Words by: Bill Clifford | Images by: Rob Chapman
moe.down 10 :: 09.04.09 - 09.06.09 :: Snow Ridge Ski Area :: Turin, NY
Majestic mountain scenery, abundant sunshine and a divergent lineup offered moe.rons a weekend to remember. For the tenth year in a row, improvisational rock band, moe. held its annual Labor Day weekend festival, moe.down at Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin, NY, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. While the festival attendance was down this year – possibly due to the economic recession or maybe because of this summer's Phish tour and upcoming Festival 8 tapping out patrons – both Mother Nature and Lady Karma smiled and endowed approximately 6000 fans with a sensational weekend filled with fresh mountain breezes and amazing musical performances. Throw in local suds and a variety of food vendors, as well as the renewal of a tribal bond this fest is known for, and no doubt about it, for moe.rons, there is nowhere else we'd rather spend the Labor Day holiday.
There was one major change to the festival this year. Instead of holding a second stage under a large tarp/tent, organizers placed the second stage outdoors, allowing more fans an opportunity to take in the sounds with an unobstructed view. The stage was pushed back a bit further in the field behind the lodge, with vendors setting up shop surrounding the grassy field. With two centrally located stages situated less than 150 yards apart from one another and no overlapping sets, this festival allowed fans to see and hear every act, if one so desired.
The New Mastersounds :: 4:30-6:00 p.m. :: Second Stage
This Leeds, England based band has got dirty yet soulful American instrumental soul and funk down pat. Though the field seemed a bit empty as they began with the jazzy, piano led "Flimsy," by the time the song was finished they'd drawn a decent crowd that was ready to let loose. The New Mastersounds performed three separate sets (4:30-6:00, 7:30-9:00, 10:30-11:15) and were the only act to perform on the Second Stage on Friday night, a tradition moe. has adhered to over the ten years of its festival. On the guitar and organ drenched "Coming Up Roses" you could see keyboardist Joe Tatton and guitarist Eddie Roberts smiling and nodding at each other, jazzed at the groves each other were putting down. "We've got time for one more. They're very strict with their time keeping here," said Roberts leading into their closing cut, "Nervous," which clearly The New Mastersounds were not. A bouncy bass solo midway through the 11-minute song opened it up and had heads swaying in rhythm to the groove these cats had laid out throughout their set.
Okemah :: 6:00–7:30 p.m. :: Main Stage
Okemah is a relatively unknown New York band that has recorded a CD and released it on Basement Records, which is owned and operated by moe.'s guitarist Al Schnier. Taking the Main Stage with Schnier on rhythm guitar, their first song, "First Time," put forward a countrified, roots rock sound led by the elegant strumming and haunting vocals of Damien Ubriaco. "Morning Light" featured keyboardist Kirk Juhas switching between a Rhodes piano and a Hammond B3 organ. Though this band of middle-aged musicians doesn't tour much, they all seemed comfortable and right at home on the big stage. While their music isn't exactly "jammy," fans at moe.down X quickly warmed to their rootsy pop rock and offered generous cheers and applause.
|Method Man & Redman :: moe.down 10|
Method Man and Redman :: 9:00–11:00 p.m. :: Main Stage
A whole bunch of people jammed the hill at 9 p.m. in anticipation of one of hip-hop's greatest duos. What is it with rappers not being able to show up on time? A pair of DJs eventually took the stage and hollered about "all y'all white motherfuckers" and "Jerry Garcia, right there," pointing to a look-alike in the center of the crowd. The rappers finally did grace us with their presence, and then it was on! "Sippin' on a 40 and smoking on a blunt" was pretty much the first thing we heard – and of course, a blunt was handed to Redman and never made it back to the fan that handed it off. "How High" was one of the greatest moments in moe.down history, with fans rapping along, hands stretched out in the air and bent at the wrists, bobbing and bouncing while Method Man and Redman pranced from one side of the stage to the other. The duo has an incredible onstage rapport and they are certainly two of hip-hop's best performers. Despite being late and digging into moe.'s late night set time, Method Man and Redman set the tone for the weekend with one of the festival's strongest performances.
