Words by: Bill Clifford | Images by: Robert Chapman
moe. :: 04.03 & 04.04 :: House Of Blues :: Boston, MA
For many rock bands, growth proves stifling when success is achieved too fast. The well traveled highways and byways of rock music are littered with decaying bands that have come and gone, victims of a broken system that devours its young for immediate sustenance and financial gain, rather than developing and nurturing bands for the long haul.
Like a slow but steadily paced tortoise, New York State-based moe. has outlasted that system for more than 18 years. The long road, winding and crisscrossing the U.S. and other nations, has been an ally in building a dedicated, rabid fan base, affectionately known as MOERONS, which continues to grow, along with the band, at a consistent pace. moe.'s growth was evident both nights this weekend as the band took the stage in Boston at the spectacular new House of Blues. The venue, which holds approximately 2400, was nearly at capacity on Friday night and fully sold out in advance on Saturday.
Friday - 04.03.09
moe. led off Friday night with a pleasant, "Good evening, Boston," from guitarist/vocalist Al Schnier and an upbeat instrumental warm up, "Zed Nought Z," as the crowd rushed in to secure floor space or a balcony view. The large, open floor became packed very quickly, leaving very little personal dance space. "Happy Hour Hero" raised the first loud and rousing cheer from the crowd, a fan favorite that had fists in the air and people chaotically singing along at the top of their lungs to the blissful chorus, the last note of "hero" held for a long count for effect. Schnier's short, sweet pop song "Sticks & Stones" had glow sticks flying through the air from one side of the floor to the other and drew a rise from the crowd when he sang about "hanging out with the family."
"Nebraska" featured the low rumble of bassist/vocalist Rob Derhak along with the playful slide guitar and talk box effects of guitarist Chuck Garvey, while fans bobbed heads and shook their bodies in rhythm. Set one concluded with a long, highly improvisational intro to "Y.O.Y." that smoothly segued into "Lazarus," which itself built from a slow, ambient dirge to a high-energy rave up that left fans dripping.
|moe. :: 04.04 :: Boston|
Set Two began with the mellow, slow groove of "So Long," which featured an effects laden guitar solo from Garvey before building its way up in tempo to the pop nugget "Not Coming Down," with Schnier hollering out the lyrics, "I think I'm out of my head," getting another cheer from the fans, many who were indeed out of their own heads. The country and western swing of "Tambourine" allowed fans to catch their breath before the three-song medley that closed the set.
"Down Boy" featured percussionist Jim Loughlin banging on several djembes and bongos and Garvey on his Frampton-like talk box effects. It grooved right into "George" with a simple beat and Schnier's chugging guitar before finding its way to the Garvey vehicle "Wind It Up," which began slowly and built in tension and release. It also featured Loughlin tinkering away on the mallatKAT before Garvey tore through a searing solo and the band's trademark triple vocals. It was certainly a high note as the progression found its way back into "George," with Schnier standing on an amp out front for a solo, drawing energy from the crowd.
Friday's encore was "Buster," a jovial splurge through an Orwellian dreamscape where pigs can fly and eat Gouda cheese. It's an upbeat and rambunctious melody that incites some of the most vigorous, inventive dance moves you'll see at a concert anywhere. Another seamless segue brought it back around to where Set Two began, finishing "So Long" to end the night.
04.03.09 (Fri) :: House of Blues :: Cambridge, MA
Set I: Zed Nought Z, Crab Eyes, Happy Hour Hero, Sticks & Stones, Nebraska, Raise a Glass, Okayalright, Y.O.Y. > Lazarus
Set II: So Long > Not Coming Down > Wormwood > Tambourine, Down Boy > George, Wind it Up, George
Encore: Buster > So Long
Saturday - 04.04.09
"The Ghost of Ralph's Mom" was a fine opener choice that was made that much better with the mid-song tease of Led Zeppelin's "Fool in The Rain," which wasn't missed even by the college age crowd. "Hey Boston, you folks seem thoroughly ready for this," said Schnier before a mellow, atmospheric "Jazz Wank" pranced into the similarly dark "Cathedral" featuring the triple, echoed vocals of Garvey, Schnier and Derhak. The tempo and the mood picked up going into the upbeat "St. Augustine," a staple in the moe. rotation that had the audience singing along with the band. Closer "The Road" saw Loughlin move between percussion and the mallatKAT several times and Garvey tearing though a solo. It was a great ending to a set that again left both the packed crowd and band drenched and had Derhak joking, "Good night, everybody. We're done," with a laugh.
