Thursday, March 15, 2012


moe. – Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD 3/10/12

By Greg Maniha

moe. may not be the biggest band in the jamband movement, but few could argue that they have the best jobs in the world. As nice as it would be for any band to pack Madison Square Garden, have the limos waiting at the backstage entrance, and anything you wanted in the meantime, on the creative level it can be a destroyer with an unrelenting lack of remorse. It seems that with every level of fame achieved, another level of creative freedom vanishes. The issues of public image, restrictions surrounding the kind of record one is permitted to record, and being overwhelmed by contracts understood by few yet written by those with little to no interest in the welfare of the artist is enough to make one spiral into oblivion, as many in the music business already have. It makes one wonder if it’s even possible to have a long and enduring music career answering to nobody on both the creative and professional level. If you’re a jamband megastar, it may even compel you dream of a life that mirrors the collective we have come to know as moe.

moe. began their 2012 tour as twenty year jambamd ambassadors despite the efforts of some that guided their career during the first five. This ongoing musical experiment started with an honest dedication to the note and sonic beauty of audio exploration. From the beginning, there was never a question surrounding whether the moe. collective would ever do anything else with their lives. They played anywhere and as often as possible. This dedication didn’t go unnoticed by the audiences they would come into contact with and after two to three years, they went from opening slots in clubs of 50 to a record contract with Sony Music. By standard logic, this would be defined as “making it big,” but oftentimes, it’s that very same record contract that kills the music collective before it has the chance to flower and flourish. By the band’s own admission, just gaining access to the recording studios of Sony made them feel like superstars, but the end result of connecting with Sony was two truly fine records that never got promoted to radio or retail. Perhaps had moe. been discovered by Atlantic during the artist driven climate of the 70s, they would have been granted the artist development that nurtured their rock & roll heroes like Led Zeppelin or Yes, but there is an everlasting gap between Atlantic in the 70s and Sony in the 90s. moe. just happened to be discovered by the machine during an era not well suited for them in the impatient profit driven 90s and as a result, the once exciting relationship between moe. and Sony ended almost as quickly as it had begun.

With Sony no longer interested in working with moe, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see a demoralized collective ready to call it quits, but for moe. this was not an option. Too many music enthusiasts continued to demand their live presence and moe. responded by answering only to them as well as themselves. This rare but enviable liberation in the music business has resulted in 17 recorded live and studio volumes, a popular annual festival of their own creation, global shows as far from their upstate New York home as Japan, and sold out shows across the nation with an average of 2000 fans per night. The evidence of this was on full display at the sold out Rams Head Live performance in Baltimore on March 10th of 2012.

moe. have unofficially been granted the title as the resident torch carriers of progressive and classic rock within the jamband genre. One can easily hear the influence of King Crimson, Yes, and Frank Zappa alongside the reliable staples of The Grateful Dead with a blanket of 70s hard rock thrown in for good measure. The beauty of moe. as a progressive outfit, however, is that unmistakable festive spirit so prevalent in the jamband movement yet absent from 70s prog rock. As serious as they were when they stepped on to the Rams Head stage, they also resembled the happiest souls in the world. From the opening first set notes of the “Brent Black/Rise” combination to the immediate extended rhythm jam with drummer Vinnie Amico and percussionist Jim Loughlin, this is clearly an outfit that would rather be nowhere else except on that stage in the moment.

After bassist Rob Derhak stepped into the rhythm adventure and effortlessly displayed a funk ability that could land him a gig with any pioneer of the genre, the complete outfit returned to the stage for a first set that fully displayed the strength of moe. as modern day jamband pioneers.

The direction of the first set took a combined turn of both up-tempo and relaxed mellow rock with the duo of “Rainshine” and “Deep This Time.” The Latter showcasing the vocal talents of Rob Derhak as well as displaying that it’s possible for a 70s AM radio style to receive the infusion of a heavy stoner rock slide guitar solo by Chuck Garvey.

The introduction of “Brittle End” channeled a psychedelic “More” era Pink Floyd style while the extensive rockabilly ballad style of “Shoot First” that followed showcased Chuck Garvey’s lead vocal talents. This was followed by a set closing take on The Rolling Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” that set the stage for what would be the overall direction for the classic rock themed second set.

The second set, while perhaps not quite as embraced as the jams during the first set, featured the strongest guitar combinations of the evening. moe. has an amazing secret guitar weapon in Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey that stands out beautifully as they trade solos with one another. Chuck Garvey is a flawless rock & roll player with an uncanny ability to channel the style of the 70s lead and rhythm guitar driven sound as was evidenced with the second set opener of “Sticks and Stones.” Al, on the other hand, specializes in more of a note driven lead style that one might compare to the result of a mashup between Jerry Garcia and Robert Fripp. These two complimentary styles were a spot-on match during this second set at the Rams Head.

The 70s remained in full swing with a Joe Walsh/Eagles era tinged “Okayalright” complete with talkbox compliments of Chuck Garvey. Surprisingly, the audience didn’t appear to be embracing this direction despite the flawless ability to incorporate such a timeless era into the modern day version of the celebrated jamband genre.

