Review: Moon Hooch and Honeycomb @ U Street Music Hall 2.1.17


When it comes to making modern dance music, the main ingredient tends to be some sort of electronic gadget, like a drum machine or synthesizer. Last week, U Street Music Hall experienced some more unconventional ways of making dance jams when Moon Hooch and Honeycomb stopped by on the first date of Moon Hooch’s Red Sky tour.

An electronic melody played over the speakers as Honeycomb walked on stage and launched into a mind-blowing beatbox set. Aside from that initial track, every single sound came straight from his mouth—it was a “no-effects show,” as he put it. “No loop pedal, no computer stuff.” He could cover a full percussion spectrum and handle melodies at the same time, all by himself. Turning throaty growls into basslines and clicks into trap beats, Honeycomb easily won the crowd over and had them yelling in awe at every bass drop. At the end of the set he brought his cousin up to rap over one of the tracks, and the two snapped a selfie with the full crowd before handing the stage off to the headliners.

Moon Hooch is unlike any other band out there. Their music sounded and felt just like EDM, but instead of using computers and synthesizers, Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen rocked out with multiple saxophones while drummer James Muschler provided the backbeats (to be fair, they did utilize a bass synth on a few songs, but not nearly as much as their woodwind instruments). The result was a crazy hybrid between jazz, dance, dubstep, and rock that was insanely impressive to hear and to watch.

Wilbur and McGowen traded off screeching melodies and growling basslines on their saxophones, and Muschler took an extended drum solo that was balanced by a droning harmony from the saxes. All three musicians showed expert skill on their instruments, and they kept it wild and fun with lots of movement and dancing and, at one point, a giant orange cone that was attached to McGowen’s tenor sax. The only hang-up was an issue with the microphones halfway through the set, but the band covered it with an impromptu jam until they could fix it, and then picked up right where they left off.

By nature of their instruments, Moon Hooch’s set was already pretty physical, but they demonstrated serious stamina by carrying each song into the next one. The trio played for almost an hour and a half without stopping. When they finally did stop, they thanked the crowd, said to meet them at the merch table, and walked off stage as if they were totally done for the night, but the cheers and applause quickly brought them (and Honeycomb) back on for one last all-out encore jam.