By Rex Thomson
With a new album, What Happened to the La La’s, recently released, moe. took the stage at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom in Nashville with fresh energy and new things to say… and apparently a lot of people wanted to hear it.
A sellout crowd filled the converted warehouse wall to wall with the faithful, affectionately known as moe.rons, ready to see their favorite band rip through a night’s worth of classic hits and new gems.Â Billed as “An evening with moe.” fans were excitedly lined up hours before the general admission show, bantering back and forth about the fun to come.
As the doors opened, the once docile bunch spilled into the empty hall like water from a dam break, quickly packing the room to its breaking point. The Cannery served as, well, a cannery in its previous life, and has an odd shape for a concert hall. Its open ceiling can lend to sound issues, that in spite of the sound the sound engineers best efforts, brought about a noticeable hollowness that plagued the audio mix — a sad effect of the size and design of the club. This said, there was no way that anyone was about to let a pesky sound issue deter their enjoyment of seeing moe. do what they have done for more than two decades.
Taking the stage to uproarious cheers, the five members of moe., bassist Rob Derhak, guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey, percussionist Jim Loughlin and drummer Vinnie Amico confidently took up their instruments and made one final check of their settings.
Closing in on the end of a leg of their tour that is in celebration their first release in nearly four years, Â the band was more than ready to show off their mid-run form, and with a flourish, launched into the opener, “Deep This Time.” New tunes “Haze” and “Downward Facing Dog” settled comfortably next to beloved hits such as “It,” “Skrunk” and “Bullet,” filling the first set with passionate cheers and the palpable heat being released by a sellout crowd in the midst of a full on dance party.
With grinning sideways glances, the front line of Schnier, Derhak and Garvey led the band through the hairpin turns and twists of the material with style and savage grace, with Amico and Garvey laying down a solid percussive floor for the guitarists to musically strut across.
Aggressively played and impressively intricate, the first set was everything an opening burst of music should be, inviting and tantalizing — enough to please, but also to tease greater things to come.
After a short break to let the crowd recover from the stellar display of sonic wizardry, the band returned with a one-two punch of band standards, “Akimbo” and “Mexico,” twoÂ numbers from the earliest stages of the bands career. Fan favorites, the attendees reacted wildly, arms and voices raised in appreciation.
A stunning rendition of the new track, “Chromatic Nightmare,” featured Loughlin’s xylophone mastery, while the topper of many a fan’s top ten lists of moe. songs, “Rebubula,” closed out the set in a sweat soaked frenzy of flailing limbs and ecstatic faces.
Coming back out for an extended encore, a short “Raise a Glass” led into a barn burning take on “Brett Black” that featured a drumming duel that wheeled into a bass solo from Derhak that reminded the Nashville crowd of just how well that guy can slap the four stringed bass. Almost a third percussionist himself, Derhak’s slapping style of the bass surely plays hell with his tunings, but the results are very much worth it.
With the rhythm section’s showcase in the books, the Garvey/Schnier two-headed guitar beast returned to close out the song — and the night — in a swirling maelstrom of mayhem, the band playing as though they were only slightly in control of the chaos they they themselves had unleashed.
A spent crowd drained out onto the unseasonably warm streets of The Music City of Nashville, sweat soaked and fully sated, having just consumed the equivalent of a week’s worth of USDA recommended sonic soul food. They could all be secure in the fact that what they had witnessed was the finest fare available.
With ten albums and twenty plus years of touring and leaving faces melted and minds blown under their collective belts, moe. turned towards their next stop like a Godzilla sized beast, intent on leveling the world, one show at a time.
I: Deep This Time, Understand, It, Haze, One Way Traffic, Skrunk>Bullet>Downward Facing Dog
II: Akimbo, Mexico, Runaway Overlude>Chromatic Nightmare, Spine Of A Dog>Four>Rebubula, al.nouncements
Encore: Raise A Glass, Brent Black
By: Amber Jennings
The drive into Chicago, Illinois is one that never ceases to amaze. Its Â iridescent skyscrapers that line the sky remind one of childhood novels of Emerald Cities and yellow brick roads. But even the author of such wondrous tales could not equate the magical music that has unfurled from the streets of Chicago over the past century. It is this part of the city’s story that yields a feeling of giddiness to stir in any musical connoisseur’s soul that is indescribable; so much so that one has to look at their feet to make sure they are not wearing ruby slippers.
