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Published: 2007/01/23
by Randy Ray

Sounding The Conch with Al Schnier

One of the most important jamband attributes that distinguish it from so many musical genres is the optimistic point of view in the face of chaotic doom. Hippie Nero playing in the band as Rome burns? Not quite, but darn close. The jamband that epitomizes the continuing evolution of this occasionally beleaguered but much-ballyhooed genre is New York’s moe. The band presents their work in a satisfyingly unique manner in tandem with close business partners who are friends, family members or long-term relationships, which have stood the test of time. Not always the formula for success in any field but moe. has managed to make it work despite the odds.

The Conch is their latest release, which finds the band expanding on the live/studio experimentation that was begun with 2003’s Wormwood. Whereas that release was a more user-friendly, classic rock, unified body of work, The Conch raises the bar and incorporates different themes that appear in several songs as identifying motifs but never surface too much to draw comparison to the earlier segue-happy work. In short, it is the band’s most mature release and offers a different introspective side that hasn’t always been present in their sound. sat down with guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist, Al Schnier to discuss this growth process while covering various band activities that have influenced their work both in the studio and on the road. The conversation began with a nod to a November 27 moe. gig, which saw Schnier return to playing guitar after a bout with tendonitis, sidelined the axeman for most of the fall. The date also featured Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen as moe. came “full circle” with one of their influencesa distinction that appears to also challenge the band as they collectively enter a phase of their career with moe. as a potential mentor to an evolving jamband landscape.

Part I Surrender
To live in these interiors was to have woven a dense fabric about oneself, to have secluded oneself within a spider’s web, in whose coils world events hang looselyBreaking Open the Head, Daniel Pinchbeck

RR: What was it like to have Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen sit in with moe. on guitar? You hadn’t played “Surrender” in around seven years so that was a cool breakout.

AS: It was pretty cool. For me, it’s certainly a full circle type of experience. (laughter) The first album I ever went out and bought with my own money was _Live at Budokan_that was the first rock album I ever owned. I played it to death, basically wore the grooves out and perfected a lot of my air guitar moves playing my tennis racket to that album. I know every single thing on that album; it becomes ingrained on youevery drum fill, every guitar lick, every [Al imitates a Rick Nielsen riff], every “thank you.”

It was really cool to get a chance to meet Rick and play some of those songs together. He came down early, ended up hanging out the whole afternoon, had dinner together and we geeked out over guitars. It was just great, really cool.

RR: How did you get him to come down in the first place?

AS: Well, there was some discussion of doing the Jammys together last year. It didn’t pan out but it was sort of left as if there was ever an opportunity, we’d like to do something and there we were. Rick lives about an hour away so it worked out just fine.

RR: How is your tendonitis?

AS: Oh, it’s doing great. My hand has been feeling fantastic. The holidays have sort of forced me off the computer, which has been a good thing for my hand. I’ve been doing a lot of practicing which has been really good for me, something I haven’t done since I was like 13. (laughter) I guess people just naturally assume that if it’s your profession that it’s something that you’re working on all the time. I guess that’s true in a way but I don’t have the luxury of sitting down for hours a day and wood shedding like a lot of the guys on YouTube do. Most of what moe. has accomplished and evolved into over the years has been down on stage, in front of our fans. (laughter) That’s the engine room for us.

This has been a great blessing in disguise. I’ve had a lot of down time to spend with my guitar. I’ve been approaching it from a different angle, I guess. It’s just been great for me.

RR: What would that angle be?

AS: I’ve had the time to sit down and make a conscious effort not to play like I normally would, first and foremost, which is hold on for dear life, play anything and everything that comes to your mind as quickly as you can. You just sort of fall into what you would innately do without thought or care and just sort of go for it. Now, I had this opportunity. I was really forced physically to step back and focus on staying loose and not tensing my arm in any way and working on fluidity. This is just in terms of the mechanics. It’s given me an opportunity to approach the guitar mechanically in a much more refined way.

On the other hand, I had an opportunity to sit down and sort of reexamine the guitar neck, focus on a lot of the gray areas, stay away from all of my comfort zones and focus on all of the stuff I wouldn’t normally play. That’s what I’ve been doing the last two months. It’s great. Now I can go back, take all of the stuff that I used to havemechanically and theoreticallyand all this new stuff like I’m armed with all of these new resources. I’m really excited about playing again.

RR: You hit this plateau in 2005, get tendonitis in 2006 and the pendulum swings the other way. What was the initial prognosis? Was it like a pitcher with a torn rotator cuff that isn’t going to come back pitching very well, if at all?

