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 411mania » Music » Columns

Jam Central Station 2.8.14: moe.
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 02.08.2014

Over the past 25 years, moe. has won a legion of fans with their difficult-to-define yet easy to enjoy sound. Their music is a unique version of jam rock, including elements of classic rock, 80's and early 90's alternative, and even touching into psychedelic rock with an edge. Other than a brief stint with Sony, the band has recorded and released albums as a completely independent entity, allowing them to cultivate and interact with their fanbase in unique ways that bands on a major label are rarely able to do. moe.'s success didn't happen overnight, however. So how did these Five Guys Named Moe get to where they are?

moe. got their start at the University of Buffalo. It was there that Rob Derhak and Chuck Garvey met, and an instant friendship formed between the two. Chuck had been playing guitar for years, and Rob had recently begun to teach himself how to play some guitar (although he was by no means fluent.) When Rob learned about Chuck's musical ability, he quickly roped Chuck into playing music together. Rob even stated that, while he wasn't a good guitarist, he "could probably play bass" and leave the guitar playing up to Chuck. Rob had the energy and enthusiasm to pursue a life in music, and Chuck had a strong base in music theory and was an exceptional guitarist, and, between the two, the beginning roots of moe. began to form.

The duo played their first gig on Halloween of that year, bringing on a friend of Rob's girlfriend to play drums as Sprockets. They quickly added a guitarist and a saxophone player and began playing cover songs at parties as Five Guys Named Moe. The band coalesced around a mutual respect for solid songwritng and improvisation, with a shared love of Frank Zappa. This initially defined the songwritng direction of the band, and they began playing bar gigs of original songs as moe.

Over the next couple of years, the band began to move into the current form. The saxophone player left, and the band began playing and recording as a four piece. Guitarist Al Schnier first got wind of moe. around this time, after receiving a copy of a demo tape they made in an attic. Within a year, he had moved to Buffalo and began sitting in with them on a regular basis. Al officially joined the band in the beginning of 1992, while their guitarist Dave Kessler left the band. The band began to tour regionally, and released their first album, Fatboy in 1992.

Soon after the completion of Fatboy, Jim Loughlin joined the band as their drummer. The band expanded their base outside of western New York into the east coast and Midwest. Their second album, Headseed was recorded in 1994, and that album saw Al begin to take on a good portion of the songwriting for the band, with Rob taking on most of the rest. The band focused their studio work on concise songwriting that would have a broad base, while their live performances were heavily improvisational. They became adept at adjusting their studio material, primarily to keep it interesting for themselves while playing live. Having a pair of guitarists that had such an extensive understanding of improvisational music in Al and Chuck allowed the band to take chances and explore while having the confidence that they weren't going to lose what they were doing.

The mid 90's were both an exciting and frustrating time for the band. Their independent success had caught the attention of a number of major record labels. However, in 1995, the band again switched drummers, as Jim quit the band. Replacement Mike Strazza lasts less than a year, although he does appear on moe.'s first live release, Loaf. Chris Mazur joined the band at the end of 1995, and, in early 1996, moe. signed with the Sony imprint Sony 550 Music. The band went into the studio with the goal of finding a balance between songwriting ability and their tremendous improvisational talent. Their major-label debut No Doy saw the band recording many of the songs from Loaf in the studio.

No Doy allowed the band to build a fanbase across the country, but it also presented a number of problems. Sales weren't high enough for Sony's liking. Also, drummer Chris Mazur was fired after the album, forcing another moe. to make another replacement. Vinnie Amico joined, and was finally able to provide some stability behind the kit. The band toured all over the U.S., including a stint on the Furthur Tour. Furthur saw the band sharing the stage with the Black Crowes, Arlo Guthrie, and RatDog, among others. Despite some difficulties, the band began to build a fanbase that thrived on the sense of interplay that the band had with the audience during live shows.

