Oxbow at Muddy Roots, Sept 1, 2018

Music has its own depths, and I let it take me where it takes me, even if it means stripping all my clothes off.

Grace Jones

Kudos to the organizers of the Muddy Roots Festival for inviting Oxbow, who might seem, at a glance, odd man out in a punk/country/metal-centric festival; they’re not a genre band in any way. They get tagged with catch-all terms like art-rock, avantgarde, and experimental. But there is a visceral nature to their music that makes sense alongside fellow Festival artists Om, High on Fire, and Neurosis.

Their sound is multilayered and challenging — particularly the lyrics. I’m reminded of watching Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle, or listening to recent-era Scott Walker albums: the level of importance you apply to meaning is up to you, but there is an undeniable artistry underlying all of it.

On stage, the music takes on a new dimension. Vocalist Eugene Robinson inhabits the characters of his lyrics and transforms the venue into the hazy back rooms and dark alleys of the songs. It’s captivating. Photographs won’t do it justice, but absent the sound and motion they add a little bit of their own mystique — and maybe visually convey some of the experience of witnessing Oxbow live.