AS: Yeah, yeah, exactly. The initial prognosis was full-blown, hardcore tendonitis. It was going to be a lot of rest, anti-inflammatories and staying off my wrist. Then, I started reading about Ani DiFranco’s bout of tendonitis and how she had to take almost a year off from touring and playing all together and my heart just sank. I can’t imagine doing that. First and foremost with moe., we’re not gearing up for a hiatus anytime soon. [Author’s Note: not that’s there’s anything wrong with taking a hiatus or two as long as the band RETURNS.] We don’t want to take a year off. It’s just not in our game plan, right now so being forced into a year off just as we completed an album, a DVD, a cruise and several festivals and Radio City for New Year’s Evethere are so many things on the table that that was kind of a letdown, to say the least.

Further research into this and second, third, fourth and fifth opinions on this turned out that it was just not standard tendonitis from repetitive use. Once we looked at the big picture, the source of the problem really begins in my neck. I have a trouble spot on my right shoulder from a snowboarding accident twelve years ago and the muscles in my forearm were completely knotted and overtight. There were several spots on my neck, from my spine, all the way down to my wrist that were really the source of the problem. It just happened to explode in my wrist. Sure, that’s where all of the symptoms were at that time but the source was that entire line from the neck on down so that’s what I’ve been working on through massage therapy and chiropractic rehab. It’s been fantastic. The two guys I’ve been seeing have just done wonders with me. I’m so glad that I ended up there and not just resting and taking Advil for six months. I’d be right back here, again.

RR: I can relate. When I began two careers, both required me to sit in front of a monitor. I had a muscle pull in my shoulder, which reached up to my neck and settled in my head. The word “ergonomics” suddenly entered my vocabulary and I had to learn to sit on an uncomfortable chair with my upper torso and arms in an L’ position. I essentially still do that but I haven’t had a problem since. What is amazing to me is your recovery time, Al.

AS: I’ve had a lot of good work from some really good people and I’ve been learning a lot about my body and how it works. Basically, my whole system from the neck on down was so tightpinched nerves, muscles knotted and tight. I had to stretch the whole thing out, loosen me up. I still have a lot of work left to do. This was twelve years in the making. I’m not going to undo it in a couple of months. I can play, keep doing rehab and hopefully, get back to a point where I correct my posture, lengthen these muscles, stretching every day and not playing like an idiot. (laughter)

RR: You weren’t playing like an idiot before the tendonitis.

AS: Thank you. I appreciate that. I look at my guitar heroespeople like Jerry [Garcia], Jimmy Herring, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhodes (the list could go on and on)and I look at these guys and (you know what? Joe Satriani at the Jammys [2006] completely blew me away) the thing that they all share is a fluidity and ease in their approach to the guitar. Whereas I feel like my approach has been more like Neil Youngyou’re just ringing the neck of the guitar and squeezing the life out of it. (laughter) You’re going to get it to play the notes that you want or you’re going to kill it. I think I need to redirect what I’m doing; maybe, one day begin to approach the ballpark that those guys are in. I still feel like a kid in terms of all of this and I’ll probably never make anybody’s Top 100 list or anything like that but that’s not necessarily my goal. I do this because I love it. I get to play with my heroes and that really makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Part II Lost Along the Way
I shall not ask, sir, if you are a magician. The ease with which you penetrate other people’s dreams proclaims your power.Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke

RR: I’m intrigued by the dual themes on The Conch. moe. has used the live and studio experiments that were executed on Wormword and took them a step further. I feel like I’m listening to a two-sided album, each with its own personality that easily folds into one unified purpose.

AS: Yeah, you know, initially, this was going to be a double album. There was going to be a disc one and disc two. It came down to the wire with mastering. We were still going to release this as two discs even though it fits on one disc. We just thought in terms of our presentation, in terms of the whole artistic package that even if it meant more money, even if it could all fit on one disc that the final presentation would have been better, I guess as a classic double album. At the end of the day after we started talked about the fact that people were just going to load The Conch into their computers or mp3 players, it was really just a technicality and, maybe, a nostalgic thing that we were getting hung up on so, we decided to release it as a single disc and go from there. I think it’s interesting that you picked up on that. You come from that same era that we do and an 18-year-old fan is not going to really have any reference base for something like that.

