Entry VII, Breaker 1, Happy moe.rons, Presidents' Daze, Yo' Mama!

Posted: February 20th, 2013

Have you ever had one of those days, that wherever you go you feel like people are staring at you and giggling a bit, and you start to wonder what’s going on—are you imagining it or is it really happening? You start to get a little paranoid, maybe. Then a breeze hits you in the face, and the place where your underwear would normally be but because today is the first day back from a tour, and you’re doing laundry, and went commando to go grocery shopping, and you suddenly realize the wind is hitting you where it can because your zipper’s down. Has that ever happened to you? Have ever experienced one of those days? Nah, neither have I. Just wondering.

Anyway, Winter Tour, Part I, hath endeth, and on a very upward note. The band back-ended the first leg of the winter tour with 10 shows in 11 days. That’s a lot of shows. On Sunday, February 17th, everyone in the band and crew went the four points of the compass out of Atlanta. Some drove, most flew, in search of much needed rest.  Even the previous four days seem a blur, now. moe. doglegged through the southeast and left 4 great shows in its wake at the historic Bijou Theater in Knoxville, the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh, the Fillmore in Charlotte, and the legendary Tabernacle in Atlanta. It’s a good feeling to watch moe.rons, young and old, old and new, pack into theaters to see and hear some of the best music this country’s got to offer. It hit home for me in Atlanta, sometime during the first set, when I walked out from backstage, and looked up at a sight to see: the floor and double balconies at the Tabernacle filled up to the hilt with smiling faces. That’s a lot of good karma, there, moe.rons!

Speaking of which, you’ll be happy to hear, how much the folks who work at the theaters have a genuine affection for you, the average moe.ron.  I hear it directly from the people at the venues. They like “our” fans, I’m told. Apparently, “we” shatter stereotypes they hold of the average rock concert goer. I guess it’s not that often they deal with hard-drinking, chain-smoking, music-loving, hedonistic, pacifists, who stumble in, stagger out, and tip handsomely. So, mi amigo.moe.litos, not only do you have exceptional taste in music, you’re very well-liked and welcomed wherever you go to see moe. Of course, I’ve known that all along. I‘ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of you over the years, at least your smiling faces, as a merch-toting, book-hawking, slob. So keep up the good work.

In the meantime, I’m kicking back, chillaxing, and catching up on reading, writing, and cigar smoking. I was gonna go to the bank, but I can’t. It’s the third Monday in February, Presidents’ Day, a federal, and therefore, a bank holiday. The thought of which, has really got me percolating about reason 4,573 of why the country’s gone to shit. Once upon a time, there used to be two days off in February, associated with two American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). The holidays were unofficially collapsed into a single day in 1971, under something called the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Contrary to popular belief, US Postal Workers were not the driving force behind the “Saint Monday” holiday scheme (there are 5 of them), they were only beneficiaries. No, the Act was a marketing concoction of the national travel industry’s lobby. As a result, Washington’s Birthday, now called Presidents’ Day, officially moved his birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February, which meant that Washington’s Birthday would never again be celebrated on his birthday. More sadly, the observance of Lincoln’s birthday—the President whose will and leadership saved the country—and because of that, is widely recognized as the nation’s greatest President—would soon become as relevant as Warren G. Harding. I could go into a rant about how, over 40 years later, in a microcosm, Presidents’ Day has come to symbolize a radical mind-shift away from people thinking about civic responsibility and history, to conspicuous consumption and spending on anything and everything travel—cars, planes, gasoline, destinations, shopping, self-absorption--the usual. Or that when the passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill occurred it was done during great social conflict and war, when Americans, civilians and soldiers alike, were being bombed, shot at, and killed, at home and abroad, over said conflict and war—in Southeast Asia and on American college campuses and public buildings. (And you think Congress is oblivious now?) Today, George Washington is a caricature for ad campaigns, and Abraham Lincoln is so far gone, well, it’s like this—there are people going to see the movie, Lincoln, who: a) have no idea how it ends; or b) think it’s a movie about hot rods. Okay, maybe “b” is a little too cynical. But let me add this: Before, when there were two holidays in February, most people took those two days off and thought about two great American Presidents at least once during the day. But now, after 40 years, the only people who have the ‘holiday’ off are the moneyed interests: the banksters, Wall Street, and Government. Otherwise, you’re either working, unemployed, or happen to have the day off (like me), and at some point today, will probably curse the American presidency for it.

And that’s all I gotta say, except, if you don’t believe me, go ask yo’ mama!

Entry the VI: Winter Tour and All That Gas

Posted: February 16th, 2013

I’m in a hotel room in Knoxville. The walls are so thin, that for the last 30 seconds or so, I hear the guy in the next room over taking a whiz. I wonder if that means he can hear me fart? I can, because I had Mexican (food, i.e.) for dinner. So, I do. Loudly. There’s a sudden pause from next door, momentarily, then Austin Powers continues unabated. In the scheme of things, it’s not much. It’s not like I split the atom, but I now know that he knows I’m inside of his head. The other one, top side, that doesn’t do the thinking.

