Review: Like Captain America, moe. spells success at Tahoe

Tahoe Onstage

MontBleu is rocked by moe. on Friday at Lake Tahoe.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

If you’ve ever replied to the question of “What does this song need?” with an answer of “10 more minutes,” then you were probably shakin’ hips and pumpin’ fists along with everyone else at the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa Thursday night for a night of jamband glory with moe.

Essentially, moe. has turned that answer into a whole career. The group is one of the OG’s in the contemporary jamband world and rose to prominence in the mid to late ’90s along with bands such as Umphrey’s McGee, Disco Biscuits and String Cheese Incident. It’s kinda hard to believe, but the Buffalo, New York, outfit is celebrating its 30th year in 2019 — the band dropped its first album “Fatboy” in 1992, on cassette no less.

But over that long and illustrious career, Al Schnier (guitar/vocals), Chuck Garvey (guitar/vocals), Rob Derhak (bass/vocals), Jim Loughlin (percussion/vibes) and Vinnie Amico (drums) have remained an unassuming, humble unit with the creativity, musicianship and longevity of a world-class act.

The scene around jamband music always has been as engrossing and tantalizing as the show itself. Thursday night was great for watching the parade of moe.rons (self-titled name of moe. fans) in the lobby and showroom before the concert and thankfully many of the recurring characters that flesh out a jam crowd were there, ready to dive into the ecstasy of flashing colors and three hours of music with moe. Rail-riders talking about how well the crowd is filling up? Check. Cheesed-out taper worried about his mics? Check. Dreaded-girl conspiring to get past security because she “just gotta see moe.”? Triple check. All systems go for moe.

The band slipped onstage with a warm response from fans. It blessed the audience with newer song “Porn and Candy” to kick off the night, which loosened up the room with its slapstick jazz sound that had some serious Ween undertones. With limbs loose and knuckles cracked, moe. launched into its first serious run of classics with “Head”–> “Not Coming Down”–> “Wormwood”–> “St. Augustine, Angel.”

“Head” blasted off on Schnier’s iconic hook then featured an intergalactic jam that had Schnier and Garvey rippling notes off each other as Loughlin let go little whipperpools of sound and ambiance from his vibes. “Not Coming Down” seared through its cowboy-funk riff with Amico’s drum and bass-styled rhythm propelling the song forward. The slow, hot, heady haze of “Wormwood” provided the first opportunity for quintessential twirly-bird dancing of the hippie variety, which soon turned into quintessential hippie-stomping as Garvey seared his slide over the rollicking “St. Augustine, Angel.” The first set ended with “Bring You Down” and explosive guitar work from Schnier that landed on the audience like a spacebomb.

The second set started with the muted “Faker,” which had some fans tenderly raising a glass and tipping a cap to the self-loathing and self-awareness of the lyrics. Eventually, the band meandered through it and found itself back at berserker hyperspeed as it hit the audience with a “Head” reprise and finished what it had started in the first set. The dueling tropical guitars of Schnier and Garvey and the bubbliness of Loughlin’s vibes gave “Kids” a psychedelic “Little Mermaid” vibe to it and featured a slow-building, tidal jam that was beautifully augmented by the rainbow colors of the stage lights.

moe. closed out the night with another run of classics, starting with a monstrous “Opium.” An endearing “Awesome Gary” gave way to a rumbling “32 Things” that was pure smash and grab by the band. Derhark’s slappy bass provided a prog-funk basis for electric freak outs from everyone in the band. The band then ended the night with a classic “Captain America” that had all the moe.rons singing along right to the very end. moe. made some headlines a couple weeks ago for spelling out “Trump Is A Lying Ass” with a setlist. Thursday night’s setlist spelled out “PHNWSB FHIKOATC” which is neither a sentence nor a great hand to have in Scrabble. But it doesn’t matter. The night was awesome, the music was great and the fans were amazing. The only thing that would have made it better is if they could have played for 10 more minutes.

— Garrett Bethmann

  • I: Porn & Candy >(nh) head. > Not Coming Down > Wormwood > St. Augustine, Angel > Bring You Down
    II: Faker > head., I Can Never Remember >(nh) Kids, Opium > Awesome Gary > 32 Things
    Encore: Captain America
    Courtesey of moe.’s Facebook page

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. He moved to Lake Tahoe in summer 2012.

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