Not In Buffalo Any More: moe. Embrace Their Inner Jamband (Relix Revisited)
moe. returns to the stage this weekend at the Magnolia Music Festival as a prelude to the group’s extensive fall tour. So we’ve dipped into the archives for this April-May 2003 feature on the group by Executive Editor Dean Budnick.
Gather around everybody, moe. guitarist Al Schnier is about to invoke the J word.
In explaining why the band opted to record its new release Wormwood as it did, building a studio album from live tracks, he notes, “One of the reasons we did it this way is we’re a jamband and jambands have been plagued when putting out studio albums. I think both Dither and Tin Cans are great studio albums but do they capture the essence of a jamband? Definitely not. There are a few cuts here and there that capture that spirit but you could listen to those albums and not guess we’re a jamband.”
This is bold talk. Not just in characterizing the band’s previous two studio discs as great (very, very good might well suffice) but also in self-identifying moe. as a jamband. To this end, the group is willing to acknowledge what others are not. The term is anathema to some of moe.’s peers, in part because of the reaction it often elicits from the uninitiated. Indeed, one notable group made a point of accompanying its last studio album with press materials explaining that it was not a jamband.
The thing is, Schnier’s right. moe. fits the bill. Perhaps more significantly, moe. was a jamband before such a term even existed, and on top of that, it had a role in defining the term by pursuing a path and creating an aesthetic. And Wormwood is a manifestation of moe.’s willingness to embrace its inner jamband.
It all goes back to Buffalo. Here, as the band coalesced in the early ‘90s, it drew on a variety of idioms for its live shows. Nowadays many young groups in the jamband scene feel a palpable pressure to incorporate a range of styles, to move glibly from blues to bluegrass to electronica. moe.’s sound, however, developed in the absence of such framework, as the group gravitated towards Buffalo’s alternative/punk realm.
Bassist Rob Derhak remembers, “We liked to play ska and funk music and we opened up for bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. But at the same time we liked classic rock, so it was a weird combination. We didn’t have horns but we wanted to do ska tunes and we wanted to do guitar solos over them. That was where we were coming from—a ska/funk-based jam-sort-of-band with the attitude of punkers.”
The group negotiated this expanse in part because it approached its music rather casually. “At the time,” Schnier recalls, “this is what we did on the weekends. This is what all our friends did; everybody played in a band. It was the equivalent of working on your motorcycle or having a muscle car. It was our hobby, we were all into it and that was cool. The bands we played with were everything from honky-tonk Americana to straight-up punk bands and we all just played together and it worked. That guided what we were doing.”
Indeed, moe. caught on almost in spite of itself. The group’s animated live shows featured mostly original material that fused styles with a stagger and swagger along with an increasing improvisational component. Schnier had done his share of Dead shows so he was comfortable with this approach, although the band also extended its arrangements for a pragmatic purpose: Buffalo bars stayed open until 4am and moe. needed to fill three hours with music. Jim Loughlin, who played drums with the group from 1992-1995 (and later rejoined in 1999) remarks, “In the beginning, most of the jams were more percussively oriented. The first one we stretched out was ‘Dr. Graffenberg,’ which was essentially a ska song and in the middle we had a section with a fun groove and then it would pick up for a skanky guitar jam. But it wasn’t a very melodic solo; it was more percussive because no one was as proficient on their instruments as they are now.” Indeed, during these first few years, moe. did not gain renown for its improv, and area residents who wanted to see jam rock frequented the Dead cover band Sonic Garden, whose lineup then included current moe. drummer Vinnie Amico.
moe. began to draw in a new constituency following a 1992 Halloween gig with Sonic Garden at Buffalo’s Broadway’s Joe’s. The band’s local following soon paralleled the national fan base of the Meat Puppets (another influence from this era) who had started to draw hippies and punkers alike after the release of Up On the Sun (1985). Guitarist Chuck Garvey raves, “They were punk and country and complete crazed psychedelic freaks. You could tell they were eating peyote and making crazy punk music. That’s awesome to me; they were absorbing a lot and kind of directing this beam. I love bands that take disparate elements and make something really cool out of them.”
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.
- Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger "The Pequod"
- Trey Anastasio with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center
- More Visions of the Hangout Music Festival 2013 (A Gallery)
- A Blowout for the So So Glos
- Portugal. The Man "Atomic Man" (Official Video)
- Prince "Fixurlifeup" (Official Video)
- Alex Bleeker & The Freaks: How Far Away
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll