Story: Kail Rose, Photography: Christopher De La Rosa & K Rose
On Friday we had the privilege of catching NYC indie rock band Brother Moses live at Stubbs Austin, the first stop on their headlining tour for the month of February.
We show up early in the evening, cruising through the still-empty Stubbs downstairs venue. Out back, there’s a crew playing football in the vast expanse of the Stubbs amphitheater yard, which I’m used to seeing jam-packed full of people. I quickly realize it’s the band themselves and their opener Feeves. They see us and head straight over to introduce themselves; James, John-Lewis, Moses and Corey, who comes with his own tagline: “the Best Drummer in the World.”
We take over the spacious back garden’s notorious Airstream trailer for a quick informal video interview. We chat about humble beginnings, dance-fueled performances and how they are addressing real-world experiences with music that is fun and lighthearted. I later realize it’s the type of music that brings us together in a celebration of being humble, human, flawed and flawless.
We skip upstairs to grab a quick bite of legendary Stubbs Barbecue before Feeves warms up the crowd with a fresh indie set. The evening crowd fills in quickly. It’s a predominantly younger group; college kids and those in their later 20s. A few hip couples in denim, slouchy beanies and vintage boots, sipping a craft beer. We spot many a girl gang, locked elbows, giggling and ready to dance.
As Brother Moses takes the stage, the hype is very real. The venue and the crowd are literally buzzing. These people are here to boogie. As they kick off the set, it’s apparent that there will be no rockstar power poses, no slamming back a beer with a side of ego; no, none of that. Their humble and relatable demeanor makes this an inclusive performance. We’re not just here to see this band, but to become a part of their performance. With palpable energy, we unwittingly find ourselves committed – committed to celebrating our quirks and crazies, and to dance like nobody’s watching.
After more than one occasion of a show-stopping technical issue, frontman James exclaims; “this is just like that time you have that nightmare where you go on stage and you’re in your underwear and all your stuff starts breaking… except this is real life.” Turning misfortune into humor, it’s an opportunity to connect with the audience, make them part of the show. I almost wonder if this was rehearsed. But the audience is game; hooting & hollering when finally Feeves brings us a backup guitar and saves the show.
They progress through old hits and new material, somehow amplifying the energy as they go. Two blonde college girls slam back their White Claws, sling their tiny purses over their shoulder and barrel through the crowd in an impressively dainty fashion for What Does It Take. Blonde locks are flying as they dance and spin each other. The crowd parts to circle around this informal dance-off. Guitarists John-Lewis and Moses jump down into the crowd, in between twirling girls, for the song finale. Carefree is the word of the night.
And somehow Brother Moses manages a very full sound – a set of surprisingly intricate, groovy, quirky songs. John-Lewis and James trade off on the keyboard and guitar. With signature floppy hair and wireframe glasses doing nothing to conceal a cheeky sparkle of confidence (likely from his most excellent dance moves, if I must be honest…), James leads the vocals with quirk, kitsch and utter coolness. I see why this crowd had arrived with soaring expectations and impressive energy. And despite all expectations, this is a band that sounds even better live than recorded.