After the gig in Lafayette, we packed it up and went to Indianapolis for the band to do a Radio Show there the next afternoon. The radio station, WTTS, recorded and filmed the whole affair, in their Sun King Studio. moe. performed a short acoustic concert for about 40 or so lucky contestants. You can listen to the whole show here when you have chance: http://wttsfm.com/2013/02/moe-in-sun-king-studio-92/. It was all cozy and intimate, very laid back. Consummate professionals that they are, the band played a nice foot-stomping set, and were very well-received.

Late that night, we made our way to Knoxville, for a day off. I was all for it. After yammering about how exhausted I was, I slept for 12 hours, which I didn’t think I had in me. Bizarre really, to sleep that long into the early afternoon, then get up and go forage for breakfast. I was never a morning person, but I was never an afternoon one, either.

Now, I’m wide awake, and it’s 2:47 in the morning. I need to sleep. But I can’t. My mind is churning. We are gonna head to the venue at 10:30 am. We’ll pile our crap in the tour bus and drive a block to the venue—it’s a long block—the Bijou, over on Gay Street. Hmmm: Gay. That word’s evolution in motion. I can understand the street name, though. Gay is a traditional southern-type name, like Paige or Jimmie Dale. I remember Gay Pride, my sister’s best friend growing up. That was her name, Gay Pride. True story. Her family owned Pride’s Mill, on the Guilford Road, up in the Woods of Maine. Her mother was from the South, so it made sense to everybody up in Maine who named their kids, Mary or Jane (hahaha…maryjane) or Robert or John, etc., that she would name her daughter Gay. For me, throughout my life, whenever I’ve heard the words “Gay Pride,” there is no alternate construct, I always think of her. She was a really nice person.

Why am I thinking of that? WTF? I need to go to sleep. It’s now 3:24.

Why did I have a fajita with black beans and rice about six hours ago? That meal is boring through me one bean at a time. Oh, yeah! Life’s a gas.

… Ah, to doze off. Instead, I lay here in the dark. Every time I shut my eyes my mind churns and wanders. Hmmm, like—should I do laundry or buy underwear? Or maybe just wear the last pair till Sunday? … There’s no Starbucks near the venue in Raleigh, Thursday. That blows … I know the one in Charlotte is a mile away from the venue … If I go, I walk through a Confederate boneyard to get there. … Damn! Last time I spent a half-hour reading the headstones, and imagining the short, brutish, and blunted lives of the poor bastards. Does anyone stop and read them? ... That Asteroid—DA14—is set to pass earth on Friday. I wonder if it has a big brother—DA15—following it? … How can we rely on NASA to know if such a thing is coming? They can put a rover on Mars to split small rocks but they can’t see a rock half the size of a football field coming at us until it’s on top of us. … What if we went like the dinosaurs? … I read there’s a new theory on dinosaur extinction. Apparently, they asphyxiated themselves via methane poisoning, not by an asteroid slamming into the earth. There were so many of them, eating so much grass and meat, that they gassed themselves to death. … A greenhouse gas effect. Hahaha. It fits the current reality. Could that actually happen to someone?

… Ah to sleep … to unwind the mortal coil … Alas, the winds breach me underparts again, as loud as a turbine, and I wonder: if this is how the dinosaurs went, how content they must have truly been.

Winter Tour, Entry V, etc.: On the Edge of Veg

Posted: February 12th, 2013

Hola!

It’s Sunday night in Lafayette, Indiana. moe.’s playing their 5th show in a row, and they’re tearing it up. I’m amazed. I really am. You go to a moe. show, you’re gonna get a 100% of what these five guys got to give. Stamina, a little tequila, love of the game—and the energy of the crowd—it’s there—the push—night-after-night—every show. A good example of that was the previous evening, in Chicago. All five members of the band sang lead vocal on at least one song because they had to. Rob has had the chest and throat funk, and his ability to sing is limited, as in, he really can’t or shouldn’t. He would sing once, anyway, and that would be for one of their signature songs, “Rebubula.” After the show, Skip, our tour manger, mentioned he thought it was a first—all five band members singing in one concert. I don’t know if it’s ever happened before. But it is what I’m talking about—the effort these guys give. When Vinnie had mono last summer he played for days until he all but keeled over under the Brooklyn Bridge—and then his wife came and forcibly took him home. It was an extraordinary effort. The thought of that, even at this instant, makes …

