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The Loop

Published: 2013/03/20
by Reanna Feinberg

Impressions of moe. in Ashland

moe.
Ashland Armory
Ashland, OR
March 3

A full throttle rock show in a relatively small venue, in a small town, on a Sunday night, in a room with space to move. Moe. held nothing back—holding true to their attitude of musicians interested in connecting with the audience. Big songs played a wide landscape of music, all of them well developed, practiced, interesting and elaborately layered in playful, powerful, creative rock. I hadn’t seen them play for a few years and, though many of the songs were familiar, they have seasoned as musicians, playing skillful journeys into musical playgrounds.

The music meandered and plummeted into sonic realms unaccustomed to attending the same affair. A long strand of hay flew between the teeth of an outdoor rocking chair nodding at the afternoon heat, tapping its heel; then turned into an intentional measured beat reminiscent of a Talking Heads staccato smack down, playing in solid line drops: light, spaced and weird. Quizzical pop bookends wrapped around explorations of high, fast momentum about to burst and slow gentle pop ditties co-mingling with tropical abrasions.

There was a train behind this music. A hyperactivity played out in vocals streaming punches in phrases and sentences over mute instruments. The instruments plunged in, exquisitely timed, all at once. Bowling a strike, they knocked the verbal engine off its feet and rode the rails of spasmodic rock in rhythm and sound. A tango grabbed my torso and dip swayed my body to churn butter against my flesh, dropping my head recklessly close to the floor before swooping it back to my shoulders where my tongue slowly licked the back of my skull then rolled down an arm and… The train swept under the floor and took the momentum back to rock roots where elbows cleared a path for the beating heart to close in on the epicenter of this intricately designed auditory story played in a single, epic song.

Two full sets. Each held five to seven songs, each one a ballad of musicality playing a weave of styles and sound. The transitions were interesting. The songs could have peaked and ended, well, numerous times; they could have sweetly drifted to a close, but moe. picked up a new sound and served it seamlessly as if nothing unusual happened—always returning full circle to the punchy pop lyrics I imagined we left a week ago. The mistake would have been to believe that you were safe. I remembered that I was not running this ship and the captain had had a few drinks and designed this voyage to engage the mind in ninja warfare.

The free-flowing music was impeccably timed to the point that the two guitars often shared the range of a single note. Between two lead guitars, Chuck Garvey (guitar and vocals) and Al Schnier (guitar, keys, mandolin and vocals) two percussion stations (Vinnie Amico playing standard drum set and Jim Loughlin playing a mulititude of percussion tools, drums and vibraphones) and Rob Derhak on bass and vocals (and in chair this evening with an injured leg), they had to play as one beating heart for the overlapping instruments to compliment one another rather than compete.

Not afraid to play obscene, eccentric notes, the guitars worked the high range. Threading fastidiously pummeled mosaics over the full length of the guitar’s arm, Garvey created threads I’d like to wear. Derhak swirled deep rhythm around the room, creating the container where the others played. Amico perpetuated the train momentum. Light tropical sounds emitted from Loughlin, pounding the vibraphones with splayed finger tongs and heavy metal intensity. An intricate game of jumprope ensued in the space lit between sound. Half a dozen, purely auditory, ropes spun in opposing directions; each band member jumping through in varying patterns but to the same elaborate twist of the ropes. Not a foot ensnared.

My head spun in a centripetal lullaby around the hemisphere of the room, softly and convincingly lay to Caribbean grandeur in a landslide of American rock drenched in Southern instrumental interludes, bluegrass hyperactivity, and dark opium laden realms of the mind interpreted through a Vegas lounge rock star dream. The music twists the mind to a realm words suffer and chaos ensues lightness on the soul. Music should do this. Do not let my feet rest lazily and comfortably in my shoes. Don’t let me sway gently, shimmy side to side, kick and knee and applaud stiffly. Wake me up. Shake out a demon or two! And, those fuckers are imbedded in there, you have to surprise them, sneak up, play a sweet sounding jingle then, POW! Dig into the realm where they sleep and pull the covers off before they can muster a face. That’s what I want in music.

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