When preparing a proper jam meal, ingredients are important. For snoe.down, the dash of one of the scene’s most enduring acts (moe.), combined with a splash of one of the largest promoters and served frosty cold on a platter that was one of the northeast’s top ski resorts, the recipe was complete and the patrons were prepared to be served.
moe. has officially been hosting snoe.down since March of 2006. It is a rumor amongst the moe. faithful (affectionately referred to as moe.rons) that the first snoe.down was born from an evening in which moe. had a frigidly arctic weekend run at Sugarloaf Ski Mountain in Carrabassett, Maine in 2002. The first official event, coined with the spoonerism-esque name, was at the Olympic Center’s famed USA Rink in Lake Placid, New York, and an outdoor afternoon set at Whiteface Mountain in 2006. Following a repeat offense in 2007, construction plans on the Olympic Center placed snoe.down on indefinite hiatus until another location could be found.
That location was found in 2010 and the triumphant return of snoe.down, held around Rutland, VT. Evening sets were at Spartan Arena and the day sets were held with the ski slopes of Killington Ski Resort as a backdrop. In Killington, moe. stumbled upon the largest ski and snowboard resort in the eastern United States that boasts a stunningly expansive lift network. In short, they found the perfect setting for jam band and snow aficionados to enjoy a winter festival.
For the 2011 event, moe. teamed up with Great Northeast Production Inc.; a company whose most notable client has been Phish. GNP was behind them all: Clifford Ball, The Great Went, Lemonwheel, Camp Oswego, Big Cypress, and yes, Coventry.
The pre-party kicked off on Thursday night with a choice between The Brew and special guest Lucid at the Wobbly Barn, or Twiddle at the Pickle Barrel in Killington.
Twiddle is a Vermont-based band consisting of Ryan Dempsey (keys, vocals), Brook Jordan (drums, vocals), Zdenek Gubb (bass, vocals) and Mihali Savoulidis (guitar, vocals). Following the format of jazzy climactic build-and-release jams, the sound paired well with the acoustics of the Pickle Barrel.
Down the road from the Barrell at the Wobbly Barn was Lucid and the Massachusetts-based quartet, The Brew – featuring Kelly Kane (drums, vocals), Joe Plante (bass, vocals), Dave Drouin (guitar, vocals), and Chris Plante (keys, vocals) – who kicked off the night with a laid back and groovy rendition of “Black Train” and continued to move through the night weaving their own intricate ingredients of prog, jazz, reggae, world beat, indie and funk. Guest Seth Cambell played keys and flute throughout the night, adding awkwardly flute notes to the band’s take on Zeppelins “Kashmir.”
Black Train, Looking Down > Fly By Night, Mountain Elf > Kashmir > Mountain Elf, I Do Believe > Control > I Do Believe, On Bended Knee > Eyes Of The Giant, GCFNME > Sharks In The Pool, Hunter’s Moon > Frogman, Faces > Drums > Faces, Green Eyed Lady > Radio Swiss > Green Eyed Lady > Radio Swiss
Encore: Who’s The Boss
As folks started filtering into Killington for the Friday afternoon sets, The London Souls took the stage at K1 Lodge. The lodge, hunkered at the base of the slopes, offered an open, sunny acoustic environment. While the London Souls flavored the ridge with an arrangement of heavy guitar riffs and pure rock n’ roll vocals, Dangermuffin hit the stage at the Bear Mountain Lodge and mellowed it down easy with a fresh perspective on American roots music.
After a brief foray up the mountain for The Brew’s day set, it was back down the mountain for a quick stop off at Bear Mountain Lodge for Albany, NY’s premiere progressive jam band, Timbre Coup, an ensemble who has shared bills with some of the fusion world’s top acts including the Disco Biscuits, LCD Soundsystem, RAQ, Pretty Lights, Pnuma Trio and Girl Talk.
The drive back to Rutland was sunny and smooth sailing. Several hotels were nestled across from Spartan Arena, making the trek up to the venue (this time for Keller Williams) seem more like standard festival exodus, the primary difference being the bulky attire due to the blustery winter temperature.
