After a two year hiatus, moe.down returned to its birthplace at Snow Ridge for the Fourth of July weekend. The highly anticipated return of the festival featured many sit-ins and covers along with rarely played moe. classics and seven full sets of moe.
moe.down was founded as a fan and family friendly festival in 2000 at Snow Ridge Ski Resort in the Tug Hill town of Turin. The festival made a name for itself over the years by inviting bands not typically associated with the jamband scene. Past years of moe.down have seen such acts as They Might Be Giants, Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven, Violent Femmes, Flaming Lips and Meat Puppets join moe. in upstate New York on a yearly basis. You can read all about past moe.downs in NYS Music‘s featured series here, here and here.
moe. also has a reputation for fostering younger bands. This year’s festival was indicative of that. Up and comers such as Mister F, Wild Adriatic, Organ Freeman, the Black River, Hayley Jane and the Primates, Ripe and the Hip Abduction were included in this year’s lineup, along with such familiar tour mates as Kung Fu, Twiddle, Railroad Earth, Ryan Montbleau and Blackberry Smoke. Fishbone was this year’s inclusion for outside-the-jamband mainstream act and did not disappoint. Several moe.-related bands were also included in this year’s lineup, including Floodwood, Al and the Transamericans and the Mike Dillon Band. Frequent moe.laborator, Shannon Lynch of Conehead Buddha and Lynch was also on hand, contributing her sax and vocals to several performances throughout the weekend.
Occasional heavy downpours throughout the day on Friday made for a muddy start to the weekend as much of the parking, main stage and high traffic areas became nearly nonnegotiable. Regardless, moe.rons are a hardy bunch and mud or not, moe.down was back.
Friday opened with Yes Darling on the tent stage. Yes Darling is a collaborative effort of Ryan Montbleau and Hayley Jane. Their chemistry got the festival off to a great start and provided a foreshadowing of what would come later in the night.
A reunion set of Al and the Transamericans followed on the main stage, followed by Hayley Jane and the Primates’ set in the tent and Ryan Montbleau on the main stage. The scheduling throughout the weekend was precise. As soon as one band finished on one stage, the other stage cranked up almost immediately. The proximity of the stages also allowed those at either stage to remain where they were and still enjoy the music from the other.
Kung Fu funked up the tent as many of the moe. faithful began filing in for the band’s first set at Snow Ridge in nearly three years.
moe. kicked off its festival with the apropos “Bring it Back Home,” seamlessly segueing into “Akimbo.” The segue-fest continued with “Defrost” > “Bearsong” until they brought it all back home to “Bring it Back Home” > “Captain America.” A fairly straight-forward rendition of “Captain America” was interrupted by a slight lyrical flub that was quickly recovered.
This led to the first sit-in of the weekend as Kirk Juhas and his Hammond B3 made their way to stage left to participate in three songs, “Blue Jeans Pizza,” a stellar cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Juhas’ keyboard style fit in well with the flow of “Blue Jeans Pizza.” A “Two Tickets to Paradise” tease alluded to the moe.down hiatus before flowing back into “Blue Jeans.” If moe. were to consider adding a full-time keyboardist to the lineup, Juhas would be a great fit.
The “Elizabeth Reed” cover was noticed early on by many in the crowd and met with a huge roar when the opening notes hit Chuck Garvey’s pick. Juhas played the part of Gregg Allman as Garvey and Al Schnier did their best Duane Allman/Dickie Betts. The band made this song its own while still nodding to its Allman’s influence. The first cover of the weekend would have been the perfect set closer but moe. had another trick up its sleeve.
The trick in question was bringing Ryan Montbleau and Haley Jane onstage for a spot-on rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Montbleau nailed Lindsey Buckingham’s vocals while Jane’s Stevie Nicks was a bit more bluesy than the original but a perfect complement to Montbleau. This is where the two’s chemistry was truly on full display.
Friday’s second set was joined by three members of Kung Fu for a ripping version of Frank Zappa’s “San Ber’dino.” Guitarist Tim Palmieri, keyboardist Beau Sasser and saxophonist Robert Somerville joined moe. for one of the band’s traditional covers turned into a funky guitar duel between Garvey and Palmieri that also featured some “Elizabeth Reed” teases. Somerville’s solos added a punch sometimes lacking in moe.’s versions of the Zappa classic while Sasser’s keys added the crunch the song very much needed. The fun had onstage among all the musicians was truly evident as Garvey and Palmieri traded licks and Sasser smiled from ear-to-ear. Despite being the opening song to the second set of what would be a marathon night, the crowd was visibly spent as was Garvey, who exclaimed as the Kung Fu fellows exited the stage, “Now what the hell are we gonna do?”
