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Photos by Brad Kuntz
I took a short drive down the road to my favorite brewery, Pisgah Brewery, to see one of my favorite bands, moe. on slightly cloudy but hopeful Saturday afternoon last week.
Pisgah is becoming well-known in the region for its large, handmade outdoor stage that has hosted some large names such as Steel Pulse, Toubab Krewe, Umphrey’s Mcgee and most recently, moe. They seldom have an opener, but good friend and amazing musician, Brock Butler (former front man of Perpetual Groove) tagged along while on his solo tour. I showed up early to catch what Brock had been up to since the sad end of PGroove.
This was my first glimpse into Brock’s solo endeavor, which seemed to working out splendidly, due to the size of the crowd. He had an amazing young lady, Ellie Schwartz play fiddle on the last few songs of his short set. He played a Deer Tick cover “Chevy Express”
and a Phosphorescent song, “Zula Song” His new solo album has a plethora of tunes and he played a few. “The Weather and The Wait” which is the title track on his new album, “Anything Less Than Dearly”. I was moved by Brock’s set because of the intimacy and the glimpse into his personal songs that may not have been released without this new outlet. Perpetual Groove is greatly missed but it is humbling to know that Brock is staying right where he belongs, in the limelight of the stage.
Anchoring the sometimes heavy, sometimes soft and groovy sound of moe. are its three longest-term members- (bassist/vocalist) Rob Derhak, (guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist) Al Schnier and standout (guitarist/vocalist) Chuck Garvey, who provided more than one face-melting solo during the evening. Rounding out the rhythm section are drummer Vinnie Amico and long-time percussionist Jim Loughlin, who banged on the conga drums and provided several xylophone interludes (it’s hard to imagine someone rocking out on the xylophone, but Loughlin manages to do it).
The large crowd assembled, anticipating the rain but screaming for moe. Looking closely at the band, Rob Derhak, happened to be wearing a Pisgah Brewery hat. moe. played two widely-ranged sets that offered a rare “California” in the second set. Brock Butler made his way onto stage around the end of the second set opener, “Puebla,” and stayed for the transition into “Moth” and the song’s jam. Brock played lap steel for his appearance with moe. and was on stage for nearly 20 minutes before leaving to roaring, pleased crowd. For their encore, moe. covered “Time” by Pink Floyd for only the second time this year and ended the evening with golden oldie “Akimbo.”
Adding to the ambiance was moe.’s always amazing, bright, psychedelic light show, featuring a ray of spot lights and strobes all aimed at the audience rather than the band, enveloping the crowd in a sea of colors and flashes that seemed to only fuel the dance craze happening on the floor. Eventually rain poured down through the lights in a trance- like pattern and just as fast as the rain came, it left, leaving a beautiful rainbow over the mountains. This was definitely the most picturesque moe. show I’d ever attended.
The key to the band’s success and longevity is consistency. moe. could be considered the Energizer bunny of the jam-band scene, after more than 20 years of constant touring and strong studio and live releases. In all of the many times I’ve seen moe. live, I don’t ever recall a show that felt like the band was phoning it in. They always seem to be on their game, working together in perfect sync and even add funny comradery and band banter. Going to a moe. show feels something akin to slipping on a favorite pair of well-worn shoes — comfortable and familiar.
I: Darkness, Time Again, Jazz Wank >(nh) Runaway Overlude, Skrunk > Billy Goat, Waiting For The Punchline
II: Puebla > Moth, Bullet >(nh) Kyle’s Song > CalifornIA > Brittle End, Wind It Up
Enc: Time > Akimbo