“How you doin’ Albany?” shouted moe. guitarist/vocalist Chuck Garvey as he took a stage position with his headlining jam band at Thursday night’s Canalside Concert series. A wry reference to the faux pas made by Top-40 artist Shaggy at the same venue a week ago, Garvey continued: “Now they hate us.”
Fat chance, Chuck.
The crowd was here for moe.: The sea of the band’s T-shirts of various vintages, colors and slogans was a huge indicator of the long-standing love of the band in Buffalo, where the band got its start in the mid-’90s playing college gigs. Somewhat like Goo Goo Dolls stories, moe. stories are exchanged about where the band was first seen – in what dive before roadies, light shows, and eponymous festivals.
Dave Wedekindt, director of marketing at University of Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, and his wife, Susan, have seen the band “in the neighborhood of 25 times,” first at a college party and then many years later at infamous Broadway Joe’s under the stealth name “Monkeys on Ecstasy” after they’d hit it big. Despite being longtime fans, the couple do not assign themselves the title of moe.-rons (comparable to Grateful Dead’s Deadheads). And they were not wearing their moe. shirts.
Thursday night’s show was held for the first time at the corner of Prime and Perry Streets, after the soggy weather conditions of last week’s Canalside Concert. Because the lawn was transformed into a muddy morass, concert promoters have moved the stage to now be facing north: the graceful curve of the Skyway and several grain elevators are now ahead, beyond the musical action. Durable cobblestones are underfoot, the whole set-up feels better.
moe. chose romping “Y.O.Y.” for their opener from their album “Warts & All Volume 4.” The song, like many of their others, celebrates youthful revelry. The line “wish I could suck like Monkeywrench” references their fellow Buffalo rock colleagues from their salad days.
The men of moe. slung into “Blue Jeans Pizza,” with Al Schnier doing double duty on guitars and keyboards and Jim Loughlin doing some masterful percussive work as the song bopped along into huge crowd pleasing “32 Things” with Schnier and bandmates inspiring even the guy near the front of the stage on crutches to hoist a crutch into the balmy evening sky in praise.
The very new release “No Guts, No Glory’s” “Same Old Story,” was a sonic high point, illustrating the band’s ever-burgeoning compositional sophistication. It was a stellar moment, but crowd reaction indicated its not yet a sing-along favorite.
The crowd sprung back to high liveliness with the opening strains and long-winding “Rebubula,” before moe. brought Conehead Buddha Horns to the stage for back-to-back covers that were gorgeous: Rolling Stones’ “Hear Me Knocking” and “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath.
Concert earlybirds at Canalside at 5:30 – a mere few hundred – were treated to a sound check of “The Wizard” with stops, starts, and musical musings from the stage. Stellar saxophonist Shannon Lynch (the only lady onstage all night), trumpeter Terry Lynch (her brother), and Sean Bazylewicz on trombone play frequently with moe. and add reedy swing to their tight jam interconnections.
Openers Conehead Buddha, a nine-piece band that is a ska and jam blend, is a great party band. Whereas moe. is a polished jam machine, they are looser and more prone to lyrics that conjure up college poetry: very earnest, and very much needing a little more polish. The band was introduced by a gushing Captain Toast of The New Riders of the Purple Sage, who asked if everyone in attendance was “ready for a meltdown.”