moe. :: 11:30 p.m.–1:00 a.m. :: Main Stage
moe. is deeply in touch with the fans, and because of this they're constantly searching for new and exciting ways to change up the setlist and make it exciting for the hard cores. They began their Friday night set with a drum solo from Vinnie Amico alone on the large stage. The "solitary man onstage" was a theme they'd begin each set with throughout the weekend. The rest of the band joined in and they were off on the instrumental excursion "Tubing The River Styx," which segued nicely into "The Pit." Bassist Rob Derhak's vocals were high in the mix and passionately belted out. The first guest of the weekend was keyboardist Kurt Juhaus from Okemah, who joined moe. on the final four songs of the set. As usual, with its quirky chorus, "Spine Of A Dog" gave fans a chance to open up their own vocal chords and sing-along, while also allowing Juhaus to lean into the Hammond. "Four" slowed in tempo and dragged on a bit too long but moved nicely into "Buster," which offered the first chance to hear the signature harmonies of Schnier, Derhak and guitarist Chuck Garvey. moe. encored with the jazz-rock instrumental "McBain," featuring multi-instrumentalist Jim Loughlin on the MalletKAT, a wonderfully pleasant sounding percussive instrument similar in sound to a vibraphone.
|moe. :: moe.down 10|
moe. | 09.04.09
I: Amico drum solo > Loughlin > Derhak > Schnier > Garvey > Buster > New York City, Big World > Hi & Lo > Tubing The River Styx > The Pit, The Seed, Spine Of A Dog* > Waiting On The Punchline*, FOUR* > Buster*
* w/ Kirk Juhaus
Continue reading for Saturday's coverage of moe.down...
Awakening on Saturday morning, the sun was shining brightly enough to warm tents, but outside the temperature was marvelous. The aroma of fresh coffee, bacon and eggs drifted overhead on a breeze. Every campsite that you walked into was abuzz with excitement about which band to see at what time; everyone had their own favorites.
But the buzz wasn't only about music. Al Schnier had invited Buddhist monks to the festival to present a movie entitled Burma VJ, which tells the story of the Saffron Revolution in Burma and the monks who protested against the military dictatorship, as told through the eyes of underground video journalists who faced down death to expose the repressive regime controlling their country. The 10 a.m. showing drew a standing room only crowd and the response was overwhelmingly positive, as judged by the Q&A session with the monks that took place after the film.
Sam Bush :: 1:00–2:15 p.m. :: Main Stage
The Main Stage was filled with true all stars throughout the day on Saturday, but it began with a living legend as the king of newgrass took the stage early in the day. It was easy too see why Sam Bush has earned his reputation as he bounded across the stage, delighting the large crowd that had assembled for his performance. You could hear the bluegrass twang in Bush's voice on the traditional number "Georgia Moon," which featured Bush on mandolin and Scott Vestal on banjo. Their play lit up the cheering crowd. Bush showed his diverse musical expertise by jumping from mandolin to fiddle to his electric MandoCaster, a small, electrified mandolin. Closing out the set under scattered, fast moving clouds, Bush noted, "We've just had a damn fine time meeting y'all this afternoon. We wish you the very best day you've ever had!"
Family Groove Company :: 2:15–2:45 p.m. :: Second Stage
Over on the second stage, a sparse crowd had gathered to check out Family Groove Company's second of two sets. They're a Midwest quartet that plays roots influenced groove rock with a funky edge. Bassist Janis Wallin and drummer Mattias Blanck locked onto a steady thumping rhythm while guitarist Adam Lewis more than held his own on several solos. Keyboardist Jordan Wilkow seemed the most musically inclined; often playing with one hand on a Rhodes while the other tickled the ivories of a Leslie. His vocals were a bit high in register, a bit twee in tone. A larger crowd did gather later as the band continued to play, and while it seemed clear that this was the first time seeing/hearing the band for many, they made a strong enough impression that I and others would likely be open to catching the band again soon.
|Sam Bush :: moe.down 10|
moe. :: 2:45–4:15 p.m. :: Main Stage
Parents themselves, moe. has always strived to make their festival a family oriented gathering. The kid's tent theme song this year was "Mexico," and everyone was encouraged to bring their own sombrero or poncho. Schnier took the stage solo this time, leading in with some meditative guitar doodling. His plucking found its way to the familiar strains of "Mexico" and raised a cheer, and soon the rest of the band joined him. A parade of kids had made the march over from the kid's tent as the band moved into the tune. Children's voices could be heard singing along on a verse or chorus with a little encouragement.
moe.down draws fans from all over the country, and it was during this set that I met Greg Zvern, who had come all the way from Portland, Oregon, for his tenth moe.down, and said he loves everything about the festival. "It's just so well run. Everyone's nice. It's so grass roots. It's just moe.," he said with enthusiasm.
