It began just outside Knoxville in a smoky, earth-toned Winnebago-like machine. It’s Dec. 28, and my friends Joey, Jennifer and Ryan are on their way. We will trek on to Asheville, N.C., the next morning for three nights of moe., the upstate-New-York-based five-some known for their amazing improvisational ability and their fluidity shown through segues.
Problem: Jennifer forgot her tickets three hours away in Murfreesboro. Luckily, she was able to have her tickets mailed over night.
After sleeping comfortably, our compatriot, Justin, joined us before we set out to meet the rest of our caravan at a cracker barrel in Sevierville.
A major part of the reason I was going to see my 23rd, 24th and 25th moe. shows was because of the community always there. Everybody comes to get down, and get down we did.
Two hours later we arrived at out hotel. “But when we got there, the key wouldn’t open the door” (thank you Dr. Thompson), neither would the second set of keys. Finally, after a lot of hassle, we got a new room. The beauty of this was that we got a free upgrade to a suite.
Step one: preparation. We cracked open a few Saranacs and Sweetwater 420s; both beers that we love and can’t get in Tennessee yet. Also, my friend Elliot brought the rare Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.
We changed into our dancin’ clothes. After getting slightly buzzed, we attempted rallying the troops to go to the venue. This was wrong. It quickly became an unintelligible fiasco. We had problems again when we got to the lobby. There were two cabs, not enough room, and a lying cabbie who told us that he had the only van in town. After a lot of noise, we decided to drive to the Orange Peel. As luck would have it, we found a primo parking spot behind the venue.
The energy was pulsing through the crowd and I immediately felt at home. We went, threading our way to the front, stage right, directly in front of guitarist Chuck Garvey.
moe., made up of Garvey and Al Schnier on guitar, Rob Derhak on bass, Jim Loughlin on percussion and Vinnie Amico on drums, came to the stage and raged into “Seat of My Pants.” What a great opener! The fun continued with a very well-timed segue into “Sensory Deprivation Bank.” After the first set, my group of affectionately named moe.rons and I sat down and talked about how awesome it was.
moe. came back to play Mcbain>Time>Ed>Moth> Bullet>Moth, Down Boy> McBain. “Wooooooww, what a great set,” I said to Ryan with very brightly-lit eyes. After the encore, “Crab Eyes” the band left me wanting more. 23 down, two more to go.
The next day was Ryan’s birthday and the Mellow Mushroom made him a pretzel covered in cinnamon-sugar that spelled out his moniker, “Drober.” After indulging, we headed back to the hotel for preparations. We changed back into our show-going clothes, ate some delicious organics, grabbed the tickets, and called for the cab.
We worked our way inside the Asheville Civic Center and into the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium only to hear music. We barely missed the beginning of the opener; “Plane Crash.” The first set shined with two covers and a great unfinished “Meat,” which was teased several times throughout the set. The second set was completely ridiculous. The set was a complete segue: The Road> CalifornIA>Meat>Drumz>Water>Timmy Tucker>Head>The Road. This, in moe. terms, is noteworthy again because Meat was yet again unfinished. During CalifornIA, Jennifer looked over at me and said, “I think they’re going back into Meat.”
I looked back at her and said, “Of course they are! “It’s a Meat kinda night!”
I was completely awestruck when during the encore they went back into “Meat” to end the show, making me laugh hysterically. The song appeared in both sets and encore, as well as being teased all night long in various places. Thus, this show is now lovingly referred to as the “Meatfest.” Drober could not have had a better birthday.
New Year’s Eve; my favorite day of the year. I was totally psyched about the possibilities of the night. Many of my favorite songs were still unplayed. You could literally feel the energy in the building. For a change of pace we head towards the “Al side” for this eve, only to notice an acoustic mini-stage set up. The PA music blared the theme song to “Welcome Back Kotter,” welcome back indeed. moe., the jokesters that they are enter the stage wearing suits and sporting afros for this acoustic set. The band left the song “Not Coming Down” unfinished, which is rare. It was a fun set and easier on the legs.
The second set was epic in my book. Lazarus was played for the first time in over three years, 294 shows to be exact. Lazarus was a favorite of mine and I was in awe when they started playing it. I started jumping up and down and grabbing my friends and shouting to them “It’s F*@&$%g LAZARUS!” The set closed afterwards. We were left with 30 minutes until midnight, one more set, and hopefully an encore. I did not believe they could outdo themselves, but I think they accomplished it. moe. came back just before midnight and began the countdown. 3?2?1?Happy New Year! Thousands of balloons fall from the ceiling as we erupt in celebration. My good moe.ron buddy Boone had ascertained a bottle of champagne from some unknown place. We shared with those around us as we watched Rob’s son, announced as “the baby new year,” walked around in a diaper kicking balloons off the stage. Then for the second time ever, moe. played “Auld Lang Syne.” That segued into “Join Together in the Band” by The Who. Then the song I’ve been waiting for came melting out of the jam. Buster, the flying pig, had arrived. The jam kept pushing on and on, then led into Dr. Graffenburg, which I had requested via beach ball I had written on and thrown at Al. Being completely blown away by the energy, the music, and the lights, I seldom remember feeling better. But then I was completely taken by surprise as they took the jam into the end of “Not Coming Down” from the acoustic first set. I found this rather interesting: beginning a song acoustic and finishing it electric.
“Letter Home,” which moe. played in the encore, was very appropriate for the feeling in the room because of the line “my home, my heart, and my best friends,” summing up the feeling of the community of people that go to these types of shows and moe. in particular.
I advise you to check out a show sometime.