Muna knows a place. That place is really, really hot, but they do know where you can go, if you want to go dancing.
Lead singer Katie Gavin, matching her short sleeves with her bandmates’: “We were gonna come out in long sleeved suits, but it was too hot.”
Naomi McPherson, synths and rhythm guitar: “We’re doing a Bruce Springsteen white T-shirt thing.”
Josette Maskin, lead guitar: “Think about Bruce when you see us.”
That easy breeze between bandmates cut through the brutal heat at Austin City Limits Music Festival on Saturday, just like sweat cut through everyone’s clothes. Luckily, the trio from Los Angeles swaggered with three-pronged rockstar confidence, so Muna was never in danger of losing its crowd.
Swagger is nothing without chops, and Muna knows chops. “So Special” was the first real taste of Gavin’s crouching, arm-swinging moves, and “Winterbreak” showed what she could really do with her voice — Joni Mitchell glides from note to note (in a lower register, that is), with a Dolores O’Riordan knack for power-emoting. That voice was the kind that you would follow into a private corner at a dark party, away from the red Solo cups, if she sang “I saw a beautiful girl on the street” and you knew she was talking about you. “You called me a weirdo,” she sang to her beloved on “In My Way,” which also dropped a line about this “sick, sad world,” which one hoped was a “Daria” reference. McPherson and Maskin, too, held the entire set aloft with the sound of 1980s montages and guitars with an iron spine.
If you weren’t already wooed by those things, perhaps their cover of “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks (“one of the greater living people of all time,” according to Maskin) would do the trick. Tambourine! Full mastery of the witchy power of rock and roll! A lifesaving cover of clouds rolled in during the performance, which seemed to be the direct result of conjuring.
If Muna’s about anything, though, it’s about celebrating yourself without apology and without regret. “I Know a Place,” in that sense, serves as the band’s most vibrant anthem. Gavin explained that the band wrote the song for Pride in 2015, and that fact elicited exhilarating cheers from the audience. To put yourself out there and be who you are means physical risk, Gavin said, and that’s become more apparent than ever in recent years. Maskin urged the crowd to make the Honda stage their “place” on Saturday.
“Somebody hurt me, but I’m staying alive,” Gavin sang on that song. The fans jumped without even being told.
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