moe. guitarist Al Schnier capped an emotional visit to Boulder’s Fox Theatre for the venue’s 30th anniversary with the exciting and anticipated al.nouncement in the tradition’s history: ailing guitarist Chuck Garvey will join the band onstage at its Philadelphia New Year’s Eve show at The Fillmore.

This wonderful news came on the one-year anniversary of Garvey’s stroke and left nebulous exactly how much the beloved returning cornerstone of the band would be ready to do. What the message lacked in details, however, it more than made up for in emotional gravity as fans across the country watching the picture-perfect simulcast on the always reliable Mandolin platform likely became as choked up and joyous as Schnier was while reading Garvey’s note. Relive the moe.ment when livestream viewers across the country woke up spouses and neighbors alike with heartfelt cheers late on Sunday evening.

moe. – “al.nouncements” – 11/6/22

The catches in Schnier’s throat as he read the note were those of a stage veteran well versed at containing themselves onstage and were nothing compared to the collective outpouring of pure emotion from moe’s extremely loyal fan base. Trust me that cheers and tears swept the nation as instantly as the words were heard and understood. Speaking on behalf of those most zealous of fans, trust me on that front. There’s even an extra level of personal appreciation as to why this struck me as a welcome and much-appreciated shot of good news…it came in as I was preparing to write up my notes from the three-night run and completely changed the focus of this article.

I’m going to step outside my “third person editorial voice” completely from here on out to say that I asked for the chance to write up this three-night run of moe. shows for a particularly personal reason. As both a music writer and a fairly over-the-top moe. fan (I spent five years seeking the title of “mayor of moe.down,” the highest office a fan of the band can achieve, in ways that can easily be categorized as “obsessive”) and I’ve been torn about how I felt about the admittedly kick-ass shows the band has been putting on in their friend’s absence. Heading into this past weekend, I thought this trio of shows celebrating the 30th anniversary of Boulder’s beloved Fox Theatre would be a perfect opportunity to work through my mixed feelings in a constructive way.

Please understand I come by my uncertainty from a place of love and a deep understanding of Garvey’s circumstances. Yesterday was the anniversary of his stroke and a truly terrifying moment for his family, his band, and his legions of fans. After already standing strong through bassist Rob Derhak‘s thankfully successful battle with cancer it seemed exceptionally unfair for yet another debilitating illness to strike one of the band’s members.

Having suffered through a few extended health episodes myself, I know too well the feelings of loss and disconnection that go through the mind of a person facing arduous periods of recovery. Social media only exacerbates these feelings as the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real and has a nasty way of creeping into even the sunniest of dispositions. Add to that the aforementioned deeply ingrained sense of loyalty that some over-the-top fans feel for their favorite acts, myself definitely included, and you can start to understand why I wasn’t alone in my reticence, however mild, to this temporary configuration.

In a likely unneeded partially subconscious show of solidarity, I haven’t been able to fully lose myself to the jams and grooves being laid down by moe.— my favorite band in the land. I fully acknowledge this was a hang-up on my end, and was completely unwarranted by the stellar quality of music the band has been laying down in Garvey’s absence. So for three nights I watched guitarist Michael “Suke” Cerulo and keyboard wizard and flutist Nate Wilson (Blue Star Radiation, Ghosts Of Jupiter) with the sharpest of eyes for any reason to justify my hesitancy in embracing this temporary configuration only to be rewarded with an exceptional array of stellar musicianship, a clear sense of the pair’s appreciation for moe.’s deep catalog, and the appropriate level of professionalism on their part.

Cerulo is a true master of the guitar, with his decades in bands on the scene and his slow and steady rise to Director of the Lead Guitar Program at the New York City Guitar School—where he began working at the end of 2003—burnishing his reputation in a way few others can hope to match. Cerulo’s long-standing friendship with the band gave him a clear familiarity with the many idiosyncrasies and nuances of Garvey’s playing that allowed him to seamlessly insert himself in the band’s sound with little to no negative effects, an amazing achievement on its own. Not settling for simple mimicry, however, Cerulo threw enough flash and personal flavor in there to remind you he was a beast on his own.

At the same time, the already impressive dynamism of moe. itself was expanded through the introduction and integration of the keyboard skills, organ fills, and woodwind trills of Nate Wilson. In fact, I was prepared to say in my previous iterations of this article that Mr. Wilson really should stick around after the eventual full-time return of Garvey. While Schnier may occasionally tickle the ivories onstage, the organ fills and leads by Wilson—particularly on moe. classics like “Sensory Deprivation Bank” and covers like the Allman Brothers Band‘s “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” that closed the first set Friday right through Sunday’s Blind Faith cover “Can’t Find My Way Home”—are on a completely different, higher level of focus than the band’s usually even attempts.

