On a rainy Friday night in New Haven, Connecticut on March 31, fans gathered at the College Street Music Hall to see the jam titans known as moe. The 5-piece appropriately opened the show with “Water” to a soaking wet crowd. The cleverly placed tune off the 2001 album, Dither, served as a welcoming “hello” as suggest in the lyrics. A gentle transition into “Hector’s Pillow” flowed like a river and soared with Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier exchanging guitar riffs to the delight of a rowdy crowd.
If the line to get inside the venue wasn’t long enough, there was always the beer line to eat up more of your first set enjoyment. Looking on the bright side, I was able to meet a middle-aged crew celebrating a 40th birthday and wearing matching hats that read “40 moe. years.” Embracing the famoe.ly atmosphere, the birthday crew pointed out that drummer Vinnie Amico was also sporting the same hat during the show. The “glass half full” attitude in the beer line worked well with the lyrics of “Okayalright,” the third song of the evening. The classic tune off 2003’s Wormwood serves as a favorite for moe.rons of all ages and on Friday night, bassist Rob Derhak had the damp crowd singing along.
The one-two punch of Skrunk> Lazarus generated high-energy power normally reserved for the second set. Schnier was on fire while Garvey provided the gasoline to keep the flame glowing. While Lazarus has been played for two decades, it wasn’t until the 2012 release, What Happened to the LA LAs that the band took the song to the studio. Unlike the recorded version, which taps out under 4-minutes, moe. added a lift-kit to the monster truck of a jam in New Haven. Serving up even more kickassery to close out the first set, “McBain” gave each member a moment in the spotlight and featured the peaks and valleys that die-hard followers of the band have come to expect over the years.
The venue was treated to the sounds (and smells) of a good old fashioned Allman Brothers Band concert when moe. came back out for an epic cover of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Known as one of the most iconic classic rock instrumentals of all time, this early second set masterpiece saw Jim Laughlin go to town on his signature vibraphone during the peak of the jam. After a crowd-pleasing “Buster,” my vote for second-set MVP took the vibraphone on another adventure during an extra-long “Chromatic Nightmare.” This dizzying percussion piece seemed to be heavily Zappa influenced as the band attempted to recreate an acid trip at a carnival, and the crowd ate it up.
The more straight-forward “Blond Hair and Blue Eyes” brought the venue back to a safe space before getting even deeper with “Faker.” While “Chromatic Nightmare” is an example of the more psychedelic side of the quartet, “Faker” displays their talent for introspective lyrics and melodic compositions. Those in attendance looking for the more heavy-metal moe. were treated to a killer “meat.” to close out the set. “Elizabeth Reed” may have been the highlight of the early half of the set, but “meat.” took the group to an entirely different dimension. It is rare to see a mosh pit form at a jam band show, but if it were to happen, it feels like “meat.” is the most moshable of them all. Fans that prefer to cling to Al-side of the theater were treated to an up-close and personal look at the guitarist and he brought his shredding as close to the fans as possible.
Perhaps as a nod to April Fool’s the following day, “Waiting For The Punchline” was delivered as the sole encore of the evening. The delightful bluegrass section of this number got feet stomping and hands clapping, and if I’m not mistaken, I believe I caught a few “yee-haws” before the end of the tune. While it appeared that some of the moe.rons in the room would be making the trek across the Long Island Sound to see them again the following night in Huntington, those staying in Connecticut left the venue grateful for the well-crafted start to their weekend.
Set I: Water > Hector’s Pillow > Okayalright, Skrunk > Lazarus, Little Miss Cup Half Empty, McBain
Set II: In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, Jazz Wank > Buster >Chromatic Nightmare, Blond Hair And Blue Eyes, Faker > meat.
Encore: Waiting For The Punchline