Moon Taxi’s live energy is riveting

Nashville pop-rock quintet rocks rainy Sprint Pavilion

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 The pop-rock Nashville quintet, Moon Taxi, took over the Sprint Pavilion Thursday night.

Courtesy of Moon Taxi

It isn’t often that a show elicits just as ecstatic a reaction to the openers as the headliner. Thursday night at the Sprint Pavilion might as well have been billed as a festival — because Moon Taxi, Ripe and Kendall Street Company all came out and blew the tent off the place. It’s too demeaning to say the openers satisfied the fans — the majority of whom were still filing into the Pavilion. They gratified those in the crowd who were smart enough to skip the last few rounds of pre-games and appreciate the unpredictable nature of live music coming from instruments, not phones. 

The amount of fun Ripe was having on stage was unmistakable. If somehow it was misinterpreted by any of the rowdy and jammed-out fans, then they were sure to realize it when front-man Robbie Wulfsohn found his way to the front row for the beginning of Moon Taxi’s set. His smile didn’t leave his face as he interacted with people in the crowd, all eager to say hey or more likely touch his fluffy bush of an afro. 

As unexpectedly edifying as the openers were, Moon Taxi’s set was not so surprising — they rocked out. They entranced the crowd immediately by opening with “Not Too Late,” one of six songs they played that appeared on their most recent album, “Let the Record Play,” released earlier this year. 

“We love what we do, and I think the fans see it — appreciate it and throw that energy ball back at us,” drummer Tyler Ritter said in a recent interview with The Cavalier Daily.

The energy at the Pavilion was contagious, and patient zero was lead singer and guitarist Trevor Terndrup, who regularly exhilarated the audience with his animated guitar riffs and hair flips. The man knows how to get an audience intrigued. After every song, there were high-fives exchanged between strangers in the front half of the floor and whispers about what was coming next. 

Most songs called for crowd participation as Terndrup consistently turned the microphone over to the Charlottesville fanatics. In the live music world, giving the mic to the crowd is a sort of love-hate relationship. People who are already screaming the lyrics may appreciate the intimacy given by the performer by sharing his or her voice with their fans. Others might say, “screw you, I paid, you sing.” This crowd loved it. “All Day All Night” kept everyone going through the joy that the band seemed to feel by hearing its fans take the reins over the lyrics. 

The highlight of the show came half way through as the band showed their improv skills by jamming through strobe lights on “Who Do You Think UR.” The ‘OG’ Moon Taxi song with no lyrics looks like a placeholder song on paper. It is anything but. 

The beginning of the widely unknown tune left most people scratching their heads wondering what song it was. It has a bluesy rhythm that the band kept strings attached to as they dove into spacey jams that were given life by Terndrup and lead guitarist and producer Spencer Thomson’s back-and-forth guitar jams. 

Following the roughly 10-minute rock-sesh, the guys slowed down, all looked at each other and simultaneously chuckled. Terndrup walked up the mic and gently sang, “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” The crowd gasped, laughed, cheered — got ready to dance to one of the most popular party songs of all time. But the band teased everyone by only playing the first verse of “September” and grooving into their best dance along hit, “River Water.” Soon after, a unique cover of “Eleanor Rigby” prompted all members but Ritter to leave the stage, as the Beatles track played from the loudspeakers, and Ritter pounded along in a vigorous drum solo. 

Rounding out the setlist was fan favorite, “Morocco,” followed by “Red Hot Lights,” “Good as Gold” and the radio mega-hit “Two High” to close out the show. The band seemed to pull a new trick out of its sleeve for each song and had fun with it. They gave its audience energy and the audience reciprocated every joule. The result was what music should be about — bringing people together.

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