My notes from the rest of the shows are just a compilation of the things I’ve loved about moe. for decades now. The setlists for this run read like the best shows a young, early edition moe. likely performed at those first tentative steps made from being a regional Northeastern jam band to world-traveling stars made after the group’s historic early invites to the Fox. It was a clear nod to the appreciation moe. feels for those first real chances to show what the band had, along with Rob Derhak’s banter opening the second night as he introduced the band in a “first-year student” manner he likely hasn’t employed in decades. Asking the fans to sign up on their mailing list was delivered with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

Derhak’s child-like glee when he’s slapping his bass with his trademark mix of wild abandon and deadly precision will always be a source of intense joy for anyone watching moe.’s stage show. Derhak seemed to be having a wonderful time reliving past triumphs on the Fox stage, and having his daughter join the band to sing lead on “OkayAlright” was just icing on the three-tiered cake of this run of shows. Al Schnier somehow continues to improve his already wicked blend of raw energy, showmanship, and captivating passion with seemingly no limit to the eventual heights he may climb…metaphorically and, some nights, physically. Schnier’s solo during Friday’s “Puebla” was a standout to my ears, but in reality, it was just one in a weekend-long string of spectacular displays that have made the temporary lack of Garvey even remotely approaching tolerable.

Percussionist Jim Laughlin continues his own musical journey as well. Releasing a few solo efforts during the COVID touring lull seems to have furthered his many skills, as his blend of staccato and melodic percussion gave moe.’s beating heart a style and swagger few bands could ever hope to muster. He even got to stretch out his occasional forays into lead singer idol-dom with a striking turn on Led Zeppelin‘s Nordic warrior-themed “Immigrant Song” that served as Friday’s crowd-riling encore.

None of the previously mentioned efforts would have worked without the rock-solid pocket provided by drummer Vinnie Amico night in, night out. Amico’s precision, power, and punchiness are as reliable as the tides of time itself, as if a metronome came to life and wanted to make sure everyone within earshot was aware of it.

Oh, and if you’re wondering if I’d managed to make my mind up before the bombshell of Garvey’s (slight) return to the stage with his brothers: yes, I certainly had. My internet went out about 15 minutes before the start of Sunday’s show. I live out in the woods and from time to time I need to unplug and then fire back up my router and, as I sat and waited five agonizing minutes praying for the return of the signal when I eventually plugged it back in, my emotional stake was already well beyond the level of professionalism I wanted to show in doing this piece. I didn’t want to miss any of the music. That’s what it comes down to, in the end. I just wanted to hear the songs that have come to mean the world to me.

As much as I miss Garvey, as much as I allowed myself to get tangled up in my mental constructs and quandaries regarding loyalty versus faith in the rest of the band to present music worthy of the name and fans’ time and hard-earned money, all I really want is to hear these songs that mean the world to me, performed by the guys who play them better than anyone else in the world. If that means that, for now, I’ll be listening to a sextet instead of a quintet then so be it. Let’s get back to feeling chills when a jam between songs transforms from one favorite to another equally beloved tune, the thrill of recognizing the oncoming song matched by my very soul smiling at the groove it finds itself falling endlessly into when moe. weaves its magic.

Tickets for moe.’s New Year’s Eve run, featuring the return of Chuck Garvey and opening support from Eggy, are on sale now.

moe. – “Puebla” – 10/4/22

[Video: Tom Yaley]

moe. – “Yodelittle” – 10/4/22

[Video: Tom Yaley]

Setlist: moe | Fox Theatre | Boulder, CO | 11/4/22

Set One: Buster, Big World > Ricky Marten > Time Ed > Puebla > Kyle’s Song > In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed

Set Two: Rebubula > Plane Crash > Yodelittle > St. Augustine > George > Rebubula

Encore: Immigrant Song

Setlist: moe | Fox Theatre | Boulder, CO | 11/5/22

Set One: West LA Fadeaway, Johnny Lineup > Sensory Deprivation Bank, Letter Home, ATL, Silver Sun > Lazarus

Set Two: Head > Tubing The River Styx > The Pit > Timmy Tucker, McBain > Interstellar Overdrive -> McBain

Encore: Al.nouncements, Good Guys and Bad Guys

Setlist: moe | Fox Theatre | Boulder, CO | 11/6/22

Set One: Moth > Skrunk > Blue Jeans Pizza, Skitchin’ Buffalo, Not Coming Down > Can’t Find My Way Home > Wormwood > OkayAlrighgt

Set Two: Recreational Chemistry > Meat >  Moth > Low Rider Jam

Encore: al.nouncements > Note From Chuck (see you in Philly), Jazz Cigarette, Downward Facing Dog