"We'd like to welcome our friend Sam Bush out here," said Schnier. "Tambourine" has really developed a country and western swing lately, and here Bush's fiddle was a welcome addition. The lyric, "Like cold mountain water in a dry desert stream/ Tambourine," stood out in this beautiful, mountain scene. Derhak's introspective pop song "Deep The Time" has always been a favorite for this moe.ron. His bellowing vocals seemed to echo off the mountainside. Chuck Garvey's soloing was melodic and reflective of the mood of the song. The transition into "Brent Black" was one of the smoothest I heard all weekend, and the dual guitar playing by Garvey and Schnier was as fast as I've heard them play.
moe. | 09.05 | Afternoon Show
I: Schnier solo > Garvey > Amico > Loughlin > Derhak > jam (kids parade) > Mexico*, Crab Eyes, Tambourine**, 32 Things***, Deep This Time > Brent Black
*Al leads kids in "badges, we don't need no stink'n badges" followed by the kids singing with the band
** w/ Sam Bush on fiddle
*** w/ Sam Bush on mini guitar
Ani DiFranco :: 5:30–6:45 p.m. :: Main Stage
Buffalo native Ani DiFranco performed at the inaugural moe.down in 2000 and was one of two artists from that year invited back for the tenth anniversary celebration. DiFranco performed solo with an acoustic guitar and it was nice to see her perform the same way she'd begun her career. Her songwriting is much more relevant when she performs solo rather than with a backing band or loops and samples. "God's Country" opened the set and a big cheer from the crowd drew a smile from DiFranco. The afternoon sun shined directly on DiFranco and prompted one female fan (in a mostly female audience; no surprise there) to offer sunglasses and sun block, to which she laughed and politely declined. "I've been off on summer vacation playing with my baby for a month and a half, so I'm just going to see what I remember," noted DiFranco. Her vocals were sweet and lilting on the beautiful "Lag Time." Ever the political activist, she praised President Obama saying, "I hope we can carry him, like he's carrying us, you know?" She then sang "Yes We Can," which took many of its lyrics from his victory speech. DiFranco was called back for an encore, where all five members of moe. joined her on a beautiful version of her hit "32 Flavors." "Let's hear it for my band y'all," she joked and waved as she walked off stage.
|Ani DiFranco (backed by moe.) :: moe.down 10|
Cake :: 7:45–9:15 p.m. :: Main Stage
Every year it seems one band steals the show out from under moe. While an argument could be made that Method Man and Redman did so on Friday night, so too could it be said of Cake on Saturday night. Every song they played, it seemed, happened to be a hit for the band at some point. It had been several years since I'd seen Cake and I'd forgotten just how good and fun they were in person. On opener "Comfort Eagle," when singer John McCrea spoke the line, "He is calling you...," the huge crowd shouted in unison, "Dude!" He was very charismatic onstage, dancing around and interacting with the crowd. With a glorious moon rising up behind the stage, the pop nugget "Stickshifts and Safetybelts" had fans shaking and dancing. On "Guitar," multi-instrumentalist Vince DiFiore's trumpet playing was silky smooth. Cake closed with a cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and then their own biggest hit, "The Distance," on which it seemed the whole mountainside audience was singing along.
moe. :: 10:00–11:30 p.m. :: Main Stage
Jim Loughlin opened the second of three moe. sets on Saturday, tinkering away on his MalletKAT. With a clap of drumsticks from Vinnie Amico, the band was off on a short, unfinished excursion of "Zed Naught Z," which then segued into "Skrunk" that featured some ambient synthesizer from Schnier and more MalletKAT from Loughlin. A cadent drumbeat from Amico enticed Derhak to joke, "Everybody start beating their chests. Aghhhhh!!! You're not doing it. Beat your damn chest or I quit." Without skipping a beat, they jumped right into "Akimbo," one of the band's oldest, most beloved jams. Garvey's vocals were forceful and fast while Derhak drove the tune with earth shattering bass.
|moe. :: moe.down 10|
moe. closed its second set Saturday night with a three song performance that would prove hard to beat. "Lazarus" began with a spacey, ambient guitar/percussion jam between Garvey and Loughlin. If the haunting groove and driving percussive rhythm of this song wasn't enough, finding oneself lost in the blue and violet swirling lights of Jason Huffer surely did the trick. His lighting was incredible throughout the weekend, but here it was certainly inspiring. A thumping bass kept the song moving into the progressive rock of "George." Sam Bush then joined the band again on set closer "Meat," where at first he seemed a little lost in a tune he'd never performed. With some coaxing and friendly smiles from Garvey, he soon added some chilling effects with his electric fiddle. Soon enough he was bowing right along with the moe. guitarists as Loughlin added texture on the MalletKAT. "Meat" ended in a lightning fast wash of guitars, bass, drums, percussion and fiddle to close set two.
