The new era of moe. made its New Orleans Jazz Fest debut with a two-night residency at the Crescent City’s iconic Tipitina’s over the first weekend of the annual music event. Over the two-night run the band, Rob Derhak (bass, vocals), Al Schnier (guitar, vocals, keyboard), Chuck Garvey (guitar, vocals), Vinnie Amico (drums), Jim Loughlin (percussion), and newest member Nate Wilson (Ghosts Of Jupiter, Assembly Of Dust) on keyboards, had close to six hours of time to show off their skills and stretch their legs, metaphorically, on one of the city’s most fabled stages, and they made sure to make the most of it with four sets of beloved classics, stellar takes on more recent tunes, and even a sprinkling of surprises. That said, after all the band has endured in recent years, just their presence alone was gift enough for longtime fans and lucky ticket holders alike.

Opening with “Captain America” was a fun reminder of how long moe. has been rocking. The song debuted a full decade before the Marvel movie and it’s still a crowd favorite four years after Avengers: Endgame gave that character one of filmdom’s greatest scenes in history, arguably. That perennial crowd pleaser slowly gave way to the much more recent “Crushing” from the band’s disc This Is Not, We Are, which dropped in 2020.

moe. – “Captain America” > “Crushing” [Pro-Shot] – 4/29/23

The secret to such a long life is keeping things fresh, from experimenting with songwriting techniques and exploring new contributions like the emergence of percussionist Loughlin as a melodic and creative force in the band’s sound to, most obviously, the band’s latest lineup addition, keyboardist Nate Wilson. Recent tours have seen Wilson revitalize the band’s touring catalog as he looks for places to fit himself into the well established mix, adding long breathy chords that add emotional weight to classics and new covers. On “St. Augustine” and Grateful Dead cover “West L.A. Fadeaway”, Wilson showed both ends of his contribution spectrum perfectly.

Even with the band’s fresh energy, moe. still hit the classics during the Tipitina’s run, including the torturous “Opium”  power and presence. On the former, the mixture of Derhak’s voices and near-bottomless bass sound was, as always, complemented perfectly by the droning, then soaring pairing of perfectly complementary guitarists Garvey and Schnier. The latter tune, a personal favorite of Garvey’s, was a wonderful reminder of how great it is to have him back so close to full strength. After a rousing “McBain”, the six sweaty guys called moe. took a much needed set break to rehydrate and get ready to get down to the bitter end.

Opening the second set with the anthemic “Okay Alright” was a wise choice and immediately had the audience back in mid-show energy that carried over into the Steely Dan fave “Do It Again”. Often unsung heroes of any moe. show, percussionists Amico and Loughlin demonstrated their ability to adapt any song to their dynamic duo style of pocket-making, including the highly energetic closing chunk of “Water”. A one-two featuring the dank, bluesy “White Lightning Turpentine” and the Schnier rocker “Understand” cleared the path for arguably one of the most iconic show closers, the always welcome “Rebubula”. After the never-disappointing, full-bore last section of that tune, moe. pulled back to keep from permanently damaging the very foundation of the venerated venue. The rigid set times of Jazz Fest late-night shows forced the band to skip the encore, but the always welcome “Al.nouncements”, when the guitarist gives his shout-outs to birthdays, anniversaries, and the like, was squeezed in to bring the first night of the run to a close before the cheers and clearly shell-shocked fans faded out into the New Orleans night.

moe. – “Rebubula” [Pro-Shot] – 4/30/23

Night two saw moe. take the Tipitina’s stage with no fanfare as early as possible in an attempt to give fans the jam-packed show they knew they wanted. After warming up with a loose but somehow menacing “Jazz Wank”, it was time for the first singalong of the night, the always welcome “Buster”. Deftly navigating from the final seconds of that happy ditty through a spacey segue into the singsong tribute to the fairest of sexes, “Yodelittele”, moe. completely dissolved it into the mind-blowing power chords of a truly expansive “Plane Crash”.

moe. – “Jazz Wank” > “Buster” [Pro-Shot] – 4/30/23

Wilson turned in an exploratory near-solo jam paired with Amico’s sharp, rolling drum fills during “Crash” that gave fans an eye-opening idea of how much loved tunes will be evolving in the future thanks to the new guy’s range and skill. Of course, it didn’t hurt to have Schnier come in after all that and deliver as perfect a version of the jam-closing guitar solo as you’ll find anywhere in the tune’s history, and the always inspiring paranoia of Derhaks repetitive chant of “TOO FUCKING HIGH” made it perfectly clear who among them inspired the song in the first place. Finally relenting after not having stopped for the entirety of the first set, the band ducked off for a few minutes of rest between sets.

The opening moe.ments of the second set were melodic and searching before evolving into the first strains of “Moth” to the cheers of the faithful. While that crowdpleaser didn’t get a proper finish, instead we got one of the most impressive musical segments of the weekend, the transition between “Moth” and  “Big World” into “Ricky Martin”, which showed off, in order, Wilson’s flute and organ skills, the wonderful electric vibe skills of Loughlin, and the deep space infinity of Derhak’s deepest bass sound in tight procession. From there, the jam twisted into a soul shredding take on The Allman Brothers‘ beloved instrumental masterpiece “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” that saw some incredible, soulful fret work from Schnier and Garvey.

Wilson, with his ability to at least approximate the legendary Gregg Allman’s iconic organ sound, added something new to the mix. Garvey wasn’t going to let his bandmates feast alone and took the second guitar solo section as seemingly a personal challenge that he rose to handily. Amico helped tip the scales with a standout break that cleared the way for the first true finish of the second set much to the delight of the entranced fans.

With the clock ticking down, it was time for moe. to turn over their final card, a bench clearing all-out assault on “Brent Black” that, simply stated, showed the absolute pinnacle of musicianship from each player. From Derhak’s high-speed vocals and lightning fast bass slapping, Amico’s thunderous solo work giving way to insane percolation under stellar organ and key fills from Wilson, and Schnier’s haunting psychedelic notes from somewhere near Alpha Centauri, it became the kind of set piece fans talk about for years to come. Just as quickly as the monster jam had evolved, the signature riff of “Moth” returned and suddenly the joyous crowd was singing along, chomping down the delicious final bites of the set-long “Moth” sandwich.

After a short set of “Al.Nouncements”, including a special Happy Birthday to his wife, Schnier and the band “Let It Rain” for the encore, Eric Clapton style. It’s said that Jazz Fest brings the best out of bands and, judging by the second set, indeed the whole weekend moe. spent at Tipitina’s, that sentiment is spot on.

Setlist: moe. | Tipitina’s | New Orleans, LA | 4/29/23

Set 1: Captain America > Crushing, St. Augustine > West L.A. Fadeaway (Grateful Dead), Opium > No Hope For The New Year, McBain

Set 2: Okay Alright, Do It Again (Steely Dan) > Water, White Lightning > Understand, Rebubula

Setlist: moe. | Tipitina’s | New Orleans, LA | 4/30/23

Set 1: Jazz Wank > Buster > Yodittle > Plane Crash

Set 2: Moth  > Big World  > Ricky Martin  > In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (The Allman Brothers Band), Brent Black > Moth

Encore: Let It Rain (Eric Clapton)