"My first show," an audience member said, waving his cane around, shaking his hips, "was in 1968." Of course, he can't possibly mean his first moe. show. "You know, Jerry, and Phil," he continued, bobbing his long white haired head in anticipation as the curtains pulled back.
Everyone has that first show. The one that gets them hooked. The first time they hear a twenty minute jam of their favorite tune, the jam that sends them reeling in disbelief when the original riff comes around again and reminds the listener of where it all started nearly a half hour ago.
Whether it was the Grateful Dead in the sixties (or even the eighties), Phish in the nineties, or even your first Umphree's show sometime in the current decade, there is always that first show.
If this was your first moe. show, you were in luck.
The band needs no opening act, in fact, the bands that run in this genre pride themselves on these five hour shows (two sets with an encore that never seems to end), and so there would be no time to showcase anyone else.
Around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, moe. took the stage as the cherry on top of the Jam Cruise 11 circuit, the scene buzzing with the collective last reserve of cruiser energy and the fresh smell of excitement from those who stayed on shore last week.
The crowd lost it at the first hint of "It," which opened the night. But it wasn't until "Haze" filtered into the set that feet really started moving. It offered the show that first warning: Strap yourselves in.
And just when all systems were go, the band cooled off with "Four." A million other songs could have carried the energy of "Haze" all the way through, and while "Four" didn't do that for the set, it was over fast and intensely overshadowed by what happened next: A three track mash up of "Rise" into "Mexico," which ultimately ended with "Meat."
For a bunch of sunburnt people that just spent a week on a cruise ship where the band was billed to play once (though reports from those on Poesia say they played three times), the show was a course in "moe. 101" with no sign of exhaustion. They twisted even their most played tunes into something completely new.
With two guitarists, there is no particular lead or rhythm assigned to either. Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier seamlessly volleyed extensive solos back and forth and just when it felt like that ride was coming to a head, each proceeded to run their solo exhibitions through another ten bars of improvised technical wailing.
The real star of last night's show came from the percussion section though. While Vinnie Amico carried the sets with clean and persistent drumming, there was another sound that was undeniable. With the same carefully crafted intricacies Garvey and Schnier offered on their strings, Jim Loughlin brought that same intensity on the vibraphone.
There was a solid five minutes of Loughlin attacking the keys, which spurred the fans into frenzy. Those who weren't wiggling around to the sound were turning to each other, saying, "he's still going!" And Loughlin kept going -- into the second set where, if you didn't quite pick up on how incredible that vibraphone sounded before set break, you were hearing it (read: feeling it) in the second set, right around the time Stanley Jordan (killed it) and Kenwood Dennard joined the band for "Rebubula."
If there is nothing else important about moe., it's that they stick with the listener until that listener is really paying attention. It's almost as if they are insisting that your ear remain at attention, while you lose control of your limbs as though freely floating through outer space.
"Did you hear that riff? Oh, you did? Well, listen to it fifteen more times with some variation. Now you've heard that riff." That is what the band is saying with their instruments.
By the encore, Revolution was a smoke cloud spaceship. A fuzzy filter created by the refuse of recreational drugs and cigarette smoke, floor sticky with butts and booze. Chuck Garvey unfolded a piece of paper before the band headed into "St. Augustine" and read from it. It's somebody's 250th show. It's someone else's 100th show and also another's 30th show. For a scene where every show is different, for bands who make studio albums for the sake of contract, for fans who disregard those studio albums in favor of the obsessively and professionally recorded live versions of those songs, racking up a number like this isn't uncommon.
It just starts with that first show.
I: "It"> "Haze">"(nh) 4," "Rise"> "Mexico"> "Puebla"> "Meat"
II: "Rebubula"*> "Billy Goat"> "Bearsong, head.", "Mar-DeMa"> "SDB"
* - w/ Stanley Jordan on guitar, Kenwood Dennard on Drums