“I’m really glad I’m not on acid right now,” my friend said during moe.‘s dark and frenetic jamming of the song “Ricky Marten” on Saturday night at the Ogden. Indeed, for those who prefer their jam music in the style that another friend of mine described as “happy happy, joy joy,” moe.’s fierce, guitar-driven music might come as a shock.
That might be one reason that moe., while definitely successful, has never quite achieved the level of recognition of such jam band brethren as Widespread Panic and Phish. With the venue packed to overflowing, Saturday’s show at the Ogden had almost a club feel. The band didn’t go on until 10:20 p.m., and then played two long sets, with a half hour break around 11:30 p.m.
moe. is propelled by the twin lead guitars of Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, both of whom are capable of ripping into fierce, tasty solos, often playing lead counterpoints off each other to great effect. For instance, on “Water,” Schnier and Garvey twined the opening riff, which is dominated by a lazy string bend, together in stereo to create a sonically lush feel. Later in the song, the duo played harmony guitar lines, with Garvey playing in a lower register and Schnier in a higher register. The complicated composition required impeccable timing, and the band pulled it off with aplomb.
Some of the trills and piercing overdriven harmonics had a very hard rock feel to them. Garvey indulged in a two-hand tapping technique on the encore, “Time Ed,” while Schnier even picked up a Gibson 6/12 double neck — a la Jimmy Page — for the first set closer, a fierce, yet exploratory, “Haze.”
The frenetic guitar energy was a welcome antidote to the bassy vocal mix, which frequently made it impossible to discern what bassist and lead vocalist Rob Derhak was singing, or really hear Garvey and Schnier’s harmony vocals.
After the set break, the band returned with the dissonant, “Skrunk,” to settle in for a long ride. It was on “Y.O.Y,” however, that the band really took flight, as the jamming around the suite-like song got the crowd’s energy up, and took it all the way through the closing, “Plane Crash.”
Paper Dragon -> Happy Hour Hero, Big World-> Ricky Marten -> Where Does the Time Go?, Water -> Haze
Skrunk -> Shoot First, Y.O.Y., Spin of a Dog -> So Long -> Wicked Awesome, Sticks and Stones -> Spaz Medicine -> Plane Crash, E: Zed Naught, E2: Time Ed
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.