After a brief detour to their early catalog with the childlike “Yodelittle,” the 70s returned again with the brief appearance of “One Way Traffic” followed by “The Road.” This 70s direction took a turn towards the advanced rhythmic fusion style of Allan Holdsworth and GONG with the hypnotic “McBain” before delivering the evening encore of the very non 70s ode to life as a pinball machine with “Spine Of A Dog.”

If only one word could be used to describe moe, “empowered” would be a strong contender. They serve as living proof that it’s possible to be completely honest with your musical intentions, deliver the intentions to your fans with integrity, take the path that serves as the antithesis of rock stardom, and end up living the ultimate dream as a result. Somewhere right now, there must be a vice president at Sony Music regretting the day they parted ways with moe. If there isn’t, there should be. moe. on the other hand, couldn’t be in a better place, and the jamband community is flourishing because of it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

UPCOMING RELEASE: El-P Cancer For Cure (Fat Possum)

Due: May 22

Industry Spiel: Independent rap icon El-P is set to release his long awaited new solo album Cancer For Cure, at his new home Fat Possum on May 22, 2012. The new album marks his first full length rap album since 2007's critically acclaimed I'll Sleep When You're Dead, though El-P's rap trajectory has been on a steady ascent following a prolific year that saw high profile appearances on Das Racist's mixtape and debut album, a hugely buzzed Adult Swim single "Drones Over BKLYN", a verse (which made Stereogum's top 10 guest verses of the year) on one of the year's biggest online hits, Mr Muthafuckin' eXquire's "Huzzah", among several other honors. The record is arriving hot on the heels of the new Killer Mike album R.A.P. Music, which El-P produced in full and is already making huge noise with its first single "BIG BEAST (featuring BUN B, T.I. and TROUBLE)", which was awarded Pitchfork's rare Best New Track designation.

Cancer For Cure takes another huge leap forward from the production work of his 2010 instrumental album weareallgoingtoburninhellmeggamixxx with a bombastic collision of synths, bottomless bass tones, live instrumentation, ear-worming melody, and tightly coiled drum patterns, setting the standard for hip hop production higher than ever. The obvious diversion from the previous album is the presence of El-P's ever-developing vocal style, continuing to raise the bar on his already highly verbose flow that swiftly and muscularly navigates a rapidfire explosion of syllabic conundrums and quick-witted elocutions full of heart, purpose, style and grit. Rounded out by feature appearances by a host of high profile guests including Killer Mike, Danny Brown, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Paul Banks (Interpol), and more this will easily be one of the year's most talked about albums.

Lyrics to first single "The Full Retard", taken from El's Blogger site, I'm Going To Stab You.

got a strain un-contained that could turn parade zombie, walk with an army on me, stalked by the harm and armor posse,
prolly, got me, on a radar with a dot these, watching, plotting minions of the lower god scene,
shit hawks abound, in the town of bullet dodging I'm a rocky, run a hundred a mile before my coffee,
shitty little sick kid, the Gippers hitting for dolo now I'm rarified, signal lit verified bossy,
fuck your droid noise, void boys 'noid ploy,
oi oi, i'll rugby kick the shit out your groin boy
oi ve, the slayers of your harmony porn life, throat fuck your lucky day the flight of a torn kite
holy smokes, city blown to the bone the death server, fit a Heartz with a burner, whip to the church of murder sermon,
just a cassandra too drained to painfully word it further
future of a gerbil up ass of masochist thats my word up,

so you should pump this shit like they do in the future

pump this shit,
in your floating whip system
pump this shit,
in the bread line, the prison,
pump this shit,
from the chip under your wrist skin,

I am sam, i am known to go H.A.M., the full retard
playing taps on a keytar, in the Benz or the Beamer,
either, etherlicious or rebel yelling the theme of
son of forgotten freedom, rebel ariba riba
metal and man have melted, settle in to the FEMA, dream a,
your polluted house speaker, leader
yes indeed a, dawn of the dirt and doom draws nearer,
here's a mirror mirror to peer, fear grows clearer,
steer a, path away from the panic of our era,
pyramided ocular, unlided insignia
weirder heres another burner born and big in ya
sector, rectified and fly sound selector,
I'm a, fucking ill, trill, kill at will etc.,
brooklyn to the basic DNA math measurer,
better leave the lion alone do not pet him he'll
fuck start your burp hole, jet in burgundy pleather

so you should pump this shit like they do in the future
so you should pump this shit like they do in the future
so you should pump this shit like they do in the future
so you should pump this shit like they do in the future

where harmony and love reign
no longer do we live in a society bent on it's own destruction
children of every race, creed and religion frollick through fields
of golden dandelions

those who know lust trust the flow is disgust touch, producto back rap rush, you'll notice the lad crush.
im potent, intact, a black hearted and lunged up,
tarded and touched plus designer of funk rust,
oh el is back on that shit, huh? that Paincave Kid talk, at the end of the painbow, the permanant stain bop,
maligning my name will holy ark up your squads face, viewers of the divine rage learn to worship the hard way,
you get it? i don't fade, just float where the poem slays, at home with a roach hazed, alone or with hoes great,
i called but got a tone better boat out the borough post haste,

Download the song at this dump.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Afghan Whigs reunite for ATP in NJ!

Fans of 90's alternative rock have something to be excited about. Afghan Whigs are reuniting for the All Tomorrows Parties festival. It all happens September 21 to 23 2012 in Asbury Park, NJ! The lineup includes: