moe. with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Ram’s Head Live! – Baltimore, MD -February 27, 2016

Jordan August Photography 


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By Randy Harris

After kicking off 2016 with Tropical Throe.down (a three-day destination paradise in Jamaica), two nights in Colorado and a three-night stand in Atlanta, the five-piece jam stalwart, moe., played its only February shows on the 26th and 27th in Baltimore, MD. The band held its triumphant return to Charm City at Ram’s Head Live!, playing the city and venue for the first time in over two years. Along with the exciting announcement of these shows came the addition of local jam-funk heroes Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, sending a surge of excitement among Baltimore live music fans. The first night definitely had some heaters, fan favorites and extended jams (see setlist below), but today we are here to talk about the epic Saturday night rager that made up night two of the Baltimore run.

Pigeons kicked off the evening in style, throwing a seemingly perpetual wave of energy throughout the venue. Led by the aptly nicknamed “Scrambled Greg” on vocals and the wailing lead guitar of Jeremy Schon, they took a buzzing crowd on a ride they will not soon forget, working through fan favorites and new releases alike. The extremely tight drumming of Alex Petropulus particularly stood out, as he kept the band in check, never allowing a single stray. And last but not least, Ben Carrey held down the low end with all the style and grace that Flockers everywhere continue to love from their eclectic bassist. Highlights from the set included “Melting Lights” (which seemed to really catch on with the crowd for some reason), a deep jam into their latest single, “Live It Up,” and the debut of a brand new song, “Henrietta.” It should also be noted that at one point during the set, Greg’s guitar strap seemed to suddenly malfunction. He never skipped a beat, however, and instead he gracefully turned it into a gimmick, swinging it after every strum like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. We also got to see some epic teamwork, as Jeremy Schon snuck over to help secure the strap to a cheer from the crowd. All throughout this episode, the music never stopped.

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moe. took the stage for night two to a roar of applause from the relatively close-quartered Ram’s Head Live! With the crowd sufficiently warmed up, the band started off with a straight-ahead rocker, “Annihilation Blues.” “Bring It Back Home” formed the bouncy, light-hearted meat of the sandwich, while the heavy-hitting “Waiting For The Punchline” formed the top bread. Bassist and primary lead vocalist Rob Derhak held down the core of “Waiting For The Punchline” with deceptive ease and comfort, and the bluegrass breakdown in the middle had the entire crowd going absolutely nuts. Rounding off the initial string of tunes was the fan favorite “Captain America,” as moe.rons rapped along merrily with the band. The band grooved its way through “Cathedral,” as harmonic vocals urged their audience to “Break outside!” Next, they settled into “Water” and drove straight into one of their most explorative pieces, “meat.,” which rarely clocks in at less than 20 minutes. The band even kicked it up a notch, bringing this version to just under 30 minutes, including groovy, driving bass lines, intense drumming from Vinny Amico and wild, yet fitting, percussion work from Jim Loughlin (including an extended xylophone solo). moe.’s dual guitar system has always been one of their staples, and usually this has worked to their advantage. I was a bit disappointed, however, in Al Schnier’s solo. Both his sound and that of fellow guitarist Chuck Garvey have been integral to the band’s overall vibe and career. Fortunately, Chuck redeemed him when he took over for his “meat.” solo, which absolutely rocked and built the crowd into a frenzy, along with Derhak’s slapping bass. “meat.” ended the first set on a generally strong note, paving the way for a massive second set.

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The band returned for set two and started off with the eerie, psychedelic “White Lightning Turpentine,” with Rob’s growling vocals and Chuck’s raging guitar solo, before turning the vibe in a more positive direction with the deep, funky “Big World,” which explores some interesting syncopation. “Big World” led into a voracious “Ricky Marten,” which transitioned smoothly into the laid back elation of “Bring You Down.” As the moe.rons cheered, we were all treated to a nice surprise, as the band debuted a dark, groovy cover of Tom Waits’ “Way Down In The Hole.” Bringing the funk back into play, the band worked through a “High & Lo” that made our heads swim and featured beautiful chord work from both guitarists. A jazzy vocal-guitar duet led into a driving solo section, before pulling back to segue flawlessly into the massive rocker, “Tailspin,” to finish off the second set.

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My number one favorite moe. song made up the perfect encore for a great night of music. I was listening to “Plane Crash” before I ever really knew who moe. really was, or what a jamband was for that matter. All I knew was this song rocked! They did not disappoint me as the band absolutely destroyed the encore, leaving an enamored audience beyond satisfied with moe.’s only shows of February 2016.

Jamband fans are some of the most critical music fans in the entire world. They follow their respective leaders of live music journeys from city to city, state to state, and many will even speak incredibly harshly about the other jambands that they do not follow. moe. is no exemption. They are criticized as much as any other jamband, if not more, but I will tell you one thing. There is no jamband out there that can segue like moe. There are tons of great jambands who can segue beautifully, but nobody out there has the same kind of sense to say, “Ok, we’re here, and we’ve got to get to there. Here’s how we’re gonna do it.” The group dynamic during these transitions is absolutely out of this world, and it remains my favorite aspect of the band. moe. has another slow month with only a single string of shows in March before heading out west for a busy April.

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moe. ~ 2/27/16 ~ Rams Head Live ~ Baltimoe.re, MD

I: Annihilation Blues >(nh) Bring It Back Home > Waiting For The Punchline >(nh) Captain America, Cathedral, Water > meat.

II: White Lightning Turpentine, Big World > Ricky Marten > Bring You Down, Way Down In The Hole#, Hi & Lo > Tailspin

Enc: Plane Crash

{# FTP (cover – Tom Waits)}

 

moe. ~ 2/26/16 ~ Rams Head Live ~ Baltimoe.re, MD

I: Not Coming Down > Wormwood > 32 Things, Canned Pastries, Nebraska, The Road > Timmy Tucker

II: Happy Hour Hero, Mar-DeMa > Defrost > Akimbo, So Long > Spine Of A Dog > Buster

Enc: Skrunk > head.

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