Their second album for 550 Music was 2008's Tin Cans and Car Tires. Songwriting was split almost closely between Al and Rob, with Chuck adding a couple of his own songs. The result was an album that was more instrumentally complex than any of their previous releases. They were using a wider range of instruments to fill out their sound, but they also needed a way to translate that into a live setting. The band invited former drummer Jim Loughlin back into the band as a percussionist and a multi-instrumentalist, playing flute, bass, guitar, and whatever else the song needed. This addition helped round out moe.'s sound, and proved to be a combination with staying power.

The band played Woodstock '99 as well as an epic New Years Eve run. However, album sales still were disappointing, at least to Sony. They dropped the band, allowing moe. to continue on as an independent artist. They released a live album in 2000, L, which won a Jammy Award. They followed that up with 2001's Dither, their first nationwide release on their own Fatboy Records. The album received mostly positive reviews, and the success allowed moe. to begin living out ideas that they hadn't been able to before.

The first thing that the band did was begin their own series of festivals. The first moe.down festival was in 2000, and the event has run ever since. moe.down has been another way that moe. continues to interact with their fans. It has also been a way for newer bands to play in front of a much larger crowd than they otherwise would. These events have grown in size over the years, and the band has also launched a variety of other events such as snoe.down and moe.cruise. Finally, the band also began a series of live releases titled Warts and All. These releases are full-unedited releases of different shows. So far the band has released six albums in this series.

2001 also saw the band play the first Summer Camp Music Festival. The band headlined both nights of the first festival, including an all-acoustic third set on the second night that lasted until 3 a.m. Since that time, Summer Camp has become synonymous with moe., as moe has headlined every Summer Camp since. They also played Bonnaroo in 2002 and 2003, and their 2002 performance won the band another Jammy.

After spending so much time on the road, the band returned to the studio to record 2003's Wormwood. However, the band didn't just return to the studio for the album. Wormwood ended up being a release that combined both live and studio elements. The band took live tracks from their 2002 shows and mixed the live material (primarily rhythm tracks) with studio recordings. This very unique style of recording won the band high praise, and the effort resulted in another Jammy award for Best Studio Album.

Touring continued to occupy most of the band's life, and they stayed on the road nearly non-stop after Wormood while beginning to work on new studio material. The band began playing new songs live almost immediately after Woormwood's release, and even began laying the groundwork to do another live/studio mix album. They played a pair of shows on June 10 and 11, 2005 in order to tape the audio for the studio album. However, it took until 2007 for the album to be finished. The final product was another strong balance of live energy and studio precision which received both critical and commercial praise.

Despite the long gap between Wormwood and Conch, the band didn't wait to release another album. Sticks and Stones came out almost exactly a year after Conch, and was a straight studio recording with no live tracks used. Almost none of the album was road-tested, a major departure for the band. The result was an album that was much more concise and songwriter-focused than their previous two releases, with fewer jams and solos for the members. Despite this departure in their recording, the band continued to focus on extended sets and impressive jams in their live performances. This included an over 4-hour late night set at Bonnaroo 2009.

The band released a "Greatest Hits" album in 2010 and then put out their 10th studio album titled What Happened to the LA LA's in 2012. The album was released on Sugar Hill Records, the first time in over a decade that the band released an album on a label that wasn't their own, and the first time the band worked with an outside producer since Tin Cans & Car Tires. The album was generally well received by fans and included many songs that the band had been playing live for some time.

As the band is getting ready for their 25th anniversary,, moe. is still going strong. They're a major draw on the jam-band circuit, and they continue to have success with their moe.down and snoe.down events as well as their perennial Summer Camp headlining spot. They approach their career as musicians with a certain amount on nonchalance, which helps them maintain a real connection to their audience. With the success that the band has had and the continued growth of their fanbase, moe. could easily have another two decades of success ahead of them.

Sasquatch announces lineups for 2 festivals
The Sasquatch Music Festival will actually be two festivals this year, taking place in May and July. The lineup for both events have been released, and unlike festivals like Coachella that do the same festival twice, these are two separate fests. The May event will take place over Memorial Day weekend, from May 23-25, and will feature, OutKast, The National, Queens of the Stone Age, Foster the People, Kid Cudi, Portugal The Man, and many others. The July 4-6 event will feature Soundgarden, Kraftwerk, New order, Frank Ocean, Neutral Milk Hotel, Tegan 7 Sara, gogol Bordello, and others. The second weekend would appeal to me more, but both have that usual Sasquatch! flair. Tickets go on sale on Saturday.