What moe. did was get back into its catalog with a series that included “Billy Goat” > “Tailspin” > “Hi & Lo” > “Water” > “Hector’s Pillow” into a tease-heavy “Farmer Ben,” that hinted at influences throughout moe.’s career, and finally into a trippy, short “meat.” The inclusion of “Water” was truly appropriate considering the amounts of it that had fallen from the sky leading up to and during the fest.
Following the traditional post-set Al.nouncements, Schnier thanked the musicians that had performed that day and the soundcheck the previous night along with the crew that helped to keep things going despite the weather, offering a cheers to the moe.down faithful as they broke into an acoustic version of “Raise a Glass.”
The four song encore got into the silly zone as the clock sniffed the 2 a.m. barrier. A cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun,” sung by Schnier, turned into a group sing-along. Friday ended with “Nebraska” and an extended “Faker.” An epic, nearly five hour set by the hometown heroes set the stage for an amazing weekend.
After the rain came the sun, and with that even more interesting interplay between the acts on Saturday at moe.down.
Waking up Saturday, it appeared we might be in for even more mud and gross weather, but that never happened. What did occur was a day saved by increasing temperatures, a bright sun and a renewed positive energy among the crowd, who were clearly ready to un-cake the mud, dry out and boogie without sliding down the slippery mountain terrain.
Kung Fu and moe. both battled the elements Friday night to piece together a memorable evening. But a little after noon on Saturday, the Black River kicked things off inside the tent stage. Perfect for the lazy morning, Mike Powell lead the still waking crowd through an hour of fun rock.
A little after its slated 1:30 p.m. time slot, moe. took to the mountain stage and intertwined some of the parade from the kids tent into their set, performing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and rousing the attendees to sing along in unison. “Spine of a Dog” and “Buster” opened the set in fun fashion, with Schnier and Garvey trading licks, as is usual.
“Bullet”> “Kyle’s Song” > “Kids” proved itself to be a trio of meticulous segues. moe. then closed out the Saturday set with an extended “Moth.”
Albany-area progressive funk rockers Mister F, who were all enjoying their weekends near the VIP camping area, were up next in the Tent Stage. Keyboardist Scott Hannay said prior to their set that the band was very prepared to give fans a treat.
What they weren’t planning for was more bad weather, as rain and lightning caused the band to have to exit the stage for about 15 minutes due to safety reasons. They didn’t miss a beat when they returned, giving the rowdy crowd another half hour of blistering time signatures. “Duck Tales” > “Eye Level” > “Everything You Say” kicked off the set, but it was “Answer the Dog” that was the set highlight. It featured teases of Inspector Gadget and the Snoop Dogg/Dr. Dre classic “Nuthin’ but a G Thang.”
Funk and reggae mixed with a little punk rock was up next, as veterans Fishbone brought its crew onstage for 90 minutes of unadulterated, unapologetic, in-your-face music. Maybe they were energized by what was going to happen later?
Floodwood brought its folksy, Americana blend to the tent stage next. This writer missed most of the set due to having to change out of soggy, muddy clothing and to prepare for the evening’s activities. Blackberry Smoke, followed by Saratoga Springs riff rockers Wild Adriatic, were next on the docket. It was the perfect back-to-back combination, as the southern charm of Blackberry Smoke was the perfect breeding ground for the hard hitting Wild Adriatic.
moe. came back on for its second Saturday set with blazing covers of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh,” followed by “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” The energy caused the crowd to sing along in unison with the two of the psychedelic rock group’s most beloved songs off The Wall. Fishbone then joined in the fun for a cover of “Freddie’s Dead,” before Charlie Starr, of Blackberry Smoke, sat in for a southern tinged take on moe. favorite “Opium.” “32 Things,” “Seat of my Pants” and “Plane Crash” were performed, with the latter two closing out the set.
For the late night set, moe. kept with the theme of inviting guests to explore their material, as well as others’ music. “Wind It Up,” “Same Old Story,” “Tubing the River Styx” and “The Pit” began the set, before “Silver Sun” gave way to a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “The Other One,” which featured Jason Barady and Nick Piccininni, both of Floodwood.
