How moe. got to be that way

August 26, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Some people find moe. annoying. Not that they have any trouble with the Utica, N.Y., band's music, a rootsy, improvisatory concoction that could pass for a '90s update of classic Little Feat. No, people don't complain about the way the band sounds.

They complain about the way it spells.

"What's with the lowercase 'm'?" they ask. "Why do they stick that stupid period in there? Are they trying to drive me crazy?"

Well, yeah, says bassist Rob Derhak. "That's pretty much why we do it."

Derhak knows how annoying it must seem to see "moe." when folks expect "Moe," but he likes the confusion his band's name causes. So much so, in fact, that he's almost hesitant to admit that "moe." actually makes sense as a name.

"It basically was an evolution from the name that we had when we first started, and we were a college cover band," he says. "We were called Five Guys Named Moe, from the Louis Jordan song."

Now, they're just moe. Period.

Despite its unusual name, moe. has had little problem building an audience. Thanks to eight years of relentless touring, moe. has garnered a large and loyal following on the concert circuit.

"That's all we have, really, " he says. "We don't have anybody behind us making anything happen on a radio level or MTV level or anything like that. It's all our live shows and people telling each other and trading tapes and stuff."

moe.'s touring, combined with its fondness for improvisation, has led to the band being lumped in with the "jam band" phenomenon, an association Derhak and his bandmates take as a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, they're quite happy to be included in projects like the Summer Session tour, which matches them with similarly improvisational bands like Gov't Mule, Galactic and the String Cheese Incident. On the other hand, they don't think that "jam band" best describes what it is the band does.

"We're a rock and roll band," says Derhak, then laughs. "But what can you do? Force people to call us that?"

Of course, bands like moe. wouldn't have to explain themselves if they had the broad exposure of radio and MTV, but right now, the term "jam band" is anathema to such media outlets. "MTV doesn't want to touch anybody that isn't in their tiny head-of-a-pin focus on what they want to be pushing at the time, and it seems that just about everything else kind of falls in line with them," says Derhak.

"So you have this grass-roots movement going on, where there are a ton of people who love it, but it's just not on the TV," he says. "It's like we mainly appeal to people who go outside of what they're trying to spoon-feed you."

moe.

What: Summer Session, featuring moe., Gov't Mule, Galactic and the String Cheese Incident.

When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6 p.m.)

Where: Pier 6 Concert Pavilion

Tickets: $27.50 general admission seating, $22.50 lawn (plus $1.50 parking for either)

Call: 410-481-7328

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