More than many groups in
the often-flatulent jam-band genre, Buffalo, N.Y.'s moe. builds its more
meandering and indulgent live excursions from a solid foundation of strong
songwriting, much of it rooted in Southern rock, the arena anthems of '70s
Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa's gonzo but tuneful progressive rock.
Bassist-vocalist Rob Derhak, guitarists-vocalists Al Schnier and Chuck
Garvey and drummer Vinnie Amico -- augmented onstage by percussionist and
former drummer Jim Loughlin -- often garner comparisons to Phish, and not
without reason. Phish hosted big outdoor festivals; moe. presents the "moe.down."
Phish was known for its onstage silliness; the members of moe. once dressed
like characters from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Phish
performed covers of albums by favorite bands on Halloween; so does moe.
8 p.m. Saturday
Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence
Tickets, $25 (18-over show)
Of course, Phish isn't around anymore, so who's to complain? And
where Phish failed ever to make a studio album that captured an
audience beyond the jam-band nation, moe. hopes one day to create a
classic to stand beside "The Dark Side of the Moon."
I spoke to Derhak as the group made its way to Chicago the morning after
performing a benefit in New York that raised more than $150,000 for tsunami
Q. You guys are building a loyal fan base through touring, and
that's increasingly rare in the music industry these days.
A. It is? I didn't know there was another way of doing it!
[Laughs] But I think the only way to do this is by touring and running your
own label. Obviously, there's not that huge label support where you can get
played on the radio and get on "Letterman" or whatever. Lack of funds is the
downside, but whatever we make, we just take a salary as a band and the rest
goes in to building the organization.
Q. Did you look at similar organizations like the Dave Matthews
Band or the Grateful Dead when you decided to start your own label, Fatboy
A. They were definitely models. We looked at the Dead, Phish, Dave
Matthews, and they're all bands with great business sense. Our manager has
been working with us since college, and just about everybody who works with
us learned how to do the job and kind of created the position themselves.
Now, tons of young upstarts -- and we're not that old! -- come to us and ask
our words of advice. It all starts with being able to play -- first off, you
have to be a band -- and after that, you're better off doing it yourself.
You don't have to sell a million albums in order to survive when you're
making all the profit as opposed to the record company taking all the
profit. If you're a good band, you'll get a following.
Q. The last studio album, "Wormwood," was released in 2003. Are
you planning on going back into the studio any time soon?
A. We just put out our fourth in a series called "Warts and All,"
which is a live series where we pick a show we're especially proud of and
put that out, and we're shooting a concert DVD in April at the Fillmore in
Denver. But as far as a studio album goes, we've had two writing sessions,
we have a lot of material to pick from and we're looking at going into the
studio some time this summer.
Q. How do you distinguish the studio experience from live
A. You have to separate the worlds. To go into the studio and say,
"I'm going to try to play like I play in concert," that's not going to work
when there's no interaction with an audience. We tried to do something a
little different with our last album: Our show consists of a lot of segues
between songs, trying to be as experimental as we can while keeping people's
interest, so we attempted to do that by mixing live and studio recordings.
Q. Much like the Dead on "Anthem of the Sun."
A. Exactly. But the other thing is when you're going into the
studio, if all you have is a jam, it's not going to be great. You have to
have something that if you strip down all of the extraneous solos, there's
still something there that's interesting. I'm a fan of the epic album.
Q. The band has covered "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink
Floyd. Do you think moe. has an album like that in it?
A. I like to think so. That's our goal: Before I die, I'd like to
have something out there that's so distinctly its own sound.
Q. You're compared to Phish a lot. Is that fair?
A. They were definitely one of our inspirations, but I would say
there are probably hundreds of others. I don't mind the comparison so much
because it's a good one, but I was a huge Zappa fan, and still am. I grew up
listening to him, so I had that sort of sense of humor about music, and I
liked strong instrumental sections that were quirky and difficult to play.
That's where I got a lot of my inspiration in the old days.
Look to Web for
Bonham that can't be beat
Because of his massively heavy but consistently subtle and flowing
grooves, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham stands as the greatest drummer rock 'n'
roll ever produced. His influence isn't limited to that genre, either: Bonzo
is probably the most-sampled percussionist in history, second only perhaps
to Clyde "the Funky Drummer" Stubblefield from James Brown's band. Now, an
amazing new resource for home mix-masters and sample artists has surfaced in
the form of a bounty of isolated drum tracks and outtakes from Zep's "In
Through the Out Door"; you can hear the pure drumming in all of its power
and glory, right down to the squeak of the bass drum pedal. I first heard
the tracks at www.disndat.info/bonham/; by the time you read this, that site
will probably have crashed or been shut down, but the audio snippets will no
doubt have proliferated across the Web, so a quick Google search should turn
them up. For drum geeks and Zepheads, this is the best gift since 2003's
"The Led Zeppelin DVD."
Also playing in heavy rotation: "Roxy Re-Modeled" (BasicLUX), a
collection of 13 classics by glam-rockers Roxy Music remade by cutting-edge
electronic dance artists such as Sunday People, Perfect Project and Abstract
Foundation. Hmmm, maybe somebody can merge Bonham and Roxy; now there's a