Arts and Entertainment

Niko Moon The Better Days Tour

February 8 2024

7:30 p.m.
The NorVa 317 Monticello Ave, Norfolk, VA 23510 757-627-4547 Price: $26.00

Niko Moon has really clear memories. Music, cars, school. How much his parents loved each other, created a place where life was an adventure – and what you had was all you needed.

His dad, a drummer turned truck driver, loved old cars. As a boy, he remembers a Falcon, “red interior, and the carpet. The way it smelled.” He used to love to pile in with his dad, riding around, going to get donuts – and listening to music.

Like Prine, Moon’s finger is on simple things that really matter; easy joy and how to find it, loving where you are and finding ways to write about it so everyone – the really smart, the can’t be-bothered – can find their way to the bliss. It’s what Moon seeks to capture and sow in his songs.

Growing up an hour outside of Atlanta, back when it was country not exurbia, life moved at a different pace. People knew each other, took their time, shared a meal on Sunday with their family and pitched in when someone needed a hand.

Moon wanted to extract the essence of growing up in small-town Georgia. Banjo forward, swaggy back beat, guitars that tang as much as twang. Sonic tags, melodies that tumble and moments that embody all the warm welcome and friendliness that defined his life as a kid listening to his mama play Alison Krauss in her car, his debut album GOOD TIME creates an old school sort of country ethos that also drags a bit of Michael Franti, Prine, the Eagles and Outkast through songs that simmer, stir and sizzle in all the right places.

All of it turned out to be more than anyone could’ve bargained for. A musically curious kid, he remembers watching his dad practicing drums in the garage. “I got chills. I couldn’t comprehend how he was doing it,” he remembers. “I was so little, but he was in a touring regional country/rock band, had hair down to his waist. He gave it up, made the decision it was better for his family to just drive. I always respected him for that. You know, he was getting up at 4 a.m. to provide for his family.

That rhythm is shot through every track on GOOD TIME, a self-cultivated positivity starter kit. Whether the staccato/dobro punctuated laundry list of ‘can’ts’ that forms “GOOD AT LOVING YOU,” the double entendre “WAY BACK,” the slinky, finger-snapping “SMALL TOWN STATE OF MIND,” or the strummy philosophy of “WITHOUT SAYIN’ A WORD,” Moon recognizes you can’t have heart without the beat.

If the secret sauce is the alchemy, it’s been years in the slow-steeping. Not only did Moon produce Franti’s acclaimed Stay Human, Vol. 2, he’s been the secret weapon for Zac Brown for almost a decade. In love with music, the young kid caught up with the circus, “back at the Dixie Tavern on Wednesday nights, 200 people with the line wrapped around the bar and across the back. ‘Chicken Fried,’ ‘Toes,’ ‘Free,’ yes, but he would do Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Keith Whitley. And his picking, there’s always a hook built into the chord, even when he’s just playing G, C, D.”

Writing, traveling, seeing the world, Moon absorbed a precision and commitment to music that was exacting, even as it embodied simple pleasures. “Everyone in that band is so good. Spending 10 years watching them arrange and create was intense. Relentlessly authentic and refusing to adapt to other people’s ideas of what you should be was a real lesson.”

Ten years was also spent living the life.

Moon’s latest effort, COASTIN’, is available now.

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