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Jam band moe. able to walk fine line

The pun wasn’t intended, but Al Schnier laughs anyway.

“First of all, just being in Vegas takes any situation and automatically ups the ante,” the moe. guitarist says, chuckling at his inadvertent gambling reference. A veteran of the rock festival circuit, having played everywhere from Bonaroo to the debut of Vegoose in 2005, Schnier’s talking about what makes the latter event unique. “It’s just insane,” he says succinctly.

This year, rootsy jam bands like moe., which made up a substantial portion of the first two Vegoose lineups, have given way to harder-edged rock bands and an increased presence from electronica and hip-hop crews.

“As a fan, it’s way better for me, because I get to see this wide cross-section of bands that are out there today,” Schnier says. “From a business perspective, maybe we’ll get more exposure here than we would at an all-jam band festival. The jam band audience is largely familiar with moe.”

As well it should be. More so than many of their peers, moe. is adept at pairing impulsive, long-winded instrumental freak-outs with earthy, tightly honed tunes that favor expediency over expansiveness.

“That’s the fine line in the jam band world,” Schnier explains, “determining what constitutes excessive jamming and what constitutes too much quality control and then you get accused of phoning it in. There are often times when I wish we could just go out and do a tour like Britney Spears where the song’s the same every night.”

Well, this is Vegas, so at least these dudes can party like Spears for a weekend.

“One of my favorite memories of the first one is being awake at six o’ clock in the morning and hanging out at the bar,” Schnier remembers of his first Vegoose encounter. “The place was jam packed with fans and musicians, everybody’s raging, and then all of these senior citizens started coming for the early bird slot competition. It was just great seeing those two crowds interact with another. That kind of made my weekend.”

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