moe. Captures Old Joys, Explores New Variations
House of Blues - Los Angeles - April 15, 2007
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by Forrest Reda
Photos by Mark Davidson
Over the years, the blue-lit faces that dot the ceiling of the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip have witnessed many wonderful shows by moe., whose concerts are always a celebration of independent music done right. The bandís penchant for progressive rock flies just under the pop-culture radar as throngs of fans continue to pack venues year after year, whether it is for two-night engagements or ó in the case of moe.ís most recent appearance ó a cool, by Los Angelesí standards, Sunday night in April. This is the "short run" period of the groupís career, which makes it ideal for its followers to take a week off from work in order to catch all of its shows on the West coast.
With the release of its latest endeavor The Conch, moe. continues to be an atypical jam-band because it actually produces quality studio albums. Since there is no need to promote singles, the set lists for its shows are more about the location and venue than its newest songs.
The first set featured several fan favorites, including Nebraska. Those who have toured with moe. in the past but now are content to catch the group whenever it comes through town called it one of the strongest showings in recent memory. Lead singer and bassist Rob Derhak muffed a verse of the opening tune Timmy Tucker, but the crowd didnít mind one bit. Derhakís vocals are barely intelligible anyway, and the moe.rons know the words, or at least the mumbles.
The dual guitars of Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier are the yin and yang of moe. Garvey belts nasty riffs that slide from metal to the blues, while Schnier takes a more cerebral approach, playing with a theme while the other players lock into a groove. Alternating between an acoustic guitar and his trusty Fender, Schnier teases an idea until Derhak commits the band, after which the tune gallops full-steam into a jam.
moe. is a true collective, meaning that its musicians work together on every song. Fans who werenít dancing ó blissed-out with eyes closed or twirling around ó took turns being mesmerized by each player. Particularly excellent on this evening was multi-instrumentalist Jim Loughlin. For starters, his command of the xylophone is remarkable. As the music swirled around the stage, his percussive beat became the cornerstone of the jams that ensued. Using mallets as extensions of his fingers, he played the instrument like an archaic piano. Loughlin is the secret weapon of the band; he is like a utility man who wins the MVP of the World Series. Wind It Up placed his talents on full display: He moved from xylophone to acoustic guitar to drums, smashing the latter instrument with authority in conjunction with percussionist Vinnie Amico as the crowd drew the song to its conclusion by singing, "Be on my side; I'll be on your side."
The second set included a guest appearance (during Big World) from Banyanís trumpet player Willie Waldman, who is a regular fixture at moe.ís appearances in Los Angeles. As always, he was a welcome addition to the patient jams that built until there was no place to go but down, but before they could fall, the ensemble repeatedly found ways of carrying them further aloft. For moe., the songs truly are vehicles for improvisation, and no band succeeds more consistently at driving them harder.
moe.'s The Conch is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box