Snow Ridge Ski Area in rural Turin, NY, played host to the sixth annual moe.down, a “no holds barred” three day music festival featuring the still break-out jam band moe. from September 2-4. Close to 10,000 fans, nearly doubling last year’s totals, feasted upon six sets of moe. and nibbled upon other enticing acts like Medeski, Martin & Wood, North Mississippi Allstars, Keller Williams, West Chester’s own reggae -singing Hasidic Jew Matisyahu and the still breathing Violent Femmes. It has been a long road for the Buffalo, NY, based quintet, who in 1991 recorded their first album in a second floor apartment. This year marks the sixth annual moe.down, a series of climactic accomplishments, reeling in a larger fan base every year. Moe. stems, and in a way represents, the northeast sound of jam band music. Jam bands like Widespread Panic, who originated in the South, and The String Cheese Incident, who formed in the Midwest, all represent their geographical roots in the different styles of music they play. Moe. is no different. Late Friday night moe. debuted with one non-stop, three hour, eleven song set which included Tori Amos’s “Cornflake Girl,” and a “All Along the Watchtower/Stairway to Heaven” medley with Keller Williams. Just one of the weekend’s highlights was moe’s 2 a.m. encore of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Moe.down contains all the atmosphere of a hard-core, Woodstock- style festival, minus the sheer numbers. Much like the infamous Woodstock ’69 warning from the stage to “stay away from the brown acid,” bassist/singer Rob Derhak suggests fans should “Never mix drugs that clash, only drugs that match, and everyone should get out of here okay!”
What sets moe. on a higher stage above their peers is the intense originality in their musical construction and performance. With a front stage set up like The Beatles, two guitarists, a centered bass player, all vocalists and songwriters and a back court rivaling the percussive output of Santana (rock steady drummer Vinnie Amico and flamboyant, yet tasteful percussionist Jim Loughlin), moe. stretches it farther than most dare. Saturday afternoon moe. rocked six originals and were back Saturday night with two sets, 14 songs, and enough musical suspense to dwindle lines at the beer tent to a handful.
Their “bar room to ball room” song, “Happy Hour Hero,” beckons every “lizard with a light” to ride their trip from bar stool pop to majestic benefits of rockn- roll guitar solos and layer upon layer of musical intensity. This is made possible only by expanding the song past eight minutes and letting the instruments have free reign. Guitarist/singer Chuck Garvey goes so classic rock, he belts out the talk box, the distorted guitar tone in to which you sing, made most famous by Peter Frampton. What band in back-to-back nights covers five different bands from three different genres in their own special way? Attempting to cover songs like Pink Floyd’s “Time” or Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” and do them well, is impressive.
Covering songs outside your genre, adapting them with your own special blend, not only displays musical knowledge and respect, but also creates credibility and limits musical boarders. Moe.’s musical attitudes carry a big stick among their fans, and directly affected the vibe at moe. down. “The idea is kind of a moe. family picnic,” explains Schneir on the feel of the weekend. Accompanied by food vendors and gift tents behind the stage, the entire makeshift campground had the essence of a community. “Moe. fans are a different breed, that’s what drew me closer to the band,” said Ben Wollard. Success thrives when both the band and fans feel the same way about each other.