Throwdown at moe.down: A look back at the Festival’s Origins

This week we begin a three-part series looking at the history of moe.down, one of the longest running music festivals in New York State history. The first part of the series looks at moe.downs 1 through 5.

moe. is New York’s jam band, plain and simple. The four-piece started in New York and they have played throughout New York quite often in their 25+ year career.

They began hosting a weekend long festival in Central New York starting in 2000, and this July 4-6 will be the 16th iteration of the formerly-Labor Day weekend festival many fans hold near and dear.

The first moe.down, at Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin, featured a hodgepodge of musical talent including, of course, moe., Martin Sexton, Les Claypool, David Grisman and Charlie Hunter, among others. Fans of moe. were thrilled to get three nights of their favorite band, and a bunch of other guests.

Phil, a moe. fan who attended the first four moe.downs, said he loved every single second.

“Well, One was special because it was … one,” he said. “Didn’t really know what to expect.”

Phil said he had seen moe. three times prior, but was stoked to spend a weekend with them and a cavalcade of other artists. In a sense, it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

“The first year was small, and the staff didn’t really know what was going on,” he said.

moe.down 2, in 2001, expanded the lineup to jammier heights, featuring Donna the Buffalo and the Disco Biscuits, which were both big hits with some in attendance.

Jeff Titmus, a 2002 Plattsburgh State graduate, grew up with moe. in his repertoire of music, attending, he says, the first 11 moe.down festivals.

“I vividly remember the second festival because I had just heard the Disco Biscuits and I was quite intrigued to see them live,” he said. “Events of that night got a little hazy. Me and my friends may have raged a little too hard and I remember something that stuck with me. A security guard approached us, and we assumed he was going to tell us to stop doing what we were doing, but instead he came and simply told us he hopes we’re enjoying the festivities and to be safe. Some festival security can be a bit, uh, dickish, but never at a down. Very fan friendly.”

In an interview a few years ago with the Post Standard newspaper in Syracuse, guitarist Chuck Garvey summed up the group’s thoughts on the long running family friendly vibe that moe. presents.

“We’ve got all our families there and friends from across the country who come to hang out,” said Garvey. “I’ve got five sisters, my parents, all my nieces and nephews, and the other guys have the same. It’s a big party for us.”

With the advent of social media and the growth of cell phones turning the media landscape upside down, it has become very easy to schedule meetups, find friends and gather any information you need at the tip of your fingers. It wasn’t always that way, though, especially in the early days of moe.down.

“Before the Facebook, and Phantasy Tour, there was the “L” – a listserv group,” Phil said. “Many of us old timers met on the “L.” In any event, we’d make it a point for all of us to gather for a group picture. And at the group picture, we’d swap CDs, beers, etc.”

In 2002, moe. added some more Central New York flavor to the lineup, adding Syracuse blues wizards Los Blancos to the bill.

moe.down 4 featured some pop flavor added to the jammy recipe, as They Might be Giants and The Flaming Lips were added. Yonder Mountain String Band and a young Umphrey’s McGee were on the bill, as was Antigone Rising. It was also the first year that guitarist Al Schnier performed with his solo band Al and the Transamericans.

“Honestly, the lineup in 2003 was my least favorite they’ve ever done,” moe. super fan Jacqueline Finnerty said. “But how great is it that it can be a weak lineup but we still get three nights of the best band on earth to look forward to?”

Snow Ridge in Turin has a special place in the band’s heart, according to Garvey.

“We grew up out there. Most of us skied at Snow Ridge when we were kids,” Garvey told the Post Standard. “We wanted to bring a cool festival to the area, and no one else was doing it at the time.”

Year five of moe.down featured a shift to a bigger lineup. Phish’s Mike Gordon played with the Benevento Russo Duo, H.O.R.D.E. Tour veterans Blues Traveler played a bouncy show and acts like Leftover Salmon, Michael Franti and Spearhead and Trainwreck were also on the bill.

The first five years of moe.down saw some soaring heights from the band, lineups and the audience. In talking with a small percentage of moe.’s loyal followers, it became very clear that this time was integral in the band growing its insanely loyal following.

In the following five incarnations, the band fiddled with some things, and kept others the same. Check back next week for part two, featuring an in depth look at moe.down 6 through 10.

moe.down setlists courtesy of the Internet Archive

moe.down 1, September 1 through 3, 2000

9/1/00 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

With Kirk Huhas of freebeerandchicken on keyboards.

Jim solo > Bring It Back Home*, Nebraska*, Akimbo, Can’t Seem To Find, Plane Crash, Bring You Down > Brent Black, Understand, Seat Of My Pants > Sensory Deprivation Bank

E: Tambourine**, Down By The River

* With Martin Sexton on tambourine. ** Al, Chuck, and Kirk on tambourines.

9/2/00 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

With Kirk Huhas of freebeerandchicken on keyboards.

1: Al solo > Head, New York City, Hi and Lo > Moth*, Recreational Chemistry*# > Wildwood Weed*#^ > Sweet Emotion*#^ > Tommy The Cat*#^

2: Vinnie solo > Water, Captain America, Fathead rap** > Johnny Lineup**##, Opium^^, Mexico@

E: Meat@%

* With Jay Lane of Ratdog on percussion. # With Les Claypool on bass and vocals. ^ First time played. ** With members of Fathead. ## First verse only. ^^ With a member of Fathead on keyboards. @ With the saxophonist from Fathead. % With Emilio from Nyquil on violin.

9/3/00 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

With Kirk Huhas of freebeerandchicken on keyboards.

1: Rob solo > Timmy Tucker*, Blue Eyed Son, Spine Of A Dog > Yodelittle

2: Chuck solo > Four > Buster, Rise, St. Augustine, Rebubula**

E: Time Again#, San Ber’dino

* With Joe Craven of the David Grisman Quintet on percussion. With “Gil’s Theme“. ** With “I Know You Rider” (traditional) tease. # Jim on bass, Rob on washboard. Fireworks display during “San Ber’dino”

mow.down 2, August 31 through September 2, 2001

8/31/01 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

Moth > Lazarus > Bring You Down > Brent Black > St. Augustine > Time Ed > Moth

E: Don’t Fear The Reaper

9/1/01 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin,NY

1: Captain America, San Ber’dino* > Happy Hour Hero**, Spaz Medicine, Good Guys and Bad Guys#, Suck The Head## > Gummin’ Your Nub##^, Plane Crash^^

2: Spine Of A Dog% > Buster, Livin’ Again > Timmy Tucker

E: Voodoo Lady%%

* With members of Project/Object. ** With Gibb Droll on guitar. # With Cracker Van Beethoven. (David Lowry on vocals, Johnny Hickman on mandolin, Victor Krummacher on acoustic guitar, and Jonathan Siegel on violin.) ## With The Radiators. Last “Suck The Head” 2/7/99. ^ First time played. ^^ With Ed Volker on keyboards. % With “Funkytown” (Lipps, Inc.) tease. %% Jim on drums, Vinnie on percussion.

9/2/01 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

1: Understand, Nebraska, Hi and Lo > Kyle, The Faker > Kids

2: New York City, Rise > Recreational Chemistry*, Meat** > Bullet > Rebubula

E: Bring It Back Home

* With “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (Iron Butterfly) tease. ** With Jim Lomonaco of Yolk on bass.

moe.down 3, August 30 through September 1, 2002

8/30/02 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

Meat*, 32 Things, Spine Of A Dog > Buster**, Understand, The Ghost of Ralph’s Mom, Hi and Lo > Brent Black

E: Godzilla

* With Jon Fishman on drums and Jamie Masefield on mandolin. ** With “Gin and Juice” (Snoop Doggy Dogg) tease.

8/31/02 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

Set I, afternoon set.

1: Akimbo, Not Coming Down > Okayalright, Mexico, New York City, Bring It Back Home

2: St. Augustine, Shoot First, Crab Eyes, Tambourine, Captain America* > Recreational Chemistry

3: Seat Of My Pants** > Sensory Deprivation Bank**#, Gone, Bullet## > Kyle^ > Kids

E: Timmy Tucker > Gin and Juice^^ > Timmy Tucker

* With “Don’t Fuck With Flo” tease. ** Jim on drums, Vinnie on percussion. # With Seth Yacovone on guitar. ## With “Timmy Tucker” tease. ^ With Govinda of the Grapes on flute. ^^ First time played.

9/1/02 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

1: Head, Nebraska, It, Cornflake Girl > Happy Hour Hero, Moth > moe./Galactic Jam* > Galactic/moe. Jam* > Moth

2: Opium** > Rebubula, Rise, Plane Crash

E: Don’t Fuck With Flo, Bodhisattva

* With Galactic. ** With “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider” (Grateful Dead) tease.

moe.down 4, August 29 through 31, 2003

8/29/03 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

Buster* > Spaz Medicine > Not Coming Down > Wormwood > Okayalright, Shoot First, New York City**, Understand, 32 Things, Cornflake Girl > Recreational Chemistry#

E: San Ber’dino

* With Jim Donovan of Rusted Root on percussion. ** With Antigone Rising. # With Steve Drizos of Dexter Grove on percussion.

8/30/03 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

1: Akimbo, Captain America > Rise, Money > Time Ed > McBain*

2: Four** > Plane Crash, Gone > She Sends Me > St. Augustine# > Brent Black > drumz

3: Jam > Rebubula##

E: Spine Of A Dog > Four reprise

* First time played. ** With “Us and Them” (Pink Floyd) tease. # With “Gil’s Theme.” With “Dancing Days” (Led Zeppelin) tease. ” ## With “Big World”, “So Long”, “Gil’s Theme”, “Brent Black”, “McBain”, and “Spaz Medicine” teases.

8/31/03 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

1: Bring It Back Home, Nebraska, Hi and Lo > Timmy Tucker* > Opium*

2: McBain**, The Faker > Kids, It, Kyle > Meat

E: Johnny Lineup

* With Nate Wilson on keyboards. ** With “Crosseyed and Painless” (Talking Heads) tease.

moe.down 5, September 3 through 4, 2004

9/3/04 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

Kyle’s Song > Kids, New York City, Shoot First, Spaz Medicine > Crab Eyes, Buster > Four Sticks (Led Zeppelin) > Take Five > Buster, Letter Home, Tailspin* > Meat**

E: St. Augustine

9/4/04 Snow Ridge Ski Area – Turin, NY

Lost Along the Way, Seat of My Pants, Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’, Summer o i > Understand, Dr. Graffenberg > Rebubula*

She Sends Me, Akimbo, Brent Black1> Timmy Tucker

Mountain Song> Not Coming Down> Wormwood> Okayalright> Happy Hour Hero> Sensory Deprivation Bank> Recreational Chemistry

E: Tambourine, Hi and Lo> Big World, Enter Sandman

9/5/04 Snow Ridge Ski Area Turin, NY

Plane Crash> Where Does the Time Go?> Yodelittle, Captain America> Mexico, Bearsong

Faker> Moth, McBain> George1, Mayor of moe.ville> Mayor of moe.ville jam2, Y.O.Y.> Plane Crash

E: Nebraska, Spine Of A Dog

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