moe. is a man down at the moment thanks to the sudden illness of guitarist Chuck Garvey, but with help from a bevy of all-stars like longtime band friends Scott Metzger (Joe Russo Almost Dead), Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule), and Reid Genauer (Assembly Of Dust), the band was able to keep its first of two scheduled dates at Port Chester, NY’s storied venue, The Capitol Theatre, on Friday night.

A balcony adorned with a “We’re On Your Side #Chuckside” banner and a packed crowd of diehard fans hoping for a good show, and even more importantly, some good news about their missing inspiration. With bassist Rob Derhak‘s assurances that Chuck was watching and recovering as well as he could the crowd relaxed and got into the groove mood.

Since the special guests were first announced the fans have had a vision of sugar plum jams reverberating in their heads and it was finally time to see what the band had cooked up for these sold-out shows. Scott Metzger took first shift and the band shook off a little rust with a Jim Loughlin vocalized version of the Garvey penned “Annihilation Blues” and “Stranger Than Fiction” before Aron Magner and Shannon Lynch came out and turned up the sonic thickness. Magner’s keys setup was far more full than moe. fans are used to, while Metzger showed the deep chops he’s always had in a shared jam with Magner that closed with a fiery and climbing solo by Al Schnier.

moe. – “Annihilation Blues”, “Stranger Than Fiction” – 12/10/21

Derhak pointedly noted it wouldn’t be a December Christmas NYC run without a few XMAS tunes and his daughter Emma Derhak got things going with a guest vocal turn on a song she dedicated to her “Fairy Godfather,” Chuck. The janky, twangy version of “Blue Christmas” was a perfect way to honor the missing “Uncle” and the spirit of the season. After the last couple of years of missing friends and family around the holidays, this classic was hitting closer to home than ever before for those in attendance and streaming around the world.

Shannon Lynch took lead, forcing the crowd to ask itself “Where Does The Time Go?” She got some help from the crowd (and a beautiful piano intro by Magner), which brought out some nuances previously untapped. Magner did the same with his soulful organ lines on the following “Bring You Down” as moe. seemed to be striving to make the different instrumentation a positive opportunity for exploration rather than a hindrance to be overcome. As the BYD jam evolved with the new interplay between Magner and Vinnie Amico (drums), Schnier reminded the audience that he was still on hand, ready to help fill the temporary void with a smidge of flat-out furious intensity. After the stage shaking echoes died down Derhak called a set break that, if anything, helped give fans the time needed to pick their jaws up off the floor.

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Once again opening the set with a Chuck tune, it was up to Derhak to take up the vocal slack on “Shoot First” and, luckily, the gun-slinging, cantina clearing song was well within his register. It wasn’t all that long ago that the band had the sad opportunity to cover for Derhak as he had mercifully, a relatively brief battle with cancer. While nobody wants health battles to become something moe.’s known for, we’re certainly all hoping for a solid two-for-two.

“Shoot First” dissolved into the first jam segue of the evening as remaining moe. starters enjoyed some time with the spacey and lush keys of Magner on an appropriately extra-psychedelic take of “Puebla”. All that haze was dispelled with the exceptionally deft saxophone fills from Lynch before finding the metal mayhem that Schnier always seems to have bubbling just under the surface.

One of moe.’s signature elements is its harmonies and penchant for singing “In-The-Round.” While that part of their bag of tricks was out of commission, we got a working substitute with Lynch standing in on the chorus and Loughlin once again taking over the lead duties for a “Bullet” that road in on its signature pulsating bass line. This surely must have pleased the vocal “Let Jim Sing” enthusiasts in the audience, especially given the fine job he did with the tune before rounding into a funk flashbang of a finish.

moe. – “Shoot First” > “Puebla” > “Bullet” – 12/10/21

As the crowd roared their approval, legendary Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes finally joined the packed stage. While Schnier tried to wax misty about the band’s long friendship with Haynes, Rob interrupted to tell a more personal and pungent anecdote of wearing his first Mule shirt to the point of gross degradation that his own family was forced to shred it in self-preservation lest they catch some creeping malaise. With that mental image setting the space the band and the master bluesman slipped into its most frequent collaboration over their many years of friendship, the blues-drenched “Opium”. As pure guitar jams go, the back and forth between Schnier and Haynes that closed out “Opium” was worth the price of admission for the sheer mind-blanking magnificence.

moe. w/ Warren Haynes, Aron Magner – “Opium” – 12/10/21

Sharp moe. fans expected a “Happy Hour Hero” during Warren’s sit-in and were well rewarded. “HHH” has served as a vehicle for all manner of guests over the years and the barrel roll piano from Magner to Haynes’ taking an extended turn in the driver’s seat of the mighty moe. machine, it certainly did its job once again. With the set drawing long and the hour getting late, the fading strains of “Happy Hour Hero” had long dissolved into a bluesy, spacey morass that tantalizingly morphed into a wild and woolly “Recreational Chemistry”. Always a crowd favorite jam vehicle, last night’s “Rec Chem” served as the perfect wide-open space for the three guests and the moe. members on hand to explore and interconnect in ways that were one-of-a-kind and as special as the night itself.

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After a few brief “al.nouncements” upon returning from the encore break, Schnier addressed the most important reasons these shows had continued when others hadn’t: We all needed this. First and foremost, music heals and bringing all the moe. fans together, in-person spirit, to send some love and healing energy to Chuck was most important. It’s not a quick road back from a stroke and long rehab stretches can be hard on the body and the mind.

The pictures, stories, recordings, and messages of love that will come from these nights in New York to Garvey and those near to him are priceless. That word, priceless, gets tossed around a lot but this is one of the rare times it’s truly fitting. Every frustrating minute of lying there, letting your body heal itself is an exercise in pain and willpower, and over time that tension can break even the strongest among us. But, a load shared is a load halved, and hopefully given the sheer amount of folks sending Chuck love, donations and positive energy get our guitar hero buddy back up and on stages with his four mischievous friends sooner rather than later. At least that’s my hope for the future!

Scroll down to check out a gallery of images from night one of moe. at The Capitol Theatre, courtesy of photographer Paul Citone, as well as a detailed setlist of the performance. moe. will return to The Capitol Theatre tonight, December 11th, for its final show at the venue. Head to the band’s website for tickets and additional tour information.

Setlist: moe. | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 12/10/21

Set One: Annihilation Blues*, Stranger Than Fiction*, Dangerous Game*^%, Deep This Time^%, Blue Christmas^%&, Where Does The Time Go?^%, Bring You Down^

Set Two: Shoot First^ > Puebla^% > Bullet^%, Opium^$, Happy Hour Hero^$ > Recreational Chemistry^%$

Encore: Time^%$& (Pink Floyd), Immigrant Song^%$& (Led Zeppelin)


* w/ Scott Metzger
^ w/ Aron Magner
% w/ Shannon Lynch
& w/ Emma Derhak
$ w/ Warren Haynes