RR: Right but I’m part of both generations. The way that I grew up had me straddling the age between albums and CDs as most of the bands that I follow. Now, we’re firmly in the iTune era where the listener can split up albums and cherry pick their favorite songs but a band still has to produce an album rock quality product so that it enables one to have that much more substance for the iTune cherry picker. Otherwise, we’re going back to the pre-Beatles era.

AS: With just singles.

RR: Rightcherry picking four singles and the remaining eight songs are baggage.

AS: We agree with you. The album is an art form. I hate to see it go the way of the dodo, so to speak. There are so many classic albums where there’s a side one and a side two, the double albums with record one and record two. You think of the four sides of the White Album, the two sides of Remain in Light. There’s so many bands, so many albums and they worked within those confines. It helped to make the product what it was. I think the problem is thatespecially with today’s technologyyou end up with too many songs and you end up losing the listener. Some of my favorite releases these daysanything that’s been made in the last ten yearsa lot of them have maybe one or two too many songs. It should have been a little bit shorter. Just because you can cram it all onto a disc doesn’t mean that it needs to be. Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned about this but I think the perfect album needs to fit on one side of a 90-minute tape.

RR: I wince when I pick up a CD and it has 70 minutes of music because more times than not, the band have not reached the level of producing that many quality songs.

AS: Clearly that was a concern of ours going into thisa single disc that was maxed out with 80 minutes or whatever but there’s still another 45 minutes or more that didn’t make it on the album. We feel like we really did a good job of cutting it down with the intention to make the double album. We did weed out all of the unnecessary stuff and obviously, people are going to have favorites and songs they’re going to skip. Hopefully, we trimmed the fat enough that’s it is all of the quality material that our fans will enjoy.

RR: There’s certainly more color, light and shade than on other moe. albums.

AS: That’s good to hear.

RR: As on Wormwood, moe. recorded tracks live in concert and took the music back to the studio to hone the songs. What were some of the lessons learned from the recording of Wormword that were applied and expanded upon on The Conch?

AS: One of the biggest challenges once we got to the studio with all of the live Wormwood material was that the tracks that we had were just a mess. Not only in terms of how everything needed to be re-setup. Everything was a big mess. We were a bit disorganized; we didn’t see the big picture, necessarily. We just went through our normal live tracking process and using different machines at the time. Everything comes out of track one, track two, track three, track four and we get back to the studio and we say, “We know we think this is July 23 and we’ve got track one, track two, track three and I think this mic is on the high-hat and this one was” and the first week I worked seven days straight on the computer, fifteen hour days, just going through doing mundane, organizational investigative work, getting all of our tracks labeled so we could start working on them, editing things together. That part of it was a logistical nightmare when we got to the studio.

The other variables that got in the way were that, one, the quality of the live tracks was not as good as it could have been, primarily due to the gear we were using and the second thing was that [the recorded quality] varied a lot from night to night because we were using different gear from show to show. Not entirely but some of it did. Those are the things that we really wanted to improve on this time. We wanted to rein in some of those variables that really slowed us down once we got into the studio. We’re chugging along, we’ve got this great tour going, we’re playing really well, the band was really psyched about what we were doing, we were on the road for three-and-a-half weeks and we go in to the studio and we were hoping to burn through what we did and it was like we crashed at that point. We spent a week sorting through this mess and getting to the point where we could start working again. Now, we’re four-and-a-half weeks away from home, at this point, working on this thing and everybody was burnt before we ever started working on the studio portion of the album. We still had to make a studio album and we were away for another two weeks working on it. By the time it was done, everybody was just completely knocked out.

Part III Tubing the River Styx The duke put his dagger on the table. “This affair cannot be settled by an ordinary duel.”The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, Jan Potocki

AS: This time we wanted to avoid all of that stuff. We got much better gear, we decided it was going to be one location, we were going to control all of the variables; much better sound quality, much better variety from day-to-day in the stuff we were recording. Then, take the proper time to get setup for each next phase of the album so we weren’t going to be completely burned out at the end of working six-and-a-half weeks straight on this. I think we managed to do all of that. We finished The Conch once in Januarya single album. We had a 50-minute album; we took it homethis is a year agoand after listening to it for a month we said, “We can do better. Let’s go back to work on it. Let’s just keep working on more stuff.”

We still intended to make it a single album. I say a single album’ but what I mean is as we discussed. Let’s replace some of this material. We ended up working on a whole new batch of tunessome of it got swapped out and some of it didn’t. I guess we had the luxury of time. We don’t have unlimited resources and we funded this whole thing and spent the same amount of money that a major label would have. We spread ourselves pretty thin last year between the DVD and the album but, at the end of the day, we made something that we are satisfied withwe didn’t walk away until we were all done and we were all happy with it. That was the first time we’d ever done that.

