moe.,The Independent, San Francisco, CA – 12/6
Photo by Carla K. Martin
Wrapping up a year full of touring, moe. set off on a final West Coast run consisting of shows in CO, UT and three sold out gigs at the quaint and uniquely accessible Independent in San Francisco. For the first night they came out of gates guns a blazin’ with a lightning fast “Seat Of My Pants” > “Sensory Deprivation Bank,” a great two punch opener that led the way into a masterful “All Roads Lead To Home” which included extended jamming by Al Schnier. The complex layers continued as they then bombarded the crowd with another two song pairing in the form of “Lost Along The Way” and “Stranger Than Fiction.”
Wrapping up the first set, moe. set out on a relatively routine run of songs that were played with precision, yet allowed room for looseness. “Smoke,” the first track of the night from their latest album What Happened To the La La’s, allowed Schnier to explore the outer regions of the song’s boundaries. At times the band crossed over into a complete separate jam that held no resemblance to the tune at hand. This teamwork lasted over ten minutes before coming back full circle with Al singing in his twangy and incomparable voice, while Jim Loughlin pounded the vibes highlighting and accentuating the song like little ornaments on a Christmas tree. The set ended with a crowd pleasing “McBain” into “Down Boy.” The small venue’s perspective allowed every one in attendance to see the unique timing the band uses to blend their vocals together in harmony.
After a short set break the quintet returned with a completely hidden agenda, and like magicians with cards tucked up their sleeves they jumped into the Chuck Garvey-driven “The Road” > “Billy Goat.” It always amazes me how the allocation of duties between Al and Chuck unfolds. On this evening I found that Al was on lead for most of the first set, drawing out notes and picking with the precision of a tradesman, while settling back during the second set and leaving the gaping hole for Chuck to fill with his own unique blend of piercing rock and roll. For these opening songs, Garvey took the crowd and songs to new heights and the sold-out, yet not so crowded room, played off of the energy from his guitar skills.
It was as the jam to “Billy Goat” led way to Vinnie Amico’s drum section that the magical card was revealed in the form of the most inspirational and unexpected jazz that I’ve ever seen moe. perform. It took more than a minute for the crowd to wrap their ears around what was happening as Derhak dropped in with the two drummers and a fully moe. brand stamped “Take Five” took place. Occurring just two days after the passing of the great jazz pioneer Dave Brubeck, they took what had been a fully rock oriented show and carried it into another realm. The performance within the show included a retro jazz take on “Don’t Fuck with Flo,” a diverse improvisational interlude that allowed every musician to showcase their talents, notably Loughlin on vibes evoking the grand piano and Schnier playing the keyboard, adding fills that accented the theme. Long drown out bass lines and vocals by Derhak added to the vibe. It was a spectacle and tribute worth its weight in decibels. New song “Rainshine” was played in a similar mode as was “Jazz Wank,” completing a great tribute to the late musician. Finishing off the set the band entered into a crowd pleasing and full-on rock version of “Buster.”
The encore included a nearly decade old bust-out with the holiday song, “Carol of The Bells” before moe. harmonized in studio perfection with a closing take on “Bullet.”
Showing neither tire from the road, nor slack because it was the beginning of tour’s end, the show was a holiday treat for all, laden with gifts of the unexpected kind. The best gifts indeed.