week that local jam band Achilles Wheel will open the show.
Moonalice is a band of seasoned musicians with old-school influences from Big Band jazz to American folk to bluegrass and blues.
“We grew up listening to The Band, The Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and the like, but we play like Moonalice,” said Roger McNamee “Chubby Wombat” (guitar, vocals and bass).
Moonalice was born from a psychedelic band project first begun with McNamee and produced by T. Bone Burnett.
“The original Moonalice had seven members, but we now play as a quartet. Barry Sless (Phil and Friends, Kingfish, Great American Taxi), Pete Sears (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship) and I have played together for a decade, beginning in the Flying Other Brothers. John Molo (Bruce Hornsby and the Range, The Other Ones, John Fogerty) joined us three and a half years ago, about two years into Moonalice,” he said.
The name “Moonalice” was coined as an homage to Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners.
This year, Moonalice played at Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday concert at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and last year the band opened for U2 at the Oakland Coliseum. The band plays about 100 shows a year during the summer months and at clubs and theaters the rest of the year.
A new instrumental song by Moonalice, “Coconut Wireless,” written by Barry Sless, was featured in a recent episode of the hit television series, “Sons of Anarchy.” The band’s second single, “It’s 4:20 Somewhere,” has been downloaded 2.4 million times from the Moonalice website, the most downloads from a band’s own server in history.
Moonalice invented the Twittercast concert, broadcasting links in near real time for live concerts and at random times for past shows. Since 2007, the band has done 103 Twittercast concerts. Members of the band feel that live music should be a communal experience where the listener and musicians feed and derive inspiration from each other.
Band members say they try to speak to everyone through their songs, mixing a variety of genres with extended musical improvisations and a “killer light show” to evoke a sense of adventure and exploration. Audiences typically tend to mirror the band, people who “grew up seeing live shows in the low-key environment of the early ’70s — as well as younger people who wish they had been around then,” said McNamee.
Moonalice is known for integrating music, art, dance and “tribal fun stuff” into every show. A new psychedelic poster is created for each concert and given out at each venue. Every show starts with an introduction by Big Steve Parish, the man who was Jerry Garcia’s guitar tech for 25 years.
Every concert performed by Moonalice has been captured with a live video and the band now has 250 shows and 450 audio recordings in its archive. Live video concerts are broadcast on the Moonalice website.
Moonalice is known among locals for shows it has performed in Nevada City and Auburn over the years. The Jan. 4 concert marks the first time the band will perform in Grass Valley. “We’re coming because Grass Valley is a beautiful place filled with people who like our kind of music. We’re planning to have a great time!” said McNamee.
For more about the band, go to www.moonalice.com.
Nevada City-based Achilles Wheel features musicians Jonny Mojo on lead guitar and vocals, surrounded by Paul Kamm and Shelby Snow on rhythm, bass and vocals and Gary Campus and Mark McCartney on drums and vocals.
For information about Friday’s concert go to www.thecenterforthearts.org.