David Wax Museum
David Wax Museum was traveling in upstate New York late last month, right as Hurricane Irene hit.
Before the storm hit, the band was able to get in a set in Ithaca, N.Y. Its gig that weekend with the Dave Matthews Band Caravan was canceled. "Where we were was cold, but not rainy," guitarist David Wax said in a phone interview.
The group had been touring since the June. Band members just returned to the East Coast after playing in California and shot their second music video in Colorado.
"It's exciting to come up with ... visual representation of the work," Wax said. "It's an interesting challenge."
With that, Wax took on another challenge - driving the touring van. He turned the interview over to Suz Slezak.
The band's tour managers often take the wheel, Slezak explained, but the band members volunteer for driving shifts.
She and Wax comprise the core of the folk group. A rotating cast of musicians joins them for gigs and in the studio.
Wax writes a majority of the band's tunes. He grew up in the Midwest, but pulls from Mexican music traditions. He spent his summers in rural parts of the country working with the American Friends Service Committee and earned a Harvard fellowship to study the nation's folk music. Waxed focused on Son Jarocho, a style of music from Veracruz, a city on the southeastern coast of Mexico.
He learned about the Jarana - a small Mexican guitar - and the donkey jaw bone, which is used as a percussion instrument. He met Slezak after he returned to Boston. She was working a full-time job and playing in bands on the side.
Slezak heard that David was looking for a fiddle player, and she fit the bill. She grew up outside of Charlottesville, Va. She was introduced to the old-time folk and Irish music at a young age was classically trained on piano and guitar.
She had never heard Mexican music until she met David. Now, she plays the donkey jawbone herself. To produce a sound she hits it with her fist or rattles the teeth with a wooden stick.
"It's really joyful," she said. "It's really fun music and very involved."
Most of the songs have a call-and-response element that creates a communal atmosphere in crowds.
"People aren't so accustomed to hearing certain rhythms," she said. "It' a new sound."
But it's not difficult to follow, she added. People don't sit down at David Wax Museum concerts; they dance.
The band's goal is to blend styles in a way that makes their Mexican and American influences indistinguishable.
The band's third full-length CD, "Everything Is Saved," released in February, follows that trend. Wax translates traditional songs, including one about a man dealing with his mother-in-law. Some things, Slezak said, transcend cultures.
The group has a growing following, thanks to festivals on its schedule. It broke out at the 2010 Newport Folk Festival and booked Bonnaroo this year.
Slezak said festivals are a great venue for up-an-coming acts.
"(We) play in front of a group of music lovers and people who really have an open mind," she said.
They scored opening dates with the Old 97's and The Avett Brothers. In the next year, Slezak said the band will gear up to get back into the studio and possibly even get down to Meixco.
But late last month, she was living life on the road. She packed her yoga mat and sardines - for Omega-3s.
"(Touring) can be a pretty unhealthy lifestyle," she said.
David Wax Museum will perform 8 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Capitol Theatre, 50 N. George St., York. Tickets to the CapLive show cost $13.50. For details and tickets, call 846-1111 or visit www.strandcapitol.org.