Photographs by Krest Winchester
Now in its fourteenth consecutive year, the moe.down music festival has comfortably settled back into its original home at Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin, NY. For the past few years, moe. has been experimenting with new formulas… the attempted change in location (Gelston Castle in Mohawk, NY) for #11 & #12 was a major disappointment to most, but the weekend change from Labor Day weekend to mid-August seems to be accepted by the majority. This year was their first attempt at a VIP upgrade ticket option, which offered a fenced-off section a few hundred feet back from the stage and off to the side, containing its own beer tent, porta-potties, and covered seating area. It also allowed for earlier entry to the site on Thursday, including a pre-festival show and moe. soundcheck, while general campers were still forced to stay in line with their car until the next morning.
Thursday night into Friday was gloomy and drizzling rain. This is not unfamiliar territory for the dedicated, experienced moe.ron; on Labor Day weekend in years past it was not unusual to have oppressively high 90s heat, pouring rain, or even snow. As usual, the crowd in line Thursday night showed their excitement for the festival by partying all night long, sometimes alongside the nicer of the two groups of security hired for the weekend. Gates opened around 8:30 am Friday morning, and everyone scurried to their favorite campsites with tarps to hold their spot while taking the multiple trips required to cart their weekend’s worth of belongings from the parking lot. Music didn’t start Friday until 4:30 pm, allowing plenty of time for set up and even a nap. The weather gods were in sync with moe. this year, and the rain stopped just before Pennyshine, Al Schnier’s wife Diane’s new project, took the stage. Del McCoury’s band followed on the main stage, dressed to impress wearing three piece suits and showing the crowd how it’s done. Eastbound Jesus gave a great two set moe.down debut and featured the tunes getting some well deserved attention in Upstate NY.
As moe. took the main stage for their first set of the weekend, the lights hit it off magically with the mountain air dew, making a sick show on the ski hill behind. As a tribute to Jerry Garcia on the anniversary of his death, moe. played “Casey Jones” to a crowd singing along in appreciation and reverence. Later on in the evening, to tip another hat to the bearded legend, “Deal” was met with more hoots, hollers and dancing.
Anyone who checked out Steve Kimock Band’s late night set Friday agreed it was one of the top performances of the weekend. The band was on fire. Bernie Worell, the keyboardist from Parliament Funkadelic and the Talking Heads, ripped it apart. After a funkalicious “Come Together” cover and later a “Burning Down the House”, the crowd left the stage sweaty and glowing.
Another perfect day Saturday brought two solid sets by a fan favorite from Upstate NY’s past, Conehead Buddha. By now it was very clear how much moe.down, its moe.rons, and its performers have grown, as kids of all ages with huge headphones populated not only the audience but also the stage. Terry Lynch’s adorable toddler Felix joined his dad for most of the first set, staring at the dancing crowd with a shaker in his hand.
Later during moe.’s set, the three horns from Conehead returned to play a spooky and yet rockin’ “Plane Crash.” Also welcomed to the stage that night was Chris Michetti (Conspirator, Raq) for “Godzilla.” Their second set’s “Recreational Chemistry,” “Akimbo,” and “Meat” with dueling solos from Vinnie and Rob was arguably the best of the weekend, and after the customary announcements of birthdays, engagements and landmark show celebrations, the encore was in tribute to the late JJ Cale who passed away two weeks prior, and also to Mikey Houser who passed away 11 years ago that night, with a song Widespread Panic also often covered, “Traveling Light”.