In The Air With Motopony

Written by July 7th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Motopony: From left, guitarist Mike Notter, lead singer Daniel Blue, guitarist Brantley Cady, percussionist Forrest Mauvais, keyboardist Josiah “Buddy” Ross, serenading passengers on flight 3568 from Baltimore to St. Louis, June 29.

Searching for a special promotion for client Southwest Airlines’ 40th birthday, Austin-based ad agency GSD&M hit upon the idea of flying a band from one coast to the other, with six in-flight and airport-terminal performances along the way—all in one day. GSD&M’s Ellen Springer said they thought the client would never go for the plan, but they were, um, on board, as it were, immediately.

VIEW THE MOTOPONY SOUTHWEST GALLERY

An anniversary ad in the June issue of Southwest Spirit magazine featuring a trio of staff members and the proclamation, “You Rock!,” helped reinforce the notion that the Texas-based airline has been rocking the skies (and the airline industry, Springer says) for 40 years, and could do the same — literally — with live in-flight music.

“In my imagination, it was like, ‘That sounds insane,” Motopony lead singer Daniel Blue explained during a flight en route from St. Louis to Dallas.

But at 8 a.m. in Baltimore International Airport, the band played soulful acoustic versions of “King of Diamonds,” “Wait for Me” and Seer.” Blue projected his strong tenor, mic-free, backed by percussionist Forrest Mauvais on a beat box, shaker and pedal-powered tambourine; Josiah “Buddy” Ross played two keyboards and blew a melodica while guitarists Brantley Cady and Mike Notter strummed acoustics. Then they hopped the flight from Baltimore to St. Louis, and strolled the aisle, mid-flight, like wandering minstrels — at 30,000 feet. (Ross blew the melodica while Mauvais stuck with the shaker.) Babies were transfixed, and a 9-year-old shyly asked for their autographs, then shared her Oreos with them.

The airport scene was repeated — to much bigger crowds — in St. Louis, where the lithe lead singer effortlessly hopped atop a laptop counter, and in Dallas, where they hit a great groove with those tunes and a fourth, “I Am My Body.” At 3 p.m., they still had an in-flight performance to go before a big finish for the baggage-claim crowd at LAX.

“I still think it’s insane,” Blue said after the first three performances. “But I get to be the center of attention at the airport. Why not? … I like to be in front of people. There’s no way these folks would come out to a bar in San Diego and hear us play. Maybe they will now.”

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