moe., Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte, NC- 4/4
Frank Zappa once said that music without dissonance was like a movie without a bad
guy. I thought about this quote on several occasions during moe.’s second night
of a three
night run at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, NC. I kept wondering what kind
of movie this band would create. It would definitely be independent. Not for lack
of money or creativity, but for a freedom that one loses in Hollywood. It would
have unbelievable character development. The plot would twist and turn with a subtle
grace and the dialogue would make us mourn the language we must suffer through in
our real, everyday lives.
It was raining outside the sold out show, but there
was excitement and energy within. Michael Jackson fought gently over the din of
the crowd. Then, "2001" came on loud over the house’s sound system.
Lighting guy Jeff Waful had been getting into it for some minutes before the silhouettes
of the guys emerged on the stage and began to ax up. As the timpani crashed and
the final notes of "2001" finally gave us their anticipated release, moe.
into "Wicked Awesome." And so it would be.
The first set was solid with a lot of crowd pleasers, including "Yodelittle,"
Ed" and "Jazz Wank." I have always been a fan of percussionist Jim
Loughlin, but this
set put him in a whole new perspective for me. I have seen him play everything from
simple percussion to piccolo bass and acoustic guitar. I have heard him run his
mallets on his vibes and I think I even saw him play an electric didgeridoo once
or twice. But tonight he emerged from his back corner of the stage as he took jazz
solos on his vibes, both organic and electric. As long as he has been playing with
his mallets on stage, he has added thoughtful and tasteful rhythms and melodic additions
over the wall of sound that is moe., but tonight he stepped up for extended
solos that showed a range I had not heretofore appreciated.
Every sweeping run or tight harmony that guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier
play is a clear reminder that these guys have been sharing the stage for almost
twenty years. They each have distinct soloing styles; Al dips more into the AC/DC
bag, while Chuck sounds more like he has been studying with Yes and The Who. But
when they come together during breaks they have a sound that is all their own.
For all of them, it is easy to be so good when you have such a tight wall of sound
which to dance on top of. At
times, bassist Rob Derhak plays simple, root note lines like during the verses on
"She Sends Me."
Then he will come out with thick and gooey chordal sounds that make up the majority
of "Bullet." He runs the harmony lines with the guitarists and he pushes
Vinnie Amico on and on into the night. This "Bullet" also featured longtime
Bon Lozaga from Gongzilla. While he joined Chuck on guitar, Al mostly kept to his
keyboards. It is always fun to watch a great musician play with a band when he does
not quite know the song. The band played over tight, rehearsed
changes while Lozaga added new and improvised twists all the way helping keep the
groove and the feel of the song intact. And when it came time for him to take his
solo, one was reminded why moe. invited him out.
I once reviewed a moe. show for a local paper and I entitled it “An Evening with
moe. Melting the Ice Cube.” The entire review was a metaphor for the style that
the guys had employed throughout the night. They would start out playing a song.
They would open it up into a jam, melting the ice cube that is the structure
of their music. Then, after extensive exploration, they would start to reform the
cube, but this time it would be something entirely new and they would perfectly
and seamlessly be in another song, in another style, in another sound.
There was less of this technique going on at the Neighborhood Theatre on this particular
night. Although their move from "Bullet" into "Head" to close
out the second set was
superb, they employed many different aspects rather than relying on one or two tricks
that they had perfected so well.
I also have to take this opportunity to give kudos to the Neighborhood Theatre.
It has always been a great venue, but it has taken the necessary changes to work
its way up the ranks. They
have done serious and important construction; they have finally gotten their liquor
license, and they have the perfect amount of safety regulations without overstepping
the ability of the people to enjoy themselves. They also have a phenomenal sound
system, the heart and soul of any real venue. They have brought much needed life
to Charlotte’s nights.
After the aforementioned "Head" closer, moe. exited the stage. Their
team went right to work getting ready for the band's nightly take on "Raise
Anyone who bought moe.’s new album Sticks and Stones received
a coupon good for a one-time pass onto stage with the group. to sing on
the Irish drinking song. Al played mandolin and Rob pulled
out an electric upright bass. Although performing the song during the encore three
nights in a row might have been a little much, it was fun to watch the band expand
and interact with
with its new members and the crowd was happy to sing along as well. Plus, they closed
the night with "Rebubula," so there was really no room to complain.