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Published: 2001/07/24
by Dan Greenhaus

Monkeys on Ecstasy- Lion’s Den, NYC 7/23

Hearing that Monkeys on Ecstasy were playing some small club dates was some
of the best news I've heard in some time. I immediately bought tickets as
did several of my friends knowing that this show was not one to be missed,
as this was the smallest NY venue they'd played since the Wetlands CD
release party. Monkeys on Ecstasy, or moe. for short, were just here in New
York's Central Park Summerstage where they played a solid, but not
awe-inspiring show. What I desired was a tiny club show where moe.
could let loose and do some things that they perhaps, were reluctant to do
on a larger stage, and that is exactly what we got. A 300 person club date at New York's Lion's Den.

Walking into the Lion's Dean, one immediately realizes that this is a far
superior setup to the Wetlands, although smaller. The stage is in front of
the crowd (who would've thought that?) providing everyone in attendance with
a great view. What the Lion's Den did not provide was air conditioning.
Without exaggerating, as I've been known to do, it must've been at least 90
degrees in the club. By the time Monkeys came out at 9:50, the entire place
was a sweat box. Even Al made a comment about the humidity, much to the
amusement of the crowd.

Opening with "The Ghost of Ralph's Mom", Monkey's immediately let everyone
know they meant business. "Spaz Medicine" followed much to the small crowd's
delight. "Spaz" then went into a spacey jam which, thanks to the small
club, allowed Monkeys to stretch out and experiment with some weird effects.
Rob was playing some off-time bass notes playing a cat and mouse game with
Al while Chuck played some spacey chord over the two. This was unlike
almost anything I've seen moe. do live at bigger gigs, but it was very
interesting. Not so concerned with grooving, the band was playing some
spacey psychedelics slightly reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. Once the band
fell into a groove, it was easy to see where they were going. The Al-led
jam fell perfectly into "Letter Home" which was played slightly sloppy at
the beginning, but was brought together to finish strong.

After a brief discussion, the band decided to play the new Chuck song that
everyone is still talking about from the Central Park show. Still unnamed,
the song was billed as "Assfinger", and then amended to
"Codename:Assfinger", on obvious reference to the Mission Impossible-style
jam section. This on-stage discussion provided some good laughs for those
in attendance. As the song progressed, I was reminded of exactly how good
this song is. Rob played a fantastic bassline during the jam, with Jim
playing some great percussion, specifically the xylophone. Closing the set
with a great Faker jam—>Moth left everyone very excited from the first set
and anxious for the second.

Thankfully, the club allowed us to go outside (I would've killed myself if
we couldn't) which left everyone refreshed for the second set. Fortunately,
I had no idea what I was in for. A slightly smaller crowd returned for one
of the best moe. jams I've ever heard. An utterly jam-dropping "Cryptical
Envelopment—>Other One—>Cryptical—>Recreational Chemistry Tease—>Waiting
for the Punchline" jam opened the second set and had everyone stunned. One
of moe.'s biggest criticisms is that they too-often get bogged down in a
groove which, ultimately ends up just being an elongated guitar solo. Where
I can see how people can formulate this opinion (see several "Captain
America's"), moe. also has the capability to separate themselves from the
root of songs, giving themselves a launching pad to jams that are legendary
(see almost anything from Halloween '98 at Hammerstein). This was one of
those. Rob abandoned the standard bassline early in "Cryptical" allowing
the band to move through the famous Grateful Dead jam with a sense of
freshness. After a Rob-led "Recreational" tease, Al quickly had the band in
the happy "Waiting for the Punchline" which finished the jam to a screaming
and appreciative crowd that loved every minute. "New York City" was played
next following by a great "So Long—>Jazz Wank—>Buster". I may be alone in
this, but I heard Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"
which only made the show-closing jam that much better. Monkeys on Ecstasy
really let it all hang out in the sweaty, humid Lion's Den and left everyone
begging for more. A double encore of "Low" and "I wanna be Sedated" gave
everyone more and sent everyone off into the night to contemplate exactly
how extraordinary the music was that we just heard.

moe. is truly an amazing band that deserves all the praise they receive.
From the early days in Broadway Joe's in Buffalo to the 5000+ Central Park
Summerstage, moe. continue to amaze and dazzle everyone who comes to see
them. Small venues seem to give them inspiration to explore and jam in ways
that they just cant, or wont, do in larger places. I almost wish I could
see them all the time in the Lions Den. Although next time I'm bringing a
fan.

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