Moksha
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Moksha

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States | INDIE

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Funk

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"Vegas music had good year"

Lots of good music came from your backyard this past year.
Vegas acts dropped many fine records in 2010, and these are chief among them:
...Moksha, "Mammal or Machine": Funkier than morning breath, "Mammal or Machine" is a sweat-slicked snapshot of a band in perpetual transition: See 'em live nowadays, and Moksha has already pushed past the bounds of their excellent debut with singer Sam Lemos, who appears on but one track here, now more of a presence in the group. For all the heart-palpitating horns and wrist-spraining organ freakouts, Moksha's jams are well constructed and never wankery, meaning you don't have to have logged any time playing hacky sack in a Phish parking lot to dig this one.... - Las Vegas Review Journal


"Las Vegas jam band Moksha does its own thing on long, strange trip - Living - ReviewJournal.com"

The van comes to a halt in a dark parking lot where its occupants are met by a skyscraper-tall dude named Viking.

With legs as long as railroad ties, smothered in orange bell-bottoms the color of construction cones, Viking would be an imposing figure if he didn't possess the deliberate movements of a stoned tortoise.

He smiles at the quintet of musicians before him as they climb out of their ride, a blue 1994 Ford Econoline with an engine that groans like an overburdened ox.

The members of Las Vegas jam band Moksha have driven more than 300 miles to be here, going from the heat of the Nevada desert to the chill of a sweater-worthy summer night in Long Beach, Calif.

They greet Viking, a bassist with Cali funk fireballs Delta Nove, whom they'll be playing with in a few hours.

They take in the scene, standing just outside Alex's Bar, a shadowy rock club that's perhaps best known for doubling as the vampire hang Fangtasia on HBO's "True Blood."

Alex's is small and kitschy in a self-aware way, the perfect setting for a B-movie about a satanic Mexican biker gang, its walls lined with portraits of masked Luche Libre wrestlers and velvet paintings of menacing looking matadors.

Behind the bar, a portrait of the Last Supper illuminated by glowing lights sits above a painting of a demon taking a dump.

Stuffed rats cling to the lights above the pool table.

The place could pass for a really hip gargoyle's rec room.

Gradually, Alex's grows crowded with pretty girls wearing fedoras and flowers in their hair and lots of fellas with ponytails and yeti-worthy whiskers, filling up nicely for a Wednesday night.

One by one, the members of Moksha take the stage to jam with Delta Nove, whose percussive, horn-driven rumble is meant to be felt in the pelvis. Eventually, they get a brief set of their own at close to midnight.

It all begins with guitarist Jeremy Parks, a laid-back longhair whose fretwork is the opposite of his disposition: blustery and combative.

He plays from the back of his heels, eyes frequently shut, laying down a long, bluesy solo, his lips occasionally moving, as if he's talking the notes out of his instrument.

Organist Brian "Tree" Triola keeps a watchful eye over Parks and the rest of the crew, pistoning his legs up and down beneath his keyboard so hard that it becomes unplugged at one point, shouting commands to the rest of the crew like a quarterback calling out plays at the line of scrimmage.

Bassist John Heishman and drummer Pat Gray anchor a hard, yet fluid groove.

In the crowd, a bespectacled lady with flecks of gray in her long black hair dances in circles with such force that her skirt fans out in front of her.

Before long, singer Sam Lemos comes onstage for a reworking of the lithe bedroom funk of hip-hop duo Outkast's "Pink and Blue."

"Baby, why don't you teach me something new?" he asks in song, his voice smooth and supple, his movements a series of easy undulations, as if he had ball bearings for joints.

Moksha's set is short and to the point on this night: This is the first show of a two-week tour, a warm-up gig with friends that kicks off one of the many road treks that the group will undertake this year.

They're a do-it-yourself band, booking their own shows and self-releasing albums in an attempt to make a living outside the traditional bounds of the music industry, for the most part.

This is the savvy business model for bands in the Internet age: Instead of signing record deals with music labels who take a large chunk of any profits, Moksha keeps everything in house, financing their recordings, selling CDs at their shows and earning most of their income on the road.

And it's working.

In Vegas, Moksha has become one of the biggest local draws.

In March, they pulled in more than 600 fans at the House of Blues for the CD release show for their debut, "Mammal or Machine," and they're regularly good for crowds of several hundred at area gigs.

They're a blue-collar bunch, spending every day of the week either rehearsing or engaged in band-related busy work, reaching out to promoters, radio stations and music publications, working their music with the fervor of a politician perpetually out on the campaign stump.

"A lot of people think that being in a band is all parties and stuff, and it's really not," says Gray, a tall redhead who's almost as quick with a punch line as he is with a drum fill. "It's a hell of a lot of work."

Tonight demonstrates as much.

Moksha stays until the close of the club at nearly 2 a.m.

They mingle outside with drunken fans in the crisp night air until just about everyone's gone but themselves.

"I'm tired," Lemos sighs, which seems like an entirely reasonable sentiment at this point in the evening.

"You're not cut out for the road," Gray shoots back with a grin.

He's joking.

Kind of.

On the road again

The day begins where the previous night ends: in the van, now barreling down the highway toward Ocean Beach, Calif., a mellowed-out maze of taco vendors, vintage clothing shops and surfing gear retailers north of downtown San Diego.

It's populated, in large part, by what the members of Moksha lovingly refer to as "wookiees," especially shaggy hippy types who take their name from the Chewbacca character from "Star Wars," with whom they share a similarly furry countenance.

It's the kind of neighborhood where flip-flops are the preferred mode of transportation and the speed of life slows down dramatically, like an automobile with suddenly punctured tires.

Jimmy Buffett writes songs about places like this.

The trip here is a snapshot of the occasionally disorienting duality of life on the road: Time tends to trudge by, minute by minute, as monotonous and steady as the trickle of an IV drip, gradually building toward that 30 minutes to two hours spent onstage, where it flies by like the final moments of a vacation. Traveling from one show to the next is an exercise in attempting to sharpen the dullest moments of the day.

The road is often romanticized into a smorgasbord of willing groupies, adoring fans and stuff-of-legend parties where a TV eventually gets tossed out of a hotel window. In reality, it's about as seductive as the come-ons scrawled on the toilet stall of a truck stop men's room.

