The first thing to know about ThaMuseMeant is that they’re not exactly comfortable being called a “jam rock” band. Placing such labels on bands is something music writers feel it necessary to do in order to afford context to the average reader. But one listen to ThaMuseMeant’s 1998 release, Sweet Things, will tell you all you need to know about this Santa Fe, N.M.-based quartet. They stir up a musical gumbo that’s flavored generously with essences of bluegrass, country-folk and jazz, effectively making them impossible to accurately describe.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. Six-and-a-half-minute guitar solos and lyrics that attempt to shove political rantings and ravings down your throat do not add up to my idea of a good time. Neither is the H.O.R.D.E. Festival. But ThaMuseMeant are appealing simply because they refuse the stereotypes carefully and one-by-one. There’s indeed a jam element to the band, but they mix it up enough to keep things interesting and, in the live setting, it quickly becomes obvious that egos get checked at the door.
Marked by stunning vocals and harmonies courtesy of guitarist Nathan Moore and bassist Aimee Curl, ThaMuseMeant’s songs are an eclectic batch of indescribable joy. One minute there’s a definite bluesey feel, the next an exotic gypsy flavor. ThaMuseMeant are a difficult band to match in the inventiveness department, and tight musicianship just adds to the aural carnival.
Moore and Curl are flanked by multi-instrumentalist David Tiller on mandolin and fiddle, and Jeff Sussman on drums and a wide variety of percussion instruments. And once this fearsome foursome get rolling, they leave little room for anything but a rocking, rollicking good time. Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch is how brilliantly Moore and Curl trade lead vocals—Moore staggers vocally much like Tom Waits or Toledo, Curl softens the blows with an alternately wispy and extraordinarily powerful set of pipes. Even so, as a whole, ThaMuseMeant are a treat to behold and are as likely as any band to put a dance in your pants.
Veterans of South by Southwest, a prodigal move to Austin and finally an imminent return to New Mexico (those who leave the Land of Enchantment are destined to return), ThaMuseMeant are a well-traveled, well-oiled band whose enjoyment of their craft shines brightly throughout the strangely beautiful music they create together. They are one of few reasons left to take a chance on a band you’ve probably never heard of. Once you’ve experienced them, though, there’s no turning back. Mark my words.
ThaMuseMeant plays the Ritz on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 9 p.m. Admission is FREE.