moe. has played dozens of area shows through the years at moe.down in both nearby Turin, New York and at Beardslee Castle in Little Falls, as well as at Saranac Brewery. But it had been twenty-one years since they had played the iconic, venerable Stanley Theater in Utica, New York. With the majority of the band having roots in the area, this pair of New Year’s Eve shows was a much-anticipated homecoming.
Night One, on December 30, saw both a marriage proposal and a mayoral proclamation by Utica’s Robert Palmieri declaring the date as moe. Day in the city, before the show even began. The band set the tone by opening with a scorching version of “Meat,” with percussionist Jim Loughlin displaying his astounding skills with two mallets in each hand on vibraphone. There’s no question that Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier are guitar gods, Rob Derhak is a creative bass player whose frequent onstage grin helps make him so likable, and Vin Amico keeps things chugging like a freight train, playing drums while chomping on gum and blowing enormous bubbles like he’s endorsed by Bazooka. But to this listener, Loughlin makes a distinct difference. He plays stuff that you just don’t hear anywhere else in a band of such renown and longevity.
The band transitioned through seven additional songs totaling nearly ninety minutes of music to conclude the first set. Throughout both nights, the band indeed played several favorite songs, but there was an enormous dose of rarely, or lesser played, tunes that seemed to surprise and delight hardcore fans of moe.
Before the second set, Al introduced the ubiquitous Utica legend, Rainbow Young, who had the crowd singing along to what was purported to be “God Bless America,” though the key, melody, and meter may have been more than a bit different. The second set began with a “Downward Facing Dog,” “Brittle End,” “Downward Facing Dog” sandwich before concluding with a string of tunes ending where they began the night, getting back to “Meat.” The bar was set high, as a goal to surpass on Night Two.
Night Two saw moe. pull out all the stops and cut loose in so many interesting ways. On New Year’s Eve, as we all headed into 2020, the band and their fans paid tribute to the Roaring ‘20s in both attire and some of the musical selections. Moe took the stage in suits, ties, suspenders and fedoras, reminiscent of when men dressed as such to go to work one hundred years ago. Many male fans dressed similarly, with dozens of female fans sporting frilly or sequined flapper dresses, long gloves, boas, and headpieces. The theater itself was a perfect setting, as it opened in that decade, and matched the fanciful dress with elaborate baroque design, including ornate twisted columns, a mind-boggling enormous chandelier, and gargoyles, lions, and cherubs adorning the walls and opera seats.
The first set saw Chuck and Al on acoustic guitars, with Al switching out to mandolin for a bit. Jim Loughlin showed his versatility throughout the evening, playing vibraphone, acoustic guitar, congas, and washboard. The three first time played songs included two from 1928, the year the Stanley Theater opened. The set opened with “It,” included a stunning version of “Statesboro Blues,” and ended with Rob Derhak’s “Tambourine.”
Set two saw the band plug in and take things even higher. It included an explosive version of “Don’t Fuck With Flo,” a return to the twenties for a cover of “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” and ended with a nice rendition of the predictable “New Hope for the New Year.”
The third set had everyone on their feet, singing and dancing, with smiles and good wishes from many fans to others as midnight approached. Starting with a fairly new song, “Along for the Ride,” it included a nice execution of “Mack the Knife,” leading into “Silver Sun” just before the New Year’s countdown. At the stroke of midnight, air cannons showered the crowd with a colossal amount of confetti. The band and their significant others toasted and hugged each other, and moe. soon returned to their instruments. 2020 began with a joyous, infectious “Rebubula,” enhanced by a top-notch lighting presentation. This was followed by “Four,” and “Farmer Ben” segueing into a fervent “Timmy Tucker” to end the set. With a time deadline approaching, the band blazed through “Spine of a Dog” as the encore. Two nights of great music, great memories, and proof that moe. have established themselves as a premier touring band, world-class musicians, and individuals proud of their hometown.
Setlist – December 30, 2019
Set 1: Meat > Not Coming Down > Wormwood > Fearless~ > Deep This Time > Who You Calling Scared? > Akimbo > Brent Black
Set 2: Downward Facing Dog > Brittle End > Downward Facing Dog, Skrunk > Lazarus > Down Boy > Bring You Down > Meat
Encore: Letter Home, Wind It Up
~ Pink Floyd cover
Setlist – December 31, 2019
Set 1: It*, Time Again**, Shoot First**, Statesboro Blues*#, Where Does The Time Go?*, Tambourine*
Set 2: Tailspin > Puebla > Don’t Fuck With Flo > Tubing The River Styx > The Pit, East St. Louis Toodle-oo##, Opium, New Hope For The New Year
Set 3: Along For The Ride, Nebraska, Mack The Knife^, Silver Sun%, Rebubula, Four, Farmer Ben > Timmy Tucker
Encore: Spine Of A Dog
* w/ Al & Chuck on acoustic guitar
** w/ Al on mandolin, Chuck on acoustic guitar
# FTP – (Blind Willie McTell cover)
## FTP – (Duke Ellington & Bubber Miley cover –)
% NYE Countdown
^ FTP – (Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht cover)