… Me? On the other hand? Right now? My ass is dragging. I have no stamina, but I will do shots of tequila, if only for the jolt, when need be. I’m in a reflective mood. Exhaustion does that to you. I’m 5 years into a gig that was supposed to be a summer job. “You can sell our merch and your book,” they said to me, “it’d be just like ya runaway and joined the circus.” True. It was. My first day on the job I was handed a broom, a shovel, and the way to the elephant stall. These years later, I’ve put on 25 pounds, my son calls me One-Eyed Grey Beard, and tonight, after 5 straight shows, I’m on the edge of veg. I feel like each step I take is through a snow bank. That said …

… You know I’m very grateful for the opportunity. It’s not lost on me that I get to hear world-class musicians play each evening on the job, even if it’s from the merch booth (near the elephant stalls). I’m surrounded by great people and the tour schedule gives me time to write the little stories I like to write. No, mi amigo.moe.litos, what wipes me out is the multi-tasking. Many things to do, seemingly all at once, all day long. It’s: Go! Go! Go! And here’s the rub, if truth be told …

… I’m a serial single-tasker. Always have been. I do my best work in installments. For instance, I just sold a sticker to a guy. That was hard enough. It was even harder not to ask him about his mullet. You don’t see that hairstyle too often anymore. You barely see it on someone in their twenties. I think: is the mullet a sincere expression of one’s fashion sense or sensibility? But the task at hand is to sell a $2 sticker. And before I can even begin to think about mullet sensibilities …

… My thoughts are interrupted by “Chromatic Nightmare.” I like the song a lot and Jim’s taking it to it. I feel like I’m dancing a waltz as I walk through a funhouse on a midway. Combined with Huffer our light guy’s lightshow, which, at the moment, is like watching currents of electrified spaghetti attacking the theater walls, well, it’s wild and surreal. And because I’m so exhausted, I feel like I’m on the verge of a flashback. Not that I’d know anything about such a thing, except for maybe that time in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, when I encountered all those pigeons with Mohawks. (Swear to God. They had Mohawks.) But I shouldn’t count that. Actually, now that I think about it, I probably shouldn’t even be talking about it. In fact …

… I’m starting to hear the opening refrains of “Mexico,” another favorite song of mine, which puts me at ease. I’m in a different place and time … there I am, drifting down to Ciudad Juárez, cross the bridge, over the Rio Grande, just south of El Paso, in search of Cubans (cigars, i.e.), donkey shows, and burritos; but instead run into hookers, drugs, and the banditos. Dicey, sketchy, and mostly, crazy—circumstances being what they were—desperate—I survived, if for no other reason, finding myself that day, “down in Mexico”

…  truly yours, on the edge of veg.

Winter Tour Journal, 2013, Entry IV, A Midwest Flurry

Posted: February 9th, 2013

A week before December 21, 2012, I was in a Karaoke bar in South Florida. Why, I have no idea. I guess because it was in the way of me and having a beer, so I went in. A woman in her mid-twenties was standing on stage butchering a “Land Down Under.”  I think of my son, who is presently in Australia, and start to fret. I hope he’s on high ground. Listening to that woman sing, I’m sure the Apocalypse really is upon us, and the great flood will follow.

                As you know, fortunately, the end times didn’t work out as planned, and  moe. is on tour. The band is doing a swing through the upper Midwest this week. All the moe.rons coming to the shows tell me how happy they are that moe. is back in “town” again. The band’s played in Michigan 3 times since September and Wisconsin twice since October, which has made these moe.rons ecstatic. It’s nice to see. We’re hitting Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana, too, and doing a radio show in Indianapolis, before going southeast.

On the road, you see all kind of things and meet many people. Every day is an adventure. In a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, the waitress, she calls herself a barista, is stern looking. Her hair is pulled back in a bun tightly, so tight the corners of her mouth appear creased in a permanent scowl. She kind of looks like the Joker working as a Librarian who hates her job. She’s giving me the once over, or maybe she doesn’t like my plaid coat. I smile. I’m not sure where she’s coming from. At this stage of my life I’ve come to know this much about the world of work and labor: Sometimes people end up where they’re at. Most times, people end up where they should.

I paid for the coffee and threw her a buck tip. I wasn’t sure if she smiled or hissed, but I stepped back just in case. It may have been too much, I know, but once again I found myself overwhelmed by the feminine mystique. Moving to a table, I do what I often do, pull out my pocket notebook and jot down a few thoughts and observations.

I leave the coffee shop and head toward the stage door of the venue, The Ark, where moe. will be playing an “intimate” acoustic show that evening. I hear a voice behind me, a woman’s, shouting. At first I think it’s her, the Joker, but it’s a woman with a camera. I noticed her inside taking pictures of pigeons on a magazine rack through the window, and rolled my eyes. Now she catches up to me and wants to take my picture. I’m guessing she likes her men in plaid. Red plaid. She said she has a website about humanism called the “Humanist,” or something like that, in Ann Arbor, and photographs the local scene. She saw me writing inside and wondered what I did. She said it like she thought I was unemployed. I said I was a writer, and she sighed before I finished saying, “and I work for moe.,” which meant nothing to her when I did. She took my picture with me holding my notebook near my face. By now, it’s hanging like a mug shot in a police blotter, somewhere on a day-in-the-life blog about Ann Arbor.