moe. | 09.05 | Night Show Set I
I: Loughlin MalletKAT solo > Amico > Derhak > Garvey > Schnier > Zed Naught Z (unfinished) > Skrunk > Akimbo, Queen Of Everything, Lazarus > George, Meat*
* w/ Sam Bush on fiddle
moe. :: 12:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m. :: Main Stage
Derhak began the third moe. set alone onstage, his rolling, resounding bass notes reverberating back from the mountain slope. His opening included the "Charlie Brown" theme song, which brought a mellow cheer, which continued with Garvey's "Where Does The Time Go," a melodic pop song that has developed into a concert favorite, where it's picked up rich percussion and drum fills and eerie guitar swells. This melodic groove ended in spacey ambience that segued into the upbeat, ironic "Plane Crash," with a big chorus that had the whole mountainside of moe.rons singing. Amico and Loughlin layered dynamic drum and percussion fills that added depth and beat. The mood remained upbeat and full of energy for the set closing "Captain America," which slid into "Recreational Chemistry" on Derhak's jazzy bass. Suke Cerulo of the band Lynch joined moe., adding a third guitar to the mix. The melodic "Wind It Up" ended the night with an energetic rocker that left a mountain full of fans singing along as we walked back to our campsite or shakedown street.
moe. | 09.05 | Night Show Set II
Derhak > Linus And Lucy Jam > Amico > Schnier > Garvey > Loughlin > Dr. Graffenburg, Understand > Okayalright, Where Does The Time Go? > Plane Crash, Captain America > Recreational Chemistry*
E: Wind It Up
*w/ Suke Cerulo on guitar
[Stir It Up tease before Recreational Chemistry]
Continue reading for Sunday's coverage of moe.down...
Ominous Seapods :: 1:00–2:15 p.m. :: Main Stage
Along with other New York bands such as moe., Blues Traveler and God Street Wine, Ominous Seapods blazed a path across the country for a new generation of jam bands that followed their lead. This band (along with DiFranco) was the second act that played the inaugural moe.down to make a return this year. Based on their high energy, jam infused rock set, you'd never had known they've only played sporadically since 2001. The Seapods' Sunday set was filled with songs from their five CDs, and "Keep In Mind" into "Cary Suite" opened the day on the Main Stage. Rhythmic piano and dense Hammond were featured early on. Soaring guitars drove "Waiting For The Bomb To Drop" to anthemic heights. What made the set all the more exciting was the look on the members' faces as they played, beaming smiles at each other. "John Henry's Hammer" featured blues drenched guitars and steady drumming. Their cover of Iggy Pop's "Lust For life" was a highlight of the day, with the frontman flopping with energy all over the stage just like Iggy. The twin guitars on the set closing "Leaving The Monopole" were eerily reminiscent of moe.'s Garvey and Schnier. Here's hoping this isn't the last we'll see or hear from the Ominous Seapods.
Matthew Sweet :: 3:00–4:15 p.m. :: Main Stage
Mathew Sweet put on a strong rock performance Sunday afternoon. Disappointingly, much of the crowd that stood in front of the stage seemed way too young to be familiar with any of the songs he played, despite the fact that many were radio hits. With a blazing sun beaming down, all four members took the stage dressed in black. The opening song, "Divine Intervention," had religious overtones ("When he comes the sun shines"), and looking at the blue sky overhead one wondered if he choose to open with this tune specifically for that very reason. It seemed Sweet and his band were a bit out of practice as the harmonies on "We're The Same" were off, but on "Pull The Trigger," his rumination on finding a way out of a bad situation, the lead vocal was lovely. He paid homage to his influences when covering Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl," with driving, loud rocking guitars. This drew a huge cheer from the crowd. However, the lesser-known cover of Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes" got less of a cheer despite the harmony vocals that seemed to be more in tune by this time.
Umphrey's McGee :: 5:30–7:00 p.m. :: Main Stage
If moe. has an equal on the jam band scene, Umphrey's McGee is that band. The musical proficiency and technical dexterity with which they play their respective instruments and the numerous time and key changes within their songs highlight this band's skills. Unfortunately, their early set time meant they were playing sans lighting, which as any fan knows is a big part of this band's performances. Instrumental opener "Professor Wormbog" featured rhythmic, bouncy keyboards and fast, pounding drums. On "Prowler," the dueling, fast guitars of Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger wailed, but in a funky manner rather than the metallic style they're known to play. That segued into "Push The Pig," their quirky take on a backyard BBQ. The three-part vocal harmonies on "Mantis" showcased the synergy of the band, while their take on the Talking Heads' "Making Flippy Floppy" seemed to go over the heads of many of the young fans in the crowd.
