The upstate New York quintet moe. celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and performs Friday at the House of Blues in Boston. Even after two decades the band hasn’t lost the elements that make their appeal enduring: personnel, commitment, quirky style and a fierce jam.
They’ve never been as big as Phish, Widespread Panic or the Allman Brothers Band. But as jambands go, moe.’s been a mark of consistency.
The upstate New York quintet celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and performs Friday at the House of Blues in Boston. Even after two decades the band hasn’t lost the elements that make their appeal enduring: personnel, commitment, quirky style and a fierce jam.
When you catch a classic improvisational moe. jam at full-on climax you’re pumping your fist, not glazing over.
Remarkably, the band – guitarists/vocalists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, drummer Vinnie Amico, percussionist Jim Loughlin and bassist/vocalist Rob Derhak – hasn’t seen major lineup changes, save for a four-year break without Loughlin in the mid-1990s, since its formative years.
They’ve always done well in Boston, too. The Patriot Ledger caught up with Garvey just before the tour kicked off this month:
Q: Strange to look up and think, “Wow, it’s been 20 years,” eh?
A: It is indeed pretty strange. We mark the 20-year anniversary from the first time Rob and I started doing shows with [original moe. drummer] Ray Schwartz. ... I’ve got a lot of great stories to tell and we’ve seen a lot of amazing things and been able to travel far and wide. The first year it was pretty much a hobby. Then we started to get into it, record more songs, and, well, here we are.
Q: What do you remember about moe.’s first Boston-area show?
A: I don’t know what the very first one was – it was either downstairs at the Middle East or at T.T. the Bear’s. I know we played Mama Kin a few times, too. I do remember playing downstairs at the Middle East with Aquarium Rescue Unit. And then the T.T.’s show was where we opened up for some band. And it was one of those where you’re matched up on a bill with people who will bring their friends and maybe they’ll tolerate you for five minutes [laughs]. But we grew in Boston pretty quickly and ended up playing a lot of different venues. We’ve probably played at least six or seven different venues.
Q: Jan. 24, 1997 is a famous date among Boston moe.rons. You guys were at the Paradise, of course, and during the first set, the speaker near Al burst into flame and there were evacuations, and then when everything was good again. You guys came back and played [Jimi Hendrix’s] “Fire.” That was a wild night.
A: I remember the guy coming out with a fire extinguisher and shooting it directly into the speaker. A bunch of kids were looking right up at it and the fire extinguisher stuff blew right back into their faces. One kid got blinded for a second, and the next thing you know, Al is down there seeing if he’s OK. He looks up and then he realizes it’s Al asking him how he was doing and he’s suddenly so excited. I wouldn’t say that’s typical, but crazy stuff like that happens in Boston. We try to avoid personal injury at moe. shows whenever possible, but we’ve got a bunch of people together there and something weird’s going to happen.
Q: You guys are from the Northeast so it was natural you’d grow here. But why do you think places like Boston cottoned to you so fast?
A: Hmm. I think northeastern attitude is something people recognize when they see it. We’re slightly more aggressive than your average jamband or improvising band, and maybe there’s a little bit more rock involved. It’s not really an attitude we have, but you know the East Coast – especially the Northeast, which has a little bit more of an attitude than the rest of the country. Maybe that comes out in us. New York City, Philly and Boston have always been good to us.
Q: From the band’s perspective, what’s the crowd like at Boston moe. shows these days? Do you still see a lot of old heads from the early days?
A: There are people who definitely try to make every tour or a core group of people who always try to meet us there. There are faces you’ll always see at a Boston show, or a New York show, or for that matter, a San Francisco show. There are a lot of kids coming to shows, too, and we can thank the Internet for spreading recordings of our shows. It’s enough for us that we’re able to keep drawing new people to see what the moe. concert experience is like. Friends just keep telling friends about it.
moe. House of Blues Boston, 15 Lansdowne St., Boston, 7 p.m., Friday. $29.50-$39.50.
The Patriot Ledger