I’m now near the front of the venue, when I hear someone else shout out. I turn. It’s an old man with a crutch moving toward me like an Olympic sprinter.  I’m beginning to think that red plaid is the new day-glow orange, or vice versa, because every stranger, everywhere I go, has something to say to me.  “Can you help an old vet?” he asks. “I’m not a drunk. I need a dollar for a cup of coffee.” The degrees of homelessness in America, and throughout the world differ from place to place, as do the angles for panhandling. In New York last weekend, there was a kid with a sign that read “Why kid? Need money for drugs.” He was wearing Ray Bands, was dressed warmly, and compared to some of the human suffering and deprivation I’d seen along Broadway, he looked like a fool. The veteran in Ann Arbor repeated, “I’m not a drunk,” and added, with his hand held out, “even fifty cents will do.” A buck or fifty cents? This bum kept a tight budget. I’ll give him that. I look down the street at the coffee shop, and wonder how he’d be received by the Joker. I give him the change in my pocket, then look for the stage door. If I don’t get off the street, I’ll never be ready for show time.

Winter Tour Journal, 2013, Entry III, Confounded

Posted: February 5th, 2013

Hola mi amigo.moe.litos,

Phew! What a set of great shows over the past weekend! If the opening salvo of the winter tour is an indication of what’s to come, I’d advise one and all to make an extra effort to attend one of the upcoming shows. Whilst the temperature outside was dropping south of no north, inside the Best Buy Theater the boys were white hot. There was serious toe-tapping, hip-swaying, head-bopping mojo everywhere. People were excited and happy. And with that comes great reward. I can honestly tell you my friends, the energy you bring to the theater channels right to the stage.

For me, as always, I enjoyed seeing all the old familiar faces and meeting a few new ones. It’s one of the great perks of being on the road, that, and getting to know the towns and cities where moe. plays.

By my last day, Times Square became less of a challenge and more entertaining and enlightening. During the afternoon, I ran into Woody from Toy Story and Mickey Mouse having a chat. I was nearing 45th and Broadway. They stood just about nose-to-nose, and their big mellon-sized cartoon heads were bobbing and jerking around. I thought they were being playful. But then I realize that they were talking kind of loud. Shouting really loud. At each other. Angrily. And they were yelling in Spanish. I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t know Woody or Mickey were Mexican, either. I hear the word “mama” and “puta” spoken liberally. I translate with a computer-like efficiency that would have even impressed my high school Spanish teacher—the same guy who awarded me a “D” just for remaining conscious during the dullest nine months of my life. Roughly, well, it turns out Woody’s momma’s a whore!!! Which, as Dr. Phil might say, goes a long way in explaining his chosen life path as a lonesome cowboy, riding his beloved horse, Bullseye, across the high prairie.

I would have liked to share the outcome with you, my amigo.moe.litos, but time was against me. I was also distracted by a well-dressed, middle-aged man rapidly approaching me like we were old friends. His hand was extended, and just as I reached to shake it like we rowed together at Yale, he asked me for a buck. Presumably, the one I held in my other hand. Man, this guy really disappointed me. Obviously, he didn’t know what he was doing. The previous evening, after the show, as I made my way back to the hotel in 15 degree weather, I encountered panhandlers and bums on every corner. In that walk, I counted more bums on Broadway than plays or musicals. Not one would dare dress as a Yale man and expect a return. Poverty is supposed to be a wretched sight to behold. I think that was lost upon him. For all the charitable donations, awareness, public and private institutional giving, and so on, it—poverty—persists. It’s there, thriving, on the fringe, in every city, town, and village I go to. I’ve concluded there must be an art in sustaining poverty beyond the callous indifference to human suffering. The key is as much in the giving as in the receiving. On an institutional level, you need to target the recipients carefully if you really want to get nowhere and keep your job. It’s easier to help people who can help themselves than help people who cannot. Especially, when the person you’re helping is yourself.

The Yale man has not learned this yet. When I had no dollar in my hand for him, he brushed it aside and moved on to the next person. I would have watched him further, but I had to go. The road to Pittsburgh beckoned. Besides, the dollar I had in my hand was for the guy hunkered over an air vent, wrapped in a dog blanket, shivering like a quivering mass of protoplasmic jelly. Confounded by what I should do or what can be done, I handed him the bill, and walked on.

The bright lights in the big city continue to distract me.

