Posted: October 5th, 2013
… I leave the Burlington waterfront behind. There is only so much of the urban idyllic one can take. Besides, moe. has a couple of big shows at Higher Ground and I need to get back and get on it. Marco Benevento, the brilliant Brooklyn-based keyboardist, is sitting in with moe. for both shows. He’s done it before. Marco previously joined moe. for their 2010 benefit show for World Hunger Year at The Roseland Ballroom in New York City. People in the know are looking forward to the Higher Ground shows. People who are not will soon be.
I get there in time to prepare for the world of concert going moe.rons. Even as moe. plays, human drama unfolds all around me. It’s very heady stuff and I feel privileged to be a part of it.
For instance, I’m told my shirt looks like a pajama top. A weaker man would have curled up with his blanky and cried, but somehow, I persevere.
Meanwhile, moe. plays on.
Another guy wants to know why I’m not selling stencils. I tell him, in actuality, it’s before the marketing department as we speak. Tomorrow it goes to committee. He nods his approval. We’re ahead of the curve.
Meanwhile, moe. plays on.
A woman buys a koozie from me and immediately complains about the quality. She tells me the quality of Umphrey McGee’s koozies are superior. I assure her that the situation will be corrected. I tell her I will personally take care of it. I make a note to promptly forward our koozie contact info to my Umphrey’s peeps to let them know where they can get the ‘bestest’ deal ever on koozies.
Meanwhile, moe. plays on.
I'm reminded-slash-informed that Montpelier is the capital of Vermont, not Burlington, as I stated in my previous blog. I beg for forgiveness, pleading a momentary lapse of premature senility.
Meanwhile, moe. plays on.
I take a bite out of a brownie, and as I do I’m told that beavers secrete a goo from their butts called castoreum, which the FDA lists as a safe additive for perfumes and foods. As I eat my brownie—the last brownie I will ever enjoy in my life—I’m further informed that that goo is used in vanilla flavoring. True fact, my friend! Lift up the animal’s tail; stick your nose near its bum and breathe deeply through your nose—beavers smell really good.
Meanwhile, moe. plays on and on and on.
Then, before I know it, the band’s mini-run, its two-night stand at Higher Ground, hath endeth ... and so hath my Burlington adventure.
Posted: October 3rd, 2013
I was once told by the Sage of Weehawken and workingman’s philosopher, Jorge Ortega, not to worry about where I’d end up. “You’ll eventually find your way and when you do, you’ll know you’re supposed to be there,” he told me. That was up on Cripple Creek, of all places. The real one. I can’t recall if we were coming or going, but I do know that was sometime around the beginning of our adventures. Somewhere in the archives there is a picture—occasionally I’ll stumble upon it and reminisce. It tells a story worth a thousand words—and brings back those days of wandering.
I’m not sure why I’m thinking of that now, excepting I do miss Jorge’s company from time to time; or it could be where I’m at. That would be a park bench in Burlington, the capital of the Green Mountain State, looking out on Lake Champlain, on the far shore, at the distant peaks of the Adirondacks. It’s quite a view. My notebook’s open, but it’s much effort to concentrate. Whenever I pause, I look across the lake, at mountains stretching south to north, left to right, as far as I can see. The lake is flat and the sun is setting over the Adirondacks. Sailboats fill out the harbor. The ferry to the New York side passes. Its wake barely cuts the water. The scene is tranquil, and reminds me of a mid-19th century landscape painting, a genuine Thomas Cole. I have no brush, only a camera and pen. I’d say I’m as close to a Buddhist calm as I’ve been in ages. Perhaps, Jorge, that eventuality has arrived—a feeling that I’ve found my way to where I’m supposed to be …
… I have a little time to myself today. moe. is in town practicing and rehearsing. They will be off tour till the end of November to record their second album (is that word obsolete?) for Sugar Hill Records. I suppose if you are reading this, you already know that. In fact, you probably know more about that than me ...
