With a thrilling night one of moe.‘s two show holiday jam-fest at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY in the books night two sent tributes and love to missing member guitarist Chuck Garvey that were poignant and plentiful. One of the best surprises of the night was seeing our missing friend Chuck in a short video clip rehabbing himself into guitar-slinging shape. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After an “All Roads Lead To Home” opener that seemed more to serve as an opportunity for guests, guitarist Reid Genauer and keyboardist Nate Wilson of Assembly Of Dust, a chance to play themselves into the groove with the remaining four guys named moe. After a relatively short take on “Roads”, the band welcomed the second family member to the run with Chuck’s nephew, John Carlo Pecheone, who did a surprisingly adept job handling some of the guitar and much of the twisty lyrical wordplay of the Garvey tune “Akimbo”.

moe. – “All Roads Lead To Home”, “Akimbo” – 12/11/21

Another purpose “Akimbo” served was that it helped give the rhythm section, which had spent much of the night serving as a foundation for the rotating cast of more melodic guests, a chance to shine. Bassist Rob Derhak was in bouncy spirits and his playing reflected it while drummer Vinnie Amico was expressive, splashy, and just plain pure enthusiasm as always. Jim Loughlin, who had helped pick up some of the vocal slack the previous night, was clearly ready to cut loose in the last gig of the year. Grenauer retreated for a few tunes and moe. let guitarist Al Schnier and guest Wilson fill the space of “Big World” before Derhak stepped in to lead an energetic “Captain America” that had all the heads bobbing in time to the rabble-rousing track.

Pecheone was welcomed back to the stage to take on the surreal and spacey lead of “Zed Nought Z” with plenty of help from Loughlin, Schnier, and Wilson before he left for the night but he certainly made his mark in the time allotted. Keyboardist Nate Wilson stayed out for a stripped-down take on “LL3” which continued Wilson’s bid for “MVP GUEST OF THE NIGHT,” a largely ceremonial and purely speculative honorarium on my part. That said, for those wondering how much of an impact a full-time keyboard player would have on their sound should look no further than the intuitive and emotive keys work Wilson did on this tune and most of the evening filling in the gaps from Garvey’s absence.

In one of the more obvious segues, “Moth” seemed to emerge from the husk of “LL3” with a welcoming cheer from the crowd that spoke volumes. It’s one of the songs that some old-timers take for granted and some newer fans perhaps overlook…but after these two music-starved years there is no more taking anything for granted. We never know when, or sadly if, we will see friends or hear these tunes next so each instance is to be truly treasured.

As if to make this point, the band decided it was a perfect opportunity to take the entire middle section out for a long stroll and see where they ended up. Wilson provided some lush fills and building crescendos that generally lacks in the instrumentation provided, while special guest guitarist Kirin Rogers—who was making papa percussionist Loughlin burst with pride—and Schnier provided enough sonic friction to spark the first big instance of utilizing the different instrumentation to its absolute fullest of the evening. The jubilant looks on the faces of the fans in the audience said all that needs to be said, and they took that jubilation with them to the set break.

Rob welcomed longtime band friend Suke Cerulo and Wilson out for a “Blue Jeans Pizza” to open the second set and as cold and stormy a night as it was across America it was a warm night in a long lost summer evening in the Capitol Theater, the kind we all waited so long for on the seemingly endless cold winter nights like last night. Cerullo’s deep familiarity with moe.’s material, coupled with the skills he uses on the daily in his position as Director of the Lead Guitar program at New York City Guitar School, made his substitution for the missing Garvey as easy a fit as is probably possible, especially on the challenging newer Garvey penned “New Hope For the New Year”.

moe. – “Blue Jeans Pizza”, “New Hope For The New Year” – 12-11-21

After finishing the dark, dense, and engaging tune the usually quiet Loughlin chimed in with how different it is when Garvey brings a tune to the band. Chuck seems to have a more ethereal understanding of the pieces than anyone outside his own brain can ever hope to have and Loughlin admitted he often had no idea how these seemingly disparate segments could ever coalesce into a cohesive whole, yet, time and time again they manage to creep up on the band. Derhak and Schnier both chimed in with Rob quipping “I still always doubt him” before Al further elaborated on the years-long, winding pathway the tune traveled before being assembled, almost backward, by the band. It was a fascinating look into the clearly different mind that Garvey is working with, at least musically.

