Buffalo rockers moe. returned to Saranac Matt Brewery in Utica, NY for a 2-night run over September 7th and 8th. The weather was warm, the city was bustling, and the moe.rons were ready for some brain-melting music.
The show opened up with a fellow Buffalo act, moe.’s protege if you will, Aqueous, a younger group more focused on groove, but inspired by moe.’s progressive music. The band opened with their version of the classic “Super Mario Bros. Theme,” before bringing it into the four on the floor dance tune “Second Sight,” a song featured on the group’s newly released Color Wheel Wave 1 EP, released the day of the show. Following “Second Sight” was one of their more popular songs, “Kitty Chaser (Explosions),” a heavier rock tune that usually leads the crowd to some head banging during the explosive chorus. The group jammed it out a bit before segueing into their freshly debuted cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” Next was another heavier tune, the Evan McPhaden-penned “Origami.” At this point the crowd had started to fill up, and they grooving along to what Aqueous was brewing at Saranac. To close out the set, the band played the jovial “Random Company,” featured on their last studio effort, Best In Show. “Random Company” had the longest jam of the set at 18 minutes and solidified Aqueous as a band to look out for in many .rons’ hearts.
If you’ve ever been to a moe. show, you know the band loves to come out swinging and stay that way until they leave the stage following the encore. Saranac was no different. As they broke into “Timmy Tucker,” the audience knew they were in for a treat. It should be noted, Rob Derhak was particularly on point all weekend, nailing all of his vocal and bass parts in his typical Rob fashion, but attendees could tell he was feeling especially on fire in this home field venue. After a few chorus sing-a-long’s with the audience, the group brought “Timmy” into a fairly standard jam, before slowing it down a bit for the majority of the improv section. Around the 15-minute mark, there was a short peak, and the group brought the song into one last chorus before bringing it to a close. Following “Timmy” was the fast-paced “Mar-DeMa,” originally written for an event the group threw called ‘The Electric Lemoe.nade Acid Test.’ The tune acted as a great break from jamming following “Timmy,” and heavily featured the rhythm pair of Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin on drums and percussion, respectively. The group brought “Mar-DeMa” into the Al Schnier classic “Bring It Back Home,” another crowd sing-a-long, with catchy lyrics that are easy for even the non-.rons to follow. The song stayed within the bounds of its musical world for the jam, serving as a sort of experimental solo backing track for both Chuck Garvey and Schnier.
As “Bring it Back Home” was closed out by a fantastic drum solo from Amico, the grip dropped into the fan favorite “Water,” greeted by a roar of cheers from the crowd. “Water” was the first heavier song of the show—while still keeping its flowy vibe throughout—and led to an amazing solo from Garvey as the rest of the band kept the train going behind him. After a short break, the band dropped into the Garvey-led “Hi & Lo,” slowing the feel down a bit after the faster paced “Water,” and allowing Garvey to stretch his legs vocally for the first time of the show. “Hi & Lo” featured a more experimental jam at first, but was brought into a usually driving moe. jam with a peak led by Garvey, before being slowly dropped into Derhak’s newest tune, “LL3,” written following Derhak’s victory over cancer, penned about the train he took into Boston for his cancer treatment. This version of “LL3” was a bit faster-paced than they’ve been playing it since it was debuted at their return to the Cap and the stage this past February. The whole group was locked in throughout the tune, and Derhak was singing with all the emotion he had in his heart. The song was brought into a quick peak, featuring another fantastic Garvey solo over the tune’s dark, descending melody. After one last chorus, the group brought the tune into the set’s closer, “Big World,” an upbeat tune that brought the crowd’s energy back up following the rather somber “LL3.” Schnier led the song vocally and on guitar, taking a quacky, envelope filter-filled solo and leading the tune into its usual peak.
After a short set break, the group came out and immediately broke into “Buster,” the upbeat song about a pig that can fly, a fan favorite. “Buster” featured a fairly standard jam on the song’s main groove, and provided a soundtrack to the party .rons were having out in the audience. Following a mini-peak, the band took a quick break, and dropped into “Prestige Worldwide,” the Derhak-penned jam vehicle that debuted in late 2016. The intro of the song always provides some of the finest Schnier-Garvey guitar interplay you’ll get to see live, and sometimes will build into a mini-peak before the main song even starts. After Derhak finished singing the last of the song’s verses, the group dropped into the “B” section of the song, and started into a typical Schnier-led jam, before Loughlin took a hefty vibrophone solo that left jaws dropped to the floor. Garvey took the helm after Loughlin’s solo and brought the group into the end of the song. Following “Prestige,” Schnier introduced Mike Gantzer of Aqueous, while praising the group and saying “they really keep us on our toes,” before leading the group into his song “Mexico.” “Mexico” is the tale of Schnier’s 21st birthday trip to Mexico, a trip he’ll never forget. Throughout the tune, Gantzer followed along with Garvey’s textural lead playing while still adding his own flavor to the mix. Following the the main portion of the song, Gantzer grabbed the bull that is moe. by the horns and led them into a jam that isn’t exactly typical in a tune like “Mexico.” The Aqueous guitarist proceeded to take a solo that evoked the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd, and Schnier changed “cousin Dave” to “cousin Mike” for the last verse of the song.
Derhak dropped into the opening lyrics of “Captain America” and the crowd cheered as it raged full force at the brewery. The jam was getting ready to drop into “Four,” so the group took it slow and let the tension build as they crept their way towards those opening chords. Garvey and Schnier led another duo guitar section until Derhak took off on a tiny bass expedition before “Four” officially started. This version of “Four” started off a little slower than it typically does, but the group brought it up to tempo in time for Garvey to start into the lyrics. The jam was the second longest of moe.’s night, consisting of 2 peaks and a really experimental bass solo from Derhak, utilizing some of his more interesting sounding effects pedals and blowing the minds of everyone in the audience. To close out the set, the group brought “Four” into “meat” through a really ambient, almost techno jam. The progressive “meat” was met by a roar of cheers from the crowd, and immediately got down and dirty. “meat” is like Rush taking steroids and jamming for 20 minutes. The song is a prog rock masterpiece, and moe. knocked this one out of the park. Loughlin took another, shorter impressive solo in the midst of the jam, before Derhak took another long bass solo. This time he utilized some fuzz effects, making his unique bass sound like a synthesizer for doing what he does best and ending out the jam with a crazy awesome slap solo. The group drove the train all the way home to the station at the end of the “meat” jam, peaking with an impressive solo from Garvey that was weaving in and out of the song’s riffs. The group came out and encored with the Schnier-penned fan favorite “Seat of My Pants,” the reggae-esque rock number with scat-like lyrics. The jam didn’t get too crazy, it stayed a typical “SOMP” jam till the end, but provided the perfect ending to an incredible show.
NYSMusic will also be providing coverage of Saranac night 2, so check back tomorrow for that article. For a taste of what the first night of the Saranac run was like, check out the photo gallery below.
Set 1: Timmy Tucker, Mar-DeMa > Bring It Back Home > Water, Hi & Lo > LL3 > Big World
Set 2: Buster, Prestige Worldwide, Mexico*, Captain America > Four > meat
Encore: Seat of My Pants
*ft. Mike Gantzer of Aqueous on guitar
Photography by Matt Shotwell / Strawberry Island Dweller