Free For All
Renowned jam band Moonalice highlights two days of superb free music at Good Old Days.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Last year, the average price of a ticket to see Paul McCartney was $145.72. Cher was $131.22. For Roger Waters: $125.71. And those lofty numbers don’t even include tax, parking or add-on fees.
In a world where folks are shelling out increasingly large amounts of dough to experience live music, the Good Old Days is going, well, back to the good old days, when music lovers didn’t have to rent the spare bedroom to see a show. Pacific Grove’s definitive festival is offering two full days of nonstop tunes for free, highlighted by two performances by prominent Bay Area jam band Moonalice (Saturday and Sunday at 1pm, Jewell Park Stage), an outfit that, not coincidentally, prides itself on staying away from ridiculously high ticket prices.
Guitarist/singer Roger McNamee (one of the founding members of the Flying Other Brothers) says the band doesn’t charge money for folks to download and stream its live shows online. That tactic has resulted in a large base of lasting fans similar in spirit to Phishphans and Deadheads.
“We don’t worry about [making money] because we are making people happy and having lots of fun,” he says. “We encourage creativity around our shows and people contributing their energy to the scene.”
There aren’t many musicians out there that have the economic freedom to do what Moonalice does, but McNamee has made a pretty good living over the years in the world of finance as a founding partner of the venture capital firm Elevation Partners. The musician has even gotten props from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who wrote in his book The Road Ahead, “Roger was a great sounding board for many of the ideas I wrote about.”
After McNamee saw Moonalice’s self-titled debut sell so poorly – though the legendary T. Bone Burnett produced it – he realized that money could never be a focus for the band if they wanted to be successful.
“We learned a hard lesson with that [self-titled] album,” McNamee says. “It’s a work of art, but it became obvious months before it was released that nobody cared.”
The lyrics in Moonalice’s “American Dream Rag,” a mash-up of Arlo Guthrie satire and Country Joe sing-a-long, offer a view of the modern-day economy: “I’ve been out of work since the bank shut down/ They shipped our jobs to China, left behind our town.”
Alma Desnuda (Sunday at 1:15pm, Bank of America Stage) may not have a financial genius on its team but the acoustic soul quartet was hailed by Grammy-winning producer David Pack for being rich with “natural-born stage charisma” and being “an authentically gifted live act that have managed to capture lightening in a bottle.”
The video for “Two Days Three Nights,” from their most recent release Riders, captures the essence of the Bay Area group nicely. Filmed on a farm somewhere in Tennessee, the footage features the band splashing each other and generally goofing off in a muddy lake. The music – a blend of Jack Johnson and acoustic Sublime – is a fun-loving soundtrack fueled by sunny harmonies and Dave Matthews-like guitar riffs.
If you’re looking for something different from the hippie jam band and free-spirited acoustic rock sound, check out the raging gypsy swing of Beso Negro (Saturday at 2:30pm, Bank of America Stage), fronted by Darktown Rounders founding member Adam Roach. The all-star conglomeration of musicians also features Madrid guitarist Javier Jimenez, violinist Steve Gardner, who’s performed with Blues Traveler and DJ Logic, upright-and-washtub bassist Cheyenne Young (the son of the YoungBloods’ Jesse Colin Young) and Cajun player RT Goodrich, known as a “hardcore road dog blue collar musician.” Beso Negro’s punchy gypsy jazz channels the phantom of Django Reinhardt double dipped in a batter of lightening-fast, down-home bluegrass. If these guys can’t get you out onto the dance floor on crossover jams like “Hombre Lobo” and “Burn it Down,” then you’ve got little hope.
Of all the bands performing throughout the weekend, Mozzo Kush (Sunday at 2:45pm, Goodies Stage) is the youngest. The Pacific Grove High School students – readying to graduate this year – have been together since 2009. They started out playing rocking covers like the Black Keys’ “Strange Times” and Juan Tizol’s jazz odyssey “Caravan.” But these days, they’ve been writing their own stuff. Recently, the band played its new single “Checked In to Check Out,” at TEDx. The poppy tunes brings together the funky, whiteboy guitar riffage of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the slippery baritone vocals of The Strokes, which clicks with Kush’s self-description (“If the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Strokes had a baby, and that baby grew up listening to indie rock”).
Additional not-to-be-missed standouts include The Chicano All Stars Band (Saturday at 4:30pm, Bank of America Stage), Matt Masih & the Messengers (Saturday at 3:30pm, Bank of America Stage), Alex Ramirez (Saturday at 10:45am, Jewell Park Stage) and The Cypressaires and Bay Belles Barbershop Choruses (Sunday at 11:15am, Bank of America Stage). More than 40 bands perform all told – check out www.pacificgrove.org/2012-good-old-days-music-festival-schedule for complete lineup – with listeners paying exactly zero.
GOOD OLD DAYS happens 9am-5pm Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15. Downtown Pacific Grove. Free. 373-3304. www.pacificgrove.org