It's an interesting proposal when a DJ starts a band. Their capacity to express is broadened and complicated – it's often just enough rope to hang themselves. In some cases, though, it's like turning on a lightbulb after only having a spotlight and the breadth of their capability is exposed.
That's what it felt like watching Damian Lazarus unveil his new Ancient Moons live performance. The Crosstown Rebels founder has apparently had the urge to be a bandleader stuffed tight under his hat for some time. The Ancient Moons performance has already impressed audiences overseas, but this weekend at Mack Sennett Studios in LA and at CRSSD festival in San Diego, we Americans got our first taste of the shaman's new groove.
At Mack Sennett Studios, the vibe was dark, art-house chic. The line to enter was massive. It took all your who's-whoing to get in the damn door. Pillowtalk romanced the crowd in preparation, but Damian Lazarus was the real wizard of the evening. He cast a right groovy spell on the crowd until everyone forgot how cool they were supposed to be and let loose all over the floor.
The Ancient Moons performance features a full band and vocals cheating a wide range of world-music influences. Lazarus leads center stage behind an instrumental array, sometimes singing, always flouncing about in sweeping desert garb. He's apt to throw his hands in the air, but we get the feeling he really does care.
When recent single "Vermillion" dropped, it was peak energy. Lazarus has the presence of a seasoned star, perhaps due to his already distinguished career of successes, but there's an air about him fronting Ancient Moons that announces this is his realest, most self-actualized evolution.
With Pakistani vocals, sitar strings, African rhythms, and collaborations with Hossam Ramzy, the Egyptian percussionist who worked with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Lazarus has pulled his inspirations from all corners of the world. It's a wild mix that fits perfectly the dark room dance floors of old fashioned clubs as well as the open-air daylight of a festival like CRSSD. Art-scene hipsters and dudes in Batman-Joker spandex will each find themselves dancing like the possessed.
Conceptually, the Ancient Moons project is close to perfect. The rhythms are dark and rich, but the musicality is very broad. Africa is to Paul Simon what Burning Man is to Damian Lazarus – The desert festival unlodged some kind of deep, primal artistic gold in this man's soul, and we're all reaping the benefits.
The Ancient Moons' current trek through the US is spritely jaunt, and the upcoming debut album from the project won't release until May. If you missed the boat, you can at least rest assured that it's only the beginning. Start brewing your Ayahuasca now.
Photos by Jar Photography