Sunday featured a renewed optimism, as the mud was nearly dried, and some fresh music on tap.
Mike Dillon Band started the music on the tent stage, before roots-Americana band Railroad Earth brought their brand of bluegrass to the Main Stage.
Twiddle, seeing its stock rise steadily in 2016 and into 2017, took to the mountain stage at 5:30 p.m. and lit right into “Nicodemus Portulay,” featuring an extended trance-like jam. Favorites “Polluted Beauty” and “Lost in the Cold” were up next, as the former carried into the 16-minute range.
“Orlando’s,” “The Fantastic Tale of Ricky Snickle,” and “Drifter” finally gave way for a set-closing “Wasabi Eruption” > “The Box” before finally settling on “Juggernaut.” It’s abundantly clear that Twiddle have not only carved out their place in the jam scene, but based of their moe.down set, they’re ready to continue pushing to uncapped heights.
The final night of moe.down had the band dressed all in white, similar to Saturday night. The band opened with “Puebla” and quickly returned to “meat.” from Friday night. Loughlin’s extended malletkat (“It’s not a xylophone”) solo led the band into an early moe. classic, “Awesome Gary,” sending the crowd into a dancing frenzy, while also indicating that Loughlin would have a large presence on this night.
Schnier donned a white suit with a fedora reminiscent of the Panama Jack spokesman and proceeded to level up to rock star mode during the solo in the proceeding “Crab Eyes,” standing on top of the monitors and all.
The unexpected highlight of Sunday’s set was when Rob Derhak forgot the lyrics to “New York City” and asked the audience for help, “Someone’s gotta give me the first line. The band has no clue…But what’s the first word? Anybody know the first word of this next line? This is gonna go down as the most epic ‘New York City’ ever.” Unfortunately the crowd was no help, which resulted in his son pulling up the lyrics on his phone while the band continued the bridge in the background.
Sunday’s first set concluded with a guest appearance from Twiddle’s Mihali Savoulidis and Ryan Dempsey for a performance of moe.’s “Mexico.” Dempsey’s keys weren’t really prominent in the mix, while Savouldis’ fretwork mixed well with Schnier and Garvey. All of the musicians were obviously pleased to be sharing the stage as the crowd sang along.
Following setbreak, the traditional Mayor of moe.down election took place. It’s obvious at this stage of the game that Derhak has had enough of this tradition. The nominees included such animate and inanimate objects as the hay (that was laid down on top of the mud), Screaming Trumpkin (a rubber chicken that resembled President Donald Trump), Frank (moe.’s guitar tech, Frank Robbins), Rex (the reigning Mayor of moe.down) and Rob’s Bulge (a reference to bassist Derhak). The resulting “election,” much to Derhak’s chagrin, was Rob’s Bulge. The acceptance speech included Derhak saying, “I hate this. And, uh, fuck everybody here. But my bulge is Mayor of moe.down.” This was followed by a chant of “Rob’s Bulge” led by Schnier.
Following the election, a “McBain” sandwich occurred, that included a “Skrunk,” a “Yodelittle” and a return to “McBain” that featured percussionist Mike Dillon battling Loughlin on the mallets, truly one of the many highlights of the weekend.
As the band broke into “Brent Black,” the skies opened yet again, sending the faithful scurrying for cover. Many gathered in the tent stage area as the band troopered on through the downpour. As the rain fell, the band converged to presumably discuss what to do for the remainder of the show. Vinnie Amico and Derhak continued playing as Schnier convalesced with the stage crew. The rains diminished and the band persevered, the result was pure exuberance from fans.
The weekend concluded with Schnier thanking the crew, their families, fans, Snow Ridge and the people who cleaned out his basement during the recent flooding in the Utica area, followed by an encore that included a “Not Coming Down” > “Okayalright” and a fitting “America, Fuck Yeah” from the Team America soundtrack.
moe.down XVI by all accounts was a success despite the weather. When it comes to moe.down, it’s expected you’re going to get weather. That’s what makes moe.rons such a special breed and moe. such a special band. The return of this festival to its origin proved successful and bodes well for a return for moe.down XVII in 2018. Let’s hope it’s so.
Frankie Cavone Photos:
Sarah Bourque Photos: