Moonalice, a jam band led by tech investor Roger McNamee, pulled into Don Quixote's in Felton last week for a great evening of psychadelic rockin' blues and laid-back grooves. The band includes all-star musicians GE Smith on lead guitar, Pete Sears on keyboards, Barry Sless on guitar & pedal steel, Jimmy Sanchez on drums, Ann McNamee on vocals and pretty much anyone anytime playing bass.
In the year and a half since I last saw Moonalice at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, the band has improved tremendously. As Roger "Chubby Wombat" told me, they've now done 150 gigs as a band and it shows. The setlist has evolved to have a better flow, the vocals were more controlled, songs have been reworked, heck, even the lighting system has been upgraded!
The band kicked off on-time at 8:00 pm with a cover of Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" sung by Ann McNamee. This was followed by GE Smith singing "Down the Road a Piece" which included some great guitar work. Other songs included a mix of covers and original songs by all of the band members including "Up in the Clouds," "Empire State," the romantically trippy "Happy Endings," "Fair to Even Odds," a cover of the motorcycle manifesto "'52 Vincent," and a unique arrangement of "Whiter Shade of Pale," that blew me away.
While the words were immediately familiar, Moonalice did this song in a frenetic style that brought a new sense of urgency. I don't know if this was T-Bone Burnett's hand at play, but it was one of the highlights of the evening. They wrapped up the first set with "Tell Me It's Okay" including an extended pschadelic jam that showed off some mighty-fine Jerry Garcia inspired guitar work by Barry Sless. I could have sworn there were lasers going on during this song, but maybe it was just the ambiance.
After a break, the band came back with another full set including classic songs "Somebody to Love," "Nick of Time," "Like a Rolling Stone" (always a favorite) and "Stella Blue." They finished off with a Dead-tribute version of "Goin' Down the Road," which has got to be a theme song for the band as they prepare for a US tour that takes them through the South in February and back in the west in March.
I've posted photos on PicasaWeb and a few videos on YouTube. That said, I don' t know that video quite captures the magic this band has when they get on stage in front of an audience. You can also download music from their site. But I think this is a band that you have to see live to really appreciate. It was a night of uplifting musical vibrations, great memories and even a few select readings from the book of Moonalice.