David Wax Museum
David Wax Museum
The weather held perfectly at 72 degrees for the third installment of the North Dakota Museum of Art concert series on campus. Attendance at the concert was overwhelming, with a large crowd pushing to the edges of the space barriers.
The opening singer-songwriter Xavier Pastrano began with his mixture of upbeat and introverted fast-strummed tunes. His lyric topics focus on life stimuli, including his recent engagement and upcoming wedding, and playful stage antics (he coaxed an audience member into grabbing his water bottle for him). Pastrano’s music is informed by his space, discussing themes like home and citing Norway as a major influence in his songwriting.
Pastrano has been playing guitar for seven years, and started with the bass 13 years ago. He recently graduated with a masters from The University of North Dakota’s English department. Despite ending with a Decemberists cover, Pastrano has a lengthy history writing his own music, starting in his senior year in high school, when he began crafting songs about his life experiences.
“The vibe now is much more folky and bluegrass [from when I started]. Over time, playing with a bluegrass band, it was such a universal music. Bluegrass speaks to all generations, as opposed to one.”
Next, the David Wax Museum came on ringing with “Jenny Jenny Junebug, your mom is right you are too good for me … tell her we need a round, cause soon she’ll be a grandma,” put to a traditional North Mexican rhythm and a forceful baritone saxophone.
The David Wax Museum loosely hails from the Boston region but the two core members, Suz Slezak and David Wax, have storied backgrounds. Wax’s life trajectory is fairly unusual. Originally brought up in Missouri, Wax initially attended school at Deep Springs, a two-year school in Death Valley, California, that values education and manual labor (the students tend the farm adjacent to the school). From there, Wax travelled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and received a degree in Mexican history. Then, he travelled to Mexico to study folk music for a year and, when he returned, formed the David Wax Museum after meeting Slezak through mutual friends.
Slezak had freshly returned from a Watson Fellowship, a sizable grant that allows students to travel the world to study alternative concepts like, in Slezak’s case, textiles or global acting expression.
The David Wax Museum is often described as “Americana.” Their music, however, is Americana at its most American, combining classic singer-songwriter themes with Northern Mexican themes, and historical influences (one song is about the Catholic church in Mexico). With influences coming from all directions, the band has somehow managed to bridge the genres into a seamless flow of phrase and rhythm.
Wax describes their music as, “I feel like writing about something is about writing about an obsession, an intellectual obsession. My roots are from growing up in Missouri and the country and folk sounds that I grew up with. Certainly the Missouri and Mexican influences are the most important.”
As The David Wax Museum continues on to Seattle, the Concert in the Garden series at the North Dakota Museum of Art is preparing for the next act, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers and Luis Lopex III on August 2, at 6 p.m.
by Evan Boucher, student reporter Photos by Rakesh Tannamthotam, student photographerVideo by Stephanie Wothe, student videogapher
University of North Dakota, "David Wax Museum" (2011). UND News Features. 72.