After a very intimate Fox Theater show the night before dedicated to longtime taper Eric Vandercar, who died tragically in a train crash in New York, moe. was ready to bring it to the Denver crowd. It is their 25th Anniversary tour, and it takes a special group of musicians to be able to pull that off. Of course, ever since my first show at the Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in 1996, moe. always had an extremely positive vibe at their shows. They are a very level headed group with a lot of talent, and I knew from that very first show that they had the ability to withstand the test of time.
I attended the February 6th show at the Ogden Theater, and it just felt like home. I was with old and new friends, and there is just something calming and comfortable about a moe. crowd. There are very little judgments made by moerons. It is a place of acceptance, community, and raw power. It seems like the band is as easy going as their following. They are very personal and open with their fan base. This is what separates those who stay the course from those who crash and burn.
The first set started exactly how it ended with an adventurous rendition of a really good song, “George.” About half way through, the beat drops and drummer Vinnie Amico flutters like a butterfly while power guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey take turns taking names. The fairly new and spacey Al song, “Downward Facing Dog” was next, and that went into a menacing “Hector’s Pillow.”
There was a new lighting director that I have never seen before. The band had three giant LED screens that showed unique clips from cartoons, old time movies, and other trippy visuals. The middle of it included a lot of fairly new songs like “Hector’s Pillow > Tubing the River Styx > The Pit.” Rob Derhak started the slapping frenzy during the classic “Dr. Graffenberg” and carried it into “Not Coming Down.” The guitar solos at the end of “Dr. Graffenberg” were long, climbing, and elaborate. Guitars were screaming, and the bass was getting plucked like crazy. Then, there was a gentle landing of the unfinished “George,” which they finished the next night with Jerry Garcia’s Travis Bean ’75-76’ guitar.
The second set was one of my favorite moe. sets in recent history. This set was voracious and ferocious. Jim Loughlin, percussionist, started the set off with a xylophone heavy few songs including: “Crab Eyes,” “Stranger Than Fiction”, and “Bearsong.” The crowd participatory “Bearsong” had everybody wooooooing and even included a few seconds of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” tease. Rob, wearing his disco shining cape, continued his bass’s pop through the rest of that song that ignited the set and went into an unfinished “Billy Goat.” From “Bearsong” until the end of the show was fire. One of moe’s oldest tunes, “Don’t Fuck With Flo” gave a small jazzy break to the madness, in the beginning of the song, but then the song goes off. This went into an obscure song called “Mar-Dema” written by Amico for the The Electric Lemoe.nade Acid Test at the end of 2010 in their hometown of Albany. The last song of the second set was a thirty minute rendition of my favorite moe. song, “Meat,” which was one of the best versions that I have seen to date.
After their usual announcements, which eulogized their recently departed taper friend, the encores consisted of Al’s “Letter Home,” “Blue Jeans Pizza,” and an almost thirty minute “Recreational Chemistry.” “Blue Jeans Pizza” is a sentimental favorite of mine due to my great memory of hearing that song on a summer night on Independence Day on the beach outside of the legendary Stone Pony in New Jersey. “Recreational Chemistry” followed suit with all of the second set energy and screaming guitar work from the Dynamic Duo. moe continues to carry on their legacy in this jam band scene in every way possible. They have always been a favorite of mine and their power to create will keep them thriving and respectable in this scene for several more years to come.