Words and Photos by Nicholas Stock
Audio by Chuck Miller
For many the anticipation of moe.’s return to the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre was at a fever pitch. Fans hit the venue early to meet up with old friends and celebrate all that has happened to bring us to this point. Last year just about a month prior to their heavily hyped co-headlining show with Twiddle at Red Rocks, moe. announced an indefinite hiatus due to bassist Rob Derhak’s diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer. The fanbase rallied around Rob and his family during this difficult time. In November of 2017 Rob announced that he was cancer free and that he and his bandmates were ready to return to the road. After a series of hometown comeback shows in the Northeast, a highly successful Summer Camp Music Festival, and a run with Phil Lesh at Terrapin Crossroads it would appear that moe. is back in fine form. Their show at Red Rocks would further prove that moe. is still a powerful force in the music scene.
Despite the early start time of 6 PM sharp for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong many of the faithful “Flock” came out to support these up and comers on their debut at The Edge. An enthusiastic Scrambled Greg came to the microphone with a huge grin. “Red Rocks, we are Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and this is our number one bucket list right here right now…” And with that they ripped into a soaring rendition of “Porcupine.”
Set 1: Porcupine, Somethin’ For Ya > Julia, Avalanche, Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Horizon > Poseidon, The Liquid, Dawn A New Day
Several times throughout the set they spoke about fulfilling their dream of performing at Red Rocks. They played a chunky hour and fifteen minute opening set that showcased the musical prowess and versatility of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. They are a funk driven jamband able to blast off at any moment. The sun bounced off the stage as they continued with deep jams on a beautiful “Julia” and a ripping “Avalanche.” The unexpected highlight of their set was a highly appropriate rendition of “Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from Disney’s Lion King. They closed with the bright and bouncy “Dawn A New Day.” Pigeons Playing Ping Pong are a force to be reckoned with, they are deeply entrenched in the new wave of jam with the likes of Aqueous, Mungion and Spafford. Pigeons are utterly unique in their approach with a focus on massive jams, dirty funk and approachable lyrics. Check these guys out if you have not done so by now.
As PPPP were wrapping up their set, Red Rocks was looking downright full. There was a family atmosphere during set break. Old friends greeted each other in the aisles as people shuffled past to their seats. The place was not sold out, but it was close enough to still be comfortable. It’s actually perfect, although I’m sure the band and promoter would prefer to sell all the tickets. The weather was absolutely perfect despite early indications of rain. moe. came to the stage at around 7:45 PM to a jubilant audience. They opened with the classic “Seat Of My Pants.
Set 1: Seat Of My Pants > Who You Calling Scared? > Captain America > Buster > Pastorus > Silver Sun > Akimbo > ATL > Puebla
Set 2: Plane Crash > Buster > Four > Skrunk > Prestige Worldwide > Siver Sun > Plane Crash> Letter Home > Wind It Up
*w/ Greg Ormont & Jeremy Schon from Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
This set is a moe. fan’s wet dream. This band does things other bands just don’t do like they don’t stop during their set. Notice the >’s in the setlist. Rob came to the stage ready to play. He drove the bus prodigiously leading his bandmates through a series of songs new and old. “Who You Calling Scared?” is a new tune debuted in February sung by Mr. Chuck Garvey. They wasted no time bringing out the heavy hitters in the form of “Captain America” into “Buster.” This was a huge peak for the set before the boys continued with the second live performance of “Pastorious” which was an unnamed jam at Summer Camp. Al Schnier brought down the hammer on “Sliver Sun” that just seemed to build and build. The sun set behind the stage emitting a warm glow before it finally set. A rowdy “Akimbo” excited the crowd before the punchy jam vehicle “ATL.” They closed with a dark and brooding “Puebla.”
The duel headed percussion monster in the back consisting of Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin were both on point throughout the show. Fans were a bit perplexed when they were treated to only the intro of “Plane Crash” before the boys veered off course into the land of “Buster.” The “Four” stretched to almost 25 minutes and featured some of the most prolific jamming of the entire night. Jim crushed the xylophone on a tight “Skrunk” before the band again went deep with “Prestige Worldwide” a Rob tune that has become part of the regular rotation since it’s debut in 2016. From here moe. went into the first of two callbacks with “Silver Sun” before they finished “Plane Crash” exquisitely. Not ready to call it quits the band took a breather with a buttery “Letter Home” They closed the second set with Chuck taking the mic on “Wind It Up.”
moe. has always been incredibly gracious with younger bands. They helped elevate Umphrey’s McGee early on and continue to support bands like Twiddle as they make their rise to the top of the heap. Obviously giving Pigeons Playing Ping Pong their first opening gig at Red Rocks is in that same spirit. After Alnouncements they invited both Greg Ormont and Jeremy Schon back to the stage to collaborate on a version of David Bowie’s “Fame.” This night was a triumphant return to Red Rocks for Five Guys Named Moe. Not only did Rob look healthy he absolutely shredded all night long. While this band hails from the East Coast their is a large continent of fans here in Colorado. It felt like they were all out in force to welcome this band back to the Centennial State. moe. has already announced a fall tour that will take them from coast to coast with extensive stops in the Midwest. So do yourself a favor go see moe. they are firing on all cylinders.