Charleston has become a must-stop for any big jam band touring college towns and big cities in the Southeast. New York-based ensemble moe. returns to Charleston this Saturday in support of a new album titled Sticks and Stones. If you’re looking for something more eclectic than the familiar jams of Phish or the Southern-tinged rock of Panic, this gig might do the trick.
The band formed at the University of Buffalo in 1990. Founded by bassist Rob Derhak, guitarist Chuck Garvey, and original drummer Ray Schwartz, they toured under the name Five Guys Named Moe, using rotating players until their 1992 debut album Fatboy. The current lineup includes Al Schnier on guitars and vocals, Jim Loughlin on percussion and vibes, and Vinnie Amico on drums.
Despite their long-standing jam band status, moe. employs a clever songwriting technique and melody within the arrangement to deliver a more Americana-rock sound — avoiding some of the noodling some might expect. Their earliest records sounded like a less-quirky version of Primus, improvising within the funk/rock. After going through as many guitarists as most bands go through drummers, the lineup gelled by 1999. That same year, Sony dropped the band, so moe. decided to create their own label, Fat Boy.
Last year they released a live compilation titled Dr. Stan’s Prescription, Vol. 1 on the Fat Boy imprint with some covers of songs by Pink Floyd and The Band thrown in.
Like a lot of jam bands, they struggled to capture their fiery on-stage style in the studio. As a compromise, many of their albums included live sets along with studio tracks. They challenged themselves, adding haunting ballads like “September” and even a Celtic drinking song, “Raise Your Glass.” Sticks and Stones surprised many critics with a more mature, subdued, focused sound.