Cerulo showed some remarkable talents for mimicry as well as virtuosity as Loughlin’s telltale vibraphone tones of “Tubing The River Styx” gave way to “The Pit”. Cerulo nailed the darkness, despair, and sinister energy of the track as well as anyone possibly could have. It was eerie but obviously done from a place of sheer mastery as was the drawn-out slide into the Pink Floyd-ian “Silver Sun” that flowed out of that darkest place. Amico’s strident rhythms gave both power and a weird sense of inevitability to the astral energy produced by the guitar harmonies of Schnier and Cerulo that elevated the sum to far greater than its parts.

Speaking of being greater than before even a purist like myself has to admit that the combination of Cerulo and Wilson elevated the following “White Lightning Turpentine” to the highest heights I’ve seen it. The blues-based jam benefited tremendously from the boogie organ jam and Cerulo’s speed and precision were flat-out mind-blowing.

Cerulo continued his master class alongside fellow guest professor Wilson with a tag team piano guitar duo intro on a jazzy and mournful intro to the beloved “Four”. Cerulo even took the lyrical duties, working in a few references to the famoe.ly that had gathered for the show and the love they had for their missing friend. It was a moment that could have easily have come off as contrived in most any other circumstance but in that second everyone was on the same wavelength, sending all the love they could out into the night.

Not content to let the guests have all the fun, Derhak had an extended, low-end sonic walk-about that felt like it was years overdue with a well-suited melodic piano-based counterpoint played by Wilson. Easily one of the stand-out jams of the weekend it showed the true, often unmentioned strength of moe.: its rock-solid songwriting. No trickery, no reliance on showmanship just a plain old incredible song played with joy that is completely transferable from the band to the audience effortlessly. Emma Derhak came back out to handle the loopy lyrical twists and turns of “Spine Of A Dog” for that always appreciated burst of energy to close out an exhausting, immersive, and clearly appreciated set.

Al Schnier took a few more minutes to handle his “Al.nouncements” with a lovely diverse set of dedications and “testimonial by way of attendance” numbers. One couple was celebrating the collective 600th show together! Inspiring this kind of love in a fan base is rare…but seeing a band stop every night to personally acknowledge these milestones is something only moe. would do. This connection between them wasn’t built by chance, and it certainly wasn’t part of some shrewd marketing campaign. It’s an act of love.

That love was showcased by a bunch of things over the weekend. The packed house and the cheers were more obvious signs…but things like the diversity and quality of the sit-ins were evidence as well. A lot of bands would have tried to keep a big name fill-in like Warren Haynes for the whole run, but they had friends and family lined up out the back door of the Cap ready to help. Suke Cerulo deserves special note for his clear and obvious serious work since being tapped to help out for the show…his Chuck interpretations were as close to the real thing without becoming either distasteful or sheer apery possible.

I’m gonna slip off my impartial journalist mask for a moment and say, as a dedicated fan and former mayor of the mythical moe.ville, that we are all hoping for the speediest, most complete recovery possible. We’re more than happy to keep sending our love and positive energy as our friend Chuck recuperates. The 20-second clip of Chuck sitting up in a chair, comically smiling and showing off his flexible fingers on an acoustic guitar that the band shared, projected on the walls of the venue, got some of the biggest cheers of the night. We are loyal, we are patient and above all else…through blood, through love…through anything life throws at us…we are famoe.ly. We are on your side, Chuck, and “we are all waiting”…to shower you with love when we see you next.

Setlist: moe. | Capitol Theater | New York, NY | 12/11/21

Set One: All Roads Lead To Home*^, Akimbo*^%, Big World^, Captain America^, ZOZ^% , LL3^>Moth

Set Two: Blue Jeans Pizza^$, New Hope For The New Year$, Tubing The River Styx^$>The Pit^$>Silver Sun^$>White Lightning Turpentine^$, 4^$>White Lightning Turpentine^$@

Encore: OkayAlright^$@

* w/ Reid Grenauer

^ w/ Nate Wilson

% w/ John Carlo Pecheone

& w/Kirin Rogers

$ w/Suke Cerulo

@ w/Emma Derhak