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Live Review: Nomo & Nino Moschella @ Temple Bar 06/25/07

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I'll admit that it's nearly impossible to abstain from bias while reviewing Nomo & Nino Moschella. They're considerably under-appreciated by the masses. Nomo's show at Spaceland on Sunday was representative of that. Although they played a flawless set, chock-full of soulful improvisational instrumentals, the fact remains that the attendance did not suffice. So, I decided to attend the following show on Monday at Temple Bar with hopes of experiencing them in a more lively and, consequently, fitting environment. Through this two day spurt, I discovered some of the hardest working musicians in the industry struggling to connect with a demographic. Nomo and Nino Moschella are obscure artists in that they spread themselves so thinly across the board of genres, from avant-jazz to soul to funk to afro-beat, and thus the average music fan completely overlooks them. Their every action is the embodiment of the DIY ethic, but no one ever said finding a niche was easy.

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As Nino Moschella quickly ran through soundcheck, I immediately knew I was in for an amazing show. Nino's funky, peculiar style of vocals, which draws comparisons to Stevie Wonder and Prince, blew my mind. I'm a huge fan of his debut 'The Fix', which was entirely recorded by him, and to say that his live performance compares to the record is a drastic understatement. Nino and his four piece backing band transformed the recordings, making them much more vibrant. Although it was clear that their live performance is still in its developmental stage, just hearing live interpretations of Nino's minimal funk songs was enough for me. Instead of relying on drums to orchestrate tunes, they jammed upon the basis of a drum machine. Nino's stellar backing band augmented the songs from the record by implementing jazzy Rhodes, various auxiliary percussion instruments, occasional guitar solos and grooving bass lines. For that reason, 'Are You For Real', the single-worthy opening track on 'The Fix', came across as sweeping in a minimalist way. The band truly accentuated Nino's powerfully unique voice, but I walked away feeling as though he would greatly benefit from a larger band setting.

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I had seen Nomo the night before and I was floored by their meticulous, improvisational performance. Led by Elliot Bergman, who composes all of the music, Nomo seized the audience with their enthralling horn-filled instrumentals. The best way to convey their live performance is simply jazz infused, soulful rock for those who can actively appreciate the incorporation of world-music components. 'Moving In Circles' was one of the few songs that made use of vocals. Bassist Jamie Register's heartfelt singing and Bergman's jazzy piano relief comprised one of the more poignant songs of the night. 'Nu Tones' showcased Bergman's use of his self-constructed thumb piano, the very instrument that Konono No. 1 popularized on 'Congotronics'. These musicians are quite simply the most talented I've come across in a long while. I watched as the eight piece communicated solos and last minute modifications via slight nods of the head. The almost ten minute 'Discontinued' exemplified this loosely constructed yet tightly performed spirit. I firmly believe that no other band within their realm practices such improvisational connectivity. The band was wholly attentive of their audience to the extent that their performance was contingent upon the energy put forth by the crowd. When I saw them at Spaceland on Sunday, they desperately vied for a single connection with the approving crowd, asking for any specific requests. It was as though everyone there had arrived by chance. Amidst the silence, I screamed out 'New Song', prompting a "Did he just request 'New Song'?" reaction. From that point on, I became more aware that this band needs a responsive crowd full of people willing to offer up unabashed signs of life. Nomo simply thrives off of it. Surprisingly, Nomo included a marvelous gang-vocal rendition of Sun Ra's classic 'Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus'. I'd like to think that this was a result of the crowd and the artist interacting on a level that is absolutely necessary for an instrumental performance. Both shows concluded with the band blasting non-amplified jams in the midst of the enthused crowd, stepping down from the stage in order to forge an unforgettable connection. The Temple Bar show was much more enjoyable because of the overwhelming solidarity between performer and crowd. Show up and rock out with them. I promise it'll make for a fun-filled, dance along sort of night, similar to the Temple Bar performance, rather than an unyielding Spaceland-like experience.

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Nino Moschella's Setlist:
'Favorite Things'
'Grn W/ Me'
'Inside Yourself'
'Give/Are You For Real'
'Sleep'
'It Ain't Easy'
'No One'

Nomo's Setlist:
'New Song'
'Discontinued'
'Hand & Mouth'
'Fourth Ward'
'If You Want'
'Moving In Circles'
'We Do We Go'
'Divisions'
'Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus (Sun Ra Cover)'
'Nu Tones'