Photos by Shaun Seip
The 13th edition of moe.’s annual summer party saw the festival return to a very familiar place, Snow Ridge Resort in rural Turin, NY. The first 10 installments of this upstate New York party were held here and everything seemed to be in their right place, with familiar faces once again inhabiting the familiar Lewis County ski mountain for a long weekend. The only difference this year other than the return home was the festival was held three weeks earlier than its customary Labor Day weekend slot. Festival organizers cited an effort to attract more college-aged kids by holding the event on a weekend other than one more typically associated with ‘back to school’ for college student. It remains to be seen if this tactic was as effective as hoped as the overall attendance and crowd seemed little lighter than in years past. Never the less, moe.down once again treated everyone who was present to a weekend of good times with friends along with the customary musical highlights.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals really seemed to ignite the fire that was moe.down 13. Their Friday early evening set could have easily served as a short late night set elsewhere as it was full of energy, stirring covers and powerful rock. The Burlington, VT based group entertained everyone with new songs from their latest album The Lion The Beast The Beat as well as a musical nod to Led Zeppelin and a well executed Neil Young cover; “Cortez the Killer” closed their set as a light rain began to saturate the grounds. All of this, combined with a “Happy Birthday” sing-a-long dedicated to a fan up front, made for a fun set overall and kicked off the festival in fine fashion.
Another familiar name served up music on the second stage Friday night as Kyle Hollingsworth took his band out to the East Coast for some festival love. The String Cheese Incident keyboardist led his group through songs that incorporated elements of funk, jazz, improv and the like, with String Cheese songs “The Way That it Goes” and “Rosie” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”. Talented for sure, this seems to be a group just getting their feet wet that could very well be on the regular music festival docket for years to come. Their sets, both with and without the rain, served as a great break between acts on the nearby main stage.
As the rain began to lessen ever so slightly, it was time for moe.’s first set of the weekend. It opened with a rousing version of “Plane Crash” with Al Schnier flaunting a double neck guitar. This segued nicely into the popular musical combination of “Not Coming Down -> Wormwood->Okayalright” as the band showed it was clearly on its collective game early.
Sit-ins with other bands and musicians are almost expected at moe.down as the hosts never seem to have a problem sharing the stage with their friends. Based on this, it was no surprise Grace Potter was invited on stage to join moe. during the first set; it was just a matter of what song they chose to do together. They chose to have Potter channel her inner Jagger and delivered a great version of “Gimme Shelter”. The rest of the first set was highlighted by a phenomenal “Puebla -> Timmy Tucker” segue that featured the bass playing and vocal prowess of Rob Derhak that moe.rons everywhere have grown to love. While some slight lyric flubs arose, the overall playing and demeanor of the band was on point. Although it was still early, there was already a prevailing sense of ‘there’s no place like home’ brewing throughout moe.down.
The second set of moe.’s Friday night performance opened with a rocking version of “Tailspin”, a song that had been shelved by the band for a little while. This was met with a great reception and the segue into “Head” only increased the energy. Kyle Hollingsworth filled the second set cover slot as he joined the band for their classic “Happy Hour Hero”. Perhaps the musical highlight of the night was the seamless “McBain->Skrunk->Brent Black” that closed out the second set as icing on the cake. Afterwards, soaked revelers either returned back to camp and sought rest or continued the party with The Everyone Orchestra which kept the music going until 2 a.m. The addition of late night musical acts was another slight new twist to the festival and one that made perfect sense.
Saturday saw the temperatures increase a little with some drier ground on the hill for dancers. SOJA opened up things in the afternoon with a fun set on the main stage. The Arlington, VA band’s brand of reggae and folk music with soulful lyrics served as a great way to start the day. The band seemed truly honored to be playing at moe.down and undoubtedly made a few new fans with their performance.
Other notable main stage acts on Saturday were The Wood Brothers and Galactic. There was a little difficulty setting up the stage at first for The Wood Brothers set, but this was the one of the few slight music delays all weekend. Otherwise, organizers did a fantastic job of keeping the music on schedule with no sets overlapping one another – a tradition of moe.down.
Another tradition of sorts moe.down offers is a Kids Tent with its family friendly atmosphere. The band has always been cognizant of the growing family around themselves, their friends and festival attendees and they continue to do their best to make sure the festival is fun for all ages. This year, the band delivered a stealth performance of sorts in the Kids Tent for kids and their parents lucky enough to be present. A slower, bouncier version of “Crab Eyes” could be heard and, afterwards, band members hung around to talk and socialize which was nice to see. The next day, the kids returned the favor and kept another moe.down tradtion alive with a parade on stage during “Bring It Back Home”. Each child was wielding a photo of a different band member’s face with sizes ranging from mask size to extremely oversized (think of the ‘big’ heads popularized in college basketball these days.) All of this created a truly surreal, yet fun, scene that served as a testament to the family vibe that was alive and well.
Saturday night brought perhaps the best moe.ments of the weekend with two memorable sets. The first set opened with another “Crab Eyes”, this one being in the more traditional style. There were no breathers early as this segued into “Down Boy” and then “Lazarus”. The second set was a tale of two sets, so to speak. Early highlights included an intricate “Zed Nought Zee->Don’t Fuck With Flo->Zed Nought Zee” that saw the band at its improvisational best. Crowd energy was riding high when the hosts decided to invite their friends from Galactic to the stage. They chose to cover “Up On Cripple Creek”, an odd choice considering some of the more funky and uptempo tunes in moe’s catalog. This seemed to halt some of the momentum that had been building all night. A partial band switch brought Galactic to the stage with Vinny Amico and Jim Loughlin still on percussion for a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times”. moe. returned and dug deep and then some with a killer one-two punch of “George” and “Recreational Chemistry” to close out the night. These psychedelic staples were so intense and full of musical peaks the band was met with little argument from fans when no encore was played.
Bright Light Social Hour filled the Saturday late night slot and even featured a sit in from moe. guitarist Chuck Garvey. Every festival seems to have a band that comes out of nowhere and steals the show a little, and this group may fit that role here. Their catchy rhythms and unique rock sound were well received by the late night crowd and surely won them some new fans as well.
Sunday had a more relaxed feel to it for sure as some people began to slowly pack up cars and take down camp sites. With no Labor Day Monday off this year, this was not a surprising development. Albany’s own Timbre Coup held court on the second stage throughout the afternoon and delivered their infectious and unique music spanning multiple genres and styles for which they have become known. They added to the cover total for the weekend with a fun take on Cake’s “Never There”. Elements of prog rock were heard throughout both of their sets which set the table nicely for a more prominent band later in the day that features something similar.
The relationship between moe. and Umphrey’s McGee goes back many years at this point and is fairly well known. Ever since the original Bonnaroo in 2002, when moe. invited a young guitarist named Brendan Bayliss to sit in on “Rebubula”, the two bands have been almost joined at the hip. Umphrey’s has been a part of multiple moe.down’s and the two bands also co-host another annual summer festival, SummerCamp in Chilicothe, IL.
Umphrey’s treated the Sunday late afternoon crowd to a set full of intricate musicianship and telepathic improvisation. “Booth Love”, a hit off of their latest album Death by Stereo was well played and preceded a tight run through of one of their older songs, “Jajunk”. The Midwesterners then brought out guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan to join them on a version of “40’s Theme” that left mouths agape. Seeing Jordan trade guitar licks with Bayliss and Jake Cinninger was a true treat for both the eyes and ears.
moe. wrapped a bow around the weekend and the return to Turin with an elongated second set and double encore of sorts. Yet another well woven segue opened the final set as “Bullet -> Deep This Time” kicked things off. As expected, the hosts were later joined by their friends in Umphrey’s for, you guessed it, a cover song. They chose to do the Pink Floyd classic “Time” and as this wound down, members of moe. slowly started to leave the stage. Umphrey’s then once again had the stage to themselves and treated fans to a dub take on “Breathe” completing the Pink Floyd cover block.
Afterwards, moe. returned to the stage and there was one order of business left to take care of: the mayoral election. Although no candidate debates were scheduled this year, that didn’t stop people for running for the ‘unofficial’ mayor of the festival for 2012. In a heated race, Rex (a regular candidate who has been seeking the office for years now) lost a nail biter to GoldBond aka “the stuff people rub on their balls” as so deftly put by Derhak. With another moe.down tradition in the bag, there was time for just one more – a Sunday night “Rebubula”. The band busted out their classic hit that has all too often served as the final musical chapter of the weekend.
This year, the band had a little trick up their sleeve. The final chords of “Rebubula” gave way to the customary fireworks set off from atop the giant hill that serves as the iconic landmark of the festival. Instead of shutting it down after the fireworks ended, the hosts decided to “play until they tell us to stop” and treated everyone to a final musical pairing of “Billy Goat -> Meat” that capped a weekend full of memorable sights and sounds.
While the band never mentioned anything directly, it was clear after three days back in Turin , NY that was moe.down was back home where it belonged. Familiar faces were seen, traditions were upheld and it was almost as if the festival had never changed locations at all. Let’s hope moe.down is here to stay for good and that the traditions and great music continue.