It's less a series of Jack Kerouac-style adventures than a daily grind of trying to find somewhere to eat at 3 a.m., dealing with drunks at Denny's (the only place open at 3 a.m.), texting and calling the girlfriends and wives left behind and attempting to connect with strangers every night to compensate for all the interrupted connections with those at home.

"You have to really redesign your life," Gray says, speaking from experience: He's quit work as a photographer to focus on Moksha full time.

Touring is an escape from the routine that becomes its own routine: wake up in the afternoon with the day half over, acquire coffee, pile into the van, drive for hours, check into the hotel, find the club, haul the gear, wait for the show to start, rock the crowd, load out, try not to party too hard, get ready to do it all over again the next day.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

And yet, there is an addictive quality to it all -- why else would anyone do it? -- driven in large part by the possibility implied in the open road and the camaraderie of a group of dudes who occasionally get on one another's nerves, but who, taken together, form something much bigger than themselves: a band.

And so the guys in Moksha have learned how to live with one another in close confines for weeks on end.

"We can choke each other out and still be friends later that night," Heishman says with a knowing chuckle.

They kill time, on this trip, by listening to avant-garde jazz albums and dissecting production techniques for Radiohead records down to the point of theorizing about mic placement in the studio.

They're unabashed music nerds, all of them classically trained on their instruments for most of their lives, practically preordained for this kind of life since junior high. They're also a decidedly tongue-in-cheek bunch who could really impress an eighth-grade boys locker room with their frequent allusions to various bodily functions.

In this way, they're like a lot of self-acknowledged geeks: They're smart enough to know when to play dumb.

On the road, they all have their designated roles, for the most part: Heishman and Parks do much of the driving. Lemos handles the tunes, serving as the in-vehicle DJ. Gray and Triola help with directions, coordinate with friends coming to the show and plot set lists and potential cover songs.

Eventually, the band arrives at today's destination: Winston's, a squat brick concert club whose facade is decorated with a large, garish mural of a vengeful looking Poseidon that could have been cribbed from a really bad album cover by an even worse metal band.

Very fittingly, a Grateful Dead tribute band has played here every Monday night for the past 15 years.

Winston's is known as a launching pad for jam bands and has been a sought after gig for Moksha.

"It took us over a year to get this booking," Gray says. "We were calling and calling the (promoter), and then calling somebody we know who knows the guy, e-mailing people. Just a lot of that kind of tedious work."

This is the first time Moksha has played the San Diego area, and so they're an unproven commodity in these parts. This makes it hard to get phone calls returned for an up-and-coming band doing things on their own.

"Without a booking agent and never going to an area before, it's really tough to get bookings," Parks explains. "Getting the ball rolling is probably the hardest part."

"There's really no expectations," Heishman adds of playing a new city. "We hope just to excite one person who can bring a couple more people next time. The first time you hit a market, you don't turn a profit. It's just paving the way."

And that requires a lot of patience and trips to the post office.

For every show, the band makes fliers for the gig , sending them along with copies of their CD to the club they're playing as well as newspapers, record stores and local radio stations to try to drum up as much advance awareness as possible.

The fruits of their efforts are visible in Ocean Beach, where a flier adorned with a colorful caricature of the band sits in the window of Cow, a used record store just down the street from Winston's.

Oftentimes at out-of-town gigs where they're new to the city, Moksha plays for a split of the take at the door.

At tonight's show, however, the band is promised a guarantee of $250, a decent sum for their debut show in the area.

Parks' dad, Mike Parks, a computer whiz who oversees security systems for banks, travels with Moksha on most road trips in a large RV he shares with his wife.

Mike serves as Moksha's business manager, handling the band's trademark and copyright work, among other things.

He keeps an eye on merchandise sales and the head count at shows so that the band gets its fair share of the proceeds at the end of the night.

"We make some money with ticket sales," says Mike, an easygoing guy with the lightning quick computational skills of the programs he creates. "It's not an astronomical amount by any means, but any money these guys make, we put it back into the band.

"They're not living the high life," he understates, "but they're living."

The show goes on

They refer to it as "calling an audible," and it tends to begin with the opening of a hi-hat, the subtle changing of a snare pattern. It's the rock 'n' roll equivalent of the butterfly effect: a small movement that effects big change.

At Winston's it occurs with some frequency: Moksha's songs originate with a familiar arc but, like a sack of marbles let loose on a slippery surface, frequently veer off in a number of different directions at random.

Their tunes are full of musical head fakes and spontaneous misdirection, where the band leaves huge blanks in its tunes to be filled in when they're onstage.

Tonight, Moksha heats up gradually, transferring energy among themselves like colliding particles.

It's an open-ended sound that encompasses many things: a full-on country foot stomp with the voices of Triola and Heishman intertwined in rising, skyward-bound harmonies; a free jazz swing with big, rubbery bass lines; a hard funk take on Beck's "Sexx Laws" that rattles in the sternum.

A sizable crowd fills the modestly lit room, which is largely illuminated by candles atop marble tables that cast shadows over the framed portraits of Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia that checker the brick walls.

At the beginning of the show, Lemos sits in the wings, rolling his shoulders to the beat, waiting for the cue to join his bandmates like an athlete on the sidelines eager to get into the game.

He's the newest addition to Moksha, who've been around for a little more than three years now, and whose focus largely has been on equally catchy and complex instrumental freakouts up to this point.

But Lemos is a growing presence in the group and they're a decidedly different band with him in the fold.

Their repertoire becomes more linear, concise and hook-centered with Lemos, as he lends them a crossover appeal, a heightened accessibility, that many of their peers in the jam band ranks lack.

"For me, that's the goal: to be able to have songs with hooks and verses and structure, but at the same time, appeal to the jam fans," Lemos says.

Three songs in, he bolts onstage.

The ladies in the crowd immediately perk up and take notice. He's like catnip to them, with his purring voice and boyish good looks.

Lemos is the quietest, most contemplative guy in Moksha, a skilled sax player who formerly performed in a hip-hop group.

But once he takes the mic in his hand, he becomes a much more animated presence, pounding a tambourine against his chest, twisting his features into pained-looking expressions like he's just been zapped with a Taser.

Lemos gives this largely decentralized band a focal point and broadens their reach beyond the kind of die-hard musos who form the bedrock audience of bands such as Moksha.

That crowd is definitely a core part of Moksha's following, and it's a devoutly dedicated lot. At most of their out-of-state gigs, Moksha has a contingent of hometown supporters who follow them to their shows even if they're several hundred miles away on a weeknight.

Tonight, a clutch of Moksha's Vegas regulars are here.

The band greets them with hugs, like long-lost relatives, and they're treated less like fans than revelers at the same party.

This contingent doesn't carry themselves like passive spectators of the group, but rather active participants in the community that's developed around Moksha, advocates who help spread the word on the band on message boards and at other shows in the jam band circles.

Despite the ability of a few acts of this ilk such as Phish and Widespread Panic to pack arenas and amphitheaters, this is not a mainstream scene, and it's nowhere to be found on the commercial airwaves.

Thus bands such as Moksha must rely on grass-roots marketing tactics, playing out as much as possible, holding impromptu concerts outside shows and festivals headlined by bigger acts and constantly networking with those who come to see them live.

"They're not being played on the radio, so most of their fans are coming from word-of-mouth from other fans, from meeting people or talking to people," says Moksha fan Keith Consalvo, a bearded scene lifer who's followed the band from their first shows and who takes in their Ocean Beach gig with his girlfriend, Julie.

Moksha returns all the love in kind.

They've played at weddings and funerals at their fans' behest, and earlier this day, they call up one Moksha loyalist and sing "Happy Birthday to You" to him into his voice mail.

"They put so much of their lives into just coming to see music," Lemos says of the band's following. "To see how free they are in the environment of our shows and how crazy they get, it's just like, I want to make music just so that we can complete the cycle of what these people work for."

All of that tends to create a celebratory air at Moksha gigs, which often feel like family reunions.

Most people come to dance -- for hours and hours on end -- and at Winston's they swing their hips with no visible inhibitions, whipping their arms through the air in what look like friendly kung fu moves.

Much like the music, there's no real parameters, just free-form boogeying.

Moksha plays two sets, clocking in at close to three hours.

They sell $65 in merch.

A decent crowd stays until the end of the show.

That means that the band's chances of getting booked here again are good, and hence, the night's deemed a success, even if it ends with Gray's hands swollen like a couple of overinflated zeppelins following a long night of playing and loading out gear at 2 a.m.

"That's what you have to do," he says the next day. "You have to prove yourself everywhere you go."

realities of rock

The longhaired dude shoots them a disapproving look, like they've just broken wind in public.

"Did you guys get added at the last minute?" he asks Parks, who's trying to find out what time Moksha's set is to begin tonight.

The stage manager, exasperation incarnate, a throbbing nerve ending in human form, didn't even know they were on the bill.

Welcome to Hollywood.

It's the band's third show in four days.

At least it's supposed to be.

Moksha's at The Cat Club, a long, narrow bar on the much mythologized Sunset Strip -- a golden land of opportunity for bands, in theory, a buffet of fake boobs and real egos in practice.

The hassles begin at the door, where the bouncer insists on brusquely checking the band's equipment cases for booze.

From there, it's a hard load in, dragging all the gear through the crowd and up a narrow flight of stairs to a small room on the second floor that serves as the band lounge.

An abundance of heavily perfumed, middle-aged ladies squish themselves into the red leather seating in front of the stage, making it smell like a ransacked Sephora shop.

They seem out of place in their miniskirts and high heels, looking like a bunch of "Sex and the City" extras, all dolled up to sip overpriced martinis beneath framed pictures of a leering Perry Farrell and a straitjacketed Alice Cooper.

They're clearly here to see a friend or relative's band, and they're ready to beat a hasty retreat when the act in question finishes.

Parks, the band missionary, gets to work.

"I just got that whole row of chicks to stay," he says proudly after convincing some of them to catch Moksha's set.

They won't have to stay put for long.

Moksha gets to play but three songs before the soundman cuts their performance short by cranking Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" through the PA.

It's all the time he can give the band tonight.

They've driven hours to be here.

They perform for a total of 18 minutes.

Still, they make the most of the opportunity, playing hard enough to conjure a sweat beneath a constellation of stringed white lights.

Lemos, sucking in his cheeks and puffing out his lips, eyes clamped shut, looks possessed by the spirit of Jim Morrison, who first made a name for himself playing The Whiskey right next door.

Triola bobs his head to-and-fro like a rooster pecking at some feed.

Afterward, a group of onlookers buys the band's CD and schmoozes with the band members.

Tonight, Moksha offers their disc for the price of a donation, any amount will do, just to get it in as many hands as possible.

They collect $35.

A few days later, Moksha will play in Berkeley, Calif., for three nights in front of hundreds of fans, earning enough scratch to cover expenses for the entire tour and turn a small profit.

But this is a paying-the-dues type of gig, and as such, the band pays $150 to play here, which is akin to tossing the schoolyard bully a C-note for a bloody nose (the band will get their money back for the aborted gig later).

This is the axis upon which life on the road swings: Highs are inevitably followed by lows, big crowds by small ones, triumph by tedium.

"It's all about finding a balance," Triola says.

Equilibrium is achieved on this night by sushi and sake after the show with friends who've traveled to the gig.

It's a modest coda to the evening, a decidedly non-rock star moment.

And that's the point.

"I don't define success as being a rock star," Gray says of what he's trying to get out of all of this. "If I can support myself and the people around me by playing music, that's successful, I think."

Then it's back in the van.

They won't be home for another week.

But even then, this journey won't come to an end.

It doesn't have one.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. - Las Vegas Review-Journal


"Moksha Live at Quixote's True Blue 10-11-10"

Coming straight out of Sin City with a rhythmic vengeance, Moksha killed it at Quixote’s True Blue, Monday and Tuesday night for the Phish Concert after party. Their funk-filled jam band style captivated the audience and had them dancing and grooving well into the wee hours of the morning. Moksha can put on an entertaining show, there is no doubt about that and for these shows they brought in a horn section comprised of Peter Apfelbaum, Jennifer Harswick, and Eddie Rich, as well as Denver local MC, A.P.O.S.T.L.E., who ripped the mic with a fire packed attack of potent lyrics.

Moksha is the real deal and they have proof of that. Recently, they received a trophy for the best alternative/progressive Rock band at the Vegas Music Awards and their song titled “Interface” was nominated by the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, which they will be attending on November 18th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

Moksha’s talented members are John Heishman (Bass and Vocals), Brian Triola (Organ, Keys, and Vocals), Pat Gray (Drums and Percussion) and Jeremy Parks (Guitar, Lap Seel, and Vocals).

Grab their CD Moksha – Mammal or Machine and get ready for an earful of potentially life changing new music to listen to.

For more pictures of Moksha step into the world of Jimmy Iles. - The Denver Examiner


"They were lopsided...the turnouts, that is"

ust after midnight on the first night of Neon Reverb and one venue contained two very different scenes within. In the Aruba Hotel’s Club Aruba, seven-piece jam-funk outfit Moksha, led by the sultry siren song of Angela Kerfoot, drew a large, jubilant, dance-happy crowd as engaged by the music as they were the closed-circuit video footage projected at stage rear, pair of rainbow-hued ceiling-fanlike apparatus swirling overhead, live abstract painting and the evolving work of a body painter on a topless model. Past the dining area and billiard tables to the Thunderbird Lounge, however, pop-rock duo Leaving Springfield prepared to play their headlining set to an audience of 13…including the bartender and security officer. Band memo: Always spring for the girl-on-girl art action. - Las Vegas Weekly by Julie Seabaugh


"Downtown’s Neon Reverb Music Festival kicks off loud, proud and somewhere in the middle"

...After catching some of Hungry Cloud ... I jaunted down to the Aruba Ballroom where, past the full parking lot of tailgating dreads, hippie skirts and green aromas, local jam band heroes Moksha were tuning up. The room’s back screen they were using as a kind of Jumbotron, overlaying live feed close-ups of band members with psychedelic patterns a la Microsoft Media Player. Their opener? A slow, epic jam garnished with lovely, sari-wrapped Angela Kerfoot’s intermittent vocals and going on for about 10 minutes.

A friend remarked that he imagined “Moksha” was some kind of acronym of all the band members’ names, but he was WRONG. “Moksha” is a term used by certain Eastern religions to describe the process of transcending, of breaking free from the cycle of life and death we’ve all been so intellectually swept up in since the first hominids realized hangnails were a reality. That same friend also opined that the band’s sprawling, 10-minute opener shouldn’t have been their opener because it wasn’t punchy enough, but he was WRONG about that opinion. In medias res, man. Buckets in rivers. Everyone onstage seemed to understand - Las Vegas City Life


"Moksha at the Sinister Rock Bar in Las Vegas"

Beyond all the neon and swanky nightlife in Las Vegas there is a thriving and vibrant music and art scene... and the band Moksha leads the way as the one band out on the edge that delves into a fusion of rock, jazz, funk and jam music.

With the vocals of Angela Kerfoot (something reminiscent to me of Blondie meets Beth Gibbons meets Janis Joplin) and a steady stream of boundless jamming I think there was something for a variety of musical tastes at this show.

"The music paints a sonic landscape of highly palatable sounds that unfold in the moment, always open to the dynamic ebb and flow of the audience and band relatedness." I think this description from the Moksha web site sums it best. Besides the captivating talent and music of Moksha..... the room was also alive with fans who were all dancing intensely to the music, a fantastic light show and girls having their bodies painted. It was surely a great departure from the typical nightlife of the Las Vegas Strip and it's so great to see that we have such amazing and dynamic performers putting out solid and refreshing music in Vegas.

Moksha is a rare breed and offers up world class improvisational music to our fine city and a spicy and colorful alternative for those who have an ear for a heightened musical and visual experience. As Moksha venturers out of Vegas more and more these days, I think we'll be hearing a stir about them on the national music scene, so keep your eye out and catch them in one of these intimate settings while you still can. --Erik Kabik - Vegasnews.com


"Pick A Flavor:"

Pick A Flavor:
Moksha performed at the Sinister Rock Bar in Las Vegas on May 1, 2009. Beyond all the neon and swanky nightlife in Las Vegas there is a thriving and vibrant music and art scene...and the band Moksha leads the way as the one band out on the edge that delves into a fusion of rock, jazz, funk and jam music. With the vocals of Angela Kerfoot (something reminiscent to me of Blondie meets, Beth Gibbons meet Janis Joplin) and a steady stream of boundless jamming I think there was something for a variety of musical tastes at this show. "The music paints a sonic landscape of highly palatable sounds that unfold in the moment, always open to the dynamic ebb and flow of the audience and band relatedness." I think this description from the MOKSHA web site sums it best. Besides the captivating talent and music of Moksha.....the room was also alive with fans who were all dancing intensely to the music, a fantastic light show and girls having their bodies painted. It was surely a great departure from the typical nightlife of the Las Vegas Strip and it's so great to see that we have such amazing and dynamic performers putting out solid and refreshing music in Vegas. Moksha is a rare breed and offers up world class improvisational music to our fine city and a spicy and colorful alternative for those who have an ear for a heightened musical and visual experience. As Moksha venturers out of Vegas more and more these days, I think we'll be hearing a stir about them on the national music scene, so keep your eye out and catch them in one of these intimate settings while you still can.
-Erik Kabik

MOKSHA - http://www.mokshatime.com
Angela Kerfoot (Vocals) John Heishman (Bass, Vocals) Jeremy Parks (Guitar) Patrick Gray (Drums) Brian Triola (Keys, Vocals) Julian Tanaka (Sax) Mike Evans (Trombone)

All Images:
Mya be licensed at
www.retna.com
© RD/ Erik Kabik/ Retna Digital - Erik Kabik/ Retna Digital


"Mammal Classification - Moksha can kick out the jams. But the quartet has crossover appeal, as evidenced on it's new album"

by MIKE PREVATT : MPREVATT@LVCITYLIFE.COM
Everyone's a sucker for a gift. Take New Orleans guitarist Brian Stoltz. He infamously lost his whole pedal board during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As he tried to replace the entire thing over time, one pedal in particular remained particularly elusive. Little did he know, four fans in a Las Vegas band were looking over his shoulder, so to speak. And they knew where to find that pedal.

"We found it here at Cowtown [Guitars], got it for him and gave it to him as a gift," says John Heishman, bass player for local band Moksha. "He was like, 'Aww, man, this is so awesome.' A couple months later, I said, 'Let's see what happens.' We got a hold of him on Myspace and [wrote], 'Hey, this is so-and-so, would you be interested in coming out? We have some good fans who would want to see you collaborate with us.' And he was like, 'Yeah, man! I'll come out! You've done so much for me!' I'm thinking, we just got him this little pedal."

