Fly Me to the Moon
by Jonathan McCabe
Nowhere to hide. That’s what any self-respecting rock journalist thinks upon boarding a tour bus. Going with a band on their bus is better than a backstage pass. On a tour bus, there is nowhere your subjects can go to escape or disappear–a writer’s dream.
By the time I climb the stairs of the gleaming, garishly painted chariot that Moondog Three are temporarily calling home, though, I’m fairly sure these guys are not trying to hide from me. Maybe it’s because they’re still so new to the publicity game, they haven’t learned to be evasive yet.
And maybe it’s because they’re just like that. A open book. Everything they say seems completely on the up and up, if I can overlook the fact that all four of them use stage names. An open book, and this is their story.
Once upon a time there were two refugees from music school who wanted to start a band. One of them had been playing in Symphony Hall since he was ten years old. The other one had been on stage in smoke-filled honky tonks at the same age. Their search for a singer took them all over New England, and ended one summer day in front of a fountain on the Boston Common, when a passerby leapt into their set and started singing for the hell of it.
I hear the origin story from each member of the band. The two founders each take pains to try to describe to me why it made sense to them to grab this random stranger and run with him, as if the story isn’t good enough as it is, as if what was going through their minds at the time is still a mystery to them, too.
Ziggy, the singer who jumped out of the crowd that day, has it in four simple words. “Love at first sight,” he says with a shrug.
A band on the verge of their big break has a certain edge to them, an almost electric scent that brings hawks like me circling, looking for the real thing. The first time I see Moondog Three live, in San Diego, I know the buzz is justified. They’re just the opening act on a cash-in tour for MNB, who are riding the meteoric burn (bright but over in a flash) of a Top 10 single. It’s M3 who are hot, though, scorching through a short set with chops rarely seen in such a young band. Or any band. The best comparison I can make is to The Police, both in terms of the band’s pure musicality and the difficulty one has classifying what kind of music it is they play. Not metal, not punk, not pop, they’re not even on the Venn diagram where those things overlap. Like the Police and U2 and R.E.M., they’ve hovering somewhere a few inches above the diagram, in their own dimension.
It isn’t the band’s musicality that brought BNC to the table, though, but the ineffable “it.” As when I ask the tour manager a few days later to describe what’s so great about Moondog Three, and he responds “These guys just have it.” Tread, from headliner MNB, says, “They can bring it.” And when cornered, the A&R rep from BNC (who wasn’t then ready to commit yet) simply said, “This is it. They are it.” Not a week later, he’d signed on the dotted line, and this story went from a sidebar to a cover feature.
On the bus, Ziggy and Christian, the band’s drummer, are playing “Name That Song.”
“She floats like a swan, grace on the water,” Ziggy intones, giving no hint of the melody.
“Oh, that’s got to be some goth s**t,” says Chris. “The Cure?”
Ziggy shakes his head. “You want a hint? It was a band with no drummer.”
“Well, no wonder I don’t know who it is,” the drummer says, tearing a page out of a magazine and winging the wadded up ball at the singer.
“Echo and the Bunnymen!” someone shouts from the back. I don’t know their voices well enough yet to know who.
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