Sensory Overload: Moon High

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When Moon High began in 2007, the band was as notable for its eerie light show as for the spectral folk music that wafted from the stage like puffs of smoke.

Certainly they had some quality songs, particularly the woodsy, melancholic "Gathering Song." But seeing them performed live was about the novelty of a glowing banjo in the dark - and of seeing frontman David Fowler playing whispery acoustic music after drumming for Audion and The Cinema Eye, two post-punk bands from the early-'00s era when seemingly every new act was described as "angular."

When the band wrapped up the live music portion of Junctionview Studios' biannual art-and-everything-else extravaganza Agora Saturday, the room was far too bright for a light show, though Blake Pfister's kick drum was noticeably radiant. Thankfully, the Moon High that has emerged from years of lineup changes and stylistic evolution no longer needs pretty lights to hold my attention.

And I'm not the only one. They've been sharing the stage with major talents like Vetiver and recently played the ascendant Nelsonville Music Festival alongside the likes of Loretta Lynn and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

The music Moon High makes is still soft-spoken and understated, and that's one of the best things about it. More bands should dare to dial down the volume and go with less instead of more. But the few elements they have added to the fold have been exceptional.

Specifically I'm referring to multi-instrumentalist Summer Sherman. I wouldn't be the first one to dub her the band MVP; she's joked about her nickname being "triple threat" for her multitasking work on flute, autoharp and foot-controlled keyboard bass.

Another positive: Ryan Wells seems to have graciously ceded most of the songwriting duties to Fowler, opting instead to contribute gorgeous accompaniment on several instruments of his own. Be it banjo, keyboards or his stirring, understated guitar work, his playing adds a lot to the equation.

All this adds up to a quiet but confident strain of folk-rock that's ideal for this city's more intimate dives. Fortunately, they're playing just such a show this Saturday at Rumba Cafe, so go see for yourself.

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When: 10 p.m. Saturday, May 29

Where: Rumba Cafe, Campus