YOY must it be? ...brother John

Winter Tour Journal, 2013, Entry II, NYC

Posted: February 1st, 2013

Hi there moe.rons:

Once again I find myself happily traipsing about Times Square. I’m searching for the Best Buy Theater, where my employer and your favorite band, will play this weekend. It’s crowded here, in T-Square. It’s always crowded here. People move in herds or freeze and gawk at the bright lights in the big city. There are people jams everywhere. I hear chatter from all quarters in languages familiar and unfamiliar and then some. I can’t make out what anyone is saying. Mostly, because they’re speaking in tongues other than English—the language I happen to be fluent in. Hearing all the different languages spoken is like listening to a Rhapsody in Sacré Bleu. I like the sound. It’s like going to Miami—a place once considered an American city, but now more widely known as the de facto capital of Latin America and favorite haunts of really bad reality TV. In Miami, the lingua franca is Spanish, with a smattering of English and a lot of people sounding like a bad imitation of Al Pacino in Scarface sounding like Al Pacino in Scarface. Here in Times Square there’s much more linguistic diversity. I’m picking up German, Japanese, French, Italian, some guttural Slavic language (or possibly a sick Dutchman?), and I’m certain, the belching of hobos panhandling for quarters.

If it is hobos (and, dear God, by the smell, that may not be belching), I can’t tell because I can’t see. I’m suddenly semi-locked in-step with a herd—whilst distracted listening to languages. It’s stop and go against my will. I can’t pass, either. I wait for an opening, fearful I may be spewed into the back end of a tour bus, or worse yet, into the open arms of a street vendor who’ll have me in a $20 Rolex. The street vendors have me pegged as a rube. Rightfully so, I suppose. I’m in New York City and I’m wearing plaid. And not just any plaid. It’s “Hunting-8-point-buck-in-the-Woods-of-Maine” red plaid. In my mind’s eye, I’m already sporting my new $20 Rolex and hearing the cackle of the band and crew about how I was suckered again.

 All but young Casey, our newbie monitor engineer. He’s from Maine, too. And I know for sure he’s in the market for a $25 Rolex—ka-ching! Oh yeah!

I’ve all but closed the deal now, when, suddenly, the herd parts and I break free. There is no tour bus. There is no $20 Rolex salesman. But there are actors posing as mannequins (or maybe they’re mannequins posing as actors???). Beyond them, I see “moe.” on the marquis of the Best Buy Theater and make a beeline. I’m there … or here … I’m in … through the double-secret entrance … I’ll see you soon enough… if not, later … tootles, brother john

Winter Tour Journal, 2013, Entry I

Posted: January 30th, 2013

Dear amigo.moe.litos,

I’m staring at an empty suitcase wondering what to pack. It’s been a couple of weeks since your favorite band, moe., has been out on the road, as it were. Mainly, because “the road” was a 14-story luxury barge and we were afloat somewhere out in the Bermuda Triangle. The band played amidst a hedonistic fury akin to the Khan sweeping across the Eurasian steppes. On any tide, I half expected the boat to slip into a time portal or dimensional rift. Not that anyone would have noticed until the booze ran out. I for one was grateful the fabric of the time-space continuum didn’t breach. I had a cold and a sore throat, and it would have been a real bummer to be lost in time and sickly, especially when the frozen Marguerites ran out.

The sore throat also negated any urge I had to partake in one of my favorite pastimes: smoking cigars. For weeks I had envisioned picking up a handful of Cubans (cigars, i.e.) upon arrival in the Turks and Caicos. But it was not meant to be. I’m not sure if I could have even lit one. The wind was constant and fierce. All the islands that constitute the Turks and Caicos are windy. They’re low-lying and, mostly, right at sea level. The ocean breeze never ceases—for want of a mountain, a ridge, a hill, or even a dune, to break the steady pummeling across the face. We’re so low, it’s as though the islands are floating at sea, but stationary. I know some of you are thinking, why not simply buy a bunch of Cubans (cigars, i.e.) for later? When my throat wasn’t sore and the wind wasn’t pummeling me. The answer is: I would have had to smuggle them back into the country. I would have placed myself at risk for detention and a large fine, but also compromised your said favorite band, who, as you may recall, was rushing to a venue in Ft. Lauderdale to play that evening. No, smuggling Cubans (cigars, i.e.) into the country was not worth the risk. It is prohibited by law because Cuba, as you know, is a Communist country. And in the USA, it is against the law to do business with a Communist country. Unless, of course, the country is the other Communist country on the planet: China. In which case, it is not only okay to do business with them, but to near wholesale our entire industrial and manufacturing base to them under the pretense that American workers demand too much. Even Henry Ford knew that the success of his new-fangled automobile was dependent on its affordability: to the people who built the car.

Make certain, I have nothing against doing business with any country—even with Communist China or Cuba! It’s a big world and our economy is and should be global. Besides, it’s good to see the Commies embracing quasi-Capitalism as much as we’ve embraced that brand of quasi-Communism. As the old Chinese proverb states: when it comes to business—all men are brothers. (In America, we call it, “selling out.”)

