Bodies at rest and in commotion

Caving: A rave without the rave kids. Or the deejay. OK, it wasn’t a rave at all. But at times it felt like one. Hands reaching toward the sky. Bodies thrashing and convulsing. Hearts vibrating. Sweating and sweating.

Brooklyn trio Moon Hooch got its start in a Williamsburg subway station, launching underground raves until police caught on. But instead of beats and synth, Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen employed saxophones. James Muschler pounded on drums. And that’s it. They had to stop for “safety reasons,” but by then had grown such a fan base that packing nightclubs became no problem.

Though the classically-trained New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music graduates now utilize some synth and amplification, Moon Hooch brought a similarly wild dance party to Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub last Thursday night.

They call it cave music: like electro house, but too primal for the electronics. Unlike anything you’ve heard before, yet intrinsically familiar. Same slow builds and drops, but with contemporary jazz interludes. That dark, crunchy, dirty feel of dubstep, but saxophones.

The dancing was fabulous; the crowd diverse and smiley; the experimentation widely appreciated. McGowen occasionally breathed rap into a distorted microphone, other times sounds were more akin to whale songs. He also detached his sax mouthpiece and played that for a while during a particularly industrial, noisy jam—a totally unexpected move, and weird, but appreciated. Wilbur busted out a contrabass clarinet and threw a traffic cone into his sax, which everyone of course whipped out their cameras to document. The orange cone had been sitting on stage the whole time, but everyone who had already watched Moon Hooch’s Tiny Desk Concert on NPR knew it was coming.

Despite not addressing the audience until the very end of the set, the members of Moon Hooch engaged remarkably well with just their eyes and body language—Wilbur in particular darting back and forth constantly and making it a point to get directly into people’s faces, and cameras.

But my favorite moment of the evening was the “Star Spangled Banner,” a song I can’t say I have ever, ever enjoyed singing. But here we all were, screaming patriotism to McGowen’s beautiful, soaring sax line, and then, more beautifully, he interrupted himself with a nasty screech. Then, dance party.

Last call: OK, almost done. promise. We won’t badger you about attending the 23rd annual Sacramento Area Music Awards show Thursday, March 26. After this little bit.

The Sammies isn’t just a ballot and list of awards. It’s a concert—a party!—dedicated to the local music scene. Doors open at 6 p.m. at Ace of Spades (1417 R Street) and tickets cost $10.

Hall of Fame inductee Musical Charis will start things off at 7 p.m., followed by folk band the Westwards, cutesy anime-inspired pop rockers Shoujo Kitten and experimental indie rock band Cove. The evening will also host acts such as global bass duo World Hood, funky jammers Massive Delicious, rock group Lite Brite and pop band Bellygunner. Catch soul singer James Cavern, emcee Century Got Bars, the bluesy Kyle Rowland Band, the country sounds of Chris Gardner Band and New Orleans-style jazz ensemble Element Brass Band.

Consider it a sampling of some of the best talent Sacramento has to offer. And you’ll be in bed by midnight.

—Janelle Bitker

First-name basis assault: For the sake of anonymity, the members of Rat Damage (Ken, Jay, Jason, Thomas and Cyril) only use their first names and, similarly, do their best to shield themselves from pop culture. Last Friday’s show found the vicious, DIY punk-metal hybrid holding court at the Colony.

From the moment the band started playing, attendees were treated to a raucous set ignited by frontman Ken’s antics. He ran amok while the band’s guitarists, Thomas and Jay, lit the place ablaze with a dual guitar assault.

To date, the band has only released a handful of releases including a split 7-inch with Crucial Cause and a full-length album, Cursed, on F.Y.B.S. Records.

Until the band releases another single or album, catch them April 22 at a house party in Davis. Additionally, they’re scheduled to play the opening slot on June 19 at the Blue Lamp on a bill that includes the legendary Poison Idea. Visit Rat Damage’s Facebook page for more information:

—Eddie Jorgensen