By Mae Hunt | [email protected]
Rows of reserved tables were visible from the dance floor at the Alley Cat Restaurant & Sports Bar on a Saturday night. The five members of the Moondaddies, a band with deep roots in Alexandria, were preparing for their set at the venue, where they’re booked to play the second Saturday of every month for the duration of 2018.
People, at first, slowly tricked in, but, halfway through the sound check, the crowd was swaying to the beat and a few brave individuals took to the dance floor.
“People follow us around,” John Langan, the band’s keyboardist, said. “You always know it’s successful when the dance floor is full and the bar is empty.”
The band plays regular acts in town at venues like Pizzeria Paradiso, the Old Dominion Boat Club and Light Horse Harry’s.
It was at Paradiso that the band first came together. They played during the restaurant’s “free night” a few days before Christmas, where amateur artists are invited to come and perform. Against all expectations, the Moondaddies packed the house.
Kevin Dako, owner of the Alley Cat, said he first heard about Moondaddies through word-of-mouth, but booked them because he enjoys their sound and the fact that they bring in customers.
“It’s music that everyone can like. … I’ve never seen bad feedback. Everyone wants to hear their music. And they are nice guys. Easy to deal with them,” Dako said.
The band’s setlist is cover-heavy, and features predictable crowd-pleasers like Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” The band has also added genres like country and early 2000s alternative rock to its repertoire.
The Moondaddies’ five members – keyboardist Langan, drummer Grady Mathis, guitarist and lead singer Jeff Madonna, bass guitarist Chris Lynn, guitarist/harmonicist Daniel Lynn and guitarist Gary Lynn – range in age from early-20s to late-50s, resulting in a variety of tastes and perspectives that influence what the band plays.
As their last names suggest, the band is also a family project. Chris Lynn and Daniel Lynn are brothers and Gary Lynn is their dad. The three have been playing music together since Chris and Daniel were young, and the family threw annual Christmas parties at their house. Langan was present at these Christmas parties, which set the formation of the band into motion.
Langan formerly played in a band called Who’s Yer Daddie, while Gary Lynn was part of a band called Moonshadow. The two combined the names to “Moondaddies” once they joined forces.
“The name sucks, but so does the Beatles,” Langan joked.
Chris Lynn, who is 25, said it’s the band’s diversity of sound that allows it to pack the house.
“We’re playing [‘Feel it Still’ by Portugal. The Man], all my friends around my age are all like ‘Oh yeah, this is great, awesome stuff,’ and there is maybe an older crowd in the audience … and they’re kind of shaking their heads or whatever,” Lynn said.“Then the next thing you know … we’re covering Del Shannon’s Runaway … and then the older crowd are going ‘Oh, I grew up to this, it brings me back to high school,’ and they’re all jamming out.”
Back on the dance floor at the Alley Cat, those on the floor were beckoning spectators to join in. One of the dancers, whose nametag read “Carolyn,” had come to see theband with a meet-up group for singles over 40.
“The music is perfect,” she said. “I think our dancing is proof of a great, contagious energy.”