Originally published on Live for Live Music
Birthed from a shared affinity for the alternative rock of the 1990s, namely Cali-punk and Seattle grunge, the now Brooklyn-based Bob Moses are re-imagining the landscapes of downtempo deep house delivered in the live setting. For those who eschew EDM’s laptop driven repetitiveness, Bob Moses’ masterful blend of folk poetry through electronic music ethos illuminates the potential for an analog/digitech coalescence. Bluesy riffage drenched in reverb, with mystic, brooding lyricism atop minimalist grooves, song and emotion took center stage as Bob Moses’s Never Enough Tour 2016 pulled into 1015 Folsom on Thursday night for its final engagement.
Line twisting around the block, a sizable contingent of the young and beautiful turned up in the SoMa neighborhood and welcomed back the dynamic duo to the Bay Area (they had just played Oakland’s Fox Theater last month). The vibes felt a little pretentious at times, as people milled about, it certainly felt like the place to be. ICARUS resident DJs Jessica Stenell and ALASTAIR, and local phenoms Emanate warmed up the decks in each room before and after the main event. As 11:40pm approached, Tom Howie (guitar and vocals) and Jimmy Vallance (programming/keyboards) assumed their positions at the front of the stage, ably assisted by a touring drummer buried behind a mountainous kit. The packed-to-the-gills room lit up in a sea of cell-phones, Instagram posts, and Facebook live streams. It was a sad commentary on priorities; however ours were not in question; when the descending piano chords of “Like It or Not” announced lift-off, we set the gearshift accordingly, Operation Dance Zen engage.
Early on, nestled up on the rail beneath Howie, your humble narrator made a few new friends, fervently busting moves and blasting smiles with unabashed abandon. Soon a squadron of liked-minded and similarly-moving regulators mounted up; we made our intentions known non-verbally, and proceeded to secure the necessary wingspan. With a knowing glance from the young rock-god, Howie set down his Fender Telecaster, romancing the mic stand in Axl-mode for the haunting, dark journey that is “Far From the Tree.” The seminal anthem harkens back to their embryonic Scissor & Thread era, the swelling vocal patterns and minor-key meditation propelled a pulse at once sinister, yet serpentine.
Over the past few years, the pair has steadily developed their live performance, slowly and patiently molding their songs to an immediate format, and carefully becoming comfortable with nakedness onstage. The most noticeable difference is the incorporation of live drummer Joe Zizzo. This element removes the downtempo feel of their records, and gives them a dynamic, funky groove and undeniable jolt. Howie and Valance are liberated to unveil the more interesting instrumental work that is the foundation for their unique compositions. Their song-craftmanship, and a tangible emotional quotient was on display earlier in the day at a radio station studio performance up the road in Sacramento, and Bob Moses transferred the chemistry and intimacy of that FM hit to the 1015 stage seemingly with ease.
“Too Much Is Never Enough” reminded the audience that these guys are first and foremost a band. That makes them the exception, not the rule, in dance music, although it is tried and true terrain in 2016. They make music like a band, and they work the room like arena-rock stars. Bob Moses simply bucks the traditional conventions of contemporary electronic music. They do however embrace many of the attributes of deep house, psychedelic music and even techno and trance, as evidenced in the melancholic ruminations found within “Winter Song.” Another selection from the early days, the reverberating bridge and chorus pining for passions past, as the audience was immersed in the unholy dance floor pillaging, Vallance could not contain his exuberance, smacking the cymbals and a tambourine with child-like glee.
Bob Moses saved three strong jams for the evening’s stretch run. The title track to 2015’s critically acclaimed Days Gone By saw Howie channel his inner shoegazing day tripper, the band treading close to indie-rock territory, and the natives responded with a collective longing. The seductive crooning and lazer-beam guitars on “Grace” was a glorious snapshot of Howie emulating his heroes, while working the crowd up something hot and bothered. Yet it would be their ever-exploding breakout single “Tearin’ Me Up“, that would finally make this room spontaneously combust. Rock n’ roll bombast was front and center, a full-on sing-along broke out among the still-vibrating massive. It goes to show that one song forever remains the same; the catchy pop ditty with an irresistible hook. Movie-star good looks and a mountain of mojo doesn’t hurt either – ain’t a damn thing changed, but the weather.