Fall Tour, Entry V: On the back of a pickup truck

Posted: September 30th, 2013

It’s happening again. Time is speeding up. The bus is rolling on. I drift off asleep, wondering. Hey? Am I dreaming? I see myself. I’m riding in the back of a pickup truck. I’m taking in as much of the landscape as I can see before me. It comes and goes, fades out and gives way to another day, in another place, on another road.

I open my eyes. Am I in Buffalo already? Or is it Stroudsburg?

Buffalo, the town where it all started, always holds the promise of something special when moe. plays there. This past weekend was no exception. Two nights at the Town Ballroom, a place I look forward to visiting for more than the music. Early on in my days with moe., I was told to be “aware” whenever we were at the Town Ballroom, because I might have an experience. “Huh?” I asked, sounding more ape than man. “It’s haunted,” came the reply, sounding more like a human speaking to an ape. It’s said that there’s an underground passage way that connects the Ballroom to Lake Erie, a holdover from smuggling operations during Prohibition. “You don’t want to go down there alone, unless you’re seeking a cure for your constipation,” members of the crew have warned me. The Ballroom itself is said to be very active, too. One crew member told me of his experiences of a shadow guy that follows him around whenever he’s opening up or closing down. “I see him, all the time, in the corner of my eye, watching me, or sometimes up in the balcony overlooking the stage.” I laughed, but he said it was true. “I started leaving a beer and a dollar tip on the bar for him, and now he leaves me alone. But he’s there, you can bet on it, watching.” Another tells of cleaning up late nights (or attempting to clean up), only to hear the bizarre, haunting sounds of a full blown party going on around him—chatter, clinking glasses, laughter, a jazz orchestra playing in the background—the sound of a 1920s speakeasy in an otherwise empty Ballroom. The party fades in and out like the frequency of a long-lost AM audio wave. I wonder if that’s how they hear us—moe., and the fun and laughter of moe.rons—whenever we are there.

If so, this past weekend must have been pretty haunting for them, or maybe they simply joined the party. There was much to see and hear. Friday night, good friends, Floodwood, opened for moe., with a very spirited set. Every time I see and hear this band they have upped the proverbial notch another level, and Friday was no exception. Later, Floodwood members, Nick Piccininni and Jason Barady, joined moe. during the first set on Crackers and Waiting For the Punchline (note: Floodwood plays a very nice bluegrass arrangement of Punchline). If you missed Friday night’s show, there is a very favorable review of it in The Buffalo News <http://www.buffalonews.com/gusto/concert-reviews/fans-want-moe-20130928>. Saturday night, Buffalo native and a winner of the “6th Member of moe.” contest over the past New Year’s Eve run, keyboardist, Joe Bellanti opened with a brief solo performance. He then sat in through New York City, Bearsong (one of my favorites), Yodelittle, and Vinnie’s most excellent channeling of Jerry’s vocals on Casey Jones. There’s much more that happened over the weekend, a late night riot outside our hotel Friday, a nipple biting incident at the merch table, a late night Floodwood set on Saturday, you know, the usual stuff. But it’s more a dream now, and the pickup truck is gaining speed. I can feel the miles beneath me. The hours pass, and then I awake.

Good old Stroudsburg and the Sherman Theater. Jim, your beloved percussionist, says that whenever we are there he can’t get the name of Colonel Sherman Potter, from the TV show MASH, out of his head. For me, it’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman, from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I know what you’re thinking; great minds soar to great heights. It’s true.

In any event, the Sherman, the theater, is a great venue, and it was a good day and a good night of music there. The very fine Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, a rockin’ soul band with brass, opened for moe., and they didn’t disappoint. moe.rons may well remember their smoking performance at moe.down a few years back. They didn’t disappoint then, either. There’s something about a horn section and classic soul that, metaphorically speaking, go together like a boner and a Swedish massage (excepting of course, for me, the masseuse’s name is Inga, not Olof, in which case, the melody would B♭). Because the horns add that much more power to the music Sister Sparrow delivers.

Then along came moe., and you know they delivered. The first set opened with Crab Eyes, and I recall hearing Sticks and Stones, too, and treated with some scorching Head and the dangerous, McBain. The second set featured nice renditions of It, Bring You Down, and Haze. There was also, The Bones of Lazarus (always nice to hear), before the band finished up the evening with Queen of Everything and She Sends Me.

And that last number did, send me … got me drifting … and wondering … and rolling again  … in the back of a pickup truck … dreaming … and when I opened my eyes I was in Burlington, VT.