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Published: 2009/04/10
by Rudi Greenberg

moe., Rams Head Live!, Baltimore, MD- 3/28

The kind of band that hits hard and doesn’t stop moe. can be quite overwhelming when it wants to be. For the second of two shows at Baltimore’s Rams Head Live!, the band opened with a non-stop 32 minute segment of some of its oldest songs: “Timmy Tucker,” “Don’t Fuck With The Flo” and “Bearsong.”

“Timmy Tucker” got the capacity crowd moving early before slipping into the death-metal irony that is “Don’t Fuck With The Flo.” Chuck Garvey’s incendiary solo got a huge reception from the fans, and for the most part, moe. worked as a cohesive unit tight, focused, not breaking stride. There were a few times when it seemed the band would stay on a section for too long, but that’s typical moe. fare.

“Blue Jeans Pizza,” one of moe.’s better, recent pop attempts, broke the stream with a fairly straight-forward reading, though the crowd-infused clap-jam went over nicely. The set-ending “Y.O.Y > George” lost a little bit of the steam the band gained opening the show, especially considering “George” doesn’t hold quite the same weight without its namesake in office.

But that’s part of moe.’s quest as it returns to the live music scene after a brief hiatus last year. The start of only its second tour since returning, moe. finds itself in a world where Phish and The Dead are touring again, and George W. Bush is no longer in office. The band’s also without its lighting director Jeff Waful, who jumped ship for peers Umphrey’s McGee during the moe. break. While it’s silly to say lights make or break a group, Waful did offer an often-dazzling light display. Replaced on this night by a pseudo-iTunes visualizer projection, moe.’s stage show was a bit less interesting.

But still a show is about the music visuals and stage presence are just extra. The second set continued on the strength of the first set opening with an expansive five song sandwich that populated most of the set. In the middle, moe. debuted a new song, “Ricky Martin.” Appropriately titled, considering it’s a somewhat Latin-tinged instrumental, the piece provided the perfect segue between “Big World” and “Time Ed.” The reggae-tinged funk grooves of “Time Ed” eventually gave way for a Jim Loughlin percussion jam and “Second Cousins,” which has morphed name-wise since its debut at moe.down last year. On this night, the song was to “Runaway Overlude” as The Conch’s “Tubing the River Styx” is to “The Pit” a brief intro-segue of sorts.

After a brief pause, Rob Derhak took the lead on the always-somber, sometimes languishing “Faker.” The song’s building crescendo fit nicely in the middle of the set. Of course, the song had to get heavy too teasing the return of “Big World” for good measure. “Faker” broke down to a funky jam with the “Big World” teases and then on into “Kids,” a song with a repeated guitar riff that can be a bit much at times but the crowd loved it still, singing along to the group’s non-sensical lyrics. “Kids” worked as a solid jam vehicle, giving the boys room for a spacey and psychedelic exploration before returning to where they started: “Timmy Tucker.”

A “Tailspin” encore put the show in the books for good, but it did leave one disappointment: the lack of a guest appearance by openers The Bridge during moe.’s set. The Baltimore native’s opening set was solid as always punctuated by a smoltering “Heavy Water” set closer. Guitarist Cris Jacobs really let his voice and chops shine before giving way to moe.’s set.

But hey, as it’s first shows a spring tour, perhaps moe. wanted to go things on its own proving it’s still a big fish, in the suddenly crowded jamband pond.

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