I first saw NOMO last summer at one of the Art Fair stages. The namby-pamby little country act that preceded them seemed to sense the presence of greatness and scurried quickly off while the NOMO folk — and there were a lot of them — piled the plywood stage high with drums and mike stands and amps and whatnot. Then they took their places and blasted Church Street with sound.
This is fun party music. Fun party music with brains. Fun party music with brains and soul. And what more can you ask for at a party?
Now me, I don't get invited to a lot of fun parties, so one-half of my own day-to-day NOMO experience takes place in my car, where I have discovered that the key to long, lonely road trips is to attempt to learn to sing NOMO horn lines — and once that's done, to harmonize with them. It's hard, and I suppose I look dorky to the drivers who pass me by, but it eats up the miles. There's just nothing as rousing as a rock-solid horn section (there might be six horn players onstage at any given time), and NOMO's cool originals boast horn lines that are both complex and utterly accessible. Best of all, they're like puzzles. You can figure them out. And balancing them is a sweet tumble of percussion (as many as four players onstage at any given time) on instruments as unexpected as an "electric saw blade gamelan" — all planted firmly in the fertile soil of African polyrhythms and American free jazz.