Alas, if only the Chinese made cheap Cuban cigars, too—along with cheap Christmas ornaments, shoes, shirts, pants, hats, Bibles, American flags, pens, pencils, iPhone or iPad or i-anything else—my dilemma would be solved. Then, I could embrace the hypocrisy, have myself a Cuban (cigar, i.e.), and maybe finish packing. Tomorrow’s a travel day. NYC awaits me, and all good things that follow after.

For now, truly yours,

brother John

One moe.Time: "6th Member of moe." Contest Winners Interview, Part III

Posted: January 20th, 2013

On the third night, MATT MAHONEY, the “6th member of moe.” contest winner for the 12/30/2012, show, played with the moe. at the State Theater in Portland, Maine. Here is what he had to say about his sojourn from Kansas City to Maine and back.

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Q: You entered the contest early on. Tell us a little about that. What the wait was like as the competition unfolded?

 A: I was told by a former band mate and my friend, Grant, about the contest. He told me, "Matt, this is your calling." He must have seen the contest right away because I uploaded my audition that same day and was the first video posted by Relix and moe. The video was made prior to the contest and was not intended to be an audition of any kind. I am a big moe. fan and just figured that I'd give it a shot. Having seen more and more and more videos pop up online, I figured I had no chance at winning. Also, many of the contestants submitted great videos. So I approached this contest with a long shot mentality and feel very fortunate to have been chosen. When I was told that I'd won a spot to play with moe., I was very excited. Jim had emailed me as we'll as someone from Relix. It was very short notice and had been so long since I'd submitted my video, I had figured it was over and I hadn't made it.

Q: What led you to choose “Rebubula” to play with the band?

A: I chose “Rebubula,” because to me, it is one of their quintessential songs. I saw moe. the most when I was in high school and college. I was absolutely hooked after seeing them live. “Rebubula” was one the first songs I heard and I love it. Also, the main reason I chose it is simply because it is complicated and lengthy. It is a challenging song and the longer the song, the longer I can jam with moe.! It was certainly a fun challenge.

Q: You mentioned in an email that your experience was awesome—in what way(s)?

A: My experience was awesome because the band and crew and everyone involved was very hospitable and polite, yet laid back. The fact that I flew from Kansas was another reason it was enjoyable. I had never been to Maine and I got to hang out with one of my absolute favorite bands ever. The fans were also very nice. Their enthusiasm is unwavering. I received high praise from seemingly hundreds of moe. fans. They were happy with my song choice and the execution. It was great to see how much work and thought goes into putting on a show like that also. I never knew how much work goes on in preparation to put on moe.'s shows, and I've seen them many times. Each band mate was very personable, helpful, enthusiastic, and hospitable. The same can be said for everyone involved with their program. Their families and staff were very nice and it was a pleasure to be able to be there with them.

Q: Was there much anxiety before going on stage?

A: After moe. began their set on the night I played, I started to feel a little nervous. I’m in a band in Kansas City that plays a lot of parties and weddings. I am never nervous before these gigs. The fact that the song [“Rebubula”] is fairly complex and the musicians are seasoned veterans made me a little nervous. The stakes were high to me because it was such a rare opportunity. I wanted to make the most of it. Once onstage, and a few minutes into the song, I was able to loosen up and start playing a little less conservatively.

Q: Have you ever played in a theater such as the State or performed before a crowd of that size or greater?

A: I had never played a venue quite like the State. I've played venues similar but with far fewer people present.

Q: With regard to your musical career, what’s the next step for you?

A: I am moving from Kansas City to Chicago next week in order to work and pursue music. I am looking to join several bands in order to remain busy and get myself out there in a city that looks to be full of talent. The band I have been playing with usually plays about 2-3 times a month on weekends. I am excited to work on some original material and play some live music in Chicago. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for moe. shows in the region as well.

 Q: It’s good to hear you’re on the move. It sounds as though there was a lot of positive in the experience?

A: Overall, it was absolutely amazing. I can't remember ever having so much fun. It was a unique opportunity that I felt I had to make the most of. When I found out I'd won a spot, I worried because I knew I could hardly afford the trip. Looking back, it was one of the best times I've ever had. It was so worth it that I can't believe I thought about financing the trip. The band, crew, and crowd made this an unforgettable experience for me. I wish I could do it again tomorrow. Thanks to everyone involved, it made my year. Hopefully I can keep in touch as everyone was so nice from moe.

One moe.Time: "6th Member of moe." Contest Winners Interview, Part II

Posted: January 19th, 2013

On December 29, moe.rons made their way to the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts. They came from far and wide, braved a cold and very snowy evening, to see and hear their favorite band. They were not disappointed. It was night 2 of moe.’s 2012 NYE run, and featured “6th member of moe.” contest winner JOE BELLANTI. We caught up with Joe and asked him all about his moe.experience. We’re now happy to share it with you:

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Q: What made you decide to enter the contest?

