Wax on wax off

I can’t find a better way to describe the experience of David Wax Museum than to describe the glances shared between David and Suz. David Wax, guitarist and lead singer, and Suz Slezak, multi-instrumentalist and harmonizer, have made up the core of the band over their ten years of making music. The glances a decade ago, though, wouldn’t tell the same story as those from the night of September 14th. In 2007, David and Suz were friends with similar musical interests. Today, they are family. Along with the five studio albums their collaboration has conceived, David and Suz now have two children—a two-year-old daughter and a son of just a few months. It’s one thing for you to read this, but all of this—the art, the family, the history of these two individuals now one in their family and music—was in the language of their eyes. David played his guitar and Suz her fiddle, but as their voices mingled and eyes met, the two danced alone somewhere, far away from the cellar of The Southern.

The audience, too, couldn’t help but be taken with the group. The band is an eclectic yet deliberate medley of influences, guiding the audience through expressions of American folk, Appalachia, and Mexico. These voyages would not have been possible, though, without a band, as David described it after the show, riding the “same wave.” They were tight, all speaking the same language with their variety of instruments.

I should, though, be cautious of how I categorize David Wax Museum. In fact, to categorize them at all is to diminish them. Wax is as proficient with the jarana (a guitar-like Mexican instrument) as with a Martin, Suz as capable on the keyboard as with a jawbone. The diversity of instruments, song composition, and performance atmosphere can be found nowhere else, not even on their studio records. The delicacy of “Every Time Katie” and “Young Man” can’t be expressed in their studio counterparts, and the boisterousness of “Chuchumbe” and “Guesthouse”—seeing the frantic stomping, turning, and jumping of David’s feet in the kick drum’s heart beat—can only be conveyed live.

Likewise, speakers can’t replicate the feeling of the audience when the group calmly stepped down from the stage and into the crowd. Separate pockets formed around David and Suz, the bass and lead guitar players, and the horn section. Music spread over and around the audience; we were members of the band, truly a part of the show. They did this not once, but twice. The second time was for the finale. David Wax Museum formed the nucleus as the audience sang softly along with the final three acoustic numbers. “Let Me Rest” ended the show with tenderness and grace. The song, a plea for God’s protection and peace while acknowledging human imperfection, quieted the cellar of The Southern. We—the audience, David, Suz, the rest of the band—stood and swayed and reflected, thinking about Charlottesville, about tonight and tomorrow, and about the strangers and friends around us.

David and Suz stood by the entrance to the venue long after the show ended, greeting and thanking us as if we’d just performed for them. The duo, in any case, were chatting with their neighbors. They call Charlottesville home now. Suz took a moment midway through the show to say a few words about the recent tragedies of our town. I’ll paraphrase a request she made before going on to the next song: “If there’s anything we can do to help, please reach out to us.” As her voice carried over the speakers, I felt as though she spoke to me alone as to a friend, a neighbor, another part of their family. I think the rest of the audience heard her speaking to them too. And as we shared the cellar of The Southern and the music of David Wax Museum, we were, for a moment, a family of strangers.


Garrett Lukens is a second-year who is morally against gingers.