… It’s not like I’m alone. The park is on the waterfront. People are everywhere. There is a young couple to my right speaking German to each other. They are talking in such a way that they don’t think I can understand a word they are saying … and dammit, they’re right. On my left, an older guy sits with a book open on his lap. He’s watching me. I feel like I am under surveillance. Every time I glance his way he averts his eyes downward, like he’s reading. A minor karma shift occurs when a herd of post-adolescent, 20-somethings swagger by like troglodytes lost in a cave. They’re cussing like sailors—no, I’m giving sailors too much credit—and acting like 6th graders. They pass on and shortly thereafter three women stop directly behind me to compare and contrast the dogs they are walking. I do not turn, yet have no choice but to listen. They are either too calm or senile … or maybe both. I’m not sure if it is only the women, though. The dogs are much too docile for dogs.
Suddenly, the older guy stands up and comes over to me, anxious like. He stops just short of me and asks, “Are you a mathematician?”
I shrug my shoulders, and reply, “Why? You got a problem?”
He shakes his head no. “Well, thanks,” he said, and walked off.
“Phew,” I think, standing to leave, "that could have been a real problem."
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.
Posted: September 28th, 2013
In Toronto it was unexpectedly warm, unseasonably so. Inside the Danforth Music Hall the music and the temperature was smokin’ hot. Enough that I noticed, for an early autumn night in Ontario, more chiquitas in skirts than pants. Warm enough that even I would consider thinking about wondering for a fleeting second what it would be like to be a woman—only in the singular sense of having that choice—the one slight advantage over the hunter-gatherers of the species—of baring my legs to be cool. That, or maybe if I were Scottish, then I could wear a kilt out on the town, engage in manly activities of manliness without any misconceptions of being a cross dresser (whatever blows your skirt up, I always say—not that there’s anything wrong with it.)
I know this guy from Scotland by the name of Burns. He’s a flautist, and on occasion he has been known to where a kilt out to perform, or just to hang out at a pub. He’s asked me to join him in a kilt night out before, but my reluctance is thoroughly grounded in my Polish-Canadian, mongrel gypsy heritage-slash-lifestyle. I’m not going any further on that.
However, there was this one time with Burnsy, we were out and he was sporting his kilt. I was standing close enough to him—not close enough that would lead to confusion—but close enough when the big blonde walked up to him to hear her ask, “Excuse me, but I’m curious to know what’s worn under a kilt?”
“Worn, lassie?” replied Burnsy. “Why nothing’s worn under me kilt. Everything’s in fine working order!”
“Really?” she said.
“As true as pigs can fly, trees are deaf, and grizzly bear nuggets are the color of gumdrops in berry season,” he responded. That one flew right across her bow, so he just said, “Go ahead! Find out for yourself.”
And she did! My God she reached right up under his kilt, gave a hard tug, then dropped her hand in disgust, and shouted, “That’s gruesome!”
“Aye, lassie, ‘tiz true!” he nodded. “And if you put yer hand down there again, you’ll see he’s grown some more.”
Anyway, I suppose you want to know more about Toronto than the temperature there, or my buddy Burnsy and his stupid, old kilt jokes. The boys, your favorite band moe., dropped 32 Things, It, YOY, Stranger Than Fiction, and good ol’ Buster, on the crowd, to name a few tunes—and they were on! Too bad you weren’t there to see it. It was a good night and a very good show. I recognized moe.rons from P.E.I., New Brunswick, and Florida. Very impressive, Indeed, but not as impressive as the chick in the black pleather gym suit I saw. You don’t see that every day. She was a mullet short of a bad MTV video flashback from the ‘80s. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking—pretty gruesome.
Posted: September 27th, 2013
I’d like to take this opportunity to give a big shout out of support and congratulations to my friend, colleague, and fellow writer, Jessica Topper, who’s just released her first novel, Louder Than Love.
Jess is moe.’s longtime bookkeeper, and has kept me in the black just about every other week for the past 6 years. More importantly, she’s the only woman I’ve ever given my bank account number to who hasn’t emptied the it. Now that’s louder than love!
