Check out moe. performing "Seat of My Pants" on JamCam.
Words by: Ann Svilar :: Images by Susan J. Weiand
moe. & New Monsoon :: 09.22.06 :: The Warfield San Francisco, CA
"So what do you love about moe.?" It's the kind of question I direct towards the kind of guy I suspect to be full of the answers.
The kid with the well-worn moe. shirt, shaggy hair, and big smile says, "Man, they just make me feel good. That's all. I know that's cheesy but..."
And I must agree. There is one thing you can say about moe., and it is that their music makes people feel good.
So it's fitting that these "Five Guys Named moe," Chuck Garvey (guitar, vocals), Jim Loughlin (percussion, acoustic guitar), Rob Derhak (bass, vocals), Vinnie Amico (drums), and Al Schnier (guitar, vocals, keys), would revisit San Francisco in no other place but The Warfield. It's a happy place, having housed the greatest in rock 'n' roll history, where you can gaze at photos of San Francisco-based bands, Jerry Garcia laughing with Bonnie Raitt, and Michael Houser sitting on The Warfield's stage. With ticket stub in hand and anticipation for the upcoming show, you can stand and reminisce about those times you were lucky enough to be there or regretting if you weren't. A certain eager anticipation accompanies the setting of The Warfield. It's a historical place, and I could only assume, judging by Rob Derhak's comment in the first set, "This place doesn't sound too bad does it?" that it must feel like a privilege to play here too.
moe. :: 09.22.06 :: SF by Susan J. Weiand
Local band, New Monsoon, started the night off promptly with a set that included a blend of acoustic and electric instruments, mandolin and impressive guitar riffs, steady keyboard solos and the much talked-about highlight, Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp." By the end the band didn't have to ask us to clap our hands; we were already doing it. "moe.rons" drifting in were probably thinking this was the wrong show to miss the opening band. There were moments when I oddly thought of Pink Floyd, and there were moments when I thought of something a little grittier. New Monsoon was a blend of many sounds, ending their set with a song that was a little too bluegrass on speed, but they collected enough to end the show with the crowd ready for more. We were ready for moe.
New Monsoon :: 09.22.06 :: SF by Susan J. Weiand
A glass of red wine in hand, Chuck Garvey led the band onstage, smiles on their faces, nonchalant waves to the crowd, and a "32 Things" opener. Continuing the high-energy groundwork set by New Monsoon, "32 Things" was the perfect beginning. Heads were bobbing to this lively song with a fast tempo and a Les Claypool sort of emphasis on the bass guitar, making it obvious that Rob Derhak is not the kind of guy who decided to play bass because his buddy was better than him at guitar. Throughout the entire night, his bass guitar rested on his belly like it was a pillow on his lap, comfortable and familiar, something put to excellent use, the stage's centerpiece.
Chuck Garvey :: 09.22.06
By Susan J. Weiand
In fact, it's hard to argue with the overall musicianship of moe. Each person carries their weight and shines in their moment, even down to the lights changing on beat with each change in chord (thanks to lighting director Jeff Waful). It's been a while since I paid such close attention to the lights; they give color to the picture, and if Friday's show was a painting, these lights were the fine lines that make the details clearer.
The band works together in a very old-hat sort of way that could only come from being well into their second decade of playing together. Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey's guitars complement each other, with Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin setting a nice foundation and Rob Derhak somewhere in the middle. They match their audience - part wide-eyed youthful energy that is light-hearted and seems freshly out of high school, part long grey beard and loose-fitting t-shirt that says, "We've been here a while, you should have seen it back in '92."
Al Schnier :: 09.22.06
By Susan J. Weiand
"Light-hearted" is a good way to describe the band and the first set Friday night, which included a joke about a "Benny Hill" skit and a "We're veterans" comment when Chuck Garvey admitted to losing his slide after the slide-heavy "Tambourine."
"Wind It Up" followed with one sentence so similar to lyrics in "Down by The River" and repeated enough that the wide-eyed youthful face next to me eagerly tapped my arm and asked if they just covered a Neil Young song. "Be on my side, I'm on your side." "Wind It Up" was a sweet groove with clear changes and a growing momentum. Jim Loughlin's percussive variety was a particular highlight, accentuated with xylophone between the breaks in lyrics.
Obviously excited to open for The Who, moe. closed out their first set with New Monsoon filtering back onstage as the two groups combined for a rock & roll "Eminence Front." Even with multiple bodies on stage, musically there was plenty of room, again a testament to the musicianship of the band(s).
After a long set break, a friend commented, "You know how jambands are, anything goes." As I started to get restless, moe. returned to their respective positions, opening with "Rebubula," which would also close out the continuous set six songs later, a well-packaged sandwich. But it was also during the second set that I began to feel a little helpless. Maybe it was the long set break, maybe it was that everyone had been standing and dancing since eight o'clock, but as an audience member, I felt somehow powerless. The band on paper was doing everything right, but I didn't feel right there with them like I had earlier in the show. There was a slight momentum drop. It made me think of Widespread Panic in 2003, closing out the year before a short touring break. For a drawn out "Mercy," Derek Trucks was on stage. The song was beautiful, the band was playing everything on point, but I looked around and a lot of people looked sleepy.
moe. with New Monsoon :: 09.22.06 :: The Warfield, SF
By Susan J. Weiand
This is the same helpless feeling I felt Friday night. There were heads moving, there were certainly people dancing wildly, but overall the crowd was mellow. It felt like there was some sort of disconnect between the energy on stage and the energy of the crowd, even with highlights like "Seat of My Pants," a fun blend of reggae sounds and rock, and before that, "Wormwood," during which I was glad to see Chuck Garvey found his guitar slide or at least had a back-up in time for the soft instrumental song that is thought-provoking and nostalgic in the best of ways. Somewhere in the sound of a slide there is that something that can make one feel wistful, and I hope Chuck Garvey always comes to his shows in the future with a case full of back-up slides.
Rob Derhak :: 09.22.06
By Susan J. Weiand
As I spend time reflecting on the show, I think about the importance of the audience to live performance. Would it have been a different show if it had been closer to their home on the East Coast? Judging by the doorman's comment, "Hey, what's with all you Colorado people tonight?" moe. is a band that makes people travel. Inevitably live shows touch people in different ways, which is part of why live music is so addictive. What makes it epic is when a show touches the crowd altogether on that one crowning song or sometimes on multiple moments. moe.'s second set was solid, but it didn't have that epic kind of feel.
Finally, in a gracious style that makes moe. the kind of band you would invite over for a Saturday barbeque, the encore started with a "Thank you for giving a shit, we appreciate it," and a farewell kind of song, "Good Trip" into "It." In time for a 1:30 curfew, the show was over.
moe. :: 09.22.06 :: The Warfield, SF
By Susan J. Weiand
The guy with the well-worn moe. shirt, shaggy hair, and big smile has thought more deeply about my question earlier, "So what do you love about moe.?"
"moe. just feels good," he says now. "Their lyrics, combined with precise rhythmic changes, takes the audience through melodic sing-along jams to hard-driving arena rock, all in the same beer."
"Okay," I say, letting the night wrap around again in my head, song by song. "I can agree with that."
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