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moe., Caesar’s Tahoe Showroom, Stateline, NV- 4/20

Driving back home over Echo Summit at 1:30 a.m. in a whiteout after fooling chain control into thinking my truck was four wheel drive, all I could do was bleat out "okayalright, okayalright," over and over again. That nights show opened with moe.'s stomping standard "Okayalright" that still remains one of my favorites and seemed a fitting mantra for the situation. Mercifully my wife was caught halfway between sleep and the effects of the 4/20 show at Caesar's Showroom in South Lake Tahoe helping quell her extreme nervousness from the conditions at hand.

A little over a year ago moe. played the same room and opened with the same number. We weren't married then, but the memories of that night were enough to get us below the snowline where she could sleep and I could get lost in my own head remembering the show I'd just been to. I think it was somewhere in the second set not long after the transition from "Happy Hour Hero" into "Mexico" that bassist Rob Derhak looked up at a bunch of what appeared to be white chicken feathers drifting down on the stage and crowd. "I think it's snowing," Derhak said. And a quick glance outside confirmed it … the drive home would be a little hairy.
Hot off their three night run at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, moe. took a one-night stand in the cool recesses of the Sierra Nevada and tended to their mountain faithful on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

After three days in the desert the guys from moe. seemed to breathe deep of the cool mountain air, exhaling a litany of bombastic high mountain jams. The playing was solid, if not a little staid. The laid back mood of the show and a crowd of about 1,000 in a 1,500 person room made for a comfortable setting to watch the guys work their craft. Nobody seemed really worried about what would come of the nights festivities except for maybe the casino cocktail waitresses in their skimpy outfits schlepping $4 shots. Even promoter Robby Polomsky of Renegade Productions seemed more relaxed than in shows past. "I love moe.," he kept saying.

Backstage, moe. drummer Vinnie Amico was reveling some hands with a Phish tale about that bands drummer Jon Fishman. Apparently in Vegas the previous weekend "Fish" had a curtained area near his drum kit where he could change into and out of his new "Rhythm Dress" that debuted at the Thomas and Mack Arena. Amico wasn't satisfied that the only thing the curtained area was for, was changing clothes. "Man, all I'd need is an empty Gatorade bottle," he said.

With the collective conscience of the Tahoe loyal holding the memory of the band's last sojourn at Caesar's Circus Maximus showroom, by the time Al Schnier, Derhak, Chuck Garvey, Amico and Jim Loughlin ambled onto the stage the crowd looked through the forming haze and seemed to crave the music about to flow over them. Whether it was the Godzilla encore with Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon at February 2003's show on the same stage or the wailing second set of the 2/20/03 date, the thirsty crowd, used to the likes of Olivia Newton-John and Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles playing nearby casinos, returned in a lot stronger numbers than the year before. It was only within the last year that Caesar's started giving jam bands access to their stages.

After the "Okayalright" opener, "Gone" came next followed by "Akimbo." Nothing special came out of these three tunes, except for maybe a fine hello. The set ending "Wank" into "Bring it back home" into "Punchline" had some special moments and built nicely, but seemed to lack some exploratory potential. It was stellar stuff for the Tahoe Basin and fine music, but I remember standing in front of Schnier at the 8/23/03 Truckee show across the lake and having to put my hair out after a Schnier riff during "Captain America."

The second set of Tuesday's show had some definite moments though and at one point towards the end of "Meat" I had one of those spinal shivers that causes the hair on your neck to stand up, and on occasion, hair to burn. I felt that craving need created by bands like moe. and their kind being satisfied in that moment, and one moment like that in a show is all I really need. After meandering from "Where does the time go" into "Water" then into "Meat" the guys meshed and, as Schnier said in a phone interview a week earlier, it felt like one of those times where "all the cogs are the right size, when everything lines up … the band is there, the audience is there and you go to outerspace and back."

Schnier did some exploratory stroking on his keyboard set during "Water," backdropped with blue lighting that coupled with the trippy foundation provided by the rest of the band bringing many terms to mind, with "outerspace" being just one of them.

But then there was Derhak's solo take on "The piolada song" by Rupert Holmes between "Mexico" and "Tambourine" that may have helped set the stage for this enjoyable journey in the last part of the second set. For whatever reason, it was good stuff and as quickly as the buzz had arrived it was gone when moe. walked off stage. "Nebraska" was a nice encore bringing everyone back to Earth: "And Nebraska's so flat that I don't care," as the song goes.

And though the weather may be nice in Anchorage this time of year, the weather outside remained rather inclement. On that long ride home I came to the conclusion it was a pretty solid show and that maybe the guys just didn't wake up until the last part of the second set. After all, in Vegas they weren't coming on until around midnight and played to nearly 5 a.m. during one of the shows. Tuesday's show may have been kind of a picnic for moe., and who needs to be fully awake during a picnic anyway. It was nice to hear a new song "Where does the time go," that was debuted in late January at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

And any show that opens with "Okayalright" and includes "Happy Hour Hero" is worth the bills shelled out for a ticket. I wouldn't have minded hearing a couple of their hard hitters though like "Rebubula" or "Moth," or a "Kyle" or a "Plane Crash." But there's always next time and the High Sierra Music Festival is just around the corner.

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