For more information, visit: www.jessicatopper.com
Louder Than Love is published by Penguin as an ebook. You can pick it up at Amazon at: <http://www.amazon.com/Louder-Than-Love-ebook/dp/B00AR49H2Q/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1380212181&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=jessica+topper> or your favorite ebook provider.
Posted: September 27th, 2013
Keene is a funky little town. If you’ve ever been there, you know. If not, go. There’s a great vibe. It’s located in a picturesque valley over in the southwest corner of New Hampster, under the long shadow of Mount Monadnock, a muse of Emerson and Thoreau, and many others. There’s a state college there, quaint shops, nice restaurants, bars, pubs, blah, blah, blah. A good portion of Jumanji, a favorite movie of mine, was filmed there. In one scene in the movie the animals—elephants, rhinos, giraffes, et al.—stampede down Main Street, Keene. The scene’s kind of freakish and surreal, particularly because the stampede runs right in the direction of the Colonial Theater, where your fave band, moe., played Wednesday night.
I’m happy to report no exotic beasts stampeded by the Colonial, and the only elephant in the house was moe., but more than one freak arrived to watch moe. launch their fall tour, along with hundreds and hundreds of moe.rons and newbies.
I can’t think of a better place to start the tour. Well, okay, maybe Prague or Paris, or Jackson Hole or Boulder. But in a pinch, Keene is a good start, and it’s been over a decade since moe. played there—and that was at the college. Also, the Colonial’s a gem of a theater. It opened in January of 1924, and thankfully, has survived. It’s the kind of place that’s special to see a band like moe. play in.
And play they did! What’s amazing is it’s been two and a half months since the machine has really been rolling, and it’s like it never stopped. Sometime during the first set the band punched out Puebla—that caught my attention—and wind their way through a couple of other numbers before morphing into George. I’ve always liked that song, and I’m not disappointed tonight. The second set opens with Moth, and fills out with other standards, like Happy Hour Hero, All Roads, and Plane Crash. The band crushes it. I’m astounded. Everyone’s astounded. I overhear the theater’s staff, the ushers, the door people, management, talking about how good this band is. I hear words like, “Unbelievable!” “Incredible!” “Amazing!” It’s nice to hear. I think—if they really only knew how well they really are. The tour is just underway.
Posted: September 25th, 2013
Howdy mi amigo.moe.litos!
Good news! moe.’s back on tour. But you already know that. For some it’s been a while since they saw their favorite band perform. In fact, if it seems like months since you’ve last seen moe. play it’s because it has been months. Yes, there was moe.down, and the one show over Labor Day, but the band hasn’t been on the move since early July. And now it’s time to get on the road again.
The first leg of the tour begins with the first mile. For me, I’m driving out of the Woods of Maine on my way to Keene, New Hampster. It’s a good drive, far enough, lots of hours. I could bore you with detail, but suffice it to say, where I start: 1) it’s above the 45th parallel; and 2) it’s so far on the eastern frontier there are more moose than people here.
The miles begin to add up quickly, and soon I make it to I-95. Twenty minutes in, I find two tractor-trailers ahead of me, a pair of semi-trucks, big 18-wheelers types, jockeying for position, side-by-side. One’s going about 54, maybe 56 mph. The other’s going 56, maybe 54 mph. The trucks hold that speed for some time. The guy on the left was attempting to make a power move and blow past the tractor-trailer on the right. That was about 10 miles or more back, just as we started going up a hill. Now, they’ve settled into some kind of mad dash to an obscure photo finish. It’s like watching two grannies in electric wheelchairs racing each other—on the move but going nowhere.
Honestly, I’m not in that big of a hurry, though I’d like to get to Keene today. If it was just me, I really wouldn’t have a care. I’m listening to a couple of new CDs, Aoife O’Donovan and Floodwood, and grooving along.
But, unfortunately, it’s not just me.
