moe. : Still Buzzing the Tower (Relix Revisited)
Looking back, Derhak suggests, “I think the album might have benefited from another month.” Then again, given the band’s past history, that month likely would have become two and then perhaps another two. So the group held firm to the initial time limit and still produced a strong effort.
Still, for most fans, it is the live setting where the band will always define itself. As a result, these performances come with a more stringent scrutiny than is applied to most other rock bands, but akin to most other jambands (an identity that moe. unabashedly embraces). Here, Umphrey’s McGee guitarist Brendan Bayliss gives moe. high marks. “I remember being really blown away when I heard No Doy and then saw them at the Double Door [in Chicago, Ill.], my freshman year of college,” he recalls. “When they’re on it and they’re clicking, you can’t really touch them. I feel like they definitely deserve more credit than they get, but I don’t think they care. I think they’re content with where they’ve gotten and can support their families and it’s admirable that they’re not chasing money for money’s sake or success for success’s sake.”
Bayliss points to another area where the band has earned his deep esteem. In the early days of Umphrey’s McGee, the group covered moe.’s “Rebubula.” Bayliss remembers, “My senior year at Notre Dame I sent Al an e-mail that said, ‘Yo, I saw this band covering “Rebubula,”’ even though it was my band. I just wanted to plant a seed.’”
The next time moe. came to Indianapolis where Bayliss was in school, he made his way backstage along with Umphrey’s keyboard player Joel Cummins and they played a tape of their arrangement for the group. Fast-forward a couple of years later to 2001 and the first year of Bonnaroo during moe.’s late night set.
“I was just standing on the side of the stage, they were playing “Rebubula” and Al looked at me and pulled me up,” Bayliss remembers. “And I was really in no position to be out in public, let alone play guitar, but that’s just the kind of guy he is. It was a big show for him, so for him to take time out of his show to give me some spotlight, I was really blown away. It’s what moe. does with what it calls the ‘hostile takeovers.’ [In the middle of a set, moe. will gradually move offstage yielding the spotlight to another group for a song before returning]. They’ll say, ‘Here’s the tempo and key that you’re coming out at and let us know the tempo and key that you’re going to end at.’ Again, just giving up your entire stage, I don’t know who else does that. It’s very selfless. It’s not like they want to take a piss break; they’re just willing to share the spotlight. That’s a quality you won’t find in 95 percent of the other bands out there.”
It is also here where the band’s selflessness and comfort level occasionally is viewed as complacency. Garvey concedes that over the ebbs and flows of the group’s 20-year career, such critiques have been warranted, but only to a degree. “I don’t feel this way right now but there definitely have been periods of time when it doesn’t seem like anything new or exciting is happening and we can’t make it happen, and that gets frustrating. We try to make every show different and it’ll take three to five shows for some songs to come around, but after awhile you’re playing the same songs and you might feel like you have nothing new to say about them. It gets frustrating but it’s not for lack of trying. When we recognize it, we’ve attempted a number of ways to change our outlook on how we present a show or how we present certain songs.”
Such efforts have included covering a new tune almost every night as the group did in early 2003, repeating the effort three years later with songs by The Who in anticipation of four shows opening for that group, honing new material onstage as the band is currently doing and, perhaps, even pushing themselves out of their physical comfort zone by performing in suits.
All in all, it has been an impressive if somewhat unheralded 20-year run for moe. How many musicians first come together in a college dorm room and fancy themselves a musical group? How many of these are even able to secure a gig let alone local headlining performances? How many of these then ramp things up on a national scale? What percentage of these acts not only sign to a major label but later part ways and thrive after the fact? How many rock bands survive more than two decades with their core musicians pushing beyond the age of 40? If one stops to crunch the numbers, it’s a rather remarkable achievement.
Still, for moe., it all comes down to the music. With new original tunes in the current mix, even the group’s resident pessimist is feeling good these days. As Derhak explains, “I’ve come to the conclusion that I love playing. I love playing in this band and I don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks because we’re doing what we want to do and I think we do a killer job of it. We’re going to play our asses off every time we go out there and that’s what we’re about.”
Garvey feels much the same. “Our job is to hold onto the good things that allow us to enjoy what we do and hopefully what we do is something that other people are going to enjoy,” he says. “We never played those music industry games. We built our own little tree fort in the back and we’re not leaving.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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