moe. :: 02.19 :: Aragon Ballroom :: Chicago, IL
Arriving at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom, a 1920's dance hall that replicates a Spanish palace courtyard and was once dubbed the "most beautiful ballroom in the world," gives showgoers a sense of "illusion" and larger-than-life expectations.
From its mosaic tiles and terra-cotta ceilings of the entry hall and bathrooms to the main room's false stars on the 60-foot ceilings, many balconies, crystal chandeliers, painted plaster, and its many other flourishes, the venue creates a unique vibe even before the night's entertainment takes the stage. On February 19th, moe. stepped into the "courtyard" and delivered a potent dose of its heavy, improvisational-based jams and songwriting. The band met the audience's lofty expectations and then some. Fans of moe.'s more aggressive side especially enjoyed what went down.
moe. rolled into Chicago six nights into its Warts and All Winter Tour and fresh from hosting a Tsunami Relief benefit featuring guests Trey Anastasio, Sam Bush, and John Medeski, and a three-show run as the "house band" on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly. After a quick "How's everybody doin'?" from guitarist and founding member Chuck Garvey, he played a short solo piece for the anxious crowd of a few thousand. This helped perk everyone's ears and got them tuned-in before the act moved into the opening number.
Everyone in the band dug in deep from the start with a strong rendering of moe.'s classic "Moth" that melded into a jam tailor-made for a smoky, jazz-club. This in-turn became the start of "Don't Fuck with Flo" which was complete with vocal scat, vibes, and a laid-back groove woven between moments of hard grinding guitar and screaming vocals. The song's lengthy jam section was gooey with funk, guitar improvisation, and numerous tension-filled moments that would nearly climax then turn a corner and begin to rebuild. Tension reached a fevered pitch when the band finally worked its way back around to the final, screaming vocal section and a short jazz vamp to end the song. It was classic, heavy moe. at its best.
Chuck Garvey :: 2.19.05
Yet another vintage cut, "Sensory Deprivation Bank," continued the set with fun twists and turns and was followed by Al's "Wake Up in the Sun," which debuted only last October. This slow, uninspired, and ultimately uninteresting tune was by far the weakest moment of the set and perhaps the entire show. The show dropped into set break with a strong rendition of the Rolling Stones' classic "Can't you Hear Me Knockin'" complete with Garvey's air-tube vocal effect and, ultimately, a big rock build-up to end the piece.
The lights went down for the second set long before the band finally took the stage, but the wait yielded a powerful, non-stop opening run of "Dr. Graffenberg," "Four," "Not Coming Down," "Wormwood," and "Can't Seem To Find." The longtime favorite that opened the set packed a strong punch and lit the audience on fire. This ska-based, infectious, high-energy number had the band pounding it out while leaving numerous opportunities for the guitarists to wander off-road at full speed. Bassist Rob Derhak, who was in a rather bouncy mood (quite literally), was hopping all over the middle of the stage just as the audience was doing the same during the night's longest jam.
Rob Derhak :: 2.19.05
Following the slower "Can't Seem To Find" the band dove into a 14-minute "Water," which eventually allowed the music to reach maximum velocity. The song began innocently enough with a heavy, dark rhythm-and-percussion jam, compliments of drummer Vinnie Amico and percussionist Jim Loughlin, during which Derhak incited the crowd by beating his chest like a gorilla. After the song's initial slow build and the alternating currents of floaty vocals and guitar-heavy sections, the band really took off with Garvey and Schnier trading guitar licks throughout. It was pure, powerful moe. - one of the best musical segments of the entire evening.
The guitars ultimately reined the jam back into a mellower, liquid jam before effortlessly easing into "Big World" with its strange falsetto vocal work, dark guitar, and heavy drumming. The band; performing and moving as a unit, jumped into the song's meaty jam head-first and began elevating the energy and creativity to new heights. Before the set was over, the band segued from its "Big World" jam into a blistering "Moth (reprise)," which created a giant, show-sized sandwich and a feeling of completeness. The crowd couldn't have been happier.
moe. :: 2.19.05
The band members came back onstage for an encore amid the screams from the full house and let everyone know, "This has been fantastic." The final segment of the evening began with a mellow version of Garvey's "Where Does The Time Go?" creating only the second slow and somewhat disappointing moment of the night and leaving the crowd hungry for more. Thankfully, the band didn't disappoint. Instead, they left Chicago reeling with Derhak's rocking, road-inspired song "Stranger Than Fiction."
02.19.05 (Sat) Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
Set 1: Moth > Don't Fuck With Flo, Crab Eyes, Wicked Awesome, Sensory Deprivation Bank, Wake Up In The Sun, Can't You Hear Me Knockin'
Set 2: R Graffenberg > Four > Not Coming Down > Wormwood > Can't Seem To Find, Water > Big World > Moth (reprise), E: Where Does The Time Go, Stranger Than Fiction
All Words & Images by: Jeffrey V. Smith
JamBase | Chicago
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