Entry III, The things people say...

Posted: December 14th, 2013

San Francisco, a night at the Independent, listening to moe., from the merch corner, under a lamp aglow:

This is my 42nd show.

Are you from Buffalo?

You know the floor is sticky.

Where’s the restroom?

Can you hold my coat for me?

Merry Christmas.

I’m getting a contact high.

Have you seen my brown glove?

Well, this is San Francisco!

Where’s the upstairs?

How late does this go to?

What was the name of that song?

You know, moe. should sell a cock ring that converts to a key chain.

What’s your favorite live album?

Where’s the coat check?

I’ll give you $2 for that lighter?

Wanna get high?

I’m from Rochester.

Can I see what that shirt looks like?

Today’s my birthday.

How much for the $5 CDs?

Do you sell ear plugs?

Are you John?

How are your gonads?

Are you married?

You wanna hit of this?

What color is that shirt?

What’s the curfew?

Let’s do a shot!

Want to Party?

Really, have you seen my brown glove?

You look like Terence McKenna, the writer. He went very deep into the multi-dimensional realm.

Thanks for coming, man. Tell moe. San Francisco loves them.

Entry II, Park City, High up in those yonder mountains

Posted: December 12th, 2013

Utah, Park City … high up in yonder mountains … frigid temps still; still in quest for respite for bodily parts afflicted by arctic blast. I’ve made it to a Starbucks across the parking lot from the hotel. Barely. It is 3 degrees. I have a monkey grip on a steaming hot cup of coffee. My fingers are thawing but my face still feels as though it’s been injected with Novocain. I shouldn’t ramble on. I know better. People have a lot more troubles than me. Back in Denver, outside the Ogden Theater on Friday night, there was a homeless guy panhandling. It was 10 below with a slight wind. I wonder how he made out? I wondered why he sought no shelter or if he even cared to. Is it supposed to be my business? Then there’s the woman next to me. She’s in a world of trouble. I know because she’s talking so loud the entire section of the coffee shop can hear her. She’s holding her hand up limp in the face of another woman with her. It is limp, I presume, because of the weight of the chunks of stone set into the hunk of gold wrapped around her poor finger. What gemstone should she add to the diamond and ruby and sapphire and emerald setting she asked?  I almost said, “jade,” but instead downed my coffee and left. To hell with the cold, there was a show to put on.

Besides, there’s no need to be jaded. I’m up in Park City, an old mining town turned sky resort, high in the Rockies. Silver placed Park City on the map, but snow turned the streets into gold. Funny how things turn out. Park City is where they held the Winter Olympics (whenever that was), or some of the competition. But it will forever remain special to me as the place where they filmed Dumb and Dumber, part of it, anyway. And, there is your favorite band, who has taken a liking to playing here. Downtown, around 7,000 ft. above sea level, is the old art deco War Memorial Building, a WPA project from 1939, and present day Park City Live—the venue where moe. plays. Logistically, it’s a tough place to load in the equipment, up a narrow alleyway around the back side of the building, but it’s nice and roomy inside … and warm.

No, I had nothing to be jaded about after all. Even when that bastard started crop dusting the merch table about 20 minutes after the doors opened. That was right about the time the earthquake that nobody felt struck. True, I read about it the next morning. I figured I was too busy waving off the stink from the crop dusting to feel it. I’m sure the people outside were too busy shivering and stomping their feet in the long line to feel it, and were happy enough to get inside to hear the music.

And there was some inspiring music played—Stranger Than Fiction, Downward Facing Dog, Haze, later on a really nice morph from Y.O.Y to Silver Sun to Carol of the Bells. There was also a savage rendering of Meat that sent the crowd into a frenzy. That’s one song that seems to send people over the edge most nights. It’s a nice send off, I suppose. Good enough to push off to San Francisco, where the mirth and merriment will continue with a little more jingle, jingle.

Freezing my balloons off ... 'tiz the Season, at least

Posted: December 10th, 2013

Gonads. One doesn’t often associate the reproductive gland with a “road” blog, let alone one dealing with a moe.tour. I know I wouldn’t, unless they were my own I was thinking of. And I have been thinking of them often, how to protect them, since my arrival in Denver last Thursday night, when I stepped off the plane and into a blast of cold, frigid, arctic air that’s descended on the North American West. Me and my gonads have been in a constant struggle of survival since—to stay warm—four days now.

The thermometer has been south of no north, below zero Fahrenheit, i.e., most of the time, with only a few hours of single digit temps during daylight. At the Ogden Theater, where moe. played, the staff talked of nothing but how to stay warm. “13 below—it just doesn’t get this cold in Denver,” they said. “It’s the coldest theater in town.” Yes, it’s cold in the theater, I agreed, but it’s not the coldest theater moe.’s ever played in. The Palladium in Worcester holds that honor, at least off the top of my head. That was last December, on the NYE run. The bartenders could see their breaths it was so cold in there. But those were good shows, despite the cold. So were the shows this past weekend in Denver.

The Ogden was at near capacity each night, which was a good thing. Mainly, because it filled the theater with a lot of hot air (as any moe.ron knows, it’s the one thing you can depend on at any moe. show). Once your favorite band took center stage, the temp started rising. They lit the place up with enough fire to warm the cockles and arses of every moe.ron west of the Mississippi. Both shows were outstanding—a little Timmy Tucker, a little Wind It Up, an epic McBain, add Oh Hanukah and We’re a Couple of Misfits in the spirit of the season, and the tour’s off to a good start—a mini Christmassy-Happy Holiday-Season’s Greetings moe.ron moe.run!

…For now, go on, go figure, gonads ... and jingle all the way.

a mini Xmas-Happy Holiday-Season’s Greetings moe.ron moe.run
Fall Tour, Entry VII: Meanwhile, moe. plays on

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.

Fall Tour, Entry VI: That day in Burlington … You gotta a problem?

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."

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.

Fall Tour, Entry IV: That Day in Toronto

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.

Fall Tour, Entry III: Louder Than Love, Baby!

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.


Fall Tour, Entry II: so it begins

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.

Fall Tour, Entry 1: moe.'s Back on Tour!

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!