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...