Peach Music Festival announces lineup
The Peach Music Festival will once again take place on Montage Mountain in Scranton PA. This year's event will happen from August 14-17. The lineup will be anchored by the Allman Brothers Band, who will perform 2 nights and will play their classic album Eat a Peach in its entirety. Other artists include Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus, and many others.

Dark Star Jubilee announces lineup
This year's Dark Star Jubilee will be held from May 23-25 at Legend Valley in Thornville, OH. The event will feature 3 nights of Dark Star Orchestra along with Yonder Mountain String Band, Galactic, Keller Williams & More Than A Little, New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Wailers performing Legend, and many others.

String Cheese Incident announces dates
The String Cheese Incident announced their first non-festival shows of 2014. So far their run includes three dates in Oakland and two in Athens, GA, along with their festival shows. Expect more festival dates and likely more solo dates coming soon.

February 19-23 Riviera Maya, Mexico—International Incident
April 24 Oakland, CA—Fox Theater
April 25 Oakland, CA—Fox Theater
April 26 Oakland, CA—Fox Theater
May 1 New Orleans, LA—Jazz Fest
May 2 Athens, GA-Georgia Theater
May 3 Athens, GA—Georgia Theater
June 5-8 Ozark, AR—Wakarusa
September 4-7 Arrington, VA—Lockn' Festival

Umphrey's McGee announces UMBowl V
Umphrey's McGee's annual UMBowl four-quarter themed show will take place on May 3rd at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. It's the first time that the UMBowl has moved from Chicago. No word on themes for the 4 "quarters" yet, but those will be announced soon.

John Butler Trio announces Summer dates
The John Butler Trio just released their latest studio album Flesh and Blood, and they'll be touring the U.S. iin support. The band released a handful of dates to go along with their Wakarusa festival show. Look for others to be announced to complete the run.

February 8 Chicago, IL—Vic Theatre
February 9 Minneapolis, MN—First Avenue
February 12 Missoula, MT—Wilma Theatre
February 14 Seattle, WA—Moore Theatre
February 15 Vancouver, BC—Commodore Ballroom
February 16 Vancouver, BC—Commodore Ballroom
February 18 Portland, OR—Crystal Ballroom
February 20 San Francisco, CA—The Independent
February 21 Los Angeles, CA—Fonda Theatre
February 23 San Diego, CA—House of Blues
June 5 Boulder, CO—Fox Theater
June 6 Morrison, CO—Red Rocks Amphitheatre
June 7 Kansas City, MO—Crossroads
June 8 Ozark, AR—Wakarusa
June 17 New York, NY—Central Park Summerstage

Aura Music & Arts Festival
February 14-16, 2014
Spirit of the Suwanne Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: Papadosio, Lotus, Conspirator, Zoogma, The Werks, The Revivaalists, Particle, Marco Benevento, Dopapod, and many others.

International Incident
February 19-23 2014
Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Performers include: Multiple shows from the String Cheese Incident, EOTO< Kyle Holingsworth Band, The Motet, and Prophet Massive.

Winter Wondergrass
February 21-23, 2014
Nottingham Park
Avon, CO
Performers include: Greensky Bluegrass featuring Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, Fruition, and many others.

Jam in the Sand
February 28-March 4, 2014
Negril, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra will host the event. Other performers to be announced.

Panic en la Playa tres
March 17-21, 2014
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Widespread Panic will perform four shows during the event.

Suwannee Springfest
March 20-23, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly, Donna the Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Hoopla in the Hills
March 27-30
Poston Lake Music Park
Athens, OH
Performers include: Papadosio, Keller Williams, EOTO, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Cosby Sweater, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others.

Wanee Festival
April 10-12, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band, Trey Anastasio Band, Umphrey's McGee, moe., Lynard Skynard, Gov't Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dumpstaphunk, and many others

Tortuga Music Festival
April 12-13, 2014
Beach Park
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Performers include: Sheryl Crow, Train, Slightly Stoopid, Ziggy Marley, Brett dennen, Delta Rae, Moon Taxi, The Revivalists, and many others.

Counter.Point Festival
April 25-27, 2014
Kingston Downs, GA
Performers include: Outkast, Pretty Lights, STS9, Foster the People, Krewella, Big gigantic, Thievery Corp., Griz, Shpongle, Moon Taxi, and many others

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 25-27 and May 1-4, 2014
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Phish, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, String cheese Incident, John Fogerty, Galactic, Avett Brothers, and many others.

Hangout Music Festival
May 16-18
Gulf Shores, AL
Performers include: The Black Keys, The Killers,Outkast, Jack Johnson, Queens of the Stone Age, Pretty Lights, The Avett Brothers, STS9, The Flaming lips, Modest Mouse, Zedd, and many others.

Summer Camp
May 22-25, 2014
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
Performers include: moe., Umphrey's McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Bassnectar, Primus, Yonder Mountain String Band, Lotus, EOTO, and many others

Dark Star Jubilee
May 23-25, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: 3 nights of Dark Star Orchestra, Yonder Mountain String Band, Galactic, Keller Williams & More Than A Little, Anders Osborne, The Werks, The Wailers performing Legend, and many others

Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 23-25, 2014
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: OutKast, The National, Queens of the Stone Age, MIA, Foster the People, Kid Cudi, Neko Case, Violent Femmes, and many others.

Nelsonville Festival
May 29-June 1, 2014
Nelsonville, OH
Performers include: The Avett Brothers

June 5-8, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, STS9, Umphrey's McGee, John Butler Trio, Flaming Lips, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Lettuce, Dr. Dog, Papadosio, and many others.

Mountain Jam
June 5-8, 2014
Hunter Mountain, NY
Performers include: Gov't Mule, Bob Weir & RatDog, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Umphrey's McGee, Pretty Lights, and many others

Governor's Ball
June 6-8, 2014
Governor's Island
New York, NY
Performers include: Outkast, jack White, Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Skrillex, Interpol, and many others.

June 12-15, 2014
Manchester, TN

Snowmass Mammoth Festival
June 13-15, 2014
Snowmass Village, CO
Performers include: LEftover Salmon, chris Robinson Brotherhood, Xavier Rudd, Les Claypool's Duo De Twang, The Motet, Bonerama, and many others

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Telluride, CO
Performers include: Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck & The Colorado Symphony, Brandi Carlile, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Del McCoury Band, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others.

Firefly Music Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Dover, DE
Performers include: Foo Fighters, Outkast, Jack Johnson, Imagine Dragons, Pretty Lights, The Lumineers, Weezer, Girl Talk, Tegan and Sara, and many others.

High Sierra
July 3-6, 2014
Quincy, CA

Sasquatch! Music Festival
July 4-6, 2014
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: Soundgarden, Kraftwerk, New Order, Frank Ocean, Neutral Milk Hotel, Spoon, Tegan and Sara, Gogol Bordello, Atmosphere, and many others.

Northwest String Summit
July 17-21, 2014
Horning's Hideout
North Plains, OR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, The Motet, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, Dead Winter Carpenters, The Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others

July 23-27, 2014
Floyd, VA
Performers include: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Ms. Lauryn Hill, ray LaMontagne, Thievery Corporation, Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and many others

Gathering of the Vibes
July 31-August 1, 2014
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT

Outside Lands
August 8-10, 2014
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Peach Music Festival
August 14-17, 2014
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band (2 nights), Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Revivalists, Dopapod, The Infamous Stringdusters, papadosio, and others.

Lockin' Music Festival
September 4-7, 2014
Arrington, VA
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Widespread Panic, and Bob Weir & Ratdog

Phases of the Moon Festival
September 11-14, 2014
Kennekuk County Park, IL
Performers include: Widespread Panic (2 nights), Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Galactic, Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and many others.

Catskill Chill
September 5-7, 2014
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY

Harvest Music Festival
October 16-18, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR

Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!


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