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Al Schnier: Back to the Mountain with moe.

2017 is a good year to be a moe.ron. After a three year hiatus, moe.down will make its triumphant return to Snow Ridge Mountain in Turin, N.Y., and according to guitarist Al Schnier, that’s just the beginning of moe.’s ambitious summer plans.

Following moe.down, the veteran jamband will embark on a full summer tour, hitting 15 cities plus the Lockn’ festival. Any downtime, Schnier says, will be spent conceiving a new album. In addition, the band recently became their own managers, running the business end of things when they’re not on stage.

While all of this may seem overwhelming for one band, Schnier is comfortable with the way things are, thinking of moe.down and any subsequent responsibilities as “labors of love.”

Chatting from his home in upstate N.Y., the guitarist recently caught up with Jambands.com to discuss his plans for moe.down, the development of a new moe. album and his winter as a rockstar-turned-ski patrolman.
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What have you missed the most about moe.down?

Seeing everybody. I mean, we see everybody all the time. Our fans are great, they travel everywhere. There’s this great family atmosphere and vibe among our fans, but the thing about moe.down is that it seems to be the one place where everybody converges at the same time. It’s great. It’s just a really awesome atmosphere.

Traditionally, moe.down is a family focused festival. How important is it to carve out these kid-friendly spaces in the festival scene?

It’s really important. My kids grew up at moe.down. They’ve been to every single one. And that’s true for all of the guys in the band. All of us have kids, and a lot of our fans have kids, too. We make the kid’s tent at moe.down a priority, and we incorporate the kids into the show on Saturday afternoon. It’s become one of those things―It’s part of the tradition at moe.down now. And it does set it apart from some of the more grown up festivals out there [laughs]. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s nice to have [a festival] where it’s cool to bring the kids. I mean, you can still hang out with your friends and have some adult beverages, but it’s nice to know you can bring the kids too.

You recently brought your daughter to see Dead & Company at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. What was that experience like?

Oh my god, it was awesome. I’m still floating from it. It was great. And we went to SPAC, which is where I saw some of my first Grateful Dead shows. It was cool. We’d been talking about the Grateful Dead a lot over the last couple of months, and she’s just had more of an interest in classic rock and my history with [The Dead], and the music I listened to growing up. And it just kind of worked out. We both had the day off, and [Dead & Company] were going to be at SPAC, and we decided to go together. It was awesome. It was so much fun.

Most moe.downs have taken place at Snow Ridge Mountain, and you call upstate New York home. What do you love most about that area of the US?

There’s so much that I love. I love the people. You know, everybody around here is pretty down-to-earth. It’s a pretty safe space, and people are pretty normal. It’s not the most progressive part of the country, nor is it the most conservative part of the country. It’s just very middle-of-the-road in that regard, but there’s something really nice about that.

I live in a small town. I know my neighbors. My kids went to the same high school I went to. You can get anywhere in 10 minutes, there’s never any traffic. It’s a good place to raise a family, a good place to grow up. I can’t say enough good things about it.

You worked ski patrol in Turin recently. Did anyone recognize you from moe.down?

It’s funny―Not at first. I didn’t mention it when I first started patrolling. When I was first training with them, we were getting to know one another and they were asking, “What do you do?” And I told them, “Well, I’m a musician.” “Oh really? Do you teach lessons? Are you a music teacher?” And it finally got to the point where I told them I was in the band moe. and they were like, “Oh!” It was pretty funny.

A lot of the patrollers had actually worked at moe.down either in a medical capacity―Some of them are EMTs―Or some of them volunteer at the beer tent to pour beer. A lot of those guys are from that area too, so they’ve been around for a lot of the moe.downs.

The first moe.down took place in 2000. In those 17 years the festival scene has exploded, with more and more festivals popping up every summer. What’s your opinion on that explosion? Do you think it’s a positive thing for the scene or do you think it spreads bands and fans too thin?

A little bit of both. I think the festival format is cool. I think it’s great. I think for it to be the only option available is a little unfortunate. I miss the days of the summer tour. I miss when bands were just going out and doing summer tours all of the time. When SPAC had a full calendar, for example―Almost every night there was a show at SPAC. And it’s just not like that anymore. Most of the bands in our scene have really pulled back on their summer tours and now they do a summer festival tour. And everyone’s doing festivals all summer long. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good for fans. It’s like going to the mall, I guess. You get all your stores in one place. I don’t know. It’s just different.

Like you said, 17 years ago when we started moe.down there were two or three other festivals and that was about it. Now there’s two or three other festivals every day it seems. There’s so much going on. It’s kind of ridiculous.

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