Local musician P.J. Moon has good things to say about Durango’s music scene. It’s the reason he moved here and arguably the reason he stays here.
The well runs pretty deep when it comes to people making music here, as long-established bands like The Crags or Lawn Chair Kings continue to record and release records, younger musicians continue to crank out sounds and open-mic night business steady, if not booming. The music industry may be crashing, and more and more musicians are facing the reality that the “business” side of the music business is nothing short of a stone-cold drag, but there are still plenty of people interested in music as an art; it’s that mindset that keeps people making music. Focus more on your scene over your business and you’ll do OK.
It was the local music scene that made Durango appealing to guitar player Moon, and what has kept him here since he moved to Durango in 2017. In a short time, he’s established himself as an up-and-coming guitar player and released “Memoirs of Living in a Car” with his band The Swappers.
P.J. Moon and The Swappers will perform May 10 at Animas City Theatre, playing with local funk and soul outfit J. Calvin.
It was a visit to Durango and a promising open-mic night that led to him wanting to stick it out in Durango.
“I always try to hit the open mic scene in a new place. I was just visiting, and I met a lot of great people on that first night, and it just kind of inspired me to try to set some roots and build another group,” Moon said. “I was on the outs with my last group, and I was ready to build something new. Durango looked like a super-fertile place to be able to do that.”
Fertile is right. Moon had been in Portland, Maine, in a scene he dug and respected, but it was a scene where musicians wouldn’t moonlight in other bands. It was here where he found that musicians were willing to double-dip and even triple-dip.
“When we were trying to build and add members and make it into something different and have different iterations and different versions, it was just a lot harder to find other available musicians that were up to our standards,” he said. “We’d find people and say, ‘You’re a great drummer, you’re a great saxophone player,” and they’d say, ‘Thanks, but I’m in another group right now.’ But I get to Durango, and everybody I’m talking to and meeting are like, ‘Yeah, I’m in two other working bands right now, but let’s start a third.’ And it’s great, everybody is down to try something new and fill up their schedule with music. Some catch on, some don’t, but everybody is open to it. That was the feeling in Durango. It was super refreshing.”
Recorded locally at Scooters Place, “Memoirs of Living In A Car” is a dose of loose rock ’n’ roll, an album that is an apt reflection of their live show, where solid songwriting fits comfortably with jam and groove. The band can slow it down if need be, dipping into psychedelic rock territory, and they are not afraid to stretch things out into a Southern rock-inspired jam if the musical mood fits.
Missing in a lot of rock music that was the backbone of Southern rock are guitar harmonies; with Moon citing The Allman Brothers as a major influence, and incorporating two guitar players in the band, he’s bringing guitar harmonies back into the fold.
P.J. Moon and The Swappers have a new EP, also recorded at Scooters Place, in the can, which is set for release later this month.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at [email protected]