moe. @ the Fillmore AuditoriumBy Candace Horgan | February 3rd, 2009 | No Comments »
It took them a few songs, but moe. eventually found their groove at the Fillmore on Friday. Photo from moe.org.
It’s always nice when a band can surpass your expectations, or, as was the case with moe.’s show Friday night at the Fillmore, set new ones. I went to the show with no real familiarity with the band, except that I knew I had a) seen them before b) their name came from a song called “Five Guys Named Moe” and c) that Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey were both pretty good guitarists.
For the uninitiated, moe. has been making waves since 1992, and the origins of the band go back to 1989. In addition to Garvey and Schnier, the band includes Rob Derhak on bass and lead vocals, Vinnie Amico on drums and Jim Loughlin on percussion. With the twin guitars of Garvey and Schnier, the band has a heavier sound than most standard jam acts.
The show kicked off with “The Ghost of Ralph’s Mom,” and it seemed an inauspicious start. Not knowing any moe. tunes it felt strange that early in their first song they were riffing on Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain.” While that can entertain fans, it can also be seen as a commentary on the relative strength of a song.
However, early into the second song, “Understand,” sung by Schnier, things picked up. Schnier, Derhak and Garvey all sung harmonies on the bouncy chorus, and the band showed fantastic instrumental pacing on the long jam after the last chorus, dropping the pace and allowing each to find room in the music while not overwhelming it. The last jam, with solos from Garvey and Schnier, picked up speed and led to “OkayAlright,” a song that features an irrepressible chorus just made for singing along.
There were some nits to pick in the first set. “Head” which started off with a ripping riff from Garvey, was at times overwhelmed by Derhak’s bass lines, which shook the floor in the Fillmore.
If there is any criticism to level at the band, it might be on Garvey’s overdependence on wah pedal. While he uses it to great effect, it seems that almost every solo he played in the first set employed the wah, and at that point it can cease being tonal color and become a little overbearing.
After a short set break, the band came back for another long set, opening with “Brent Black,” which seemed a little off-kilter. However, the band quickly found a groove with the riff heavy “YOY.” Amico’s drumming really propelled the song in interesting directions with some complex rhythms, while Garvey and Schnier twined nicely on crunchy guitar parts, and then traded trippy fills on an extended jam at the end.
Set two also featured an interesting cover of the Police’s “Invisible Sun” at the midway point, which featured an extended jam the Police couldn’t have conceived of. Schnier and Garvey both played dreamy guitar solos to great effect on the song, although Garvey once again turned to the wah pedal on his solo. After a few more tunes, including the second half of “Brent Black,” the band came back for a long version of “Recreational Chemistry” to close the set.
Tea Leaf Green, it should be noted, opened the show. On “Earth and Sky,” Trevor Garrod switched between keyboads and harmonica fills, while the frenetic country-tinged “Forgiven” saw guitarist Josh Clark play fiery, if repetitive, guitar leads.
Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.