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Concert Preview: Moon Taxi

Grant Walters Grant Walters
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The rising Nashville indie-rock quintet brings new music from their latest album 'Let The Record Play' to Newport Music Hall on Thursday night

The contagiously positive hit “Two High,” one of last year’s most recognizable radio singles, was a hard-earned culmination of over a decade of indie rockers Moon Taxi’s long list of road shows, festival appearances, and four notably good studio albums. In its current configuration, the band has been performing and recording since 2006, although founding members Trevor Terndrup (lead vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), and Spencer Thomson (guitar, programming) began their tuneful partnership while studying at Belmont University in Nashville in the early 2000s.

“It was a difficult time balancing band life, school work and burrito rolling,” keyboardist Wes Bailey mused wryly in a recent conversation. “I can’t speak for each member but, yes, we each wanted to eventually get out of our dorms and play music on bigger stages across the world. I think that’s an accurate statement.”

The anthemic, roots-flocked “Two High,” driven by drummer Tyler Ritter’s persistent kick pedal, has taken on a life of its own since its May 2017 release, generating 60 million streams on Spotify and amassing an impressive amount of spins on both mainstream and satellite radio outlets.

Their most recent album, Let The Record Play, arrived in January, a product of a newly-signed major label contract with RCA Records. While many of Moon Taxi’s peers seem to be shying away from corporate affiliation, the band sees the move as an opportunity to reach a broader audience.

“We wanted our music to be heard by more people across the globe,” Bailey explains. “And we thought that RCA was a good place to start.”

The boost has afforded Moon Taxi the opportunity to mount an extensive headlining tour that will bring them to Columbus’ Newport Music Hall on Thursday night. But their veteran status as high-impact regulars at venues like Bonnaroo, Coachella, Beale Street, Firefly, and Lollapalooza in recent years had already established them as a must-see live draw. Evolving that stage presence, especially the newer material from Let The Record Play, has, and continues to require a level of sweat ethic on the band’s part to achieve.

“This is hard work,” Bailey declares. “We didn’t sleep for over 30 hours the other day and played two shows.”

But the rigors of the road pay off in the affirmative vibe they conjure achieve in front of their fans, something that Bailey insists is important for the group to maintain in between performances. “Looping the 1989 [Billy Joel] hit ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ on the tour bus is a great way to keep our spirits up,” he jokes. “We also try to write new songs often.”

In June, Moon Taxi will reassume a spot on the Bonnaroo stage as part of Into The Great Wide Open, a live tribute to the music of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers that has also recruited Sheryl Crow, Vanessa Carlton, Pat Sansone of Wilco, and Patrick Hallahan and Tom Blankenship of My Morning Jacket as contributors.

Let The Record Play’s strengths lie in the band’s collective skills as musicians and writers meshing in satisfying ways across its ten tracks (“The Way” and “Trouble” are particularly excellent), but there is a tangible sense of play and experimentation that weaves between them — something that will no doubt continue to make Moon Taxi’s creative path intriguing to follow back in the studio for their next effort

“We are very laissez-faire in the studio,” Bailey affirms. “Hell, our early stuff had didgeridoos and bamboo flutes! Anything goes!”

Moon Taxi, with guests The Orphan, the Poet, will take the stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday night at Newport Music Hall, 1722 N. High St. in the University District. General admission tickets are $23 (plus applicable taxes and fees) and are available through Ticketmaster. The band’s latest album, ‘Let The Record Play,’ is available via the band’s official website.

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