Review by Janet Kwiatkowski
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
“Kicking myself for not buying early” was overheard outside the Palace Theatre in Albany from fans hoping to score a ticket to last Saturday’s sold-out moe. show. Currently, the progressive rock band is at the top of the jam-band heap, with an extended and enormously devoted fan base – and still drawing in new fans with every show. Their latest US/European tour is in support of their new album “What Happened to the La Las.” Over the last two decades, the upstate New York band has fostered an interactive relationship with its audience through social media sites and annual moe.-centric events like Summer Camp, moe.down, snoe.down and the ingenious festival Jam in the Dam in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, kicking off next week.
The audience immediately rushed the stage and glow sticks rained down as the first set of a nearly three-hour, high-vibe show began with “Runaway Overlude.” Smiling bass player Rob Derhak started a funky line, while guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier traded off solos. The vocals drifted into gentle harmonies and then were thrown back hard in your face. The song bled into the trippy and theatrical “Chromatic Nightmare,” with percussionist Jim Loughlin on the xylophone and Al Schnier, now on keys, creating a carnival atmosphere followed by a building guitar solo by Garvey. The band genre-hopped into a reggae beat with “Seat of My Pants,” with a bit of George Benson’s “On Broadway” woven in, but it was the rapid-fire vocals and metal-inspired solo by Schnier that really got everyone moving.
It was a bit alarming when the balcony swayed up and down with the collective pounding from everyone dancing and going vertical. I’ve felt balconies bounce at other venues, but not like this. It was quickly forgotten with a sing-along to “New York City,” followed by “George” into an extended jam with “Four.” The clever songwriting and creating-in-the-moment instrumentation kept the crowd interested and engaged – no drifting off into long, generic jams like so many other jam bands. No, moe. brings you right back with a balance of lyrics and jamming, sing-along choruses or quick jumps into completely different styles and tempos – always keeping the audience on their feet. The country sounding “Downward Facing Dog” had drummer Vinnie Amico driving a hard beat, along with the rest of the rhythm section, for a joy-filled set-ender.
moe. opened the second set with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money.” The never-gets-old song was only enhanced by guest saxophonist Marley Amico, Vinnie’s daughter. The song stayed close to the original, and the sax solo by the local high school freshman was spot-on. Next Derhak shined on bass and vocals with ”Billy Goat,” which segued into “Skrunk.” Although I’m sure everyone has a favorite, the band appeared to have a democratic presence, with each member equally sharing solo and vocal duties, with no real frontman or obvious standout player. The talent is in equal proportions, as well.
The lightning-paced bluegrass number “Time Again,” with Loughlin on washboard, had everyone foot-stomping and yelping. The band turned on a dime, veering into psychedelic jams with “Big World” and “Ricky Marten.” Heavy percussion and vocal harmonies during “The Bones of Lazarus” – with its strange lyrics and Garvey solo – created a buoyant run into “Rebulula.” Along with the excellent light show, the songs seemed to follow the pattern and pace of a good rave. There were slow trance sections and build-ups to where all hell broke loose into mad dancing, and the crowd certainly didn’t want the night to end.
When moe. returned for the encore, Schnier remarked how touched they were to have a sold-out show at the Palace and how much they always love playing in Albany, where they got their start. “Spine of a Dog” and “Dr. Graffenberg” sent the place into a frenzy. When asked why moe. is their hands down favorite band, several revelers replied with the same answer, “No one jams harder or smarter.”
After the show, the Schnier/Amico bluegrass side-project band Floodwood took over the stage at Red Square just down the street – for the few who were lucky enough to get in.
LISTEN to the full concert audio at Internet Archive
Michelle Arthur’s photographs at State of Mind
Pete Mason’s review at Upstate Live
Brian Tromans’ photographs at The Times Union
Excerpts from Dave Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Like most bands of this genre, not much happens on stage, so their fans, affectionately known as ‘moe.rons,’ often don’t bother watching the stage. Instead they occupy every corner of Palace real estate to jump around with each other. The band opened with ‘Runaway Interlude,’ one of their more complex, crafty tunes with Zappa-like vibraphones and serious orchestration. Often, like here, they can sound closer to a soundtrack to the ‘Wild Coyote’ cartoon then a second-cousin to Phish. But that changed about 30 minutes later when they dug in, for their first adventure — of many to come — inside the tune of ‘Puebla.’ This was a techno-trip and the dancers fell in line with the very cool exchange between the five guys. ‘Puebla’ comes from the band’s latest release ‘What Happened to the Ya Yas?’ And while they zipped through ‘New York City’ for sheer fun — some couples dosey-doeing during the moe.-down moments — jams wide and deep followed pretty much every tune.”
moe. SET LIST
Runaway Overlude > Chromatic Nightmare > Seat of My Pants
New York City > George > Four > Downward Facing Dog
Money (with Marley Amico) > Billy Goat > Skrunk
Big World > Ricky Marten > The Bones of Lazarus > Rebulula
Spine of a Dog > Dr. Graffenberg