What Do You Call Performers Who Work for Flying Dollar Bills?

Moondoggies.

When inspired, audiences have a tendency to throw all sorts of things at performers: bras, beach balls, glow sticks, bottles, whatever. But when the Moondoggies recently played the Blue Moon, organist Caleb Quick saw a crumpled-up dollar bill whizz past his face. Money is never a bad thing to have thrown at you, he figured. Quick wanted to see more of it, in fact. Sure enough, shortly after the first bill was flung, another greenback came flying his way—then another. He looked at his bandmates, and they all saw the bills, too.

"We found out one of [the dollar bills] came from my sister," admits singer Kevin Murphy. "She said she saw people throwing money, so she did it, too. But the other ones...."

It's no wonder the Blue Moon crowd loved the Moondoggies (despite the similarity, the band's name has nothing to do with the bar): The legendary U District tavern has long been a haven for serious boozers, stoners, poets, scholars, and forever-hippies; and the Moondoggies' brand of cosmic country rock no doubt reminded the older clientele of a bygone era—namely, the early '70s, when a handful of bands churned out timeless roots music.

The Moondoggies and I are holed up in a corner table at the Blue Moon. Normally, I refrain from conducting band interviews at bars. It's too easy. But when a joint is adorned with framed pictures of Jerry Garcia and the patrons were actually alive when the Byrds made Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the shoe fits.

"I think when you're sitting around a campfire playing music, you're just going to play what you're familiar with," says Quick. The rest of the band concurs. These four Everett natives grew up in working-class households surrounded by the sounds of the early '70s: specifically, cosmic American music, when it was OK to smoke herb while wearing cowboy boots.

The Moondoggies don't really dress the part of '70s throwbacks, which is good. Aside from Murphy's bandana neckties and Rob Tyner–esque sideburns, they all look like the blue-collar dudes that they are. Quick is a carpenter. Murphy makes bagels at the Ravenna Bagel Oasis (see Day Job, p. 51). Drummer Carl Dahlen works at DeYoung Manufacturing in Everett, and bassist Bob Terreberry does something involving "typing on a computer all day." All are under 25 years old.

Though they don't yet have a record, their demo and MySpace page (www.myspace.com/thefamilyliars) offer examples of their honeyed country-rock style. "Keep Her on the Line" has some fine three-part harmony, recalling the Eagles' best moments; and "Black Shoe" has a boot-stomping rhythm with a clear-as-mountain-air chorus treading on Marshall Tucker Band territory minus the hayseed twang. "Night and Day" is the best evidence of their overall talent. In a six-minute span, the dudes allow the song to evolve from a finger-plucked folk number into an old-time Western barroom romp with tack piano, which fades into a space-cowboy jam. You can see why the folks at the Blue Moon dug them so much; they're taking '70s country rock and updating it the way Beachwood Sparks did with the Topanga Canyon sound.

"The [Blue Moon] clientele finds a mixture of things they like in the music of the Moondoggies," says Blue Moon booker Jason Josephes. "It's the grit of Neil Young, the bittersweet harmonies of the Grateful Dead, and the hypnotizing good looks of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

"OK, that last one's a stretch," he jokingly concedes, "but the music calls on those influences without making it sound like a total repaving of the old road."

bbarr@seattleweekly.com

 
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