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Published: 2011/09/23
by Bill Clifford

moe.down, Gelston Castle Estate, Mohawk, NY – 9/2-9/4

Photos by Rob Chapman

Now in it’s 12th year, moe.down returned for the second year in a row to its new home, Gelston Castle Estate, in Mo(e)hawk, NY. Though the historic castle, once home to the Roosevelt family, has been in a state of ruins since the late 20th century, the views from the top of the ridge overlooking the steep, lush and green concert hill, once past the castle, are majestic. And the festival retained its fun for all, family centric environment, with family camping and a very popular kids tent that provided all sorts of activities throughout the day.

Less than a week before the event, Hurricane Irene stormed up the east coast, dropping bucket loads of rain on the Connecticut/New Your border. Though the venue was too far west to have sustained damage, the ground was saturated with rainwater. Weather reports indicated more rain was in store for the holiday weekend as well, though for the most part we were spared another storm till mid Sunday afternoon, which brought lightning and a twister touching down nearby, putting a bit of a damper on one of the event’s premier sets.

Friday, September 2

As there is no carside camping, organizers wisely pushed the first sets till later Friday evening, kicking things off at 8 p.m. on the buzz (smaller) stage with The New Mastersounds, marking their return to moe.down for the second time in three years. This Leeds, England based quartet has got groovy, soulful American jazz and funk down pat. By the end of its second set, the band had heads bobbing and swaying in a funky rhythm, as moe.rons were getting warmed up.

Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, AKA Gene and Dean Ween, have been performing as Ween since 1984. Playing with a full band, these seasoned, experimental rockers knew exactly how to get weird at their first moe.down. Equal parts fired up and energetic and absurdist and quirky, they presented a psychedelic mélange of classic rock, “Captain Fantasy,” obscure punk, “Papa Zit,” humor infused reggae, “Bananas and Blow” and everything else in between. By the end of its set, the band had stirred up the bizarre dissonance on songs such as “Mushroom Festival in Hell,” “Spinal Meningitis” and the drunken punk rock closer “The Blarney Stone,” which felt as though it might not end at all.

moe. kept it simple Friday night – no surprise bust outs nor super improvisational jams. Here’s what I personally find most enthralling about moe. as a performance band: no other group out there these days makes such fine use of the instrumental space and jazzy, freeform interludes from one song to another. They moved from the pop rock flavor of “Down Boy” without skipping a beat into the more frenetic “Skrunk,” which wound its way slowly into “George” on a rolling bass vamp. Jim Loughlin’s MalletKAT led the move from “Where Does The Time Go” into “Dr. Graffenburg.” And lastly, a sentimental favorite of this reviewer, “Deep This Time” moved into a dark, fluid excursion that segued into the pop rocker “32 Things.” The popular “Plane Crash” brought the night to a close in a mesh of wailing guitars and a funky groove.

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