RR: Was the initial album that was completed in January 2006 also recorded with live tracks at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine?

AS: Yes, it was the same sessions as what appears on The Conch. As a complete listening experience, it wasn’t good enough.

RR: The Wormword problems included different equipment that you were renting that was all over the place in quality. How was that approach changed?

AS: We were on a much lower quality console [on the Wormwood live sessions] that we were tracking everything through. A lot of the mics varied from night-to-night. It was primarily that, I guess. The console was O.K. but it wasn’t meant for recording. It was meant for monitor mixes in a bar. We took everything in the studio and dressed it up quite a bit. [or as stated in Wormword’s liner notes: additional overdubs, rearranging, regurgitating, de-speckling, bastardization, vibe crushing and flogging]. In fact some of the drum tracks didn’t sound as good as it could and our engineer, Bill Evans actually took the drum tracks to another studio. He’d take the kick drum and play it through a PA in the studio and mic the PA and send it through better pre-amps and EQs to get better drum sounds, drum-by-drum, just to approve upon our initial signal that we were working with [from the console recordings]. Nobody should have to go to those lengths when recording an album. It should sound right the first time.

This time we brought in much better gear, a much better console to start, a bunch of pre-amps and microphones from our studio. I borrowed some from a friend and we had all of the pieces that we needed. Everything that you would find on a nice recording studio, we had on stage at the State Theatre. We had very expensive microphones hanging over the drum kitnothing you would use in a live setting but clearly you’d have in a studio. We made the stage at the State Theatre our mobile studio.

RR: You took all of this back to New York studios from Rhinebeck to Ithaca?

AS: Yes, from there we actually went into all of those studios and start working on all of the overdubs and start assembling the album.

RR: I brought that up because I see that a portion of the album was also mixed at the fairly legendary Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. How was that experience?

AS: Yeah. That was awesome. We’d all be very happy to go back there and work, again.

RR: Perfection like everything the mind can imagine coming out of the speakers?

AS: Yeah, not only that but the place is just filled with such a great history, so many great albums were made there. All of the David Lee Roth Van Halen albums, Pet Sounds, Exile on Main St. We were just mixing when we were thereabout a week-and-a-half in L.A. and sure enough out at Sunset Sound. It was cool.

Part IV MacIntyre Range
Neuroscientists deconstruct sound into its components to study selectively which brain regions are involved in processing each of them, and musicologists discuss their individual contributions to the overall aesthetic experience of listening.This Is Your Brain on Music, Daniel J. Levitin

RR: I like how the songs flip between Rob Derhak’s and your own on The Conch. The way I hear the album is the more classic moe. elements are sequenced together on tracks 1 through 8 with the crowd sing-a-long “y eaux Massa” as a demarcation point between sides 1 and 2. Tracks 10-17 plays like a suite of introspective songs. Another thing I noticed was, unlike Wormwood, I cannot hear any bleed between crowd noise and the instrumentation on the live track feed. Was it basically some of the drum mics that were picking up the exterior sound last time?

AS: Right. We had much more control over the variables. We were in the theatre for eight days before our fans even showed up. We really dialed in everything exactly as we needed to and with Wormword, we didn’t have a choicewhen the crowd showed up, they had to show up. They were just there and rather then just fight it, we decided to just leave it. This time it just wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice that we had to weed out all of the crowd noises so it sounds different. Through all of the careful planning, we managed to weed out those random elements. I love that element on Wormwood. Like I said, it wasn’t a conscious decision to dial down crowd noise, as much it was to just improve the sound of everything.

RR: How was the approach different with the segues on The Conch?

AS: It wasn’t a priority this time. [On Wormword, it was a priority; we wanted it to be a continual flow from song-to-song; we wanted the whole thing to be one, continuous piece. This time it was O.K. for it to have chapters instead of it being a run-on sentence. (laughter)

RR: I did notice there would be resurfacing themes. For example, there is a keyboard motif, which appears in “MacIntyre Range” that reappears as imagery in “Brittle End.” The segues, consequently, seem to be more of a subtle touch. I liked this sort of mature pastiche instead of doing a cobbled-together Abbey Road suite.

AS: Exactly. We thought of different elements that would work, that corresponded. You’re exactly right. The thing that transpired right before it and the songs flowed in that way, I guess. I didn’t always have to be continuous music where the music never stops. It can be where you were working in orange hues in the last song there’s some orange at the beginning of the next song and that’s enough, sometimes to the listener’s ear even if it’s not recognized consciously. There’s a similar sound from “MacIntyre Range” that appears in “Lost Along the Way,” as well.

RR: That leads me to what I feel is one of the strong points of the albumfinding where things correspond with each other as opposed to being led by the hand (or the ear, as the case may be). How did you get the crowd involved on “y eaux Massa?”

AS: I went out onstage by myself (laughs) and said, “O.K. Here’s what we’re doing.” This is in between sets one night. I got them to do maybe, a dozen things like thatfrom various hand claps, vocals and a sonic wave where they sang a chord and it went from one side of the room to the back and back up to the front, again. We tried all sorts of things and I thought how great to be a part of the recording process for the fans, really be a part and it would be on the album in some way. It was really important for me to have them there not only as support for the live experience but, to record something with them.
We managed to sneak some of that in there. To me, it’s somethingnot that it’s any major giftbut it’s a good experience to share and I’m more than happy to share that stuff with our fans.

Part V Letter Home
Adrenaline was an even bigger headache. After a long night’s work jack-knifing across a stage to endless wild applause, the boys were so pumped up that it usually took several hours to reach a state where they were calm enough to drift off.The Beatles, Bob Spitz

RR: moe. has had a family-run organization for a long timea decade-and-a-half. How has the band been able to sustain that fragile family/business relationship?

AS: I think a lot of comes from having really low standards. (laughter) No. The whole thing started from friendships. Our manager [Jon Topper] is a friend of ours, somebody that we hung out with in college and has been the only person that’s ever managed us. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing it. He’s a part of the process. In the beginning, he was very much a fifth member of the band and we treated it as sucheven though he didn’t come out on stage and perform with us. He lived in the house with us, come out on the road with us and obviously, all of that has changed. That’s just one example.

Rob’s wife, Becca [Childs-Derhak], has always been involved in our artwork. I think I did the original layout for the Fatboy cassette when we put it out. Chuck [Garvey] did the original illustration that was on the cover before we re-released it as a CD and had our friend Colter do the artwork. Again, Colter was a housemate of Chuck and Rob’s.

Everything about itTopper’s wife handles all of our day-to-day accounting and Topper’s best friend is his partner in management. Our tour manager, Skippy [Ken Richman], is a friend of ours from college. Steve Youngour former front-of-house engineer who just retired this summerhas been doing sound for us since we started playing bars in Buffalo.

We spend so much time running this small business together that it’s integral to what we do that we all get along and like each other because it’s not just a 9-5 job where you need to punch in and deal with a guy that you don’t really like. We couldn’t have somebody working for us and not like him and still have to live with him on the bus. We need to live together, like each other and we need to want to see each other at events like moe.down. There needs to be more of a vested interest than you would need just for a job. This is more than a job. We’re building something here and ideally, everybody is getting to do the thing that they love and they really want to pursue in life. They have this outlet and shared interest. It’s all moe. in one way or anotherwhether you’re a graphic artist, you want to manage bands or you want to be an engineer. If you have a passion for that thing and you’re a decent person, it’s important to us and it works.

It’s a great family of families that make up our company. We might not make some temporary progress by using more aggressive tactics like a power move by using an agency or management group that might make us more successful on the short-term scale. That’s not something that we’re interested in and that’s not to say that we’re not interested in being successful. We’re not interested in being successful in a short burst and doing it unethically. Our approach to how our internal company is structured and this goes from everyone that works with us at the home office to everyone on the road with us
and beyondour booking agency, publicists and all of the promoters that we’ve worked with for years over the country. We’ve worked with the same guys for 10-15 years and we have long-term relationships with people that we care about. They’re friends of ours. It’s a matter of having your priorities straight, deciding what your priorities are and if money is a priority and not integrity, friendship or ethics then, you could certainly make a lot more money if you put that stuff aside.

RR: With that mode of thinking, moe. has figured out a way to have several annual events that bring this family together with its fans, snoe.down, Summer Camp and moe.down.

AS: The first ingredient has to be that there is some sort of interest from our organization to do something like thatbuild something that’s unique, fan-friendly and something, again, with some longevity to it. We’re looking at the big picture when we’re organizing these things, annually.

The second thing and really the most important element to these events is the people that we’re working with. Each of those events that you mentioned there is a promoter that we’re working with, a different promoter for each event and they’re all fantastic. They do so much of the work and they’re the ones that make it happen and we’re building these events with them. That’s really what enables us to do this. If not for them, we would have a very tough road to travel in building these events into what they’ve become.

If you combine those two things togetherour direction with their resources and a mutual desire to make this a long-term event really resonates with the fans into something that becomes a word-of-mouth thing. You work towards that and that’s how we ended up where we are, I guess. (laughs) They’re all sort of unique events. They all have a different quality. moe.down, obviously, is kind of the moe. family reunion, summer camping, picnic sort of thing that we do that winds down the summer. Summer Camp kicks off the summer but it’s not so focused on moe. Umphrey’s McGee, Keller Williams, Yonder Mountain String Band and so many bands have been involved in one way or another since the inception of this thing. It’s not just built around moe. I like that. It’s much more diverse group and has a completely different feel. It’s not like a family reunion; it’s kind of like the inaugural summer event. We’re kicking off the summer festival season with this thing and it’s really a good way to start. It’s nice to share that experience with our friends on the road like Umphrey’s.

RR: I always saw Summer Camp as the musician’s reunion and moe.down as the fan’s reunion. moe. has also patented the band seguealong with Umphrey’swhere one band takes over all of the instruments of another.

AS: (laughs) Right.

RR: How do you prepare your sets for something like the upcoming

AS: The interesting thing about our cruise is that it’s the same fans seeing you play seven shows in a row. It’s not like being on tour and playing seven days in a row and having a lot of the same people. It is ALL of the same people. (laughter) Not only thatbut hanging out with you for seven days in a row, seeing you at the beach, at the bar, at the pool, at dinner and etc. etc. You really spend a lot of time with those people. That plays a role on the music that we put out. By the end of it, the performancesit’s already started out being intimate, the largest venue we play is a thousand-seat venue, a cabaret theatre on the cruise ship so it already starts off as an intimate gigby the end, it’s really intimate. Somebody in the middle of the crowd could say something and everybody in the crowd knows that person’s name at this point and it’s really interesting. It’s more like a group meeting with the band. It’s a really great atmosphere. Of course, you have to strategically plan the music so you’re not front-loading the shows or saving everything for the end. We don’t want to repeat any music, either so we have a little bit more planning than we would have playing seven shows on the road.

RR: Pull out more chance-y cover material because the crowd is more forgiving?

AS: Sure. (laughter) Maybe some old sea shanties. With snoe.down, it’s sort of the same thing but in a lot more condensed timeframe. We have all of the other bands to rely on, all of the winter sports and it really becomes an action-packed weekend but it’s nice to do it in a winter setting and get some skiing. Again, it’s still pretty much a family event. Last year, I had such a great time. I spent one day skiing with my kids, another day skiing with a bunch of fans and it was awesome. I had a great weekend. I’m looking more forward to skiing with everybody than I am the music portion. (laughs) It’s so much fun. At one point, there were about fifteen of us tearing up the mountain.

RR: That leads into my next question. moe. holds annual events that all age groups could attend. How much of a conscious planning decision has that been?

AS: A lot of it is born out of our own experiences. It’s not something we planned fifteen years agoultimately, we will host a festival that will be very kid-friendly. It’s a priority for us so, again, it becomes part of our business model. Everything we do reflects our needs and wants, first and foremost. While we are subject to the college school schedule, the summer festival season and holidays, a lot of it is still up to us in terms of the threshold of how much a family can endure. Every family is different. All of our families needs are different but, in the end, we come up with something that works for our whole group and we go from there. Like you said, planning the family-friendly eventsor that portion of what we doand we hope that it works. It would be great to focus a lot more on that stuff but we realize that still the average moe. fan is a 21-year old college kid and he doesn’t really care whether or not there are kids events.

RR: moe. allowed tapers to patch into the soundboard for recordings on New Year’s Eve. What prompted this generosity?

AS: First and foremost, it’s a gift for the fans. I know it’s something that they would like and rather then us recording it and putting it up for free or streaming it for free, I thought let’s just do board patches that night, let the fans go nuts. I thought what a nice gesture for our fans. It made me think of all of the Dead shows that would be broadcast on FM-radio on New Year’s. There was even one on television which I still have my VHS copy [12/31/87]. I thought if we had the opportunity to broadcast this on radio, we probably would so, what’s the difference? The notion of us recording and releasing something probably wasn’t very likely anyway, so why keep it from the fans? Let’s let them have it. It’s a gesture to the notion that the fans clearly enable us to do this and have provided us with the great times that we have in many ways. It’s really the least we can do.

- Randy Ray stores his work at

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