moe., Governors Island, NYC- 6/15
What better kick off to the summer concert season could there be than taking the ferry on a Sunday evening out to an admittedly police-laden Governor’s Island for a moe. gig? The venue was not so much a venue as a twisted college quad, a fenced in field between vacant barracks and officers’ houses, all brick, with a stage at one end. But the sound was clear, and the police presence, it soon became clear, was in place to prevent wanderers from disappearing into the island’s buildings and interior rather than to harass the kiddies. Everyone was relaxed and in a good mood when the quintet hit the stage with a “Tailspin” > “Darkness” opener, the latter settling into a nice groove with hints of “Moth” before it was all over. The jam eventually landed in “Bring You Down”, with Al killin’ one long solo and pulling big cheers from the crowd of maybe 1500-2000.
After “Tambourine”, a nice, sharp percussion intro opened a hot version of “Rise”. It was moe. playing entirely in the zone- nothing like fireworks, but real solid moe. jamming. As the movement shifted gears to a broader terrain, Kenny Brooks (Ratdog) joined in, stretching out over a course that wound round to “Happy Hour Hero” (a very funny choice, as the band had just finished two nights at the Saranac Brewery in Utica (“Forget about the pretty girl, a Saranac will do just fine”), but who can account for moe. humor?). At this point the sun was setting and the field had grown foggy (smoky?) as Brooks began a great solo under blue lights. He nailed it, hitting a glorious stride and passing the lead onto Chuck to close. It was the highlight of a comfortable, familiar set.
But the second go-round, that was a whole different game. The band came out and tore into “Head,” which only barely made it through the vocals before launching into the serious space groove under green/blue/purple spotlights spinning. Effervescent guitar waves rose up in the night and we were in that second set space- what other band can take you there with any regularity these days? An echoey passage from Al built up to a thickly bass-ed jam into “Time Ed”- a classic moment.
Jim’s percussion, which is so much at the heart of moe. while other percussionists are merely icing on the cake, led into a dark, red groove with pulsing marimba, Rob wrapping himself around the lead. After the briefest pause, the music picked up again, now with a slow pumping Vinnie in charge- deep, very cool cosmonaut space, all thick with red and yellow cones of light cycling and opening into spirals. Suddenly a long line of glow sticks tethered to balloons shot up in the breezy night. Waful cut the lights, and we all watched the points arch a few hundred feet in the air as the music grew even thicker, Jim on bass too as Rob worked on mud bubble effects. The whole thing finally reached back to “Head,” kickin’ ass all the way, to complete an awesome 40 minute suite that served as the night’s main course.
To keep the depth and tone going, next came “Four” but Chuck seemed to wander about for a while without actually gaining any ground. When he finally found the spot, though, he burned it up, earning a huge cheer before the sick bass that has underlay the solo grew to the fore and carried the whole movement along a steep trail to the mountain top. At the peak it was a rager, before it shifted and bent through angular ideas and manic rocking that introduced a short “Spaz Medicine”.
For the show closer, an awkward “Brent Black” where Chuck or Rob missed a beat before the first chorus, and they were on the verge of flopping when the band turned a hard left into “She.” It was not a smooth moment by any stretch of the imagination, but capitalizing on earlier successes, they all rocked it out with serious shredding and thunder below- it was rippin’, no doubt, but not as clean as the set opening sandwich, until Rob’s monster solo back into “Brent Black.” The climax, post-drumz, stood strong on its own, despite the opening messiness. All in all, it was a good, mid-tour night, with that “Head” > “Time Ed” >”Head” serving as the takeaway, in a nice, new summertime spot. Can’t wait for the DSO gig on Gov’s Island later this summer.