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Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.20.07




Winter Relief

Groove to the Moonlighters

BY ADRIENNE VAN DER VALK

Sonny and the Moonlighters 10 pm Saturday, 12/22. Cozmic Pizza • $3-$5

If gloomy Northwest winter's got you down and you need help getting the spring back in your step, consider taking an evening to go back in time with a new band that is blasting, harmonizing and grooving its way into the Eugene scene: Sonny and the Moonlighters. Lead singer Sonny McNeillie says he got the idea to form the band when he started seriously listening to Motown last spring, revisiting songs from his past and finding inspiration in the soaring vocals, horns and infectious melodies.

"I was sick of being in a band that had a lot of guitars," McNeillie says. "All bands these days have a lot of guitars in them. I wanted to do something different, something uplifting rather than negative."

True to the stereotype of musicians stepping out on their day jobs, McNeillie met two other bandmates while at work waiting tables. A few months of networking, word of mouth and trial and error later, the band had a cast of nine total members, including a full horn section. Despite their relative youth as a unit, McNeillie says the members have succeeded in finding common artistic ground.

"We do three or four part harmonies based on old do-wop, Motown and Beatles, who were very inspired by soul. The '60s is a time a lot of popular music came from, the more infectious, poppy stuff you hear. It was a very infectious time."

Although Sonny and the Moon-lighters may sound reminiscent of many of your oldies station favorites, they sing original songs penned primarily by McNeillie and bandmate Dion. They also perform in full suits (á la The Four Tops), adding a little visual flair to an already highly stylized stage show that McNeillie is pleased to report has garnered tremendous popular support in a short amount of time.

"The first show we had, we had a huge crowd, and we've been playing lots of shows. I think it is because we are doing a popular style of music that is really traditional in America. Soul is based on blues and gospel. It's very inspiring."