Stoltz would indeed come out and play with Moksha. He also agreed to produce its first full-length album, Mammal or Machine. The exchange is indicative of the community of musicians with which Stoltz and Moksha identify and affiliate. But it goes beyond generosity and musician brotherhood. It also reveals an enterprising band with a hunger to succeed -- even if it defines success differently than other bands.

Moksha (pronounced MOKE-sha) is a multi-genre group known for its improvisational prowess on stage. It has a fervent fan base within the jam band scene, a community of music aficionados who no doubt delight in Moksha's expansive, groove-laden, convention-busting songs. It's hard for a marathon live act like Moksha to get a gig at, say, the Beauty Bar or the Bunkhouse, where acts typically play between a half-hour and an hour. But those venues are exactly where the group wants to cross over. For being a so-called jam band isn't enough.

In the past month, the 3-year-old Moksha has played at Austin, Texas's South By Southwest music confab -- one of eight Las Vegas artists to make the trip -- and secured a distribution deal with HomeGrown Music Network, an important business/resource within the jam band scene. Both have offered the band networking and marketing opportunities it didn't previously have. This Friday, Moksha takes another giant leap forward: releasing Mammal or Machine, which has been in the making for more than a year (and was mixed by James "Bonzai" Caruso and mastered by Gavin Lurssen, both multiple Grammy winners). So anticipated is the release, the band booked House of Blues for the occasion -- on a Friday night, no less, and with Carlos Santana's horn section in tow. And, as if to drive the crossover effort home, Moksha employed indie/electro duo Kid Meets Cougar as its opening act.

If Kid Meets Cougar's fans stick around for the headliner -- and they should -- they ought to be surprised. Moksha may revel in classic rock traditions and organ solos and funky bass lines that make it vulnerable to jam band stereotyping, but it also incorporates electronic music and hip-hop -- two genres widely found in Kid Meets Cougar's music -- among other genres. Mammal or Machine -- equally thematic and musical in its expression of freedom, as the title implies -- impressively showcases this unclassifiable mix. R&B factors into "Interface." A 4/4 house beat kicks off the otherwise world music-inspired "Island Thyme," while a drum-n-bass rhythm propels "Say U Will" to its climax. Like psychedelic rock and the blues? Look no further than "God's Country," which bridges Pink Floyd with The Band.

The incorporation of so many different musical practices is neither arbitrary nor forced. The musicians' natural versatility -- mostly born from years of playing in jazz ensembles, professional bands and former local groups -- and ability to rein in all their tastes protect them from overreach. They can do it all and still sound like Moksha. "We've never been pigeon-holed in a style, so to speak," says guitarist Jeremy Parks. "Everyone has such diverse tastes in music, from metal to bluegrass to hip-hop and jazz and funk. Whatever we feel like doing or writing, it comes out in the music."

Some of that versatility was borne out of necessity. Halfway through the recording process, the band lost vocalist Angela Kerfoot, who had played with Moksha for two years. This not only increased the degree to which the band members contributed their own vocals, but required them to seek out another singer. They found one in Sam Lemos, who is also an emcee in local band F.I.N. and has a collaborative history with Moksha. He became a natural fit, and he now performs on several songs. "He's slowly becoming the fifth member of Moksha," Heishman says. He also marks a transition point for the band and its nearly comprehensive aesthetic. "However we solidify our sound, the experience has been beneficial," says keyboardist Brian Triola. "It has pushed us to be the best we can be, and the most versatile."

Mammal or Machine may be a springboard for the band to showcase its elasticity, but, inversely, the framework of its songs were likely developed in the live setting. The result is a balance between the fluidity one expects from jam-oriented acts, and traditional song form. "We do a lot of developing live," says percussionist Patrick Gray. "A lot of our songs, we just improvise parts live and think, that was cool, let's do that again. We rely a lot on cues, either visual or musical. If you listen to the songs and get familiar with them, you'll notice sections that are typically the same all the time, and then there's sections that are open. And so we weave in and out of improvisation and structure. There's a preconceived notion we're just out there jamming, but there's actually quite a lot of structure."

As long as Moksha is looking to find audiences beyond its core following, it will continue making the case for being more than just a jam act -- even at the risk of alienating its loyal following. It's not uncommon that the band throws audiences curve balls, and though most of the jam band community is accustomed to genre-hopping -- its artistic philosophy has largely been informed by the quality of the music and the emphasis on rhythm, rather than a particular sound or set of instruments -- it might still find itself challenged by some musical forays. During one show at the Hard Rock Cafe, Moksha invited F.I.N. and a rapper named Apostle on stage to trade verses for about half the performance because it sounded like fun -- and because it would be unanticipated.

"A couple of [fans] were like, 'Wait, we wanted Moksha!'" Triola says. "But the overwhelming majority were like, 'We had no idea you were capable of this.'"

In a way, a stunt like that is Moksha's subtle way of criticizing the sometimes-insular jam world -- especially in Las Vegas, where that community has always been small. "There's a lot of little [jam] bands that are kind of in the same scene, so to speak," Heishman says. "But they don't integrate into the other scenes. They're kind of this little community you could call the jam community, and they are dedicated to all the bands like that that come through. Those same bands play to the same crowd all the time."

Moksha could play it safe and move to another city where multi-genre, improv-friendly music is more widely accepted. But greater is the distinction of becoming the first jam-oriented band to break out of Las Vegas. Its members could also take pro gigs, where one might have to play the same set of songs twice a night, six nights a week. But professional musicians have adamantly advised the men of Moksha to stick to what they're doing, as they themselves would jump at the chance to escape the rigidity of their night gigs and play freeform music if it was logistically possible. And besides, that unvarying practice of playing music goes against everything the bad has artistically established.

