moe. :: 11.05.04 :: Tower Theater :: Upper Darby, PA
There was an unusual traffic pattern on the drive to the Tower Theater. I navigated my old Honda by car after car through lights and under the yellow metal elevated train tracks. Every light was green and the seemingly stand still traffic moved as I approached. moe. plays with a similar style to this bizarre traffic pattern. One person can work with it, weaving through their genres with the ability to adjust to all. Another person gets caught behind certain songs or styles and feels stuck. The magic occurs when a flow can be established.
The city was stale and beat down with fall. I love the character the city took on, but thoughts of moe. clouded my wandering mind. Damn, I was pumped, driving with a mood only a hometown show can bring out. It's a good feeling to have, the day is over, and your only focus lies behind the doors in front of you. On certain evenings, the Tower offers a variety of entrances. Take the smoking area for instance, the door contains a mail slot with a flapping metal door and all. Tickets come out and you're in. Friday night's entrance was through the main doors into the heart of a pre-moe. venue.
moe. :: 11.05 :: Tower Theater
The word spread early that so-and-so saw the setlist and the opener was going to be "Crab Eyes." The crowd began circling like a bunch of vultures. Their prey had yet to walk out of the shadows and onto visible ground, but the mass was already hungry. moe. had brought out a who's who of Philly heads, tour freaks and live music lovers alike. The pack grew fidgety and restless. The Tower's majesty kept the encroaching craziness to a murmured volume.
The lights dimmed as moe. lurched into the xylophone soundscape of "Crab Eyes." Our meal appeared and we fed ravenously on the scraps of "Crab Eyes" that Chuck, Rob, Al, Jim and Vinnie offered up. They harmonized together as they worked the tempo of the song into a rhythmic fever. From the first note the band was fusing music in amazing ways, their tight technical playing style was truly something to witness.
Chuck Garvey :: 11.05 :: Tower Theater
Chuck Garvey (guitar, vocals) grabbed hold of the neck of his guitar bringing pain to the instrument. His hands contorted in twisted positions as the guitars strings screamed with agony. We couldn't help but answer with our own cries. Rob Derhak (bass, vocals) kept his head up and ingested the music around him. He wrapped his mix of undertones and booms into the heart of the song. Vinnie Amico (drums) picked our feet up as he pulled the pace into "Threw It All Away." The ska flavored tune fit puzzle-perfect at this point. In the beginning, I was a bit hesitant waiting for moe. to lose me, but they kept my ears glued as my body moved.
The three members at the front of the stage sung off each other as they bounced the melody around. Our rag-tag Philly crowd was worked easily into an early moe. frenzy. The once easy job as usher/aisle blocker had quickly become impossible. Folks spilled forward lodging a Hoover Dam sized blockage from the front of the stage back to about aisle fourteen. Fun had just begun again as Chuck sent us off, but Vinnie and Jim Loughlin (percussion, acoustic guitar) yanked our chains back into the groove. Rob took the mic to say a few words before they christened a new tune. He told us that it's called "Wicked Awesome," but that it's back up name is "Frickin' Sweet." "Wicked Awesome" was a straight-ahead rocker, think ZZ Top meets Skynyrd. The song appeared to be a basic homage to American rock music, there was clearly room for growth, but the crowd enjoyed new moe. just the same.
(L to R) Garvey, Derhak, Schnier :: 11.05
The pulse changed as the show shifted into darker gears. Jim and Vinnie dropped us down, but Chuck stopped them abruptly as he pulled us in with his climbing guitar licks. Rob slapped us forward with his funky bass lines which sent us off again on a ride through "Akimbo." Bass and beats penetrated as we moved in shifty, earth-quaky movements. moe. lost me during their slow work on "Biblical." I was off, moving towards the bar for a drink. moe.'s light show played off the moving bodies. Beams of purple and blue pointed out floating happy faces. I commandeered a drink and wandered up the worn marble stairs to the balcony. A whole different perspective can sometimes change a show. The jungle beats of "Y.O.Y." bubbled up just as I made my way down the balcony.
Rob Derhak :: 11.05 :: Tower Theater
You know it's a good show if you actually find yourself dancing down stairs. Rob's bass thumped incessantly against the walls and ceiling of the Tower. The building excitement snapped bobbing heads directly into head-banging. The green light on stage played tricks with my eyes. Chuck and Rob exchanged notes effortlessly like you or I would exchange words. No wonder the past tours reviews have been so praiseworthy. The Tower's energy level had hit turbo jet proportions.
This band was playing at a superb level. Each member has become better than ever, and working as a unit in ways never seen. The band was exploring deeply, but doing so in such a tight manner that the music traveled all over the map creating an incredible journey. We had fully latched on to the jams hovering in front of us and they made us soar with enthusiasm.
Al Schnier's (guitar, vocals, keys) synthesizer work lulled us back and the crowd clapped to a relaxed beat. Al mixed in a few notes off his guitar. We heard "I was so tired, six years time, they were six too long, now you are gone..." It was peaceful and then, "Wham Bam, Down boy!" We nodded our heads and stomped our feet. The needle point precision ripped us into a heavy groove. And just as soon as it was there, it was gone. We were lulled back to calm. This jerk of sound continued as the tempo changes represented pure moe. Friday all we wanted was moe., moe., more.
Al Schnier :: 11.05 :: Tower Theater
Chuck seemed to have the duty or the position of pulling us around. We were led into a "Brent Black" which brought the crowd to their feet and some even further. Fans floated away on the rifts soaring above us. Chuck's soaring guitar work turned to raging jam. If we were unexcited in the beginning, we were sure coming around now. Jim, Vinnie and Rob matched Chuck's enthusiasm with a drum and bass jam that brought plaster down from the ceiling. Rob did damage to every eardrum in the theater.
Moods were high going into the set break and just like the excitement of an early "Crab Eyes" call; we were ready for a surprise second set. The crowd's game of push and pull to get outside was like trying to fight against sea currents pulling you out. You just had to go where the mass went.
Chuck Garvey (balls and all) :: 11.05
Second set I made a pilgrimage to the front of the stage. The lights grew faint once again. It was apparent moe. was having fun. Chuck had attached a rubber scrotum to his guitar thus giving him the appearance of playing "Balls to the Wind." Rob slung on his bass nice and low, Vinnie sat down in the back and Al slid over to the mic. They clicked like a robot transformer harmonizing on the opening to "Spine of a Dog." The crowd sang along to the lyrics "I am a Pin Ball Machine!" White light pushed through as the fun, frolicking jam took over making the floor beneath us bounce.
The back and forth crowd interaction of "Spine" served to energize the Tower, making for a great second set opener. Chuck started a feverish jam that smoldered in our guts. You couldn't help but wonder where it was going. This was perhaps the loosest, most exploratory portion of the show. The music was free flowing encompassing all that lay in its path. As a black hole sucks in light, it was pulling in sound from all directions. It felt as if you were to speak your words might get sucked into the jam. The free form music slowly took on the distant yet clear Mozart styled jam as the band clearly flexed their musical muscles. The crowd hovered on each note as the band pushed into a beautiful transition landing in "Lost Along the Way." Stage lights were turned down as Rob glowed in the spotlight.
The jam slowed and became less exploratory and maybe a bit too monotonous. The wrap-up seemed a bit long but worked in the end. moe. brought us back, but back to what or where? Percussion grabbed our ears as "Time" walked from between Rob's dancing fingers and his shinny bass strings. Just as easily as I was lost, I was found. The picture perfect cover of Pink Floyd's "Time" released cheers back into the air. It was perhaps a nod to older days of the Tower and moe.
Rob Derhak :: 11.05 :: Tower Theater
"Timmy Tucker" showcased moe.'s unbelievable range in the most obvious of ways. The song started with the monster of all bass lines as it smacked folks around as if some half crazed mad man was wrecking shop throughout the Tower. Rob smiled from ear to ear as his fingers ran circles around the bass. "Timmy Tucker" started to ferment in its own juices. The song drew strength from the clinic Rob put on. Chuck had enough and slowly woke his guitar. He brought it screaming into the mix warranting cheers from the crowd. Fifteen minutes into the song moe. managed to take the rocker and morph it into something resembling a warehouse dance party. This band took us on a synth-funk ride and if I had cared most nights, I sure didn't that night. It fit perfectly into the show and Al's funky side lit the room on fire. "Kids" picked up the undertones of the electronic dance sound as it twisted and mellowed, eventually dropping the musical voyage back to the realm of rock. The synth rang out in a tweaked harmonica sound that at points talked directly to us.
Rob and Chuck were the true heroes of the evening. The stellar show continued with a skull shaking bass line brought to us in the beginning of "Not Coming Down." moe. continued to stick it to us. They wouldn't let go as "Wormwood" worked itself free to mangle us a bit more. Just as our leg muscles tightened and burned from the ruckus of the evening, we were hit with a final demolishing wave of "Okayallright." The band was just making sure we had received a full helping of hot steaming moe. Our bellies were most certainly full by nights end.
Rob Derhak :: 11.05 :: Tower Theater
moe. played to their fullest as a band in Philly. It was hard to tell whether they cared where the songs were going or if they adopted the attitude of just crossing that bridge when they got to it. It really didn't matter, moe. played a tight, engaging show bringing a schmorgasboard of musical styles to the table. Be warned: This was no light lunch, it was a full five course meal and every entree was equally as satisfying as the last.
All Words & Images: Jake Krolick
JamBase | Philly
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