By Andy J. Gordon
Celebrating their 20th anniversary with a national tour that stopped in L.A. February 26th, moe. (www.moe.org/) really rocked the house. A large crowd was waiting in anticipation of a special night and the band did not disappoint. The improvisational and progressive rock band has been around since 1990, forming at the University of Buffalo. All band members (except Jim Loughlin,) were dressed in slickly styled suits, inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film, Reservoir Dogs. According to guitarist Al Schnier, it was done in honor of the anniversary. In addition to Schnier, the band members are Loughlin on percussion, Chuck Garvey on guitar and vocals, Rob Derhak on bass and vocals, and Vinnie Amico on drums. They combine to form an impressive group.
My first exposure to moe. was at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival (www.nojazzfest.com/)in 2001. I knew nothing about the band at that time, other than their generic, and misleading “jam band” label. Their short set at that outdoor festival stage was like a delicious item at a star-studded food tasting – it left me wanting more. For no good reason, I had not seen them again until this Club Nokia (www.clubnokia.com/) show. However, I was much more prepared this time, having accumulated several of their fine studio releases, and a few of their dedicated fans’ live concert recordings. Still, nothing prepared me for the sonic onslaught these upstate New Yorkers blasted out. Although their studio work is masterful, it does not compare to the energy they generate live. Each member of the band brings an explosive musicality that together makes them a spellbinding group.
Their live performance is much more open and improvisational than their studio recordings. Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey are extremely talented guitarists who both played extended solos throughout the show. Each song seemed to start with a structured rhythm and melody that moved into an improvisational foray. The brilliant ax wielders would exchange solo riffs that culminated in a synchronized overload of double-guitar attack madness. The band has an amazing ability to seamlessly transition from incredibly fast sonic segments to slower interludes, or segue into another song. Although Garvey, Schnier and Durhak are the focus, handling vocals and most of the instrumental solos, Amico and Loughlin contribute plenty on percussion. Loughlin primarily plays the vibes, with an occasional acoustic guitar, and miscellaneous percussion toys, but his contributions add fullness to the sound. Amico lays down a solid, rhythmic drum beat, and in the first set his solo during “Brent Black>Water,” showed he has major chops.
This was an amazing show that is one of the best I have seen in a while. The only thing preventing a rare five jet rating was the muddy vocals throughout the concert. Perhaps the sound engineer was too caught up by the instrumental pyrotechnics. Overall, moe. provided an incredible evening of music that left the audience energized, and this reviewer anxious for more. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for their next LA visit – you should too! Until that time, keep an eye out for their June 1 release “Smash Hits Volume One.” The album will have new versions of previously recorded songs and at least one song, “Seat Of My Pants,” which has yet to appear on a studio record.
moe. set list at Club Nokia, Los Angeles, CA
Set I: Skrunk>
Set II: Don’t Fuck With Flo>
Zed Nought Z
Wind it up
Sticks and Stones>
Photos courtesy of Brigitte Bard.