Buffalo jam stars moe. took to the stage in Yarmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod this past weekend for the middle two nights of their four-night New England run. Nearly seven months have passed since their last pre-Covid performance in Atlantic City, with a planned pair of drive-in shows in upstate New York unexpectedly cancelled mere days before the performance. It was clear early on that moe. was eager to shake the cobwebs off and play for a live audience.
The Yarmouth Drive-In, though spacious and very well organized, has the drawback of lacking a PA system, which seemed to sway some of the opinions of prospective attendees in the weeks leading up to the show. The venue used an FM transmitter to deliver sound to the patrons, who either used battery-powered radios or their own car radios to dance in their private cordoned-off suites.
In a few instances, moe. fans at Yarmouth were seen lugging in their own PA systems, which they would mic up to a radio and supply loud, clean sound to their neighbors. Security was ever-present, making sure people were following the mask mandate and other safety protocols, while maintaining a friendly rapport with the fans.
On night one, the boys took the stage promptly at 7 o’clock and opened with a speedy and energetic “Threw it all Away,” with their anthemic “Plane Crash” following close on its heels. Then, moe. went into some exploratory territory with “Skrunk,” featuring some pedalboard experimentation from guitarist Chuck Garvey (one fan described the computerized, robotic shredding as “connecting us to AOL” in a Facebook post.) He would return to use the effect sparingly throughout the two-night run, but brought it to the forefront here. They left “Skrunk” in the dust with a long, patient and smooth transition into their jam vehicle “Time Ed,” which is around the time the sound crew really dialed in bassist Rob Derhak’s vocals. They kept the energy high with “Akimbo,” segued into one of the new album’s songs, “Who You Callin’ Scared” and then closed out the first set of the weekend with Al’s ode to his late father, the epic two-parter “Downward Facing Dog.”
Set two opened with a drawn-out intro to the new track “Along For The Ride,” a protest song complete with E-drums and a funky bassline, which seems to be getting its feet under it more and more each time it’s played. This abruptly led into Annihilation Blues, a short and sweet rock tune from the No Guts, No Glory album, which took a surprising turn and featured a long, inventive outro jam that slowly morphed into the crowd-pleasing “Bring It Back Home.” “Mar De Ma,” Vinny’s instrumental number, led flawlessly into the iconic bassline of “Billy Goat” in yet another creative segue. They finished the second set with a pair of songs penned by guitarist Al Schnier, the history-inspired “Puebla” and the dark, heavy, strange fantasy tale that is “Bearsong” with an Iron Butterfly homage in between for the classic rock buffs in the crowd. For their encore (after a chorus of cheers and honking horns) moe. returned to the stage for a rendition of the triumphant “Happy Hour Hero” before bidding the crowd farewell for the night.
While Night 1 had a creative setlist and some truly inspired segueways and jams, Night 2 showed a relentless side of moe. that can only emerge from months of quarantine. Nearly every single song transitioned into the next, either in the “no huddle” style of immediately diving into the next song, or with a long improvised jam that keeps the audience guessing, with only a single break between songs that occurred near the end of the first set. After opening with their flagship song, “Rebubula,” moe. played the traditional pairing of “Not Coming Down” and “Wormwood,” which bled into their first cover of the weekend, Pink Floyd’s rousing “Fearless” and then the reflective “Deep This Time.”
At this point, moe. stopped playing (for the only time the entire show) and Rob addressed the crowd with a brief speech in which he thanked the crowd for being there, expressing his solidarity. Shortly after, he plucked the opening notes of the Bush-era protest song “George” and the Yarmouth Drive-In briefly turned into a disco dance lot.
After a half hour set break, the temperature was dropping and occasional bursts of wind chilled the air. As some of the patrons added some extra layers and poured themselves another drink, moe. retook the stage for a fully segued set that deftly wove old classics and new additions to the moe. repertoire. Al started the set with a slow, bluesy lick, while the introduction to “Moth” was slowly solidified by his bandmates. “Moth” was left unfinished as they steered the soaring, uplifting “Moth” jam into the slap-happy, bass-heavy “LL3,” a new song written by Rob Derhak about his battle with oropharyngeal cancer. This version was livelier and heavier than previous versions, growing more and more energetic with each subsequent performance. They smoothly brought the tempo down and started teasing the harmonic intro of “Lazarus.” The song that has changed arrangements several times in the last decade and seems to have finally transformed back into the monstrous jam vehicle it once was.
They chased “Lazarus” with the mammoth instrumental “McBain,” which featured an expected “Walking On the Moon” tease (The Police) and a somewhat more predictable “Crosseyed and Painless” tease (Talking Heads) which has become a staple of performances of “McBain.” This was followed by another “no huddle,” this time into the Who’s classic hit “Pinball Wizard,” which has only been played seven times ever. Throwing yet another curveball our way, rather than ending “Pinball Wizard” and starting a new song to finish the set, moe. played a ripping, boisterous segue into the unfinished “Moth,” for one final singalong to close out the set. After a brief reading of the “al.nouncements,” they played a quick “Seat of my Pants” and “no huddled” once more into the bouncy, absurdist “Sensory Deprivation Bank” before finally calling it a night.
Despite the lack of PA and the safety restrictions due to the pandemic, moe. made the best of an unfortunate situation and delivered two powerhouse performances that would please the most devoted fans and casual attendees alike. Hopefully they will continue playing shows with this model for as long as it’s necessary. The fans seemed respectful of the rules for the most part, the Yarmouth Drive-In seemed to have peoples’ safety in mind, and the band seemed overjoyed to be back on stage.
moe., Yarmouth, MA – October 23, 2020
Set 1: Threw It All Away, Plane Crash, Skrunk > Time Ed, Akimbo > Who You Callin’ Scared?, Downward Facing Dog
Set 2: Along For The Ride > (nh) Annihilation Blues > Bring It Back Home, Mar De Ma > Billy Goat, Puebla > Bearsong
Encore: Hour Hero
moe., Yarmouth, MA – October 24, 2020
Set 1: Rebubula > (nh) Not Coming Down > Wormwood > Fearless (Pink Floyd) > Deep This Time, George
Set 2: Moth > LL3 > Lazarus > (nh) Mcbain > (nh) Pinball Wizard (The Who) > Moth
Encore: Seat Of My Pants > (nh) Sensory Deprivation Bank
Photos courtesy of JD Cohen