Here is all you need know to determine if you’ll be catching Wax Fang’s Saturday night set: there might be a theremin involved.
Leon Theremin’s magical music box, perhaps the first truly electronic musical instrument and certainly the only instrument of any kind that need not be touched to be played, was originally called the etherphone for the way it seemed to create sounds out of thin air. You’ve heard one before and not even known it, if you’ve seen movies such as The Day The Earth Stood Still or Spellbound (or even “Wild Honey” by the Beach Boys), its weird, spooky vibrato the quintessence of the supernatural.
Like a bagpipe or Kenny G, you either hate the theremin or you love it. Scott Carney is of the latter persuasion. He did not choose this supremely difficult instrument lightly, as he once explained: “I didn’t like the standard pop structure and I wanted something that kind of took you somewhere.”
Carney and band mates Kevin Ratterman and Jake Heustis have gone a lot of places as Wax Fang, propelled by what Jim James of My Morning Jacket has called their “futuristic energy.” Initially a solo project for Carney, who played all the instruments on 2005’s Black and Endless, the trio has blasted out of Louisville in a cloud of angeldust for the more rarefied climes of the Ryman Auditorium and SXSW.
The word “psychedelic” is often applied to Wax Fang, but think less about tie-dyed tees and twirly dancing and more about the word’s original meaning, which is “consciousness expanding.” Though nonlinear by nature, Carney is meticulous about his compositions and was actually chosen “Writer of the Week” by American Songwriter in April.
For Wax Fang’s most recent CD, La La Land, Carney told AS, “I was very depressed at the time, a heavy drinker, having serious anxiety issues and, I think, more than anything else music was therapy for me.” The album is full of sonorous, therapeutic guitar (and here and there a kazoo); what Urb magazine called “a grand piece of musicianship with enough distortion to still throw your lighter up and bang your head a little bit.”
However, the show’s the thing for Wax Fang, whose high-energy performances across the land have left fans and critics alike at a loss for superlatives sufficient. When they played Bottletree last fall with Dead Confederate, it was almost more sound than the little venue could contain, so imagine how much fun the band’ll have in the great wide open of City Stages. Theatrics? Check. Big sound? Check. A fog machine? Certainement. And just when you thought Wax Fang had nothing left to show you, there’ll be that theremin.
Wax Fang performs at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night on the Boost Mobile Discovery Stage. Visit www.citystages.org for more information.