July 27th, 2008 at 3:18 pm
A concert by moe., such as the one July 26 at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, isn’t so much an exercise in the strength of songs as it is a dance party with a live band laying down the groove.
To wit, the packed crowd at the Dickson Street venue shimmied however and wherever they could during a set that would, minus breaks, last about 2 ½ hours. A group of 15 or so moe.rons (what the band’s most dedicated fans like to call themselves) donned goofy wigs and danced on the tables. The floor, stuffed with bodies, never ceased to sway. One 20-something man even danced on the railroad tracks outside the venue, where the pulsing beat and guitar arpeggios could still be heard. I was outside for about 20 minutes during the show, and his eccentric performance lasted the duration of that time. He may still be grooving out there, for all I know.
It was that kind of night, where the band’s dedicated fan base showed up in force to dance, sway and more: in my two years of attending concerts at George’s, I’ve never smelled so much pot smoke at a show there.
People came from all over, too. One man standing beside me had just finished seeing the band in Florida several times; a young lady from Little Rock drove up for the show to see moe. for what she estimates to be the 14th or 15th time.
With such a loyal following, it’s interesting to note this concert had to be moved to George’s from the more spacious Arkansas Music Pavilion. Tickets sales were slower than expected, the venue owners said at the time, and the venue change was announced Monday.
Between then and Saturday night, every available inch of floor space was sold, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the place so packed.
Down a man (percussionist Jim Loughlin did not perform with the band), moe. charged through a set that included somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 songs. It’s hard to tell, as the musicians moved through songs and moods so easily that band member Al Schnier was able to switch from electric to acoustic guitar midsong and jump right back into the groove.
There often isn’t a marked break between songs, just a constant stream of bass, drum and guitar. And that’s either the beauty or bane of jam bands, depending on one’s opinion of such acts. Some revel in a jam band’s ability to compose a tight, danceable groove on the fly; others detest the idea of 20-minute-long noodling guitar solos.
moe. walked that very fine line Saturday night. There is something to be said about the technical abilities of the players, and I dare someone to find many guitarists better than Schnier and Chuck Garvey. Too often, unfortunately, I felt lost in the swarm of moving bodies and chord progressions, hoping for more artistic beauty and less technical prowess.
I must admit, however, twice during the evening that the band so artfully hit a groove I couldn’t help but drop my pen for a moment and dance along. But such moments were too rare.
Personally, I had the most fun when moe. invited the Del McCoury Band, the opening act, to join them onstage. The combined outfit played two songs, including a hot version of “Six Days On The Road” and added some improvised muscle to the tracks.
The crowd ate it up, and you could tell the members of both groups enjoyed it, too.
It was the first time the bands had ever played together, but the pairing looked fairly natural, and a venue official told the blog the bands practiced together earlier in the day in anticipation.
It wasn’t an entirely outlandish pairing, either, even though it had never happened before. The Del McCoury Band had previously opened for Phish, the band that brought the art of jamming back from the (Grateful) dead.
McCoury’s band, a noted bluegrass group that has won a Grammy Award, has elements of jammy-ness, too.
The members fed off each other beautifully, switching between banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin leads.
The band warmed the audience off with cuts such as “Deeper Shade of Blue” and “Nashville Cats.” The affable McCoury, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself, also took requests, including “Rain and Snow,” a highlight of the set.
The set clocked in at about 45 minutes. It was too short: Unlike moe., I felt like I could have watched The Del McCoury Band all night.
A note about the opening and closing acts: As I walked into the venue, Super 400, a trio from New York, was wrapping up their set. I didn’t catch many tunes, but I did enjoy their cover of The Yardbird’s “Ain’t Got You.”
I didn’t catch much of Speakeasy’s set — which started as moe. concluded — either.
Anyone have any highlights they’d like to share?