David Wax Museum played a crowded auditorium at The Linda on Friday night, filling the room with their jumpy, Latin-riddled folk, called Mexo-Americana.
The group plays upbeat, melodic danceable tunes, though Friday night the audience chose to stay in its seats.
The core of the band is Wax singing and playing a jarana, a small acoustic guitar, along with Suz Slezak, who sings and plays accordion, keyboard, fiddle, a donkey jawbone and other recognizable and unrecognizable instruments. For Friday’s night show, they had with them an electric bassist, drummer, and a trumpet and sax player injecting steroids into all their songs. Their songs also work stripped to the bone, but a full band is always more exciting.
After two dance numbers led by Wax singing and strumming with force, Slezak sang a sad ballad and gave a soft violin solo, showing briefly their other side before returning to more fun tunes, starting with “The Door Is Ajar,” from their first album in 2008.
They sang a Mexican folk song in Spanish without their signature blending with their American roots music. Later on, the band left, leaving Wax and Slezak alone to sing a gentle “When You Are Still” from their “Carpenter Bird” album.
There was also some blues, some slightly New Orleans-style rhythms, and well-written, woodsy tunes from the vein of Appalachia, like “I’m Not Trying to Get Away from You.” Four of them also sang in harmony, accompanied by Slezak’s wonderful fiddle.
Halfway through the show Wax nudged everyone to get out of their seats , which they all did, though the dancing was far less rambunctious than the music. The excitable audience only stayed out of their seats for one song, though a group did remain up along the edges.
Wax talked about his Albany experiences, starting with his opening show at Valentine’s years ago, then a warm-up gig at the Egg, and their headline act Friday night, saying nice things about The Linda and WAMC. Then they played “Born with a Broken Heart,” a song that won a Boston Music Award.
Like so many bands today, David Wax Museum is out there on its own, all its records self-released. Hard work and determination has got the band this far — along with a vision for unique music. The path might not get any easier, but they are clearly committed to their odd mesh of intellectual folk cultures.
Opening the show was Cuddle Magic, a group of four young guys on an eclectic range of instruments — acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, trumpet, sax, keys, vibraphone and more. Their songs were simple, sensitive pop tunes ridden with layers of sounds and tones that created a very contemporary feel. Imagine “Magical Mystery Tour” sounds and efforts modernized.
At most times, each player seemed to be in their own world, yet the layers fell on one another meticulously. The 45-minute set was fresh and enjoyable. Who knows where their sound goes from here, but it seems to be pointing somewhere — and they may already know where.