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Published: 2012/08/08
by Dean Budnick

Vinnie Amico: Post-Mono, Pre-moe.down

Did you see the post that Jim made on PhantasyTour regarding your health and the cancelled shows?

I did.

I think the point people that some missed in their frustration over the cancelled shows was that both of you need to be there to truly deliver a moe. show in this day and age.

Yeah, and people buy tickets, they spend a lot of money to do it. Do you want to go and see a half assed show or not go to see, say, whatever tune that Jim didn’t learn or doesn’t know how to play drums on. What if that’s your favorite song and you’re going to four shows and you expect in those four shows you’re going to see it? Are you gypped because you didn’t? Or there’s just certain things that you expect from us at this point and if it can’t be delivered because I’m not there then it can’t be. We’re not providing the service that we should be providing to people, we’re not giving them the best show we can give.

As far as Jim writing that, I think it’s great. I don’t go on boards, I don’t read any of that stuff, I don’t have the time to do that. If it were me, and someone said something about Jim, I’d be more like “Meet me in the parking lot, I’m going to kick your butt.” Jim actually spent time and thought that out very well and it was a very well stated and very well written thing. He defended me as a person, he defended the band, he defended us and our character as people and our business. It was very well said. Someone who doesn’t think of all that stuff, it’s not just going out and doing a show. There’s a lot to be said about what we do outside of just getting on stage and playing. So, as a business and as people we want to provide the best thing we can for people. It’s not because we’re lazy, it’s not that we’re not selling tickets, it’s not that I’m a faker. It’s, ‘Look, we got one of our guys down. We want to provide you guys with the best show- let’s do that. If we have to cancel a few, sorry if it inconvenienced you, sorry if you planned a trip and lost some money. That wasn’t our intentions by any means, it’s just that I’m frickin’ sick’.

Did you get any feedback from Jim after those four gigs?

Yeah, he said, ‘I don’t know how you do that every night.’ He said his hands were shredded. Granted he’s a very different style player and he hits a lot harder, but he’s like ‘I can’t believe you have the stamina to do that night in and night out.’ And if I were playing perc I would say the same thing because my muscle memory isn’t built for it, my hands aren’t built for it. Any of that stuff, so, and playing the tunes. It’s different being a perc player, guitar player, bass player, drummer. I am sort of controlling the tempo and the time of the gig, and when he was doing it he had to count the tempo in each song and to know what each tempo is and to keep that tempo for the whole time.

There are a lot of things you kind of forget about when you’re not doing it. So to have to come in and play the drums again is like ‘oh yeah, I need to keep tempo, and I have to count again in the right place and keep the energy up.’ And some of our songs that are 15,16,17,18,20 minutes and jamming, it’s like ‘Oh yeah I gotta be pushing this thing from start to finish instead of letting it push me.’ Yeah, I think he was like ‘I forgot what it was like to play drums for three and a half hours a night.’ Not that he didn’t enjoy it, he just hasn’t done it in that capacity in however many years as a band. I mean, he plays with Lynch and stuff, but it usually isn’t a three and a half hour show and it’s certainly not 18, 20, 25 minute songs and segues and going from 4/4 meter to 7/8 or whatever we do when we change meters and change tempos in the jams. So it’s just a different headspace, different style that he was used to playing kit on in a while.

When I see you guys play, it’s easy to get fixated on the guitar players, but sometimes I enjoy just watching you, do just what you’ve described. It’s really interesting and I encourage people to do that.

