Moondog Matinee: Reno Garage Rock at Its Finest

In late 2015, Reno hard-rock stalwarts Moondog Matinee released both a live EP and full-length studio album. The recordings demonstrate the raw, emotional power of the band that has been rocking West Coast bars and clubs for the better part of a decade.

Headed by Peter Barnato’s wailing vocals, “Carry Me, Rosie” features nine original songs to showcase the breadth of Moondog Matinee’s electric muscle. As a follow-up to 2011’s “Vacancy At The Wonder Lodge,” the record expands on the group’s musical range while honing in what makes them stand out: the ability to deliver a flawlessly unfiltered rock performance.

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“We rented a cabin in Graeagle for a week,” says bassist Adam Carpenter. “It included an R.V. storage unit that we converted into a recording studio. We had an awesome week of hanging out and playing music, including getting the cops called on us for making too much noise.”

The recordings demonstrate the raw, emotional power of the band that has been rocking West Coast bars and clubs for the better part of a decade.

This isn’t surprising considering the band’s penchant for ear-bleeding solos and howling vocal delivery. It’s not heavy metal by any means, but it is definitely serious hard rock, like a grittier version of the Rolling Stones or Jethro Tull with a busted flute.

Around the same time, the band released a five-song EP called “Live from the Moon Room,” which features one-take records of several tracks from the studio album. Although the tracks were actually recorded in Cargo Concert Hall at the Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, the band chose to title the album, “Moon Room,” after the nickname for the rehearsal studio on Dickerson Road in Reno.

As much as I appreciate “Carry Me, Rosie,” the best tunes on the album are also featured on “Moon Room” and it is in the live setting where Moondog Matinee really shines.

The first live track, “Ghost Dime,” begins with feedback before suddenly cutting into a solo bass line to lay the foundations for the dark, swampy guitar riffs that penetrate the song. Though the sound is loud and present, it somehow seems as if the band is coming through a far-away, blender warp zone.

Barnato’s dynamic vocals recall the work of legendary grunge rockers such as Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. At one moment he purrs in a soft growl and the next he yowls like an angry junkyard dog, his affecting vibrato recklessly riding over bended guitar and a throbbing backbeat. You can sense that his performance is coming from somewhere deep inside a complicated soul.

“Gold” shows off the band’s sense for epic balladry. Halfway through, the groovy, laid-back refrain drops into clean guitar arpeggios until the distortion kicks back in and builds into shredding guitar solos by Steve Widmer and Drea Ballard that climax in Barnato’s banshee-like scream.

“Last Night the Devil Learned My Name” finds its rocks over a classic blues refrain. The simple structure allows Barnato to further show off his forceful range, before floating off into a loose, soulful jam.

To close the set, “Heartbreaker” builds on organ and horns, spacey guitar noodling over power chords and drums rattling on down the line. Words lose their meaning and devolve into garbled, guttural noises. Barnato baying about how he’s, “gonna tear your world apart.”

Moondog Matinee is currently working on a new EP scheduled for release in 2018.

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