Introducing: MUN the Magnificent!
by Chadbyrne R. Dickens

With a flurry of new and fresh bands like Consider the Source and Tauk, there has been an influx of competent shredding instrumental bands rising up the ranks in the jam scene.  No outfit demonstrates such pinpoint prowess through improvising than the quartet from Brooklyn called MUN.  MUN enthralled an intimate crowd at Fontana’s on Wednesday, January 6th – the first of their month-long weekly residency at the venue (which continues tonight, Wednesday 1/15).

MUN consists of Wiley Griffin (guitar), Doug Gresh (bass), Andrew Ostenfeld (keys), and Bryan Hershkowitz (drums).    The enigmatic and hip front man, Griffin, lures you into the sly musings with his intense head-bobbing and intense facial focus.  During the delightfully trancy, “Alchemy” Wiley bobbed his head slowly and gracefully from side to side with the mesmerizing music as if he were guiding us headfirst down a slick water slide.  The first set was an acoustic one – the band’s 2nd acoustic set ever.  After their first acoustic set was touted by many as one of the strongest sets at Catskill Chill Festival, expectations were high for this performance and the band did not disappoint.

The acoustic sound is crisp and clean, thus allowing a full accentuation of each note.  Griffin showcases precise guitar pickin’ that reminds one of an early Eric Clapton.   Each song segues into the next in a rare flawless fluidity.  It lends itself to a strong continuous groove as songs build into crescendo.  Each jam has an ultimate purpose and all actually go somewhere that pays off.   The non-muddled and unfiltered clear acoustic sound showcase a jamband equally enticing when climbing to the peak than when getting engulfed by it.  It is like the anticipation brought on by slowly making love before the inevitable climax.   Even melancholy songs like the deliberate and tight cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s, “Girl From Ipanema”, with impeccable piano fills from Ostenfeld, manage to euphorically strike a chord and keep one engrossed.  Amidst the proceedings, Griffin looks out over crowd much like a QB is peering over the line setting up a play and Gresh exudes charismatic energy by frenetically prancing about the stage.

Highlights included a buoyant and inspired bouncy cover classic, “Rapper’s Delight,” and the band staple, “ufunko.”  Many of the songs contained songs within the song, as different sections were all tied together by the cohesive and addictive groove.  The band currently has no reggae songs in their repertoire, but with the occasional funk and calypso type rhythms heavily influenced in their music, they have the aptitude to really pull off a reggae song in exemplary fashion.  The band has a loyal fan following and they were out in force for the kick-off to the month long Wednesday night run.  With Sullivan Hall now closed, Fontana’s will be seeing much more action as a venue for smaller up-and-coming artists.  Fontana’s is like an Ivy League fraternity basement – raucous and disheveled, yet a clean, groovy and spacious nook that is much fun for revelers.  MUN is a star that is quickly ascending and worthy of your time and energy.   I suggest if you want to catch some MUN magic, you swing on down to Fontanas on Wednesday January 15, 22 or 29th!

Acoustic set: Rappers Delight, Hustler, Girl from Ipanema, ufunko, Alchemy, Ayo
Wiley Griffin

Electric Set: Jam> Iniquitous, Celestia, Olivia, AtoD, Dform, 2001, 1,000 Stripper

Check out some music at MUN’s Facebook page.


Before the show, I was able to catch up with lead guitarist, Wiley Griffin.

CD:      What does “MUN” mean?
WG:     Mun is derived from the word Mana, it comes from the Torah and is a supernatural substance that helped Jews in the desert.  It would taste as whatever they wanted it to.  In the inception of the band, it started as an all-improv group with not knowing what would happen on the stage and the interpretation was kind of a Mana philosphosy, hence the word MUN.

CD:      Who does the songwriting in the band?
WG:     Primarily right now it is a mixture.  The first EP was written by me and the rest of the group we had a philopshy of ok let’s jam a little bit, find a little thing we like here and there and then move ahead and develop a song.  Now with Andrew and Doug in the band, we now have 3 very strong songwriters, people who have produced music on their own, so it has been a hodgepodge.  One person will start something and bring it to the band and maybe a week later the others may help take it in another direction.  It is very much a group effort with everyone putting in their two cents.

CD:      Can we expect a new album soon?
WG:     The first EP, Rocket of Escape came out in 2010 or 2011.   The second one, Alchemy will be coming out within a month.

CD:      Did you feel that the band exploded a little in 2013?
WG:     Yes, 2013 was a big year for us.  We got on the line-up for Catskill Chill for the first time, we did two sets at The Big Up, opened up for the Werks at Bowery Bowery and played BB King’s.  A lot of unexpected opportunites came our way and also started to develop more of a fan base in and out of the Northeast market which was set up by incessant touring in 2012.

CD:      What is the best concert MUN has ever played and why?
WG:     Catskill Chill, because it was our first ever acoustic set, I loved the vibe there and we worked really hard to get on to that festival so it was a big pay-off to win that contest.

CD:      What was your experience prior to MUN?
WG:     I started when I was young in middle school where I booked shows for friends and family.   Then I went to Temple and hooked up with a hip hop outfit called Subliminal Orphans where we went on Warped Tour and opened for Cypress Hill.  Then I attended Goddard College with a degree in music performance and education composition. Then I created a bar band called Mo Fat and it was there we often played shows with MUN.  Then I was offered to play a one-off show with MUN and I have never looked back.

CD:      How did you meet your bandmates and form a new line-up?
WG:     It has been an interesting progression.  I was invited to do the one-off show and eventually started playing with them a lot.  Schlomo, the former bass player, is a devout follower of Judaism and around that time he couldn’t play some shows due to the day of the week and Doug Gresh would be the fill-in bass player.

CD:      Will MUN ever have vocals?
WG:     Oh, well we are talking about it right now.  We are in the process of developing a full album right now and experimenting on vocals.  Doug Gresh sings “Fire on the Mountain” and has a pretty great voice so we are looking forward to the possibilities.

CD:      Who would play you in a movie?
WG:     There is that awesome little guitar player I saw on FaceBook, played with the Lee Brothers at like Aura of Bear Creek.  Maybe I can play him when he’s older or something.

IMG_1084 (1)(photos courtesy of Arielle Santos)