Left to right, Pete Sears, Roger and Ann McNamee, G.E. Smith, Barry Sless and Jimmy Sanchez are the Moonalice tribe. - Photo by Jay Blakesberg

The legends of Moonalice

According to legends, Moonalice was an ancient faction of native Americans who became nomadic and known as bands. They wandered the continent, surviving on music and wits. These bands gathered for celebrations that would become known as gigs and county fairs.

As the story goes, modern attitudes nearly wiped out the Moonalice tribe, forcing the remnants underground. Then came a new day in March 2007 in San Francisco, when a group of the nomads emerged to revive the legend, the music and to spread good vibes.

"The really fun ingredients of a rock show have nothing to do with rules, security," says Roger McNamee, a guitarist and vocalist for Moonalice. "It's about having an experience. Our notion is that we'll bring our circus to town, the audience will bring theirs and we'll compare notes. There's a lot of interaction; we like to hang before and after a show."

The new embodiment of the Moonalice legend features McNamee, Ann McNamee (vocals, percussion), G.E. Smith (guitars, vocals), Pete Sears (keys, vocals), Barry Sless (guitar, steel pedal) and Jimmy Sanchez (drums).

Moonalice will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, at Applegate Lodge, 15100 Highway 238, Applegate.

There is Moonalice in everyone, according to the legend. And with each gig, the tribe grows.

Moonalice stopped in Ashland in late 2007 for two shows at The Mobius and performed last August at the Oregon Country Fair.

"We've had an amazing year," McNamee says. "We've played in 28 states and one Canadian province. Total shows this year will be about 105."

With its players' impressive credentials, it's no wonder Moonalice is turning heads among those who recall the ancient myths.

Smith was leader of the "Saturday Night Live" band from 1985 to 1995. Outside of SNL, Smith's projects included work with a number of notable musicians, including Bob Dylan. Sears' 40 years of music experience includes stints with Rod Stewart, Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna. Sless founded the David Nelson Band and still plays with Phil Lesh & Friends. Sanchez has backed Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John and others. Ann McNamee has a doctorate in music theory and has penned more than 100 songs. All are members of a former band, the Flying Other Brothers. Occasionally, a seventh legendary player will appear with Moonalice, bassist Jack Casady of Hot Tuna.

It was musician, songwriter and producer T-Bone Burnett who encouraged the members of the Flying Other Brothers to re-form as a new group, Moonalice.

"He pushed us to think about starting over from scratch and figure out who we are," McNamee says.

Burnett also offered to produce Moonalice's first CD, to be released in February 2009.

"We recorded 23 songs for T-Bone, and he picked 11 that would make a good album," McNamee says. "Many of our best live songs aren't on the album. T-Bone's idea was to put together a collection of songs that are meant to be listened to together, like the classic warmth of a vinyl LP."

The album is not only an artistic vision, but features Burnett's advanced CODE technology, a recording method that can determine playback the way artists intended it to sound on a variety of electronics (car stereos, computers, iPods).

"We're putting the 'high' back in high fidelity," McNamee says.

The band also has a new book, "Moonalice Legend: Posters & Words, Vol. 1," that should be available within a few days at moonaliceband.com. The book contains every poster, legend and set list for every concert in every town from the band's first year.

"I love the fact that before we put out an album, we put out a book," McNamee says. "It's definitely Discordian."

Art director Chris Shaw designs most of the posters for Moonalice shows. Some are done by David Singer who created posters for Bill Graham at Fillmore West. Others are by Stanley Mouse and Chuck Sperry, illustrators who also have put faces on rock music.

McNamee calls himself the scribe for most of the legends.

"The amazing thing to me is that the whole thing holds together," McNamee says. "The depth of the legends is hilarious, and fans e-mail ideas that I've never dreamed of."

Tickets to the Moonalice show at Applegate Lodge cost $12 in advance, $15 at the door and are available at Bad Ass Coffee in Medford, Listen Here in Grants Pass, the Williams Store in Williams, the Music Coop in Ashland or by calling 761-9394.

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