Keller’s set included several standards like “Kidney in a Cooler” and “Freeker by the Speaker.” It seemed as though Keller was erring on the side of caution by playing it safe for and arena packed with moe.rons, though he spiced things up with a loopy, funk-filled cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” that met headlong with 1980’s staple “She Drives me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals.
moe.’s Al Schnier joined Keller for a rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “One More Saturday Night,” though they did take creative license by placing Friday in the chorus. They didn’t need anyone confusing the days…at least not this early in the event.
At the close of his set, Keller turned the stage over to moe., the ceremonious masters of the weekend.
The venue was packed and the energy was palpable as moe.rons jockeyed for their space for what would be their first two full sets of the weekend.
The crew of bassist Rob Derhak, guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, drummer Vinny Amico and percussionist Jim Loughlin opened the night with “Stranger Than Fiction.” Between Chuck’s guitar riff and Derhak’s vocals, the warm-up process was complete for the sets ahead.
Schnier had fans getting down to “Time Again,” which segued into a fast tempo 16-minute “Dr. Graffenberg” that came with a deeply toned and fat bass riff sandwiched into the mix. moe., never ones to play it safe (particularly when on their home field,) also worked two newer-to-the rotation tunes into the set with “Paper Dragon” and “Mar-DeMa.” The former debuted on October 9, 2010 and, on this night, showcased moe.’s continued ability to turn something as simple as layers of riffs and drums into a tune fit for a king. It was followed by “Mar-DeMa,” a number with old school feel and jazzy flair that resembles “Ricky” and “Plane Crash.”
The second set opened with “Haze,” an incredible showcase for Schnier, who rose to the occasion both vocally and instrumentally. Returning the earlier gesture, moe. had Keller come out to help out on guitar and vocals for “Okayalright” and a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come.”
It was the sick segues that followed that made the highlights of the night. On “Puebla,” another tune recently put into circulation, Schnier once again swayed the crowd with his vocals and subtle supplemental riffs that layered upon one another until the result was pure improvisational grandeur.
I: Stranger Than Fiction, Time Again, Dr. Graffenberg > Paper Dragon, Mar-DeMa >(nh) Bearsong
II: Haze > Wormwood >* Okayalright*, The Harder They Come*, Puebla > Kyle’s Song > George
(* w/ Keller Williams on guitar & vox)
Saturday is the day that everyone craves at snoe.down. Opening the day’s festivities was Caravan of Thieves at K1 Lodge and Ryan Montbeau Band at the base of Bear Mountain on the outdoor stage.
The temps were just below freezing as the sunny Americana neo-folk and classic soul Montbleau Band took the stage, and from opening note they had the folks smiling and dancing as they made their way to the music.
The Bear Mountain stage is something to see. It faces some of the most fantastic ski slopes imaginable. As Montbleau sang the lyric “daydream, look upon the world in hues of golden glory, make it all a story” from “Maybe Today,” in conjunction with the setting, there was no way they could miss.
Ryan Montbleau Band 03-26-2011
Maybe Today, Head Above Water, Any Blues > Love Songs, 75 and Sunny, Songbird, Dead Set, Driving Wheel, Here et al. Grain of Sand
moe. came out with no holds barred for the day set. They immediately launched into a mean and hard driving “Akimbo,” riding the heels of Garvey’s intro that consisted solely of one monstrous and powerful rip down the neck of his Becker.
With a big “Hey Everybody” from Rob that sent the crowd whooping, Schnier brought the rage with “Threw It All Away” and his growl of Â “Hey, hey, monkey man whatcha gonna do now?”
Al.nouncements followed, with “We are moe. and we are so psyched to be here. This is awesome. If I could play here at the base of outer limits all season long it would be pretty good. If we could just do it later after last lift it would be a little better…but this is good.”
There was a slight pause after slap happy new tune “Billy Goat,” as Chuck was waiting for the sun to come over and hit him because he had “frozen roast beef hands and chopped off part of his finger.” As he stated, he had “a crime scene” on his guitar, a “little blood spray going on.” Playing in sub-zero temperatures didn’t come without workman’s comp risks.
