Words and Photos by: Jerry Friend
The band has roots going back to 1990 in Buffalo, New York where members played together under various monikers until naming their band after a Louis Jordan song, "Five Guys Named Moe" playing college bars with various members, eventually shortening that name to just moe. The band has had five members for most of its existence. Rob Derhak on bass, Chuck Garvey on guitar, Al Schnier on guitar, with all three of them singing vocals. The drummer, Vinnie Amico, and percussionist, Jim Loughlin. They just recently added a keyboard player Nate Wilson.
Moe.'s music incorporates sounds from a variety of styles, including, jazz, progressive rock, classic rock and roll, blues, country rock, funk and psychedelic elements. It's a melding of each member's nod towards their own personal influences. Their music has been said to sound at times like Steely Dan, The Grateful Dead, Primus, Frank Zappa, The Allman Brothers, Tom Petty, Camper Van Beethoven and The Red Hot Chili Peppers
They became a staple of the Jam band community during the latter 90s and they have developed a strong loyal following of fans by playing live across the country for decades often playing as many as 200 shows a year and well known festivals, like Further Festival, Bonnaroo and eventually founded their own festivals including moe.down in upstate New York and launched Summer Camp in Illinois with Umphrey's McGee.
The band has grown together with its fans into a tight knit community of faithful followers. Longtime fans began to collectively refer to themselves as moe.rons. Personally I have seen the band over a hundred times over the last two decades, often traveling to see them play two or three night runs. I normally see many of the same people at shows, at places up and down the East Coast, in Atlanta, Florida at the Wanee Festival, in Virginia at Lockn, out West in Denver, as far away as Amsterdam as well as at moe.down, on a moe.cruise and even on that jam band lovers ultimate vacation destination known as Jam Cruise.
The band along with its fans have embraced the creation of endearing puns, referencing the band's name like the aforementioned moe.rons, the festival moe.down, another winter version of an event called snoe.down, the use of terms like famoe.ly and that joy that live music fans all seek the ecstasy that live music brings is referred to as living in the moe.ment.
Recently there was an online controversy on the Facebook group moe.rons when the name of the group was changed for a few weeks to moe.heads which caused quite a stir between fans. On Tuesday night the band ended their set with a fan favorite the song Head, which is likely where the name moe.head got its origins aside from other possible references and one cannot but help recall the fans of the Grateful Dead creating a subculture of people who dropped out and went on tour and were called deadheads long before the dot or period motif. - I have to give credit to Rex Thomson, a once Mayor of moe.down for the creation of that moe.tif reference here, I rob.bed it from one of his stories online.
In the last decade the band has overcome a couple of health issues faced by members of the band that potentially threatened the band's ability to continue performing.
In mid-2017 Rob Derhak found out he had throat cancer and was expecting to require about a year hiatus for recovery but somehow he was able to power through that process in under six months. In 2018 the band performed at Lockn without Rob, and had Phil Lesh sit in for him. During that set, Bob Weir came out to sit in with the band wearing a T-shirt showing support for Rob's battle with cancer with a pink ribbon on it and the word Rob with a period on it, a play of the dot motif or moe.tif
Then in November 2021 after already dealing with the Covid-19 shutdowns and canceled tour dates. Chuck Garvey who helped develop the band's reputation for dueling guitar leads together with Al Schnier which created in my opinion, the ultimate live guitar shred show suffered a debilitating stroke. The fans and the band immediately rallied behind Chuck to help support not only medical bills, but to let him know how much they not only loved the band and their music but each of the members themselves.
The band decided that not only would they stand behind Chuck during the long difficult road to recovery that he would face but they would continue to perform with a stand in guitar player and later adding Nate Wilson on keys, who was a founding member of the bands Percy Hill and Assembly of Dust. Nate brought his keyboard wizardry along with the flute to add a new layer on top of moe.'s already deeply rich sound after he played with the band during much of 2022.
Meanwhile Chuck faced the difficult task of having to relearn everything from speech to rebuilding all of the things that we all take for granted, like memory and recall, coordination between our minds and bodies. Those things that happen in milliseconds now took much more time to do, along with exhaustion and the frustration that came with recognizing just how much was lost and required an arduous struggle and an iron will to regain.
After about a year and a half of seemingly impossible work towards recovery in 2022 Chuck and the band announced that they were ready to bring him back into the fold and appear on stage with the band again for their New Year's Eve show. The band and fans were elated and while the recovery is still an ongoing process, Chuck is now touring again and shouts of "We love you Chuck" were heard throughout the show on Tuesday night in Raleigh.
While longtime fans of this band often divided themselves by where they stand in front of the stage at a moe.show as Al.side, or Chuck.side and even Rob.side all of the fans now rally behind Chuck and his determination to fight on to regain the skills that once led him to be one of the best guitar players in the business of live music. The band has given him the space he needs to continue that journey and the fans are there to support him with sold out shows.
The Raleigh show was my first chance to get to see Chuck's return to the stage as well as the band since the addition of Nate Wilson and it was an incredible night of live music. It was great to see Chuck on stage, while he still is recovering, and struggling with his right hand, playing out live with an audience and the full band is where he needs to be for him to continue to reach the heights that he is determined to climb to and the band fully supports him by providing space for him to play the riffs and solos that will require.
The show was full of the songs and sounds that longtime fans love with the benefit of hearing the material in a different but familiar grace. Additionally Nate Wilson's keyboards are like icing on a cake made from sonic explorations from seasoned world class musicians who play songs with a jazz style framework of rotating solos that build up to a head of intense extended jams. During the beginning of the second set Nate highlighted the skills that led the band to asked him to stay on board after their decision to bring back Chuck.
Tuesday night was the proof in the pudding that moe. has a future that will continue to wow audiences. Live performances offer fans the experience to witness those one of a kind moe.ments where the energy between a band and the crowd ebbs and flows to produce that magic that doesn't always happen in a studio.. Recordings might capture the sound in a more pure environment, but those records will always be just a snapshot in time. With many bands a song is usually evolving each time they perform. Moe. is known to play their material on the road for a long time before they are ready to take it into the studio and the depth of their catalog allows them to play 3 or four night runs without needing to repeat a song on their set list.
On Tuesday the band's set list included a mix of newer songs and older fan favorites. I ran into so many old friends, some of the same moe.rons I have always seen at their shows and a lot of people who told me that this was their first show. I met a couple of ladies that had come from as far away as Michigan and Florida to see the show that night.
Moe continues their tour dates with shows in Asheville, NC tonight March 23rd then down to Atlanta on March 24-25. In April they go back up to the Northeast to play at Higher Ground in Burlington Vermont. Then they travel in late April back down to Oklahoma, Dallas and Austin Texas as well as having dates in New Orleans surrounding the Jazz and Heritage Festival. You can also catch them in Arkansas,in May before they head back up to Brooklyn, New York and then they play their Summer Camp Festival Memorial Day weekend in Illinois, with the tour going back to upstate New York. They are also playing at the fabled Red Rocks Amphitheater in June They also have a free show in Virginia Beach in July and then travel back to New York in September for the Borderland Music Festival.
Here is the band's set list from the Lincoln Theater show
Mar De Ma>
Threw it all away
Along for the ride
Zed not Z >
Kyle's song >
Queen of Everything
There's a recording of this show up at www.archive.org which can also be streamed online thanks to Michael Frasca
You can find it here https://archive.org/details/moe2023-03-21.oktava.flac16