MOE. NESTLES INTO JERRY JAM HISTORY

Jeff Dunham
When The Grateful Dead announced their retirement in 1995, and it became clear that for the first time in over a decade there would be no Grateful Dead event in the spring in Atlanta, Jeff and Maria Dunham felt there needed to be something to salute the many Springs that The Dead had enhanced by venturing through Georgia. Atlanta had become an East Coast Dead Mecca of sorts, and even cities with huge Dead fan bases, like Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington DC, could not boast to having The Dead come through virtually EVERY spring dating back into the eighties.

The Dunhams conceived the Jerry Jam, and presented the first version in the Spring of 1996. The event sold out the Variety Playhouse even though the bill was composed of local bands. Since then the Jerry Jam has grown to include bands like The Disco Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Blueground Undergrass, The Recipe, Dark Star Orchestra and the inimitable comedic em-cee talent of one Wavy Gravy. Last year they expanded the event to a two day extravaganza. This year, they are taking the Jerry Jam to another level. Taking place at Masquerade Music Park, this JJ is shaping up to be the biggest ever. Upstate New York's moe., Robert Walter's 20th Congress, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will perform on both days.

Chuck Garvey | moe.
Although this will be moe.'s first Jerry Jam, their association with The Dunhams goes back to 1996. Knowing that The Dunhams were already playing their music regularly long before moe. joined the Furthur Tour in 1996, moe. played an exclusive forty minute set for a crowd of twenty Dunham listeners. The band also visited the Dunham Living Room to tape separate sessions in 1997 and 1998. Late in 1999 they played a River Keeper Benefit show for The Dunhams at the Variety Playhouse. This was the famed show where moe. "set the clocks back" for us. Now that they are at the Jerry Jam, hopefully they will salute The Dead somehow, either by riffing on "Fire On The Mountain;" (as they have at quite a few recent performances) or maybe by taking a stab at "(That's It For) The Other One," which they have performed a few times in their career (once with Bob Weir himself).

Any band that has a name inspired by a song from jump-bluesman Louis Jordan, is bound to be a creative bunch. The song the band was moved by was "Five Guys Named Moe." The period at the end of the name has a more modest genesis. "We liked the period because it looked good on a flier," singer/guitarist Al Schnier told The Boston Globe's Steve Morse. The band has gone from gigging voraciously at small Northeast clubs, to being hailed in Rolling Stone as one of their songwriting and instrumental acumen. Stone scribe David Fricke had this to say about the band:

Al Schnier | moe.
"The secret of great jamming is accomplished songwriting -- melodic figures and payoff choruses that hold up under the stress of de- and reconstruction. moe. are among the few whose composing approaches that kind of focused greatness."

Clearly, after ten years of nearly non-stop gigging, moe. is finally getting long overdue recognition from the mainstream press. Their most recent CD, Dither is being hailed widely across the country. The success of this CD may be due to the band's unique approach to the material. After laying down basic tracks for each tune to be included (most of which had been performed frequently by the band), moe. began to radically reassemble each of them. "We would deconstruct them, so much so that in rebuilding them we would sometimes assign parts to different instruments, for example." Guitarist/singer Chuck Garvey says, "My favorite thing about this album is that being able to take a long period of time in the studio allowed every song to distill on its own."

Rob Derhak | moe.
2001 has been another great year for moe.. They kicked the year off with a stealth gig (billed as "Monkeys On Ecstasy") in the cozy confines of Albany's Valentine's club. With many of their most hardcore fans in attendance, the band debuted five songs and delivered a performance that created a buzz, which still resonates through the jamband world. The band's February West Coast tour included stops at legendary venues like San Francisco's Warfield Theater and Portland's Crystal Ballroom. The band ripped through the heartland of the country on their March tour, and then returned to the Northeast for a very successful theater run which then detoured down the east coast, culminating with an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The band's current tour started June 4th in Buffalo with a show that found the band augmented by the turntable ace DJ Logic for the second set. Three weeks later, longtime Jerry Garcia cohort Melvin Seals joined the band in Illinois. They opened for Phil and Friends in Oregon, and were joined by members of both Jazz Mandolin Project and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at the High Sierra Festival. Just days ago moe. opened for Widespread Panic at Maryland's Merriweather Post Pavilion, then bolted to nearby Annapolis to perform a set (which was generously garnished with chestnuts, including a first ever stab at Neil Young's "Down By The River") to reward another supportive radio station. The band is riding high on a banner year, and the two nights at the Jerry Jam should build on this momentum.

Robert Walter
Robert Walter's 20th Congress and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will add to the joy at both days of the Jerry Jam. Walter is a veteran of the Colorado's funky, and widely known Greyboy AllStars. His keyboards were vital to that band's infectious, energetic sound. He also lent his talent to (former Herbie Hancock drummer) Mike Clark's Prescription Renewal. His current band, Robert Walter's 20th Congress, soulfully fuses dance music with the funky jazz for which Walter is known.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band may have an extra bite in their delivery at the Jerry Jam, as they were recently the victims of a robbery while they slept in a roadside hotel after a South Carolina gig. These denizens of New Orleans (who did in fact open for The Grateful Dead in the late eighties, even joining them onstage for "Aiko Aiko" one time) have earned their label as one of the most fun bands around. TDDBB delivers many types of jazz, from stately traditional, to ass-ticklin' Dixieland, to downright nasty swamp funk. The band also sprinkles in a variety of wild covers, like Little Feat's "Skin It Back," Bob Marley's "Time Will Tell," or "Yellow Moon," from their buddies, The Neville Brothers. Clearly these guys have all the bases covered (Perhaps they will regale this Garciafied event with a Big Easy-ish version of The Dead's "Shakedown Street"). They have taken their powerful sound to over thirty countries across five continents, but this weekend, they take it to Atlanta.

Saturday's show will start with a set from Ancient Harmony. Harmony has gone from being one of Atlanta's better local bands, to a bona fide national act over the course of the past two years. Buoyed by their widened audience, and a new batch of material; the band will surely whet the Jerry Jam audience's appetite's properly. One feature of the band is a guy who has quietly become one of the more entertaining guitarists in the Southeast, Mr. Shell Stamps. Friday's festivities will kick off with a set from the Dead and ABB-influenced longtime Atlanta veterans, Swami Gone Bananas. SGB's spirited performances often include unpredictable juxtapositions of some of the more organic classic rock standards.

This is a loaded event, especially when you consider that two day passes are a mere $35. Single day passes are also available for $22.50 ($20 in advance). Tickets can be purchased at the Variety Playhouse, the Masquerade or by calling (404) 249-6400.

Rob Turner
JamBase Atlanta Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

Thanks to Adam Gulledge for the photos!!
[Published on: 7/19/01]

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