moe., Bonnaroo Music Festival, Manchester, TN- 6/22
2002 was an epic year for music, especially in the "jamband" scene. This past year exemplified the growth of our scene, one birthed by the Grateful Dead, nurtured by Phish, and raised by a number of bands that rose up to fill vacuum of exile. This past year exhibited our strength: just take a look at the number of jambands who played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, or the Jammys, or the amazing results of a festival in Manchester, Tennessee that sold over 70,000 tickets without advertising and only word of mouth publicity.
Though nearly impossible to decide on a best show, it is from this festival that I take my top musical moment of the past year. During a weekend of almost perfect musical and societal bliss, there is one moment that stands out in my mind as a beacon of light and collaboration, of cooperation, and as proof of how far weas a counterculture, as a scene, as a way of lifehave come.
Before twilight turned to dawn on June 26th, I stood towards the back of a large crowd, listening to the hard-rocking jams of moe. Midway through ‘Recreational Chemistry’, one of the bands’ improvisational launchpads, bassist Rob Derhak left the stage, and was replaced with…gasp…Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits. As this hybridized band played, humorous thoughts flashed through my mind, most centering on the fabricated animosities sometimes held between the fans of both moe. and the Disco Biscuits towards each other. What would they say if they could, or did, see this?
Finally, Rob came back, but the set still held more surprises in store. Aron and Marc left the stage, only to be replaced by a percussionist. When Michael Travis of the String Cheese Incident appeared onstage to finish jamming out ‘Rec Chem’, it seemed as if things could not get more surreal. The Cheese is all about light and fluffy bluegrass-based jams, moe. treats their fans to adrenaline-pumping rock, and the Disco Biscuits bring their jam-tronica dance party wherever they go. The fact that members of these three bands—-whose styles could not be farther apartcan get on stage with each other and play a song with no selfishness is a testament to our scene. We come to the show, wherever it may be, for a dose of what we need, whether it be trance fusion, a hula hoop or a ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ encore. The bands we support bring big talent and bigger ambitions to the stage. Just watching them all play togetherhuge smiles on their faces and congratulatory hugs at the song’s conclusionshowed me how far we’ve come since my first festival, a little gathering called Deadhead Heaven at SUNY Purchase in 1996.
‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ a wise deity once said. Though not referring to us, these words of wisdom might as well, as the fruits of our scene are evident, and we have multiplied above and beyond what anyone ever would have thought. As moe. finished their set with a barn-burning version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Bring It Back Home’, complete with more special guests, I thought to myself about how lucky I was to be who I was, where I was. But now, I think I that the ‘when’ is why I am most fortunate: as that old lot sticker said, ‘We Are Everywhere’, and wherever we are, good music is sure to be near.
What a night, what a weekend, what a year.