A: There were a bunch of things, but I'll give you the top three:

1. The music: I love moe.'s approach to music. They come from the same Buffalo jam band scene that I do. One of the hallmarks of that scene is that the line between the band and the fans is pretty blurry. Every gig feels like a frat party where everyone is just there to share the music and have a good time. A few people just happen to be the ones with the instruments. The thought of being able to blend into that, even a few minutes, was something I really wanted to take a shot at. Yet, I was waffling about it at one point and I had a couple conversations with my good friend Corey Kertzie, a drummer that also lives in Buffalo. He got me all fired up to enter and really motivated me to follow through with it.

2. Parental Consistency: I always tell my daughters that, when you love something, you have to try. You may win or you may not, but you have to try. It was great to be able to share the whole experience with them and my wife, Mary, who was really supportive through the whole process. Once I told the girls about it I really wanted to follow through.

3. Personal challenge: I had some fairly major issues that affected my playing during the first part of 2012. I am very fortunate that I am actually better now that I was before. I had some doubts about whether I could still play though—especially at a professional level. The contest was a great opportunity to focus on a specific goal, and follow through with getting my entry submitted.

Q: What about choosing the songs “Nebraska” and “NYC” to play? How did that come about?

A: I was looking for songs that I felt would sound good with a piano added in. I play other keyboards and instruments too, but piano is my main instrument. “NYC” is my favorite moe. song. I love the melody, the signature line that Al plays during the intro and that Chuck and Al play together during the break before the solo section, and the fact that it was in the key of G, which just happens to be a comfortable key for me on piano. “Nebraska” came about a little by accident. The contest rules said that if you were chosen you could play one song with the band - you pick a song and the band could say yes or no. Vinnie called me to let me know that I had been chosen (which was amazing in itself) and asked me to send over three songs and they would tell me which one. I sent over “NYC,” “Nebraska” and “Tambourine.” A couple days later Vinnie sent me back a note and said that they had decided on “NYC” because they liked my audition video, but they also wanted to do “Nebraska” because of the Dixieland-style part where Chuck plays the talk-box solo. That was really fun to play live.

Q: Any particular moment that stands out that day of the show?

A: Probably my favorite moment of the whole experience was at the sound check - we had just finished running through “Nebraska” and I had figured we would play “NYC” the same way the guys play it live. Al turned to me and said, "We were thinking you could play the intro like you did in your audition video and we would just blend in after a while". So I'm thinking, "... you want me to play the intro ... alone ... in front of people?? ... a lot of people???..." - but all I remember saying was, "OK - sounds good". The fact that they wanted me do that really meant a lot to me.

Q: You seemed very comfortable up there, have you performed before that many people?

A: Only once in front of an audience that big, which was at the University of Buffalo, Springfest, when a band I was in, Wild Knights, opened for Cheap Trick—that was in the last century. Other than that I have played a ton of shows over the years and just really enjoy sharing music with an audience.

Q: When you sat down at the keyboard, what did you feel when you looked out on the crowd, or did you look at all?

A: I definitely looked—at first the spotlights were on and I could not see anyone, but as soon as we started “Nebraska,” the lights shifted and I could see everyone all the way up to the top of the balcony. Definitely a stellar moment. My cheeks were actually sore from smiling when I walked off the stage after we were done!

Q: Do you perform regularly these days?

A: I haven't for several years because of family, children, job, and health considerations but things have stabilized and I had made plans to get a band together and also start playing some solo shows about 3 months before the contest was announced. The contest really sealed it for me. I will be posting news about it at www.joebellanti.com and on my facebook page if anyone wants to check it out.

Q: How does it feel to know your performance video is up on Relix?

A: Awesome and hilarious at the same time - If you go to the page at Relix.com where the video of “Nebraska” and “NYC” is posted: http://www.relix.com/blogs/picks-and-pans/2012/12/31/moe-with-joe-bellanti-nebraska-and-new-york-city my mom left the first comment - who knew she reads Relix? Too funny. It was great the day they put up the page with the videos of the guys that played. We were listed with a bunch of great bands. I thought Taylor Frederick and Matt Mahoney both did an outstanding job as well. I have been talking to both of them on Facebook and Taylor stayed over for the second show in Worcester so we got a chance to talk and had a great time at the show I played in.

Q: Any feedback you wish to share about your experience?

A: In terms of feedback that I have gotten, the response has been overwhelmingly positive which has been great and really humbling at the same time. My favorite messages have been the ones from moe. fans that were at the show or saw the video, and took the time to find me online and have sent some great notes. I've gotten a lot of great messages from fellow musicians too, which has also been very humbling. For my own part, the guys are probably getting sick of hearing it, but I would like to take one more opportunity to thank Chuck, Rob, Al, Jim, Vinnie and the whole moe. crew for both the chance to play and for really making me feel at home when I was at the show. moe. runs a first class operation and it is easy to see why their fans are so loyal. From the minute I pulled up at the loading dock door to the minute I hit the road to head back to Buffalo, everyone I came in contact with went above and beyond to make sure that I had everything I needed. I can't tell you how much I appreciate everything that everyone did. Thanks again and I am really looking forward to seeing you all down the road.

