Words by: Bill Clifford :: Images by Michelle Arthur

moe.down 7 :: 09.01 - 09.03 :: Snow Ridge Ski Area :: Turin, NY

Page McConnell :: moe.down 7
Now in its seventh year, moe.down continues to be a festival others strive to emulate. Everything about this festival, which has become somewhat of a last right of summer in the Northeast, is done to perfection, including the diverse and eclectic line up, the way acts are interspersed between two stages that are within 100 yards of each other, and the way the vending and food service areas are perfectly situated between tent city and the two stages. moe.down 7, held at Snow Ridge Ski Area, drew approximately 7,500 fans to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

Disappointingly, this Labor Day weekend was disrupted by Mother Nature, as Hurricane Ernesto crept up the east coast and headed straight over Snow Ridge, dumping buckets of rain on festival-goers on Saturday and to a lesser degree on Sunday as well. By Saturday afternoon, the walkways of tent city and the ground in front of the main stage had become a muddy mess.

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Toubab Krewe :: moe.down 7
Typically, the Friday evening slot under the beer tent is a sought-after opportunity for aspiring bands. At moe.down 7, this slot was offered to Asheville, North Carolina-based Toubab Krewe, who took the stage just after 4 p.m. for their first of four sets.

This band's unique blend of American improvised music and Malian-based Afro-rhythms was a welcome surprise to the always open-minded jamband crowd. The quintet included standard American guitar, drum kit, and bass. Additionally, however, New York native Luke Quaranta performed on all kinds of percussion instruments, including several djembes, a dundun (a two headed bass drum set), and a kryn (a hollowed-out cylinder that resembles a piece of firewood played with sticks). Often, he jumped from one to the other, sometimes in one song. Furthermore, Justin Perkins, when not playing a traditional American guitar, could be found wildly plucking on a kora or flailing his hands up and down the strings of a kamel ngoni, a 21-stringed African harp.

"Malawi" was a percussive wet dream, as all five band members banged and rattled away on one form of percussion or another, including the kit and a cowbell. Another song leaned heavily on the American roots, featuring the bluesy guitar of Drew Heller. By the time Toubab Krewe brought their set back to another full-on percussive number, "Asheville to Abidjan," the beer tent was packed with ecstatic fans. Friday evening, Toubab Krewe easily won over the most new fans of any other band throughout the entire weekend.

Grace Potter :: moe.down 7
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have been winning over new fans from coast to coast at festivals all summer long. Having had the opportunity to see Grace perform several times in intimate clubs, this reviewer thought he knew what to expect. Potter's dusk set, however, was a pleasant surprise. The young siren is always a sensuous, soulful performer. But on the main stage at moe.down she was absolutely on fire, performing with reckless abandon. Strumming a hollow-body Rickenbacker, she passionately sang "A Hundred Miles," bellowing and reaching for the high notes, throwing her head left and right and then giddily thanking the crowd. Taking a seat behind the Hammond B3, she delivered the bluesy "Treat Me Right," joined playfully by the slinky slide guitar of Scott Tournet. Potter was screaming out vocals again on the bouncy and rhythmic "Take It All Away," and leaned heavily into the Hammond for "Please Don't Fall," showing her instrumental proxy as well as her vocal dexterity.

Jon Fishman :: moe.down 7
Other than the festival's namesake, Friday night's other big name was Page McConnell, performing with Jon Fishman, along with Jared Slomoff, Rob O'Dea, and Adam Zimmon. McConnell's performances since the break-up of Phish have been few, so this performance, the first time this line-up has played in front of a crowd together, was indeed highly-anticipated. They performed nine Page originals and one cover. The opening number, "Back In The Basement," was a breezy, jazz-influenced instrumental, long on loose improvisation and upbeat in mood. Up front and stage left, McConnell, sitting in front of his usual bank of keyboards, seemed overjoyed to be performing again. Fishman created space to solo, and Slomoff and McConnell found a playful jam with McConnell leaning into the keys. On "Close To Home," McConnell stepped to the microphone, and here's where it began to get sloppy. His vocals were nasal in tone, somewhat hollow, and he seemed quite unsure of his own voice. "Maid Marion" took on a soulful, bluesy vein. Fishman, keeping a simple beat, could be seen with a grand smile on his childlike face. Introducing "Complex Wind," McConnell added that this one "... is about Fish." With a mellow back-beat laid down by Fishman, the tune was high in synthesizer and almost sinister in mood, detailing a Pink Panther type character. Again, however, McConnell's vocals were the weakness, and the energy was low. The set-closer was Traffic's "Shanghai Noodle Factory," which was a natural fit with the nasal vocals of Winwood on the original.

moe. :: moe.down 7
By now the temperature had dropped considerably, but the energy level had risen in anticipation of the headliner. moe. launched into the Blue Oyster Cult classic, "Godzilla," a cover which has become a moe. staple over the last several years. While certainly well-received, to a more critical ear it seemed a stale opener for a moe.down. Much of what makes moe. special is the connection between all five band members. In between songs, where others may take a break, moe. will simply improvise loosely, often stretching songs nearly 30 minutes in length without breaking the music, until one member leads into another song. "Godzilla" segued into several moe. classics, including "Spine of a Dog," > "Plane Crash," > "Buster," which is always a fan favorite and sing-along. "Buster" was also the first song to bring the glow sticks to the air, as well as the first guest sit-in as McConnell found his way out to join moe. Taking its first song break, bassist Rob Derhak proudly introduced McConnell to the crowd and provided banter about the incoming storm.

"If we could create enough high pressure by just blowing... that way," he said laughing, pointing in an easterly direction, hoping the crowd could blow the storm out to sea, before it hit.

On another crowd favorite, "Mexico," it was evident McConnell was not that familiar with moe.'s repertoire, despite a huge smile on his face. Midway through "Blue Jeans & Pizza," he felt comfortable enough to offer his own solo, and the set wound its way towards the end. The first outing for moe. was enjoyable, but fans were clearly eager for more.

Continue reading for Day II...

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