Foolin’ Around with moe. at The Paramount

On Saturday, April 1, at The Paramount, Buffalo-based moe. took April Fools’ Day to the next level by sonically messing with the minds of everyone in attendance.  The die-hard moe.rons in the crowd knew that an inevitable prank was coming in some form, but the anticipation led to an even more exciting Saturday night show.  Opening with “Defrost” the boys did not wait to get the venue dancing.  The historically rare instrumental was the third appearance of “Defrost” in 2017 and it was frequently played in 2016, leading fans to assume that this oldie-but-goodie is not just getting a dusting, but being taken off the shelf permanently.

Moe. brought out the heavy hitters early with a transition into an epic “Brent Black” in just the second slot.  Al Schnier and Rob Derhak chiseled the signature song into form while Chuck Garvey used his guitar pick to work on the intricacies.  Garvey celebrated his birthday on Thursday night in New Jersey, and on stage he has been having his cake and eating it too during the entire 3-show run.  “Lost Along The Way” gave the already sweaty crowd a much needed breather which was followed by “Blue Jeans Pizza” off the decade old album, The Conch.  One of the more lovey-dovey moe. originals, “Pizza” found Schnier switching from guitar to minimoog allowing Garvey to take full leadership of the solo to the delight of the crowd.  The only annoying aspect of this part of the set was the crowd chatter being at an all-time high.  While I felt that the energy from “Brent Black” never went away throughout the entire set, there are times to talk and times to STFU.

Jim Loughlin lead the tribal transition into “Bring It Back Home” as Schnier jumped back onto his guitar for some added flare.  Loughlin remained in the spotlight while Derhak and Vinnie Amico tag teamed the next tune, “Billy Goat” off the most recent release studio release, No Guts, No Glory.  The surfer-rock jam found on the Smash Hits release, “Tailspin,” got the crowd spinning around again.  The very impressive first set was praised throughout the break as moe. spanned their entire career in just seven songs.

The April Fools’ prank ensued as soon as the 5-piece reentered the stage for the second set.  Over the 28-year career of moe., many different rumors have been spread describing the origin of the band’s name.  One rumor was that moe. is a simple acronym for “monkeys on ecstasy” and on April 1, 2017, the monkey was brought to life in one of the stranger moe.ments I have seen a long time.   As members began tuning up for the start of the second half of the evening a person dressed in a monkey costume with giant headphones appeared next to Amico’s drum kit, fist-pumping to what sounded like a mashup of “Plane Crash” and Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey.”  The odd display transformed the rock venue into an electronic dance club and judging by the smile on Derhak’s face, even the band got a kick out of the gag.  The prankster monkey seemed to fall into his own trap as he slipped and fell while trying to get off the stage.  They covered it up nicely as the “too f**kin’ high” primate took off the giant headphones and put them on Derhak’s head before exiting the stage.  Was the slip a set up or did the gag lead to an injury?  The world may never know.

After the shenanigans ensued, “Rainshine> Understand” got the show back on track.   As the light two-song combo fizzled out, a reggae-influenced intro to “Time Ed” got the room swaying back and forth.  The band had a few laughs during the line, “Born a monkey from the sky (monkey, monkey)” before Loughlin returned to business as usual during his flying trapeze percussion section.  Throughout the song, he switched back and forth from bongos to MalletKat to xylophone in harmonious fashion.  The final segue of the set occurred during a strung-out “Haze” into one of their more euphoric songs off Dither, “So Long.”  Every jam band has their own repertoire of songs that cuts to the core of their loyal fan base and mellows out the room.  “So Long” is a chameleon of sorts because while it can act as the fluffy cloud to space out the heavier songs, it can also get pretty intense on its own, which is exactly what happened on Saturday night.

Schnier came out as he usually does before the encore to read some fan shout-outs.  On certain nights he has no problem deciphering what the writers are trying to say, but in Huntington after a night of debauchery, he seemed to struggle through the chicken scratch handwriting.  There was some light banter from Loughlin as he announced the next song was one that he wrote.  The dark lyrics and southern-rocking Widespread Panic-esque sound of “Don’t Wanna Be” is not really my cup of tea and with little head nodding in the crowd, I felt like there had to be one more crowd-pleaser to end the incredible weekend of moe. in the Northeast.  Sure enough, “New York City” was served as the entrée of the encore and considering many fans came to The Paramount on a train from the Big Apple, the famoe.us tune was well received.

The boys will play four sold-out shows at The Sinclair before departing for the South to cover some ground in warmer territories.  The recently added set entitled “phil.moe.” at Lock’n was the latest news from the band, and from now until the special dead-inspired set, they will headline Summer Camp and the return of Moe.Down.  The bright future and booked calendar gives the moe.rons hope that while the band may be up for a good time and a few pranks, they are in no way ready to cool it down.

moe. – 4.1.17 – The Paramount – Long Island, NY

Set I: Defrost > Brent Black, Lost Along The Way > Blue Jeans Pizza > Bring It Back Home, Billy Goat > Tailspin

Set II: Rainshine > Understand, Time Ed, She, > Sensory Deprivation Bank, George, Haze > So Long

Encore: Don’t Wanna Be, New York City

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