Tomorrow, Part III: interview with Kansas City guitarist Matt Mahoney

One moe.Time: "6th Member of moe." Contest Winners Interview, Part I

Posted: January 18th, 2013

On December 21, 2012, a cosmic confluence of sorts aligned within the moe. universe. Far from the end of the world, 3 contestants for the “6th member of moe.” contest were announced. After thoughtful review and deliberation, the band selected guitarists Taylor Frederick and Matt Mahoney, and pianist Joe Bellanti, to perform with them during moe.’s New Year’s Eve run in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine. We asked all three to reflect on what it was like “to be a member of moe.” for one night—to share with everyone their thoughts about the whole experience—in a brief Q and A.

 

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First up, TAYLOR FREDERICK, the “6th member of moe.” contest winner for the 12/28/2012, show at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

Q: What motivated you to throw your hat in the ring and enter the contest?

A: My own personal ‘Moe.ssena’ famoe.ly informed me of the contest literally as soon as Relix Magazine posted it. They knew it would be a great opportunity for me, and my friends have believed in me from the get go to pursue my dreams as a musician. I figured what the hell, I'm gonna give it my best shot, and if that's not enough, at least I know I tried. I never in a million years would have thought it would get the attention it did. So many strangers were messaging me saying "Hey awesome job!", "You got this!" I thank not only my famoe.ly, but all the fans, strangers, and support I received from everyone over the course of the contest. It was very heart warming, and was the best Christmas present a guy could ask for.

Q: What made you select “Plane Crash” to perform with the band?

A: I wanted to pick a tune that was not only a fan favorite, but one that I could show the fans that I deserved to be up on stage with moe. I wanted to make everyone a believer, because judging by all of the responses from fans over all the social media sites there were a couple of "skeptics.” I originally had 3 tunes picked out, which got narrowed down to two after speaking with Jim about what he thought. He told me he originally had that tune in mind when I said it so we stuck with that. Judging by how the crowd erupted, it was a good fit, and for the most part I was happy with how I meshed with the band and played overall.

Q: You mentioned in another email that your experience was surreal. I can only imagine, but could you elaborate?

A: I was introduced to moe. when I was 15 years old, and saw my first show when I was 18. I've been learning/studying all their music since, and have seen a very good chunk of shows since then. When you're that young, and you just remember looking up on stage and saying "One day, I'll be up there", and then that day comes quicker than you expected!? It's a surreal feeling. Knowing that you were chosen by one of your favorite bands, who you have looked up to for many years, to come on stage with them and play, is nothing short of a dream come true.

Q: What was the level of anticipation before going on stage?

A: After the quick sound check, and how smoothly things went, I was ready. But as far as the time being by myself in the green room, hearing the band and the crowd, it started to sink in—hahaha. The nerves stopped though as soon as I heard the crowd cheering and that first chord was played. After that it was just instinct and it felt natural as ever being on stage with them.

Q: Had you ever played in a venue such as the Palladium or performed before that many people?

A: I've had the opportunity to play in a theater before but nothing to a crowd that size. I think the closest I have come to that would be when my college band "Electric Thermal Funk" recently opened up for Jimkata at the Oneonta Theater in Oneonta, NY.

Q: How long have you been playing?

A: I've been playing guitar since I was 13

Q: Are you in a band now? And do you perform regularly?

A: I currently play in a couple college projects "Electric Thermal Funk" and "The Collective". Keeps me playing and keeps me out there doing what I love. I mostly play in my college's Frank Zappa Ensemble "The Mothers of Intention". I've been playing with them now for 2 years and absolutely love it. I try to book as many gigs as I can with all my projects. I’m still searching for that one project that I can focus all my time on. But until then a few projects that I can book with seem to take up my calendar pretty nicely.

Q: What about the fan response?

A: I haven't heard one bad thing yet [knock on wood]. But after I finished playing everyone out in the audience was coming up to meet me, taking pictures, autographs, it was pretty cool (hahaha). It's nice to know you did a good job and made people appreciate what you had to offer to the mix. They're being honest with their responses, and for the fans to accept you playing with their favorite band means a lot in my eyes.

Q: How does it feel to know your performance video is up on RELIX?

A: It's a feeling I can't explain. Knowing your face is up their being showcased next to moe., Umphrey's McGee, Phish, and all these other amazing bands that I personally look up to, just makes me smile from ear to ear. It makes me feel like I'm doing something right, and to continue doing it till I myself am in the magazine again for my own personal work. Hopefully, that day will be right around the corner.

Tomorrow: Night 2 performer, pianist JOE BELLANTI, discusses his experience at the Palladium, and touches upon how entering the contest was a catharsis for getting his "moe.jo" back.