Friday, February 14, 2014

Dispatches from Last Night's moe. Show in Cleveland

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 2:06 PM

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Wow, moe. Thanks for the show last night. That was incredible.

***

The jam in "Kids," which was one of the first songs that started my interest in the band's music, was awesome. The tune started off with a nice, laid-back lope, but I recall the stage transforming into some Calypso beast about midway through. In fact, "Kids" nicely mirrored the rest of the first set, which was a relatively gentle counterpoint to what they had in store for the second frame.

***

Honestly, I didn't know many of those songs in that first set. Here's sort of the backdrop to my thoughts: This was my first moe. show, coming after years of planning on jumping onboard tour. "Crackers" was a really cool opener, lending the early part of a show a super-chill atmosphere. Everything really* began to heat up with "Faker."

***

And that point about this being my first time seeing moe. is particularly important here.

I've listened to moe. on and off for awhile, homing in on summertime anthems like "Okayalright" and road trip sagas like "Mexico." And I've got a deep appreciation for much of the jam band scene; I got fully reeled into the Phish community awhile back. It's taken years to travel as far down the Phish wormhole as I and many, many others have. That band's canon is like scripture ingrained in my head and soul.

Anyway, the interesting thing about realizing moe. would be coming to town and that I'd finally get to see what they're all about is that I've been able to dive into their catalog in recent weeks. And they're a prolific band with a long-running discography. Learning each song's role in the world of moe. has been incredibly fun, and there's still so much to hear.

By that, I mean that jam bands come with their own culture and language. Listening to "Tweezer" by Phish as you work your way through an initial listen of A Picture of Nectar will be a very different experience than when you encounter, say, the 12/6/97 "Tweezer" and begin to identify what that song means within the broader context of the band. The other titans of the '90s and '00s jam scenes - SCI, Panic, Umphrey's, and the ongoing traditions of the Dead - all share that cultural depth. Patience and care are critical in listening to these bands.

Getting into a jam band with such a rich history, like moe., is a wildly fun time. Seeing them live makes the whole trip even better.

***

Probably the only tune I was really jonesin' for was "Spine of a Dog." Hearing the opening chant begin as the band took the stage for the encore was just spectacular. They closed the night with a nice little cover of Cracker's "Low."

***

The energy of their second set was often beyond words. Two jam segments anchored the thing, with "All Roads Lead to Home" offering a mid-frame respite.

"Kyle's Song" into "Tailspin" might be the highlight of the evening. It'd be hard to conceive a more enjoyable beginning to the second set, and "Kyle's" is one that had been getting into in the run-up to the show. "Tailspin" just kicked ass the whole time.

The "Rebubula" sandwich later in the show was awe-inspiring. It's difficult to think back to particular areas of the jam, which was interwoven with "So Long" and "Four." At one point, guitarist Al Schnier sent the band into outer space with eerie minor key lead work (contrasting a lot of the major key fun throughout the show).

***

I wandered around to various corners of the House of Blues throughout the first set, gathering angles for photos and meeting some people in the balcony (which was a nice spot to catch "Crackers," et al.).

But I held court along the rail for the second frame. (Quick thought: "15 People You Have to Deal With in a Jam Band Crowd" would be a really great and wildly unnecessary BuzzFeed listicle.) The vibe up front was incredible, and the energy from the stage really ripped through everyone. Schnier and bassist Rob Derhak, in particular, interacted closely and non-verbally with the crowd.

***

The next step after all that is planning a trip to moe.down on Labor Day weekend.

***

Here's the setlist. Check out an embed of L, an early live album.

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