"It's like what [Mammal Or Machine] is about," Triola says. "When you get to that situation when you're mechanized, when you're a robot, you're not making music. You're making music, but you're not a human being improvising and making music and being creative. The creative process has been removed completely. For me, that's the whole reason I make music -- to have that freedom and energy." - Las Vegas City Life


"Making N.O.I.S.E. First Friday weekend boasts two nights of rocking"

by DAVE SURRATT
FIRST Friday weekend looks to be a great one for music both locally grown and imported, rock-a-philes. On Feb. 6, the Aruba's Thunderbird Lounge once again lives up to its potential as venue for the far-better-than-you-thought with N.O.I.S.E. Project (Network of Immersive Sensory Entertainers) hosting a night with Vegas cosmofunk act Moksha, New Orleans resident Brian Stoltz and DJ Logic from New York City. Not familiar with one of them? All of them? Here's the deal:

Moksha's a jam band, for lack of a better term. Their own word, "moksha," is an Indian religious term used to describe escape from the cycle of life and death and the limitations of worldly existence. Pretty ambitious -- could mean a truly transcendent evening is in store. Then again, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is a pretty ambitious name, but I still have yet to see the path of corpses promised by those young men, so we remain strangers. Moksha does deliver the hypno-rock, though. Their M.O. involves weaving together guitars, keys, drums and the surprisingly unassuming vocals of singer Angela Kerfoot into layered, funky, jazzy sheets -- dense, then sparse, then dense again -- that tend to make more and more sense as the set moves along. By the time Moksha's endgame rolls around, you're not quite sure how they got there, but it's okay because they're not either. At a Moksha show, everyone's in it together.

Brian Stoltz is an older guy who once played guitar (superbly) with the Neville Brothers and Funky Meters (what The Meters starting calling themselves after Grammy-nominated Stoltz replaced guitarist Leo Nocentelli in 1994). It's a technically proficient and emotionally invested, funky, dirty, rock-and-blues sound we're talking about -- the kind where a guitarist realizes his instrument is a rhythmic core in itself and decides to treat it that way.

Jason Kibler, aka DJ Logic, is kind of the wild card here. If you've ever heard his solo stuff (Project Logic, The Anomaly) or his album collaborations with Medeski, Martin and Woods (Combustication), you've heard him define a truly jazz-ified hip-hop sensibility that, honestly, no one had ever done before that and made it so utterly listenable. Logic's signature scratch sound isn't easy to describe on paper, but here goes: a vinyl record, a needle, a '30s-era Cab Calloway-style scat singer and a solid state shortwave radio tuner all fused in the crushing gravitational field of a pulsar. It's equal measures human and inhuman -- in other words, happy, creepy and infectious.

The best part about Friday night? All these guys won't just be taking turns, checking their watches and grousing about a late start time. They'll all be playing together in various permutations -- exactly the arrangement these kinds of musicians live for. - Las Vegas City Life


"Las Vegas Jamband Moksha Performs At New Hard Rock Cafe Strip Venue"

Las Vegas Jamband Moksha performed at the new Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas Strip venue September 24, 2009. It was the FIRST show in this new venue. Moksha quickly had the crowd up and dancing to their infectious jazz, funk and rock blend.


Moksha has developed a very loyal following of fans that is rapidly growing and each show offers the fans new and old a chance to hear something new as they delve into improvisational jamming throughout their sets.

Moksha, who have been making quite a stir and garnering a solid following of loyal fans, is emerging onto the scene receiving rave reviews from all who take part in the experience. With Guitar, Organ/Clavinet, Bass, Drums, Horns and Female Vocalist this unique blend of musicians creates danceable grooves riding in a deep pocket of Funk Rock. The music paints a sonic landscape of highly palatable sounds that unfold in the moment, always open to the dynamic ebb and flow of the audience and band relatedness!

A Hard Rock Live multi-function venue on the 2nd floor rocks with concert seating for 1000, while state-of-the-art in-house audio-visual equipment offers mind blowing imagery and sound. The cafe also features a built-in stage with an attached Green Room that will be occupied by artists from around the globe.

Featuring 42,000 square feet of pure unadulterated rock n’ roll, the new cafe, located next to the MGM Grand Hotel, provides three-floors of non-stop action and features the world’s largest Rock Shop.

Posted on September 25th, 2009 by Bill Cody - MyVegasScene.com


"City Life Picks - Jam on!"

The Las Vegas Jam Band Society has always done its mellow bobbing and forearm-undulating on the fringes of our local music scene pretty inconspicuously, but it's been doing it for 10 years now. Yes, the LVJBS is a force to be reckoned with -- probably has been for longer than most of us realize -- and now it's celebrating the last decade of hyper-communal, wah-wahed-out meandering coolness with a 10th anniversary party at the Strip's new Hard Rock. Vegas "cosmofunk" act Moksha will be there, as well they should be; the band's deft layering of guitars, keys and drums -- together with the very refreshingly unnaffected, unassuming angelic vocals of Angela Kerfoot -- has made it a sturdy central pillar of this town's particular jam band methodology. If you haven't seen them before, now's a great time because if any local act is up to the task of brilliantly, abstractly recapitulating a decade's worth of this genre's evolution in one show, this is it.

Also performing: Melvin Seals and JGB band, the post-Jerry incarnation of the 1975-formed Jerry Garcia Band. Guitarist Seals has always made himself not just a band leader, but a caretaker of sorts for the late Garcia's ineffable musical vision, right down to the ex-Grateful Dead frontman's signature sound and soloing style. JGB Band also includes longtime drummer David Kemper, ex-Bob Dylan touring and recording-mate and studio session veteran of over 200 albums, gold, platinum and Grammy winners among them.

Come out, be kind and let the music love your mind. Dave Surratt, dsurratt@lvcitylife.com - Las Vegas City Life


"Sonic Bliss"

“Creative musical expression” and “Las Vegas” rarely appear in the same sentence. Yet at a recent show at the Hard Rock Café on the Strip, four band members played amid a large performance ensemble—about 12 artists in all, including a full horn section and guest vocalists. Diverse musical styles and sounds emerged from the speakers, engulfing a couple hundred people in extemporaneous grooves. When two rappers and a singer grabbed microphones, the energy kicked up a notch—the melody felt expansive, the beat felt funky and the sound seemed ready for the spotlight.

The core of this ensemble is Moksha, a local group of skilled musicians who have built a following by staging multi-genre live performances—deftly exploring the depth of classic rock, the unscripted breeziness of jazz and the rhythmic pleasures of hip-hop, funk and soul.