I’ve got 3 cups of coffee in me that are in a big-time hurry to bust out of me. In such moments of tribulation, I find a ‘10 and 2’ death grip on the steering wheel can substitute for crossing one’s legs and squirming in agony. That, and a steady stream of invectives directed at the jackasses ahead of me.
I calm, and begin to think good thoughts—a little positive karma, baby. Like, hey, moe.’s going back on tour. I get to see all my amigo.moe.litos. I wonder what the tour shirts will look like? Hmmm? …Dammit! Good thing this steering wheel t’aint made of...
…Holy Mary, Mother of God! It’s a Festivus miracle! There’s a rest stop just a mile ahead, and those trucks are picking up speed. Maybe there’s something to this karma stuff. Maybe I’ll get to Keene today. Oh yeah! Good things are happening!
Posted: July 16th, 2013
Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, approaching the eastern slopes, you will find there amassed spectacular rock formations. I’m talking rocks a size beyond your imagination. Boulders as big as houses and office buildings, jutting up and out of the mountain slopes, list at 60 degree angles. Geologists refer to them as Fountain Formations. I can only guess why, because some of the unusual shapes of the stones are like water spouting from a fountain. It works for me. I know they run from Boulder (the city) in the north to Colorado Springs in the south. The giant boulders are colored hues of red and pink and white from ancient beds of sandstone and limestone. Local municipalities have turned the respective sites into parks and recreation areas. The most spectacular of these, that this eye has seen, is the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The most well-known and visited is Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, in Morrison.
There, at the latter location, on the Fourth of July, your humble reporter found himself in the wings, staring up at the boulders and reminiscing. For me, personally, it was an historic day, and a very special one. Nearly 35 years ago to the day I was there to watch a funky, little hippy band out of San Francisco, one with a big-time following, play Red Rocks. What I didn’t know until many years later, that show was the first time the Grateful Dead played there. The man who told me that was none other than Jim Loughlin’s older brother John (yes, mi amigo.moe.litos, there are 2 of us). For he was there, too. We didn’t know each other at the time, and only made the connection a couple years ago. The Dead were at their peak then, and the show was a truly amazing one. Even through the fog of time, I still remember that night, being there, the carnival atmosphere, like it was last week. That story alone is good for a few pints at any bar, saloon, pub, or tavern anywhere. But on another level, for John and I, to see our respective kid brothers stand out there center stage 35 years later, playing in your favorite band, in one of the most historic venues in the nation, on the nation’s birthday, and bring the house down—that was cosmic, and, as I write this, a kind of high washed in happiness, pride and goose bumps. There are no coincidences, only meaningful ones, or maybe, as John summed it up to me that night about this remarkable tale, it really means, “The circle is now complete!”
…but I digress. The Red Rocks show was a great success, indeed. After a balls out, pedal-to-the medal show at the Boulder Theater the night before, the band came out and picked up where they left off. Red Rocks was a twin billing. moe. shared the stage with Blues Traveler in front of a near full house. Both shows were rocking, and members from each band sat in on their respective sets. John Popper and Ben Wilson jammed with moe. on the very new song, Crackers, and the classic, Plane Crash. Make no mistake about it. Nobody today plays the blues harp like Popper. He is the preeminent musician in his field. During Blues Travelers set, both Jim and Al sat in on songs and showcased their talents. The crowd was on their feet throughout the night, and celebrating the Fourth in style.
Nevertheless, like every other day, even the special ones come to an end. We load up the truck, hop onto the bus, and continue westward. As we leave Red Rocks, this is one part of the tour I wish it were closer to daylight. We’re going through beautiful country—through mountain passes and across the Great Continental Divide. Instead, when I wake up the next morning we’re past the Divide. The bus is well on the broad plateaus between the mountain ranges that fill out the west side of the hemisphere. It’s semi-arid, or looks that way, for most of Utah. I’m looking out the window, eating cookies. In Boulder we received boxes of homemade cookies and brownies—enough for every kindergartener in the New York City Public School system. No Homer, they’re not laced, but they’re damn tasty.