A highlight of the set (sans sliced finger) was Al’s Tom Waits-like vocals in “Downward Facing Dog” and the “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car” even left Derhak impressed, evidenced by his proclamation of “That was loud!”
moe. 03-26-2011 Bear Mountain
Set: Akimbo, Threw It All Away, It, Billy Goat, Downward Facing Dog, Happy Hour Hero> Seat Of My Pants Encore: Crab Eyes
Spartan Arena opened its doors to Lotus as the opening ensemble for the last night of the “official” festival. In contrast to the Keller set from the previous night, Lotus did anything but play it safe and worked in material from virtually all points of their now 10-year career, highlighted by “Marisol” that was played with precision.
Lotus 03-26-2011 Spartan Arena
Suitcases, Bush Pilot, Destroyer, The Surf, Golden Ghost, Harps, Marisol, Wax, Bellwether
As far as moe. nights went, Saturday night brought the fire. They kicked off the final night of snoe.down with an amazing “Yodelittle” opener into an extremely tight “Lazarus.” “Yodelittle” is a transcendent tune and shows the intricacy of moe., a quintessential moe. composition with killer hooks, killer bass line, killer groove, killer dueling guitars. It was the perfect preamble to “Lazarus.”
The segues that followed: “Hector’s Pillow” into a 28 minute “Meat” were head banging madness.
moe. 03-26-2011 Spartan Arena
I: Yodelittle > Lazarus, Suck A Lemon > Hector.’s Pillow > meat.
II: The Road, Blue Jeans Pizza* > Sticks & Stones, New York City, Skrunk > Yodelittle > Rebubula Enc: Spine Of A Dog > Plane Crash
(* w/ Al Schnier on Wurlitzer piano)
Sunday brunch with moe. for VIP ticket holders is a very intimate afternoon with the band. It also boasted one of the coldest moments of the entire festival. Standing outside, the wind whipping around the 28 degree weather seemed like it wanted to have you for a snack. Once inside, the afternoon brunch and moe. were more than enough to provide necessary warmth.
One of the most remarkable things about moe. is the famoe.ly love that not only exists amongst the fans but within the band itself. It is remarkable to see the band’s kids sit on stage. By looking at their happy little eyes and dancing selves, it’s clear they enjoy what their fathers do for a living, and being so young, they don’t even realize the special quality this brings, especially to an acoustic famoe.ly event.
Before Al started playing “Blue Eyed Son,” he leaned over and asked his daughter where her brother was. The tune on tap was a special tune that he wrote just for him. Rob’s daughter laughed and danced on the side of the stage, haggling Al for pictures and making sweet eyes at her pop while she played the shaker for “Tambourine,” leaving both of the proud dads with ear-to-ear grins.
They covered Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” which, if you were close to Rob, you would have caught the chuckle as he adjusted the lyrics at his feet and giggled as Chuck prompted him on how the song went with a little hum of the melody before he set about playing it.
At the end of the tune, he said that they really butchered it but his vocals were a really good match for the tune and overall, it was charming.
moe. 03-27-2011 Wobbly Barn
I: That Country Tune, Nebraska, Can’t Seem To Find > St. Augustine, Wildflowers, Shoot First@, Waiting For The Punchline, Blue Eyed Son@, Four, Tambourine > Deep This Time
Encore: Gone, Captain America (@ Al Schnier on mandolin)
Those leaving the mountain a bit later got the chance to catch Assembly of Dust at the Pickle Barrel, and they were in for a treat. Reid Genauer (former front man of Strangefolk) formed Assembly of Dust in 2002. AOD started out the night with “Truck Farm,” a laid back groove. Reid’s voice is very soothing and easy to furrow with. The set was one of the best guest snoe.down sets to have caught. They brought the sauce.
Assembly of Dust 3-27-2011 Pickle Barrel
I: Truck farm, Fountain, Tavern Walker, Bus Driver, Second Song, Telling Sue, Filter, Edges, Harrower
II: Zero to the Skin, Samual Aging, Sidestep Blue, High Brow, Speculator, Straight, Borrowed Feet, Sometimes
Encore: Whistle Clock, Man with a Plan
Snoe.down was everything it promised to be. It was moe. and guests in one of the most beautiful winter environs in the country. It was both grand and intimate and it further proved why moe. continues to shine as staples in a jam scene that is plagued with fly-by-night bands. They have yet to forget why they are where they are. Their fans truly are on the top of their priority list and the evidence to support this was aplenty on the chilly slopes and chill time at Killington.
Click the thumbnail to view the photo gallery from snoe.down by Amber Jennings