If you’ve been to a festival in the last few years, odds are you’ve run into Nashville-based indie rock band Moon Taxi, whether you meant to or not. The five-piece group have played Bonnaroo, Coachella, Firefly, Lollapalooza, Hangout, Austin City Limits, Governor’s Ball and Forecastle, adding Shaky Knees to the roster this year.
Most recently, the Moon Taxi guys took part in Dylan Fest at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on May 23 and 24, honoring the influence Bob Dylan has had on their sound.
“We celebrate all of his records, we celebrate his honesty, his depth,” Moon Taxi frontman Trevor Terndrup tells Billboard. “It’s something that, even just to cover a song, makes you feel like you’re closer to his genius.” Terndrup and Co. also played Dylan Fest last year, singing a rendition of “All Along the Watchtower,” but opted for a heavier song of Dylan’s, “Masters of War,” for their second appearance.
“It felt very appropriate for the time, given the tension globally — last year we weren’t dealing with what we’re dealing with now in the world and with our president,” the singer says. “It’s not one of those songs where you sing the first line and people cheer. It’s a protest song, above anything else. We wanted to start it in the same place that Dylan started it, but still brought it to a very Moon Taxi place where we explore and take it to a heavy spot — which, given the lyrical content and the subject matter as a song, it kind of needed to go there. I just hope we did it some sort of justice.”
Because the Moon Taxi members are from Nashville, a lot of the names on the bill — including Rayland Baxter, Shooter Jennings, Anderson East, Shaky Graves and Boz Skaggs, among others — are friends of the band, making for a big hang backstage. And for it to be held at the Mother Church is “icing on the cake,” in Terndrup’s eyes.
Although Moon Taxi have been a band for more than 10 years, getting asked to participate in events like Dylan Fest and other notable festivals still feels like a dream come true for Terndrup, whose first festival experience was in 2001 at the first-ever Bonnaroo. Before moving to Tennessee for college at Belmont University (where he and bassist Tommy Putnam subsequently met the rest of the band), Terndrup drove up from Alabama for the fest, and recalls seeing pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph sit in with Moe. during a late-night set.
“I just had this out of body experience, loved it, and at that point I said to myself, ‘I want to go to festivals for the rest of my life.’ Now, I thought that I meant that I was just going to attend them — I didn’t realize that I was going to be playing them,” he says, elaborating on what makes the festival atmosphere so special. “You get caught up in the emotion of spending the weekend with complete strangers that feel like your best friends.”
Terndrup will get many more chances to become best friends with strangers this summer, as Moon Taxi is playing such fests as Bunbury Music Festival, Jam Sandwich and Sun Festival. Those who go check them out while they’re on the road might get to hear some new music, as the band plans to release a new album shortly following their festival run. At the very least, fans will get to hear the group’s latest single “Two High,” an upbeat rocker that Terndrup insists is “awesome” live — and is indicative of what’s to come from his band.
“[The album will] be a little more uptempo and kind of just feel good,” he says. “It will follow in line with ‘Two High’ in that it has meaning, it has purpose, it’s less about escapism — sometimes, our songs, we just want to have fun and escape reality. [This time] I think we kind of want to face it a little bit more.”
Moon Taxi’s 2017 festival appearances
June 3 – Little Rock, AR @ Riverfest
June 4 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bunbury Music Festival
June 8 – Vail, CO @ Go Pro Mountains of Music @ Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
June 16 – Chicago, IL @ Taste of Randolph
July 1 – Richmond, VA @ Jam Sandwich @ Mayo Island
July 8 – Owensboro, KY @ Big O Music Fest @ Reid’s Orchard Fairgrounds
July 15 – Buffalo, NY@ Cobblestone Live! Music & Artist Festival
July 21 – Masontown, WV @ Deep Roots Mountain Revival
July 22 – Alexander City, AL @ Sun Festival @ Strand Park
July 23 – Martindale, TX @Float Fest