|Matthew Sweet :: moe.down 10|
Umphrey's McGee | 09.06
Professor Wormbog, Plunger > The Floor, Prowler > Push the Pig, 40's Theme, Mantis, Making Flippy Floppy* > 1348
* w/ Entrance of the Gladiators teases
Nate Wilson Group :: 7:00–8:00 p.m. :: Second Stage
The Sunday highlight over at the Second Stage was definitely Nate Wilson Group. This band is making a bid to bring '70s classic rock back in full force. The heavy bass laid down by Tomy Lada drove the rocking opener "Sticks and Stones," while "Scatterbrain" found the wailing guitar of Adam Terrell balanced by Nate Wilson's thick keyboards. The lyric, "I try to chase the sound pollution from my mind," drew a huge cheer from the large crowd. A psychedelic swirl of guitar and keyboards moved into the new song "Giants," which began slow and mellow, almost spooky, then picked up and became very Floyd-ian in tone, with long, rhythmic swells of organ, bass and guitar. Dexterous drums were highlighted on "For The Sun" alongside Wilson's atmospheric vocals. Much like Umphrey's McGee before them, their choice of a cover song, Cream's "Tales of Great Ulysses," likely wasn't even recognized as a cover by many in the predominantly young crowd. Nonetheless, the Nate Wilson Group certainly introduced itself to a large number of new fans with its moe.down performance.
moe. :: 8:00–9:30 p.m. :: Main Stage
It was finally Chuck Garvey's turn to open a set. As the band joined him, it was easy to hear where Garvey was leading with his solo as he nuanced his way into "Shoot First," a song fans picked up on right away with a cheer. Garvey's slide playing was a highlight here, along with his resounding vocals. It's always a fun challenge at a moe. concert to bet amongst your group of friends where they're going with the jams between songs. A fan next to me called "Bearsong," and he was right. This was a Garvey set, where his guitar solos were off the wall. "Borderline" is a new Derhak song that sounded as though they've been playing it for years. Fast and upbeat, it featured fine guitar and awesome three-part harmonies, and it has huge potential as a future concert staple. With guitarists Jake Cinninger, Brendan Bayliss and percussionist Andy Farag from Umphrey's joining the band, they melted minds on closer "She."
|moe. :: moe.down 10|
moe. | 09.06 Set I
Garvey solo > Amico > Loughlin > Derhak > Schnier > Shoot First > Bearsong, Borderline*, Bullet, Hector's Pillow > Ricky Marten > Second Cousins > Runaway Overlude, She*
* w/ Bayliss, Cinninger and Farag from Umphrey's McGee
moe. :: 10:00–12:00 p.m. :: Main Stage
moe. began their last set at moe.down, as they always do, by choosing a new Mayor of moe.ville. Then they opened with fan favorite "Timmy Tucker," which signaled that the band was winding down for the weekend by pulling out all the classics. Derhak lost track of his vocals and began to scat while looking over to Schnier, who was wiping sweat off his hands with a towel. "Be-dep-da-dep, da-dep-dep-dep/ Al's cleaning his hands now/ I just lost all the words," he laughed and shared smiles with the rest of the band before coming right back into it without missing a beat. Keyboardist Nate Wilson sauntered onstage almost unnoticed during "Sensory Deprivation Bank" to add deep keyboard funk, and then remained onstage for the rest of the set. His Hammond playing added a fluid element to "Happy Hour Hero." "St. Augustine" featured more slide playing from Garvey and deft finger picking from Schnier. Wilson really leaned into the Hammond on "The Road," while Derhak and Amico held it all together on the low end. Set and festival closer "Rebubula" was certainly a highlight. Beginning with slow and spacey guitars, the tune didn't take shape until Garvey lit into the familiar chords and the glow sticks were launched to the stars. Amico's skins and Derhak's bass were tight and the audience singing along in unison matched the lead vocal in intensity.
A gorgeous yellow moon hung over the stage as the band walked off after its final set. Mother Nature had blessed us with one of her most amazing weekends of the entire summer, and moe. and all the other artists delivered a bounty of music that no one will soon forget.
moe. | 09.06 Set II
Timmy Tucker, Seat of My Pants > Sensory Deprivation Bank * > Happy Hour Hero*, Not Coming Down * > Wormwood * > St. Augustine *, The Road *
E: Rebubula *
* w/ Nate Wilson
Continue reading for more pics of moe.down 10...
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