Well thank you, and yeah if you’re in a band that plays the same set every night, 90 minutes, each song is three minutes and your tempo is set and there’s no change in it- that’s one thing. For a band like us or Phish or Widespread Panic, a lot of these bands where songs are long, you want them to increase in intensity the whole time so you’re not going to drag ass and just sit there. You’re going to push the song a little bit so it has the energy to get from start to finish. There’s a meandering of solos, and not in a noodle-y way, I mean, you’re trying to get somewhere. So, whether you’re getting from point A to point B in the song or if you’re getting from point A to another song in another tempo or another song in a different time signature….and with the guitar player on top there’s key changes, so you want the song to move. You want it to be an experience and you want to take the people there, so we all sort of have to do that together. If that’s crescendoing to get to another key, that’s one thing. If it’s getting to another tempo, that’s another. If it’s just peaking a solo, still, the whole band has to get somewhere and it has to explode. It has to get there.

So, we all have to sort of do that together, and part of that is me driving it to get there. And, hearing Al or Chuck bring it up there, and for me to put the exclamation point on it. Or for me to get there and for Al to put the exclamation point on it. Or Chuck.. Whatever, ya know? It’s definitely something that we have over time gotten pretty good at, and all those bands that I mentioned that do this kind of thing- we’re making a statement for sure and we’re doing it together. Sometimes it’s the drummer pushing us there, sometimes it’s the guitar player and we’re following him, but it’s a collaboration of all of us together to get there. Whether it’s driven by me or by Rob or by Jim or whoever.

In just a couple days, moe.down will return to its original site in Turin. Can you talk about your memories of that site and what it will be like to be back?

Well going back, it’s always been a great venue. We moved it just to try something else. New location, easier to get to for fans because it was right off the highway. When we got to the spot we loved the way the new spot looked but logistically, the new place was a nightmare because you had to come downhill to see the show, which means you had to come uphill to go home. At Turin, if you want to go uphill it’s strictly voluntary. There you had to go down the hill to see the show so you had to come up the hill- not voluntary and I think it whipped a lot of people for their camping to be so far away.

Turin’s great- the camping’s right there, the parking’s right there, and the venue’s right there, everything’s just right there. You don’t have to walk far, you don’t have to go far and it’s just a great spot. So we tried something, didn’t quite work out. We wanted to go back to Turin to make the fans happy, to make everybody happy.

As far as highlights of moe. down, sitting on that stage and playing moe.down feels really great. It’s like our end of the year party for all our fans. moe. down is our party. So, to play there, to those people, to sit on that stage and look up because visually it’s really cool, looking up the hill there. We tend to play really well at moe.down, maybe because of that vibe and that it’s our thing.

In talking to other musicians who have their own festival, the fear seems to be that it’s very easy to get swept up in the moment with family, friends, and all of the events, which can have an impact on the performance.

Well, moe.down is a hard weekend. Everybody is psyched, but we’re so busy and so overwhelmed with people, family, friends, signings, talking to people, Kids Tent, whatever. We’re busy. Super busy. But, when you get up on stage it’s like ‘Ahh, here we are at moe.down.’ This is our big thing that we do every year. In that regard, I always feel that way when we get to the stage. We’re gonna rock it because we’re at moe.down.

For highlights, every year we put together a good lineup of bands. And it’s not too many so that you can’t catch a lot of music. I end up watching a lot of music at moe.down and I find it to be great because I get to see Levon Helm Band or Slightly Stoopid or Damien Marley. Or going back to the first couple- Charlie Hunter, David Grisman, Ani DiFranco. That year we had Presidents of the United States, they were freakin’ killer, ya know? Seeing Fishbone…everyone one of these acts are frickin amazing. The Roots! Frickin amazing! You know? It’s just fun, and it’s a great festival to see all those different bands, and then to go up there and play: ‘We have to follow The Roots now and they just kicked ass,’ or The Presidents of the United States. But how are you gonna go up there and not play awesome after that?

If I ask you to close your eyes and pick one moment from your sets at Turin, which one pops into your head first?

No can do. It’s like taking a final exam, where you cram, cram, study, study, and as soon as it’s done it’s out and you don’t remember a thing. That’s how playing is too so I can never remember. After the set’s done for an hour I might remember ‘that was freakin’ killer’ or ‘oh, I screwed that up.’ People ask me what I played that night and I usually can’t remember.

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