MANHATTAN, NY—Chuck Garvey and Rob Derhak, students at the University of Buffalo, formed a quintet to play a 1989 Halloween show at a friend’s behest. They called themselves Five Guys Named Moe, the name of a Louis Jordan song. Once the band looked like it was turning into a serious venture, the musicians shortened the band’s name to moe. moe.’s debut album in 1992 entered the band in a growing improvisational jam band rock scene that came out of clubs like Wetlands in New York City. The band members in 1994 recorded a third album, quit their day jobs and relocated to Albany, NY. Originally a dueling guitar-driven quartet, the personnel has changed many times, but since 1999, moe. have been comprised of Garvey on guitar and vocals, Derhak on bass and vocals, Al Schnier on guitar, vocals and keyboard, Vinnie Amico on drums, and former drummer Jim Loughlin on percussion, including vibraphones. moe. have won four Jammy Awards.
The concert at Stage 48 on May 28 was an album release party for No Guts, No Glory, moe.’s 24th album. Avid “moe.rons” who purchased $150 V.I.P. tickets were serenaded by a mariachi band, ate a Latin-styled dinner and enjoyed an open bar. The fans also were treated to a pre-show acoustic set that opened with one of moe.’s earliest songs, “St. Augustine.” The set featured a cover of Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun,” reportedly played for the first time since 2007, as well as “Blue Eyed Son” with Garvey, Derhak and Schnier singing into one microphone for an a capella opening and Schnier then playing mandolin. moe. ended the acoustic set appropriately with “New York City.”
Fans who purchased less expensive tickets were admitted closer to 10 p.m. for another two moe. sets. Beginning with a vintage song, “32 Things,” moe. jammed on many fan favorites. Fans called out song titles, but at one point Derhak responded by assuring fans that the planned setlist was adequately prepared to satisfy. “Water” then flowed into “Hector’s Pillow,” which in turn led into “Bring You Down” as a three-part medley. A few songs later, Warren Haynes, who had played earlier in the evening with Phil Lesh’s band in Central Park, joined moe. on stage and contributed sensational guitar licks on “Happy Hour Hero.” After another intermission, the final set of the evening began about 11:30 p.m. and was supposed to be dedicated to playing the No Guts, No Glory album in its entirety, but Haynes was invited to return to the stage at the start for a rousing version of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin.'” moe. played 10 of the 11 tracks from the new album, with the album’s producer, Dave Aaron, contributing clarinet on “Blond Hair And Blue Eyes.”
Overall, moe.’s jam band sound has evolved and was significantly textured. Derhak, Garvey and Schnier sang lead vocals with contrasting styles and yet silky harmonies. Garvey and Schnier offered blistering guitar solos, bassist Rob Derhak punctuated the low end with funky basslines, Loughlin provided a jazzy flair with the electronic vibes and Amico kept the beat softly and gently. moe. tonight provided an outstanding evening of creatively refined compositions and intricately weaved jams.