The Riviera Theater, located in the Uptown section of the city was first opened in 1917 and was transformed into a private nightclub in 1986.
On this unseasonably warm February night “the Riv” would open its doors and usher in thousands of moe.rons, filling the old theater to its brim with these dedicated fans of the jam stalwart wizards, also known as moe.
Chicago based Family Groove Company opened the evening with, â€œTrying to Live Up.â€ Â Borrowing from the delta, the jazz/rock ensemble continued with “She Might Get Warm” and a bluesy “The Unlimited Space Around Us.”
By the time that the Groove Company was wrapping their set with â€œThrough with Tomorrow,â€ the crowd size had almost tripled and the voltage of moe.ronic buzz filled the air — Â folks were ready for the sultans to take the stage.
moe.’s Al Schnier (guitar/keyboards/vocals) was first to appear on stage, his exuberant smile welcomed the adoring Riviera mass, his face projecting the same level of exhilaration as the beaming faces in front of him. In short order, Chuck Garvey (guitar/vocals) and Rob Derhak (bass/vocals) ambled out on stage, their grins looking more as a kid’s who had been caught with his hand in a cookie jar would. Percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, Jim Loughlin, and drummer, Vinnie Amico, were seemingly teleported to their kits, at the ready to hold down the improvisation.
Â Wasting no time, the quintetÂ launched into â€œSmoke,â€ a tune off the band’s new studio release, What Happened to the La Laâ€™s. The Beatles reminiscent tune made its debut at last year’s Summer Camp Music Festival and has only been played at a handful of shows since it was first introduced. Â Rather than electing to stretch the number — that is short in structure — out, the guys instead instead chose to use it as a segue catalyst into â€œStranger Than Fiction,â€ wherein Vinnieâ€™s cadence summoned the ferocity of Garveyâ€™s signature snarling axe that shredded throughout the old music hall, causing the crowd to explode into a paroxysm of excitement. Â As the song progressed, Rob missed the first few opening lines but the crowd, who was already in full throttle mode, and amped by the evening, simply blasted the missed lyrics back to the stage.
A highlight of the first set came with a blistering take on â€œGeorgeâ€ that had Loughlin blowing it up before leaning into an earthy spacey jam that was layered in tiers of rage and glazed in psychedelic mind crunch. It is this type of jam that sets moe. apart — their ability to bend the serene while inducing dark annihilation.
As is common, the second set Â would bring more heat than the first.
Picking up where they left off, Â the five guys named moe. Â opened with â€œPaper Dragon,â€ another tune from the new LP that was introduced during the 2010 winter tour in New York at the historic Beacon Theater. Derhakâ€™s vocals on the tune were bliss and the staccato and rhythmic drops bouncing off of his bass ripped off each other as if they were hitting the scales of a reptile. In short, Â it is more than obvious that Rob loves to both sing and play this relatively new number in the moe. songbook.
Heavy distortion brought it to a full blown out, â€œHead.â€ Schnierâ€™s vocals were more subtle than usual for this tune and added to the flighty light spaciousness before the tone took on a cavernous Â and sinister resonance before giving way to Â â€œInstellar Overdrive.â€
Though “Interstellar Overdrive” has been around for many moons (since 1995), it has only been played a total of 52 times. In any event, on this night, Chuck Garvey brought the wrath with such wild force, Â melding the tune into a nefariously shadowy monster jam that turned on an illuminating dime before picking it back up and taking the jam into a feathery carefree segue back into â€œHead.â€
The consummate crowd favorite, Â â€œCaptain Americaâ€ meandered into “Recreational Chemistry” that had Al Schnier on his amp, the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” that brought about an impromptu skat session from Garvey and a closing twenty minute “Buster.”
To say that it was mind blowing would be an understatement.
Before the band departed the stage Al and Rob both gave thanks to the Chicago fans, saying they had a great time. It was apparent as the moe.rons left the venue they shared the same sentiments as their fearless leaders… Â especially in regards to the second set of pure rage.
I: Smoke >Stranger Than Fiction, Bring It Back Home > Blue Jeans Pizza > Suck A Lemon, George > Lazarus
II: Paper Dragon, Head > Interstellar Overdrive > Head, Captain America > Recreational Chemistry, Queen of Everything, Canâ€™t You Hear Me Knocking > Buster
Encore: Downward Facing Dog
Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the shows by Amber Jennings & Rex Thomson…
Nashville by Rex Thomson
Chicago by Amber Jennings