By HOLLY HERNDON
March 18, 2010
Members of the band Moonalice think the best things in life are free.
Or they are, at least, discounted as much as possible.
"The Moonalice philosophy is that we will not be undersold," Roger
McNamee, referred to on stage as Chubby Wombat Moonalice, said during
a recent phone interview. "The reason for this is that the economy is
brutal right now. People are hurting so Moonalice does a lot of shows
for free. Everywhere we go we play for the lowest price the venue
will allow us to play for."
Taking their direction from psychedelic bands of the baby boomer
generation, Moonalice wanted to be a band of the people and felt
their name had to reflect that mentality. They chose the moniker of a
mythical Native American tribe that, as legend has it, evolved into
an environmentally and socially conscious group of nomads known as "hippies."
Naturally, the Moonalice sound resembles the bands of the free love
and giving peace a chance generation, which isn't surprising
considering several of the band's road crew spent decades touring
with the Grateful Dead.
"The music is basically folk music played on electric instruments so,
in that sense, it borrows a lot from the '60s," McNamee said. "We
happen to be very oriented toward harmonies. We're very song
oriented. We write most of our own music. Even the songs we cover we
rearrange quite dramatically. If you listen to the stuff you'll see."
Not only will the music of Moonalice bring the audience back to the
'60s and '70s, McNamee hopes the lighting and overall creative
environment will reflect the bygone era.
"When we were kids, fans, we'd go to shows and there was a huge sense
of adventure," he said. "I always tell people about the first time I
saw Pink Floyd in 1973. It was on the first 'Dark Side of the Moon'
tour and it cost a dollar. Honestly, I wouldn't have known Pink Floyd
from pink eye but I went to see this show, I was blown away and
became a huge fan. Music in those days was a social experience that
was heavy on a kind of carnival like adventure, the uncertainty. It
was low pressure. It wasn't a business. And we remember those days."
To create the same experience for his audience that McNamee had with
Pink Floyd, the members of Moonalice are proud to be able to offer
reasonable ticket prices due to their low overhead ---- a result of
past experiences with the harried music industry and the financial
obligations that came with it.
"Finally I said, 'This is ridiculous,'" McNamee said. "I said, 'Why
do we have a manager? Why do we have an expensive publicist? Why do
we have a record label?' These are great people. I love them to death
but none of them do us any good at all. Instead of spending a fortune
to make the album and a second fortune to market it with the hopes
that selling the album will build a fan base, we realized that, for
nothing, we could record our shows and, for nothing, we could
broadcast over Twitter and Facebook. So, for nothing, we could build
In December 2008, Moonalice began not only broadcasting their live
performances over the popular social networking sites but began
posting a new song on Twitter at 20 on the hour, every hour. With
word of mouth advertising, their online fan base began to rise and
that popularity expanded to their live shows, to which the audience
became an integral part.
"We're not trying to be super polished," McNamee said. "We're not
trying to be the Eagles playing everything perfectly note for note.
Instead, we all play bass and everybody sings and we're constantly
changing instruments. A big part of the fun is that we're constantly
trying new stuff and if someone requests a song we barely know we'll
play it anyway because the audience is part of that process."
Moonalice will be launching a tour of free shows at community parks
this summer, but Inland Empire residents can see them early (for a
price) when they take the stage at the Old Town Temecula Community
Theater tomorrow night. The band invites ticket-holders to stick
around after the 2 hour show and get to know them on a personal level.
"We always hang out after the show and talk to the fans," McNamee
said. "This is a social experiment that is totally dependent on the audience."
After all, a completely self-promoted band like Moonalice depends
solely on their fans to keep their dreams alive.
"We are blessed because we get to play music for a living and the
best way to share that is with people for whom music makes a
difference in their lives," McNamee said. "If you can go out and play
a gig for people in a town where unemployment is 20 percent and do it
for free and send people home thinking they are so glad they got to
be there, you feel really good about yourself."
8 p.m. March 19
Old Town Temecula Community Theater, 42051 Main St., Temecula