Since September 11th, Americans have come together to look for a new meaning, a new perspective. President Bush has repeatedly emphasized our sense of “resolve.” It has now become imperative to live life to the fullest, to embrace each moment for better or for worse. 2001 was a year of endings: of the bull market, of high-rise urbanization, of innocence. Gone are the days of peace and affluence, both within and outside our borders. We learned to continue what is was we were doing, but it has all felt different. The focus has now become finding a sense of purpose as individuals, and to figure out how this sense of self translates to the bigger picture.

For the five guys named moe. and their fans, the New Year’s Eve run was a chance to engage this philosophy and solidify a year of commitment and growth. As they continue to compose and perform an impressive body of music, moe. assures fans that they “are as much responsible for the music as we are.” This collective feeling of accomplishment and joy descended for two crisp nights on the small seaside town of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Noteworthy moments from the Convention Hall were plenty, but highlighting the NYE celebration were screamin’ versions of “Captain America,” “Rebubula,” “Godzilla,” “Sweet Emotion,” and a late-night New Years set that was bleeding with passion and technical excellence.

In that midnight hour, after the countdown festivities, Al Schnier placed his heart on his sleeve, entered the unknown, and led the band through a series of changes that teased the crowd into a frenzy of emotions. He boldly grabbed “Happy Hour Hero” and made it “Seat of My Pants,” and his timing and perseverance in the climaxing stages of the 30-something-minute “Recreational Chemistry” was staggering. Earlier, Al spearheaded a very psychedelic second set that included the always-scorching moe.ron favorite, “Head,” while his “Kids” on the first night was the cornerstone of its sequence.

Bassist Rob Dehrak is right in the middle of the mayhem. He was ultimately responsible for the Rec. Chem. that stole everyone’s face. Decked head to toe in a get-up befitting only those pimps who can throw down the nastiest bass lines, Rob leaned his way into the song with the patience and caring touch of a father holding his newborn child. The bass riff he developed over the course of those many tantalizing pre-Chemistry measures was straight out of the medicine cabinet. On songs like “Happy Hour Hero” and “Rise” he was untouchable, but perhaps Rob’s greatest NYE highlight was “Nebraska” to close the last set of the year, taken out of Al’s “Head” and masterfully worked with the four-piece horn section.

Then there’s Chuck Garvey. What can you say about this guitar monster? The flames embroidered on his pants sent a clear message to us all: I am Chuck, and I am here to rip you apart. Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, and David Gilmour are all represented. A style and stage presence that would make Jimi proud. moe.’s brilliant commando. In Asbury Park, he demonstrated his firm grasp of the eternally satisfying Dark Side of the Moon album, and he once again nailed the gorgeous ups and downs of his very own “Hi & Lo.” Twenty-three songs later, which included a ripping “Don’t Fu#k With Flo” out of the horn introduction, he finished us off. At encore time, the boys laid down the super-funky bedlam known as “Brent Black.” Chuck’s solo was almost incomprehensible for its length, creativity, and magnitude. He bit his guitar, OK?

During the mammoth sets that moe. assembled for this New Year’s run, Vinnie Amico was the glue, the guy who should not be taken for granted. His polyrhythmic drumming behind the complex and powerful sounds up front has never been more critical. Vinnie brought the band through long, experimental segments including a “Money -> Time Ed” groove that got things rolling on NYE, a jaw-dropping “Faker -> Kids” jam, and the “Meat -> Timmy Tucker” sandwich that defined their annihilating second set on the first night.

moe.'s other percussionist, Jim Loughlin, was playing with limitless energy and unshakable spirit. His commitment to the unique moe. sound is now evident in every song. In asserting himself musically, Jim mixes it up or takes the lead with timely and creative drum changes, and his xylophone work was once again incredible. He is the driving force of such huge numbers as “Assfinger” (that Chuck tune) and “Plane Crash.”

Fans had long been speculating on the return of their beloved “Plane Crash,” as it was shelved indefinitely following the frightening events that began on September 11th. It is a song about fear, anxiety, and a person’s ability to overcome these obstacles to make it home. Perhaps never before this exciting NYE version had there been such a relevant moment of communication between the band and its audience. moe. was telling us that on the last night of this tumultuous year they were here to party, American style, that they were not going to let us down. We are here in your lives to stay. And our incessant noise-making was a message of approval and encouragement back to the band. Yes! We need you! It was an experience that will not soon be forgotten by anyone.

This unique forum, where a personal association is formed among those who participate, is the reason why we go see our favorite groups, why we listen to music like it is a religion. And it is why bands like moe. are working so hard to deliver their product.

American life in the year 2002 will be defined by the choices we make and the freedoms we have defined as the greatest country in the world. The time has come to participate, explore, communicate, and connect. This self-expression is the essence of the live music scene. Fans and musicians both can begin this year with a new sense of trust and hope, that we may come to love ourselves, each other, and the powers that guide us along the paths of our personal and collective existence.

Russell Dubois
JamBase Providence Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 1/2/02]

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