moe. is a progressive jam/rock band that has been touring the United States for about twenty years. Their sound is dominated by guitar and well-enhanced with percussion and an instrument that is rarely seen in any touring rock band, a xylophone – which kind of makes up for the obvious fact that the band lacks the sound of consistent keyboard playing. Their musical compositions are jammy, though not spacey. They remain grounded to roots and rock and create plenty of hip shaking beats, but their sound does not deliver me into a tribal zone of musical hypnotization.
On Wednesday, January 27, 2010 I saw moe. preform at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA. The band, which consists of Vinnie Amico on drums, Rob Derhak on bass, Chuck Garvey on guitar, Al Schnier on guitar and Jim Loughlin on percussion, formed at the University of Buffalo in 1989 and has been moving up in the American jam-band scene at a steady pace every since. moe. has headlined a multitude of large-scale, commercial music festivals, they have played two New Year’s shows at the world famous Radio City Music Hall and they throw several of their own festivals and events each year; including performing at ski resorts, on cruise ships and on desert islands. Their music has created a following of dedicated fans that are ready to travel the country and willing to spend their hard-earned money on the perfectly tweaked guitar rift, dubbed moe.rons.
moe.’s sound can be compared to the likes of Phish or Widespread Panic, though moe. clearly has their own repertoire, ideas and performance rituals. At last night’s show the crowd went crazy when all five band members came out on stage in black suits and ties. moe. may not be tribal or spacey, but they sure do know how to rock, and they rock it well. During the show I never once thought that the band wasn’t giving it their all, or that they weren’t enjoying what they were doing.
I traveled to the show with my local friend Sue, and it was my turn to drive. We had about a 45 minute ride, but a very easy and straight shot, and it was nice not to have to travel into or toward the crowded city for a show. As usual when a jam band is playing at The Sherman Theater, we the people took over a majority of the food and beverage establishments in the town. Sue and I got a beer before the show at a bar and restaurant called Floods, and that joint was packed tight! Grateful Dead and Phish were being played on the digital jukebox, and almost every longhair I looked at had a smile on his or her face.
Sue and I met up with some friends and went into the venue at 8 PM. The band walked on stage about 8:30 PM, and as previously mentioned, they were dressed to kill. They opened with “Cathedral”, which means nothing to me because I couldn’t even name you one single moe. song. However, according to his Facebook status update, a friend of mine who attended his 117th moe. show last night thought the first set was “sick.” I personally was focusing on getting a slight buzz on during the first set because I found I was kind of, well, bored.
But things picked up for me…
I hooked up with my friend Mary J. during first set and we talked about how it was her 50th show and she wanted to give a note to the band so they would announce it, but she didn’t have paper. I always keep a little notepad in my show fanny, so I wrote up the message (and snapped this quick pic!)
We pushed our way through the crowd, right up to the stage, just as the first set was ending. Though she tried to give it to a band member, as seen in the photo, Mary ended up giving her note to a stage crew member.
And then it was intermission.
The Sherman Theater is a very nice place to see a show because they actually let you outside to smoke whenever you want, and as long as you have a wristband you can get back inside without any hassle. Heads took up an entire block or two outside the theater during intermission, and I didn’t see a single police officer. I did see and hear a few nitrous tanks, though. Some hilarity ensued, but I am going to save the really juicy stuff for the private journal.
The band took what seemed like a really long set break, and a few of us ended up going in “the dive bar on the corner” where I ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a Pepsi. The bartender asked me if I would like a small beer. “How about medium?” I asked. She said they didn’t have medium, so I suggested large and she returned with a pint of PBR and a cup of Pepsi for a grand total of $2.00. Two dollars. I was stupefied. It was so cheap I didn’t even care that I only took three sips of the beer and then left it on a table after a spontaneous decision that I much rather be inside the venue than at that dive bar where Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was blaring through the sound system.
Second set was fun. I had been standing back aways from the stage, but in the beginning of second set some really tall guy grabbed my shoulders and told me that if I came with him, he “promised me” that I would soon be standing much closer to the stage. Not much else was goin’ on for me at the moment so I followed the guy and ended up seeing a group of my friends up front and went and hung out with them. I kind of felt bad I ditched the tall guy but it was cool he led me up front like that and I am glad I took advantage of the small venue and my opportunity to stand close to the stage in one of the first few rows.
Something else I was grateful for during the show is whoever showed me the “secret” bathroom around the corner and up the stairs from the main bathroom. I never had to wait in line. Also, I ran into this chick Lee Ann who I had met almost five years ago through this guy I dated for one summer. Lee Ann ended up dancing with me, Mary and the girl with the fuzzy white hat for a little while and she brought some good energy. She got married and had two kids since the last time I saw her. I wouldn’t have recognized her in a million years. I guess I don’t look that different. Look, here’s a pic of Lee Ann’s INK!
moe. encored with a rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and they really souled up their sound by bringing out guest vocalist Nadine LaFond.
After moe. left the stage guitarist Al Schnier came back out and announced to the dispersing crowd that it was somebody’s birthday, as well as Mary J’s 50th show. It was cool our note’s mission was accomplished, and Mary J was so happy her name was announced she said she almost started crying! So that was a good way to end the show.
After the show let out Sue and I bee-lined for the car and headed home. On a scale of 1-10, I rate moe. at a 6.5 for myself. I like them, they are in the same family of bands that I love and their sound definitely catches my interest, but it doesn’t hold it for all that long. I like to enter the zone, and they just don’t quite bring me there. But ya know what? They provided me with a really kick-ass Wednesday night at a rather affordable price, and they did it with gusto. Part of me wants to raise their rating to a 7.0, just because of the suits. They tried hard to deliver, and they did.