A Moksha concert is more than just a sonic experience. Kaleidoscopic lights dance around the stage as artists paint designs on nearly naked women. Followers gyrate with pleasure, engaged by the wide variety of sounds and sights. The atmosphere is joyful, liberated and free.

Formed around four key players—Brian Triola on keyboards and vocals, Pat Gray on drums, Jeremy Parks on guitar and John Heishman on bass and vocals—Moksha exists in the cosmic funk/jam ensemble territory occupied by Phish and the Roots, but with a spirit all its own.

At a Moksha show, you’re likely to hear rock, reggae, hip-hop, bluegrass, world music and funk—all in the same set.

“We have the philosophy that we want to put a show on that I want to go see,” says Gray, 29. “Every single time we play we have a new set list. We’ve never repeated a set list. We bring in a lot of guest artists. We have live body painting, painting on canvas, sculptures, projections.” Gray and Triola, natives of California, met as UNLV students in the Jazz Studies program and played together for more than eight years in numerous jazz, salsa, funk and rock outfits. Eventually they joined forces with Parks, originally from Cleveland, and Heishman, a 31-year-old Las Vegan. The group began performing a mix of covers and original material at local venues, including Beauty Bar and Revolution Lounge. They found common ground in their passion for The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis and the Grateful Dead.

As their chemistry jelled and their sound sharpened, Moksha started collaborating with guest artists who shared their diverse musical tastes, including New Orleans guitar legend Brian Stoltz, skilled scratch-master DJ Logic and local positive-rap/singing squad F.I.N. (Future Is Now), the group they performed with at the Hard Rock Café. The live shows have also featured impassioned vocalist Angela Kerfoot, but she and the band have parted ways professionally.

“The type of music we play is improvisation-based,” says Parks, 34. “You feel things. You’re able to push it and open up and free yourself. Improvisation allows your mind, your imagination, your heart to open up. The feeling we get is a liberated feeling.” Appropriately, the word Moksha means “liberation and bliss” in Hindi. On the surface that, too, might seem an odd fit for Vegas, but the band believes they might belong here as much as any other place, if not more.

“Vegas is more diverse than people think,” says Triola, 25, the youngest in the group and perhaps the most optimistic about the future of his band and the city. “There is this completely non-transient, non-gaudy scene here that’s earthy. It’s kind of sitting in the cracks beneath all this gloss.”

By Jonathan Sheckter - Vegas Seven


"Moksha attracts all walks of fans together"

By JASON BRACELIN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

Moksha has built its reputation as a live band that embarks on plenty of improvisation.

They're one of Vegas' best live bands, equally fiery, funky and spontaneous. Really, you never know what direction a Moksha gig can take, and as the band members themselves note, oftentimes, neither do they.

What does Moksha sound like?

"Like the '60s had sex with the '70s and had a baby. That baby then somehow met a time traveler from the future and they had sex and had a baby. We sound like that baby riding a freight train."

You recorded your debut, "Mammal or Machine," with noted New Orleans guitarist Brian Stoltz, who's played with the likes of The Neville Brothers and The Meters. What did he bring to the table?

"Jambalaya, chicory coffee and a side of swamp funk. Oh yeah, he also helped us tighten our groove and 'trim the fat' off the album."

Your name, "Moksha," has spiritual connotations. What made you choose that handle?

"The literal translation is 'liberate,' and that's why we chose it. Besides, 'Jesus Christ Superstar' was already taken."

You've built your reputation as a live band. How much of a role does improvisation play when you take the stage?

"It's an extremely important part of the show for us. It's why we're up there and it allows us to keep things fresh. A Moksha show without improv is like Amy Winehouse without crack."

OK, so the "jam band" tag is a polarizing one, suggestive of nonstop noodling and Hacky Sacks for some. Do you consider Moksha part of that community?

"We feel lucky to be embraced by the jam band scene and definitely consider ourselves to be a part of that community. Don't be fooled, though: They enjoy all styles of music and are real aficionados. 'Jam band' is a loose term for a scene rather than a musical genre. If you go to a jam band festival you're just as likely to see Primus as The Roots or a bluegrass band as an electronica band. Musically and socially, it's a very open-minded and diverse scene. If you come to a Moksha show you'll see all types of people, different age groups, ethnicities and styles. You're just as likely to see a doctor or a lawyer as a Hacky Sack-playing hippie. Dude, can you pass the granola this way?"

Hear Moksha at myspace.com/mokshatime.
- Las Vegas Review-Journal


"Moksha attracts all walks of fans together"

They're one of Vegas' best live bands, equally fiery, funky and spontaneous. Really, you never know what direction a Moksha gig can take, and as the band members themselves note, oftentimes, neither do they.

What does Moksha sound like?

"Like the '60s had sex with the '70s and had a baby. That baby then somehow met a time traveler from the future and they had sex and had a baby. We sound like that baby riding a freight train."

You recorded your debut, "Mammal or Machine," with noted New Orleans guitarist Brian Stoltz, who's played with the likes of The Neville Brothers and The Meters. What did he bring to the table?

"Jambalaya, chicory coffee and a side of swamp funk. Oh yeah, he also helped us tighten our groove and 'trim the fat' off the album."

Your name, "Moksha," has spiritual connotations. What made you choose that handle?

"The literal translation is 'liberate,' and that's why we chose it. Besides, 'Jesus Christ Superstar' was already taken."

You've built your reputation as a live band. How much of a role does improvisation play when you take the stage?

"It's an extremely important part of the show for us. It's why we're up there and it allows us to keep things fresh. A Moksha show without improv is like Amy Winehouse without crack."

OK, so the "jam band" tag is a polarizing one, suggestive of nonstop noodling and Hacky Sacks for some. Do you consider Moksha part of that community?

"We feel lucky to be embraced by the jam band scene and definitely consider ourselves to be a part of that community. Don't be fooled, though: They enjoy all styles of music and are real aficionados. 'Jam band' is a loose term for a scene rather than a musical genre. If you go to a jam band festival you're just as likely to see Primus as The Roots or a bluegrass band as an electronica band. Musically and socially, it's a very open-minded and diverse scene. If you come to a Moksha show you'll see all types of people, different age groups, ethnicities and styles. You're just as likely to see a doctor or a lawyer as a Hacky Sack-playing hippie. Dude, can you pass the granola this way?"