Nevada is bone dry. It’s just after sunrise the following day. The bus is still rolling. I’m sitting alone looking out at the desert and wonder where we are in relation to where they detonated nuclear bombs (1,021 explosions from 1951 to 1992; sub-critical testing on weapons and properties of plutonium continue to the present). It’s a desolate post-apocalyptic landscape void of any signs of life. This couldn’t be it. We’re too far from any town and too far north. The ‘experiments’ conducted there in the name of national security, were closer to towns in the south. I recall reading how tourists in Vegas rushed to the rooftops of the casinos to watch the mushroom clouds rise above the desert. In fact, the radioactive fallout from one explosion rained down on John Wayne and the set of The Conqueror, while filming on location in Utah, in 1955. It was tough enough that the movie bombed, but roughly, just under half the cast and crew who were on location would battle cancer throughout much of the remaining years of their lives. That included stars—John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorhead—and the director—Dick Powell. Nobody seemed to care about their fate, or all the children in Southern Nevada and Utah who were stricken with leukemia in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The nuclear test site continues to operate and conduct experiments with a macabre Dr. Strangelove obsession. At this stage of the game, nuclear weapons testing makes about as much sense as Braille pads on drive up ATM machines. Then again, it’s the same type of logic isn’t it? Where we’re at in our history as a nation? The same people who are providing a service to blind people who drive are in the same league as the ones who are blindly driving our economy right into the ground … and our national security right over us. It’s like shouting into the wind—Y.O.Y… must it be?
Thoughts of hopelessness and a dystopian American Dream have made me sleepy, and I climb back into my bunk. When I awake, the bus is nearing Quincy, California, site of the 23rd annual High Sierra Music Festival. We’ve finally made it. moe. is one of the headliners. They’re playing two shows—an overnighter in the Music Hall, Saturday, and closing out the festival on Sunday night.
One of the first signs of a music festival well underway, and a successful one, is that every last square inch of real estate not reserved for vendors, entertainers, and musicians has a tent or RV on it. The second is walking through intermittent pockets of pungent BO and patchouli oil that waft on the summer breeze. Oh yeah, breathe it in people! We’ve hit the mother lode! Live music can be heard all around as most of us are taken to the dining hall. Jim and Vinnie go to jam with the Mike Dillon Band. Mike, an extraordinary vibe player, has jammed with moe. on many occasions. Whenever I see Mike and Jim play side-by-side, it’s like they’re joined at the hip. They are one player with four arms, and it is so kewl to watch and listen!
The Saturday night show was a great success. The Music Hall was completely sold out and filled to capacity. moe. jammed away until 4 am. Andy Falco, guitarist for the Infamous Stringdusters, sat in on McBain and absolutely shredded it. A few songs later, Dan Lebowitz from ALO, sat in on Moth, and did the same, except with a lap steel guitar.
The Sunday night show is on the main stage of the festival. It’s a big show and everyone’s pumped. One of the maxims of the business is that the show must go on, but really, how it’s done is just as important. Behind the scenes there is a great flurry of activity to make it happen. moe.crew, in conjuction with some of the festival crew, packs up the Music Hall and moves over to the Main Stage right after the show ends there. It’s an incredible, yeoman effort. The crew is, after all, on east coast time, which means to their bio-clocks, it’s 7 am. It takes them a little over 3 hours to take down the equipment and stage, pack it up, load it on a truck—actually it’s 2 truckloads—because we’re not using the semi—transfer it, unload, unpack, and set up it all up for moe.’s show the following, ie, that evening, at 9:30. I’m always blown away by what these guys can do. We’ve been on the road for just about 3 weeks, and for the very last show they’re up until 7:30 am to make a show happen 14 hours later. If you’re thinking why, it’s protocol. It had to be done that way. When a band’s the headliner at a festival, they must set up first and move their equipment back, out of the way. Once that’s done, the other acts can come in and set up and take down throughout the day without any interference. It’s a well-choreographed routine that’s an imperative to put on a big-time rock and roll production. You, mi amigo.moe.litos, do not see that, but you do appreciate it come show time.
That night, the band walks on stage, reaches inward, and does it all over again. All the ups and down, road wear, fatigue, longing for home—every distraction—is placed aside again to make that show a special one. It is. The band is on. They burn through St. Augustine, Y.O.Y., and Skrunk. Young trombone phenom, Carly Meyers, and Mike Dillon of the eponymous named Band, joined moe. for Time Ed. And then there’s more moe., with Wind It Up, Waiting For The Punchline, and Opium, in which, on the latter, guitarist Lukas Nelson sat in on. The band then finishes it out with two classics—Happy Hour Hero and Buster.
That was a tour for the books. The band drove over 7,000 miles (and counting), to play on a stage, at a theater, or a festival, near you. Happy trails if any of you are going to Germany where moe. will finish up the Summer Tour alongside Government Mule. Otherwise, moe.down’s just ahead, and right around the bend.
Posted: July 11th, 2013
How many days now have we been choking this chicken? That’s relative, I suppose, because it seems like a couple days ago this chicken laid the egg that started this tour. In fact, wasn’t it just last week we survived the great deluge at Summer Camp? Then started the summer tour with DMB for a couple of shifts, and hosted the Wood Brothers for a couple of more shows, before moe. launched into full-bore summer tour mode…
…The first week slipped by, and then the second week. And here we are winding it down. The miles have added up, too—600 and 700 miles a day. From all over the northeast to our dip south to Asheville back up to Lunar Bay, across to Kalamazoo and Colorado, and then Northern California, we’re approaching 7,000 miles. The final push is underway, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
…In North Carolina, the band played the first of three outdoor shows in four days. Two of the three shows were at breweries—Pisgah and Bell’s. Growlers rolled like bowling balls. We’re at a critical juncture in the summer tour, and I’m forced to make a very tough choice: this is a bad time to give my liver a break…
…The outside shows are tough—the elements can be dicey—wind and rain, thunder and lightning, heat and humidity. For the moe.crew, the challenges add up daily—from managing the logistics of setting up equipment on smaller stages to simply having enough time to set it up. There’s literally tons of equipment to unload and setup on a small stage around a bunch of other bands that are setting up and taking down between performances. That’s what happened at Lunar Bay. In Kalamazoo, we arrive at the Bell’s Eccentric Café, to play out back, in their delightful little garden of good and evil (note: my nickname for the place). I imagine that string bands and small combos have no problem negotiating walkways made of field stone to a small stage and space, but for a big production that moe. puts on, to unload a tractor trailer, it takes a lot of work. Nevertheless, moe.’s crew is very good at it oh ye moe.rons. From working with and directing the local crews, to getting the stage ready for lights, audio, action! You may or may not know what it takes for your favorite rock band to walk on stage and jam the night away, but it’s near a full day’s work to pull it off. You can thank moe.’s crew...
…Because to your enjoyment, the shows go off without a hitch. There’s bonus stuff that happens, too. Brock Butler sat in with moe. at Pisgah, and Paul Hoffman from Greensky Bluegrass, sat in at Bell’s.
…For me, my challenge outside is nightfall. My lights at merch world draw more species of insects than I know exist. In fact, species of insects I’ve yet to identify fly into my mouth at will. I know them by taste and texture now—metallic, bitter, flaky, powdery, crunchy—and try to avoid the darker ones…
…Midway through one show a woman approached the merch table. She was showing me cleavage, and plenty of it. On her right breast was a tattoo that was once, I believe, a mermaid, but now, regrettably, with much weight gain and time, was all stretched out and looked more like a boned herring. My father had warned me of such consequences. He was a sailor for a time, and had seen what he had seen. That eventually a tattoo will melt in its own way, into the folds of flesh that come with age. Then again, one look at my beer gut and all I can see is a breached whale...
…I feel like one when the bus rolled into Omaha, noonish, the following day after Kalamazoo. We’ve stopped at a hotel for about 12 hours. The bus driver needs to crash before we finish the drive to Colorado. Everyone loads out of the bus and goes to their respective rooms or in search of something to do, which is basically not much. There’s a big mall nearby, a bridal shop, a strip mall filled with insurance agencies, car dealerships, a cinema. I see a full day of adventure in the cards and I’m not disappointed. I roll out of my bunk. Search for fodder. I watch Turkeys strut by the bus. Buy a shirt. Yawn. Eat cheesecake. Go to a movie. Climb into my bunk and leave Omaha.
I awake in Boulder, show day, a little before 10 am. This is good—gives me a chance to stroll about town and view the public art projects and the bums who use them as day beds. It’s a hip happening place, as I’m sure you know or have heard. Colorado is the in place to be these days. It’s the “It Girl” for stoners incorporated and a Mecca for touristas from around the globe.
Every time I’m here, I wonder why I don’t live here and get down with a Rocky Mountain high.
That’s what I thinking, at that moment, sitting outside a café sipping coffee. And just as I was visualizing it, a stranger walked by, talking into her cell phone, but, oddly, looking my way, said, “The way that you feel is not necessarily the way that it is.”
It gives one pause to wonder—there are no coincidences, but there are meaningful coincidences. I realize that this tour is one of them—the final push is on.
Posted: July 3rd, 2013
Ah, Asheville. Good ole North Carolina. One of my favorite places. When I stop living the life of a gypsy, it’s one of the top ten places I have under consideration to stay—detached from my luggage. Asheville is a hip, happening, historic, holistic, and hedonistic little city. They have microbreweries, mountains, and movie theaters—three important prerequisites for me to become detached from my luggage. We, your favorite band and their crew, have a day off here, and everyone is rearing and ready to go, or should be. After three days of a steaming sauna in the City and a 700 mile drive, Asheville is a welcome relief. Oh, yes it is, even though our collective asses are dragging.
The question is—what to do? We are on tour, but we are not tourists. We check into a hotel, but it is for one night. Some of us have been here before, others have not. I’m kind of in the middle. I’ve been here with moe. several times but have only ventured a few blocks radius from the Orange Peel. I don’t have a plan, just yet, other than I’m hungry. Some of us go to our rooms, others initiate a pub crawl—we are in microbrew heaven. I follow Rob and Chuck who have been here mega-times, and know of a great little café near Pack Square. We have breakfast for 3 at 2.
After that, they go one way, and I go buy a cigar and wander over to the Thomas Wolfe House on Spruce Street (the only thing I had planned). There I find a park bench, sit, and light it up. It’s something I do in my travels. Whenever I’m in a town where one of my favorite writers lived, I’ll seek them out, drop by and catch a vibe. Thomas Wolfe is one such writer (if you’re looking to read the great American novel this summer, look no further than, Look Homeward, Angel). I don’t go in the house. I have no need to actually see where he ate, slept, and shat. I hang and puff and write a blog about NYC …
… And lose complete track of time. It’s after 6, and I’m getting bombarded with text messages—who’s eating what and where with whom; then movie, entertainment, or beer? Of course it’s beer—we’re in Asheville. I pass some of my kind—Vinnie, Al, Steve—on the bus—but again lose track of time. Before I know it, everyone’s off doing something. It’s after ten. I send text messages but get only a few replies, until the next morning, when this, bizarrely, came in all at once:
Skip—10 am bus call?
Frank—you guys just starting or winding it up? Long walk from hotel room comfy bed.
Huffer—you want to do Belgians at the thirsty monk? The players here are all played out…
Al—Rob and I are on bus right now
Skip—for the night?
Rob—Lookin’ to hook up sailorman?
Huffer—we’re leaving the pool hall. Bus sounds good
Suddenly I didn’t feel like I missed that much.