In just a few short years, the explosive horn-and-percussion trio Moon Hooch—Mike Wilbur (horns), Wenzl McGowen (horns), and James Muschler (drums)—has taken their exhilarating blend of virtuosic jazz, groovy funk, and pulse-pounding electronic dance music from the New York City subway system to stages around the world, touring with the likes of Beats Antique, Lotus, Galactic, and Dopapod among others, as well as earning status as festival favorites and selling out headline shows in major venues. The trio initially turned heads in the music industry with their self-titled 2013 debut, which introduced their charismatic, unconventional sound to the world, but by then they were already well-known to straphangers in New York, who would react with such joy and fervor to their impromptu subway platform sets that the NYPD had to ban them from locations that couldn’t handle the crowds.
Onstage, the band now plays through a “Reverse DJ” setup, in which the live sound from their horns runs through laptops to process recorded effects. In addition, they utilize Moog synthesizers, as well as an EWI (an electronic wind instrument that responds to breath in addition to touch) and other more traditional instruments like clarinets. Wilbur added vocals to his repertoire, and Muschler, meanwhile, immersed himself in tabla studies in India in order to expand his percussion skills. Tahoe Onstage boasts, “Moon Hooch uniquely delivers a creative, energetic, and unyielding assault on your auditory senses.”
The band members all speak reverently of meditation and consciousness and the role it plays in their music, but equally close to their hearts are the environmental causes they champion. Moon Hooch tries to live up to their green ideals while travelling as much as possible, playing benefit shows, supporting local farmers and co-ops, participating in river cleanups, filming informative videos for their fans, and more. The band even runs a food blog, Cooking In The Cave, in which they highlight the healthy, sustainable, organic recipes they utilize with their mobile kitchen set up on tour. For the members of Moon Hooch, commitments to consciousness and environmentalism and veganism and philosophy and peace aren’t separate from their commitment to music, but actually integral parts of it. It’s all tied into that same core approach that led to their discovery on the subway platform: try, even if it’s just a little bit every day, to make the world less like it is and more like you wish it could be.