Words by: Bill Clifford | Images by: Rob Chapman
Snoe.down :: 03.26.10-03.28.10 :: Killington Resort & Spartan Arena :: Rutland, VT
Live music fans celebrated the arrival of spring in New England with the return of Snoe.down, a winter sports and music festival, hosted by
moe., at Killington Ski Resort. A glorious weekend full of inspiring artist and the wonders of nature, for many this was the start of festival season.
| Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings|
Friday, March 26
The Bridge was the second act to perform on Friday at Bear Mountain. This mid-Atlantic band has been garnering quite a following over the last several years at festivals large and small, and I come away more impressed with each performance. Guitarist and lead singer Chris Jacobs has a sultry, honeyed voice that carries some of Lowell George's soul. Fans were getting down to the New Orleans boogie of "Old White Lightning 95," led by Mark Brown's ivory tickling. And the Southern jazz of "Bury My Bones In Baltimore" featured the horn of Patrick Rainey. Once again, The Bridge proved to be one of the most alluring yet under appreciated bands on the circuit.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings were the opening act at Spartan Arena on Friday night and played to a thin crowd that slowly sauntered in. The Dap-Kings, an eight-piece ensemble, took the stage sans Jones and warmed up the crowd with some instrumentals. But the show really got hot when Jones, a stout, fiery performer, lit up the stage. She promenaded from one wing of the stage to the other, enticing the crowd to sing along with her. When raising her powerful, gospel voice, she sang with deep emotion, writhing and contorting her body. Jones and the Dap-Kings are reviving the classic sounds of Motown and Stax recording artists, and Jones is clearly a leader of the scene.
moe. is currently celebrating its twentieth anniversary and have been performing shows filled with classic moe. songs since Halloween. Friday night's first set was a bit by the numbers; not boring but nothing really stood out. "Mexico" made a fine opener, warming up both the crowd and the band as vocalist/guitarist Al Schnier's fingers raced up and down the neck of his guitar. Bassist Rob Derhak's pop nugget "Captain America" was played in a faster time signature than normal, but then slowed for a long, improvised segue into "Four," a meandering dirge. The set closed with an upbeat note on "Shoot First," featuring percussionist Jim Loughlin on MalletKat. That found its way into fan favorite "Moth," with guitarist Chuck Garvey's searing notes drawing an ovation from the arena, about three quarters full.
Set two had a bit more to offer the average moe. fan. The lovely ballad "Faker" began slow and mellow but picked up the tempo later, led by Garvey's lead guitar bending notes. It then busted into a rarely played verse of the song, an upbeat, funky interlude that featured triple vocal harmonies from Garvey, Derhak and Schnier. Another bust out was their cover of James Bouchard's "Cape Cod Girls," played here with a slow, rumbling bass line and the cadent drumming of Vinnie Amico, which rolled right into "Water," highlighted by Garvey's mercurial guitar solo. As "Hector's Pillow" bounced seamlessly into "Timmy Tucker," the crowd sensed a set closer and began to sway and sing along in the high point of the evening. Mid-song, moe. brought the tempo to a lull, giving both the band and the fans a moment to breath, and then led back into a rousing peak by Loughlin's MalletKat. The two-song encore of "She Sends Me" and "Spine of a Dog" was played short and sweet due to the curfew.
| Chuck Garvey - moe. :: 03.26 :: Snoe.down 2010|
Saturday, March 27
I began Saturday at the K1 Lodge, with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, stunning views of the slopes, and The McLovins onstage. The Saturday crowd was noticeably larger than the previous day, and the barroom was at standing room only capacity as the band began with "Milktoast Man." The musical growth in this teen trio was evident immediately. "Deep Monster Trance" was announced as a new song on the band's upcoming full-length CD, and is every bit as up and down in tempo as its title suggests. A long, improvised guitar solo from Jeff Howard, with languid notes drawn out on a whammy bar stirred the crowd. The McLovins also premiered their cover of Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," which enticed the crowd to shake their butts and move their feet. These youngsters have come a long way in a short time.
Over at Bear Mountain, we caught the second half of Hot Day at the Zoo. Again, the bar was wall-to-wall packed. There was an absolute, insatiable energy coming from the jamgrass quartet onstage, and I was immediately struck with the string bending of the mandolin and banjo players, as well as the group's tight harmonies. While there was no percussion player, there was enough foot stomping and guitar slapping to make up for the lack of drums. The faster and harder this band played, the more the crowd hollered and danced along. HDATZ certainly gained more than one new fan from their performance at Snoe.down.
| The McLovins :: Snoe.down 2010|
From the lodge it was a short walk to an outdoor stage for an afternoon performance from moe. After welcoming fans to Snoe.down, Schnier quipped, "This is fantastic. It's a whole lot better than playing in single digits on Whiteface Mountain," referencing a frigid outdoor performance in Lake Placid at the previous Snoe.down in 2006. Today, there was a crystal blue sky above and temps were easily in the high 60s to 70s. From my vantage point ten rows back, Chuck side, I glanced upwards towards the slope at a the surreal scene: a sea of heads bobbing and shaking, fans in t-shirts and sunglasses, skiers and boarders shredding the slopes.