Hear Moksha at myspace.com/mokshatime.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@review journal.com or 702-383-0476. - Las Vegas Review-Journal


"Show Review - Moksha, House of Blues, Las Vegas, NV – 4/9"

No written rule states that local Las Vegas bands playing their own original music can’t play in casino showrooms on the world-famous Strip. It might seem this way, but in reality the only impetus local bands face is their ability to draw a crowd that could fill the joint. To date, only new wave goliaths The Killers have ascended high enough to merit regular booking in Sin City’s largest halls, and even they had to leave town first before earning the fanbase necessary to headline in their hometown. So when funk-indie jamband Moksha announced they would host their debut CD release party inside the Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues Las Vegas – a room with both Insane Clown Posse and Cyndi Lauper on the upcoming docket – word spread through the local scene like wildfire in anticipation.

The atmosphere felt more like a family barbeque than a concert, with hundreds of Las Vegas locals sharing their “I knew them when…” stories in between hugs and cocktails. Getting the party started on the sprawling stage, openers Kid Meets Cougar unleashed a flurry of “electro-organic” madness in front of an appreciative smattering of their own fans and early arrivals. Each member of the duo seemed to be playing a dozen instruments at once, constructing each song as if sequencing a computer program aimed at self-destruction. As science-fiction videos starring them synced in the background with the music, Courtney Carroll and Brett Bolton crooned, rapped and outright powered their way through an energetic, danceable set full of electronic beats and indie rock.

Taking full advantage of all available real estate in honor of their big day, Moksha’s core quartet packed the stage with musical guests and artistic friends. At its peak it was dizzying – five horns, three rotating guest vocalists, three back-up singers, two rappers, and three body painters with nude subjects all crowded the stage. Within the mass were saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum from Trey Anastasio Band fame, multi-instrumentalist Rob Covacevich from SoCal world funk outlet Delta Nove, and the borrowed horn section from Carlos Santana’s Las Vegas revue housed down the street in a competing casino. Despite the constant flurry of activity the band shone through with two tightly packed sets, featuring each track from the album released at the gig, Mammal or Machine.

Starting off like the album, the show opened with the New Orleans flavor and blaring brass of “Bran Nu Junk”, and the alternating rock and R&B tones of “Blind To The Time”, highlighted by the soulful vocals and swirling organ of Brian Triola. “Island Thyme” paired Triola’s keys with the flowing fretwork of Jeremy Parks. Parks masters the restraint necessary to craft truly epic psychedelic guitar sections, putting the audience in a trance via a slow burn rather than filling the air with unnecessary notes and showmanship.

A handful of tracks on the album feature guests vocalists, which the band ushered on stage mostly through the first set. Angela Kerfoot, a former regular member of Moksha, added a sexy howl to “Say U Will”, while Windy Karigianes aced her album cut, the sprawling opus “Open The Door”. Moksha even let local rap crew F.I.N. (Future Is Now) in on the fun with one of the evening’s most bombastic numbers, a cover of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem”. Fervently driven on the low end by bassist John Heishman and drummer Pat Gray, and belted out by vocalist Sam Lemos, there was no ceiling high enough the crowd couldn’t jump through by the song’s crashing noisy crescendo.

“Bobbin’ On The Sea” and “Easy A” tread in traditional guitar-and-organ-driven jamband waters, but more importantly allowed the band to shed the added weight of their guests and focus on showcasing the instrumental harmony the foursome creates together. “Trouble”, a lengthy bluegrass number, feels oddly out of place even in Moksha’s diverse repertoire, but all in all the band ably displayed throughout the affair why the Strip opened it’s exclusive doors where plenty of others have been turned away at the gate. Longer tours and festivals may await these Las Vegans, but they’ll always have a home in the desert and the memories of their night in the Strip’s neon glow. - jambands.com


Discography

Mammal or Machine - 2010 (full length album)
Here to Go - 2011 (full length album)

Photos

Bio

Moksha [moke-sha]- Las Vegas' Secret Weapon

Explosive shows, filled with an arsenal of well-crafted material, have earned Moksha their reputation as Las Vegas' secret weapon. This well-oiled machine is now emerging from the glitz and glamour of Sin City and quickly garnering a solid following of loyal fans on the West Coast. With guitar, keys, bass, drums, and horns, this unique blend of musicians lives and breathes in a deep pocket of funk rock. Swirling in subtlety, their music paints a sonic landscape that unfolds in the moment and feeds on the dynamic ebb and flow of audience and band interconnection. In other words, they will melt your faces.

In 2010, Moksha joined forces with guitar legend Brian Stoltz (of Neville Brothers, Funky Meters, Bob Dylan and others) in the studio to record their first full length album "Mammal or Machine". J. Evan Wade of the Homegrown Music Network said it best “Mammal or Machine showcases lush compositions steeped in blues, rock, and elements of electronica as well. The resulting combinations are ambitious, well-executed, and result in an uncompromising “jam” album full of twists and turns." The album gathered critical acclaim when the Las Vegas Weekly described the album's sound as “can only be described as unstoppable", while Getexposedmusic.com called Mammal or Machine “a sound we can all groove on.” The same year, Moksha took home the award for “Best Alternative Progressive Band” at the Vegas Rocks! Award show.

In 2011, the band entered the studio with four-time Grammy Award winning engineer/mixer James “Bonzai” Caruso to record their current album, Here to Go. “Overall, Here to Go seems to be a bit more cohesive,” says Triola, adding, “being able to track together for every song was huge for us since the live dynamic is so important for the kind of music we make." 'Here to Go' is Moksha's first endeavor with new band member, Sam Lemos as lead vocalist, adding another level to Moksha's mastery of instrumental jam music. It fuses all the musical genres that influence each of the band members, into a sound that Simon Eddie of the Homegrown Music Network calls "similar to a classic rock album but with 21st century production. Their sound reminds me a lot like a cross between Rush and Pink Floyd but the music frequently shifts from reggae and world music to funk, rock and experimental jams." He then adds 'The album is slick, timeless and it only gets better with each listen"

Catch Moksha on tour in a city near you!

Moksha Is

John Heishman - Bass and Vocals
Brian Triola - Organ, Keys and Vocals
Pat Gray - Drums and Percussion
Jeremy Parks - Guitar, Lap Seel and Vocals
Sam Lemos - Vocals

www.mokshatime.com