moe.: My Only Vice… Okay Two Vices
Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (www.phatphlogblog.blogspot.com)
So I’ve been asked by MM to head up their weekly jam article and I gladly accepted. So for my first post, I thought I would talk about a band near and dear to my heart, moe. moe. is a classic jam band out of the frozen tundra of Buffalo, New York. They have continued to persevere as a band while others, including Phish, have taken long breaks or even broken up. Formed in 1989, moe. has always been in it for the long haul. My first moe. show was in 2001 and I have truly enjoyed seeing them live over the years. I met my future wife at a moe. show and I continue to be impressed with how they innovate and reinvigorate their sound.
moe. had a tumultuous beginning with some serious line up changes. People came and went but the main performers have always been Chuck Garvey, Rob Derhak, and from 1991 on, Al Schnier. These guys form the backbone of moe. and have always seen the potential of their band. Having begun in the Northeast, they found that short travel times between venues and word of mouth played a big role in their success. By the beginning of 1999, the line up has solidified with Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin filling out the percussion section. From then on they have continued to tour and play powerful shows. Last year marked their 20th anniversary as a band and to celebrate each member donned a suit for every show in 2010.
moe. has a pair of summer festivals, one in Illinois titled Summer Camp and one in their home state of New York known as moe.down. Everything about these festivals has grown organically over the years. The first time moe. performed in Chilliecothe, Il, it was part of the Summer Sessions tour which featured Galactic, Gov’t Mule, and String Cheese Incident. They took note of their beautiful surroundings at Three Sisters Park, and two years later, Summer Camp was born. Since 2006 they have also hosted a winter fest known as snoe.down. These festivals showcase not only moe., but also a wide variety of jam, bluegrass, electronic, and rock bands. It’s never just about moe., in fact this year at Summer Camp saw the Sunday night headliner slot given away to Widespread Panic. It just shows how open they are and how much they are willing to celebrate other acts that have worked just as hard as they have to gain a following.
One other word that is synonymous with moe. is fundraising. Over the years this band has taken it upon themselves to do some amazing work including, a Tsunami Benefit Concert, several benefits for the Kelberman Center which works to help individuals with autism, and a show to raise funds for WHY (World Hunger Year). It’s inspiring to see a band so dedicated to not only their community, but to people around the world.
Now moe. has had some inconsistent shows over the years. One of people’s biggest criticims of this band is that they do have off nights. Well, I can understand this and I have seen a few shows that certainly missed the mark. However I would like to end this post by talking about one of my top ten lifetime shows. It came from moe. in Des Moines, IA, in 2005. This show featured one of the single greatest sets of music I’ve ever witnessed. Here is the setlist from PT:
02/22/2005 – Val Air Ballroom – Des Moines, IA
SET I: Bring You Down> Shoot First, Captain America, She, Y.O.Y > George
SET II: Spine Of A Dog> Mexico > Plane Crash> Spine Of A Dog> Yodelittle> Spine Of A Dog> Buster
ENCORE: Tijuana Donkey Show, New York City
Obviously moe. felt this was a high water mark because it was released as Warts and All: Vol. 5. Not to mention the fact that the first set was over an hour and only six songs long, but the second set is the stuff dreams are made out of. Have you ever been at a concert and thought to yourself, “Man this is one of those special shows?” This is exactly how I felt that cold night in Iowa. Not only was this the site of my first moe. show just four years prior, but the Val Air houses a wooden floor that is something like a hundred years old. This made for some interesting exchanges with security and wooks smoking cigarettes on the antique dance floor. “Spine of a Dog” was the thread that weaved the second set into a masterpiece. The segues were crispy and tight but not forced; the playing from each member was spot on. Everything flowed perfectly and I was mesmerized for the entire show. They played a Yodelittle that was over 28 minutes long. They truly stretched their jams to the far reaches that night. They played a non-stop second set which was just short of the two-hour mark. No one does that anymore and that is the type of shows that made the jam scene, a band just playing, melting face for a couple of hours. I miss it, which is why I brought up this show.
As we move forward I will try to bring you the very best in jam for my weekly post. I will include as much additional content and recordings as I can scrounge off the bottom of the Internet. I want to thank MusicMarauders for yet another amazing opportunity and I will do my best to keep you the reader entertained and happy.