Amico's rat-a-tat-tat drumming began "St. Augustine" and immediately the horde was set in motion. On the pop nugget "OkayAlright," Derhak could be heard laughing as he sang the words, "Smoking joints in the parking lot," bringing its usual roar from the crowd. "Akimbo" was a rare afternoon bust out. Schnier and Garvey traded lead and melody parts before Derhak stepped up for a bass solo. Not to be outdone, Amico and Loughlin hammered at their respective kits behind it all.
Derhak drew a laugh when he noted that someone had "just wiped in the half-pipe!" With dusk settling, "Happy Hour Hero" was an obligatory choice late in the set, which segued into "Seat of my Pants." Late in the song it seemed to take on the sound of an '80s metal band as Schnier scratched a pick along his strings while Garvey wailed. As quick as flipping a light switch, moe. moved into "Sensory Deprivation Bank," one of its oldest songs, to close the set. Ever the family values band, moe. invited their kids to dance to the encore, "Down Boy," where they playfully laughed and interacted with the kids and fans.
| moe. & family :: 03.27 :: Snoe.down 2010|
Assembly of Dust was the opening act at Spartan Arena on Saturday night, and initially took the stage to a disappointingly sparse crowd. AOD opened with the sultry "Sinner," one of bandleader/lead singer/songwriter Reid Genauer's oldest songs, going back to his days with Vermont's Strangefolk. Lead guitarist Andy Terrell's dulcet harmony tones stood out on "Sinner" while the band's three-part harmony vocals shined on "Edges" and "Telling Sue," the latter highlighting their '60s pop influences. "Whistle Clock" was a driving rock song with lots of room for improvisation, and Terrell's guitar cried while the rhythm section of drummer Andy Herrick and bassist John Leccese was thunderous. AOD closed where it started: "Sometimes," another gem from Genauer's Strangefolk days. Again, Terrell proved himself to be a versatile sideman, going from mellow and hushed to wailing when needed. The crowd had grown since the band began and gave rousing applause as AOD left the stage.
Railroad Earth followed AOD and their set was a highlight of the weekend. Opener "Mighty River" is a lovely folk melody laced with Tim Carbone's eloquent violin. Like many mighty rivers, the tune has a meandering yet deliberate tempo, which flowed directly into "Like A Buddha," which featured sweet flute interludes from Andy Goessling. The gorgeous acoustic ode to breaking down walls, "Bird in a House" was filled with sweet violin and mandolin, a lovely waltz that got feet moving, and the more straight ahead rock protest song "Warhead Boogie" kept the energy at a high. The rollicking "Long Way To Go" brought the set to a rousing close, and left fans eager to get down with some moe. Lest I forget, Railroad Earth's new bassist, Andrew Altman was stellar the whole set. You'd have never known he was a recent addition to the band based on his playing.
moe. saved its best for Saturday night, beginning with "Wind It Up," featuring Loughlin's MalletKat fills peppered throughout. He's one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists on the scene, but I pay special attention when he tinkers away on the MalletKat. Mid-set, the band revived its cover of The Meters' "Cissy Strut," not played since 2001, sandwiched inside their own "Stranger Than Fiction," and Derhak and Amico laid down a thick funk for Garvey's melodious guitar flourishes. This was the highlight of the first set, which then closed with a long, improvisational excursion through "Plane Crash," a high-energy rager that left fans exhausted but eager for set two.
| moe. Sunday Brunch :: 03.28 :: Snoe.down 2010|
From that high point forward moe. never really mellowed. The second set was an upbeat run through classic moe. beginning with "Threw It All Away." The jaunty highway song "The Road" transitioned seamlessly into the funk-rooted "Lazurus," where Schnier's scorching guitar swells seemed to float through the dense din of the arena crowd. Jason Huffer's lights illuminated the arena coming back into "The Road," as violet, yellow and royal blues splashed on the ceiling and walls. His lighting throughout was fantastic, but one could certainly lose themselves in the dither of colors at that point.
I heard the opening guitar and bass strains to my personal favorite moe. song and moved into the horde to get lost in "Opium." While some may find it a dark, heavy song, I love to set myself adrift, eyes shut, on the soulful, slinky groove and mellow spaces of this particular tune. Garvey's swirling slide guitar was a purple haze and Derhak's deeply resonating bass and passionately bellowed vocals filled the arena. Coming down, they moved seamlessly into a carousing "32 Things" to close, drawing a cheer from the crowd happy to have something to dance to again. Up close for this jam, I took notice of the interaction between Loughlin and Amico, their heads nodding in agreement as Loughlin moved from drums to shakers to tambourines, as the set ended on an emotional high. After wishing a happy birthday to Loughlin's dad Bill, moe. encored with a soulful rendition of Little Feat's "Willin,'" and then ended the evening with a rambunctious run through "New York City."
moe. closed the weekend with a 10 a.m. brunch for V.I.P. ticket holders, though, unfortunately, this critic wasn't privy. And despite Leroy Justice and Red Rooster both being booked on Sunday afternoon, there was a long drive to Connecticut after an exhausting but joyful weekend. moe. seems to have found a wonderful new home for Snoe.down in beautiful Central Vermont, where some of the kindest folks graciously welcomed us moe.rons.
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