|Nate Wilson with moe. :: 04.04 :: Boston|
The second set will be remembered for its song choices, both for the upbeat, classic moe. songs that inspire free spirited dancing as well as for the long, highly improvisational musical excursions favored by those who appreciate the band's tight musical camaraderie. "Blue Jeans Pizza" featured a percussion solo from Loughlin with the crowd clapping along, as well as Boston's Nate Wilson, of opener the Nate Wilson Group, adding a soulful, funky flair on the organ.
Leaning over a balcony on the second floor, looking down on the packed throng of fans, it was thrilling to view a sea of heads moving and swaying under the spotlights on the buoyant "All Roads Lead To Home." Again, the triple vocal harmonies of Garvey, Derhak, and Schnier had the crowd singing along on "Waiting For The Punchline." A respite of sorts arrived with the dark, somber reflection of "Opium," with fans joining Derhak to sing with passion on the driving chorus. With the stage bathed in golden yellow lights, the meandering guitar interludes from Garvey and Schnier played off one another, while drummer Vinnie Amico kept a steady, cadent beat. They meandered into the similarly spacey "Big World," with Schnier again stepping out front on a monitor and playing to the crowd.
With Loughlin back on the mallatKAT, they seamlessly transitioned into "Rebubula," one of the band's most beloved pieces, featuring all the best elements of the band: the joyful, jubilant lyrical content, passionately sung and sung-along to vocals, the dual guitar interplay of Garvey and Schnier, the precision rhythm of Derhak, Amico and Loughlin and the slow, climatic tension and release progressions moe. has mastered like very few before have or ever will.
|moe. :: 04.04 :: Boston|
This would have been the icing on any moeron's cake, and many would have been content to call it a night, but the band came back for an encore, including the now-infamous Alnouncements, where Schnier gives shout outs to the fans like, "It's Snapper's 40th birthday. Happy birthday, Snapper." You could be fooled into thinking that more than 2400 fans have a fear of flying if you were in the crowd this night as mostly everyone was singing along with Derhak's passionately sung ode to sedatives, "Plane Crash," which brought the weekend to a rousing close.
2008 was a banner year for moe. that saw them release a studio album and two live records (on the heels of 2007's studio effort The Conch) and tour relentlessly through September. After five months off, the band has returned to the road in 2009, performing short runs and spending less time away from their families. This summer will see the band return to the West Coast for a two week stint, along with the two festivals it hosts (Summercamp and moedown), plus they'll be back on some other festival stages including All Good, Bonnaroo and Gathering of the Vibes. As this weekend in Boston confirmed, at a slow but deliberate pace, moe. has developed into one of this country's finest live acts.
04.04.09 (Sat) :: House of Blues :: Cambridge, MA
Set I: The Ghost of Ralph's Mom > Tailspin, Jazz Wank > Cathedral > St. Augustine, The Road
Set II: Blue Jeans Pizza*, All Roads Lead To Home > Waiting for the Punchline, Opium > Big World > Ricky Martin > Rebubula
Encore: Plane Crash
* with Nate Wilson on keyboards
Nate Wilson Group
Boston's own Nate Wilson Group opened both nights at the House of Blues. He's the former keyboard player for Percy Hill and Assembly of Dust whose talents and classic rock influences are now deservingly front and center. The band's sound leans heavily on the pounding rhythms and riffs of '70s luminaries Cream and Black Sabbath, yet with a modern flair. Wilson possesses a smooth, velvety voice that shined on songs like "Patterns" and the Floyd-like space rock of "The Long Ships." But, where this quartet really opened up was on the stoner rock anthems such as "See It Through" and "Hear The Echoes." Guitarist Adam Terrell was equally adept at driving power chords and wailing, bluesy cries. Bassist Tommy Lada was shredding the paint from the walls throughout their performances, while drummer Tom Arey held everything together. Wilson even took up guitar on the rocking anthem "Sticks and Stones," while Terrell did justice to Clapton on the Cream cover "Tales Of Great Ulysses," which went well over the heads of most of the young crowd. Expect to hear much more from this up and coming New England-based quartet.
moe. tour dates available here.
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