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WTTS & Forty5 Present

moe. with Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country

July 20, 2024
Doors
5:00 PM
Show
7:00 pm
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Photos from the Show

moe. with Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country —Best.SummerEver. — to perform live in concert at Rock the Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis on Saturday, July 20, 2024!

$1 from every ticket sold goes to Backline. Backline is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that connects music industry professionals and their families with mental health and wellness resources. Learn more at backline.care.

moe.
Al Schnier (guitars, vocals) * Chuck Garvey (guitars, vocals) * Rob Derhak (bass, vocals) * Jim Loughlin (percussion, vibes) * Vinnie Amico (drums)

Hailed by American Songwriter for their "mind-bending musicality," moe. is treasured for their mesmerizing musical synergy, unfettered showmanship, and smart, resonant songcraft. For three decades, the band has corralled myriad musical forms on a truly original journey rich with crafty, clever songwriting and astonishing resourcefulness. Fueled by an impassioned fan base, moe. has spent much of those thirty years on the road, encompassing countless live performances marked by eclectic wit, deep friendship, and exploratory invention. Having built an enduring legacy with hard work and a confirmed commitment to creativity and community, moe. seem as surprised as anyone to find themselves at such a significant landmark.

"The career just very subtly unfolded," says co-founding bassist-singer-songwriter Rob Derhak, "without any of us noticing it actually happened."

Al Schnier (guitars, vocals), Chuck Garvey (guitars, vocals), and Derhak first came together at the University of Buffalo in 1990, musician-friends uniting to play for the sheer fun of it. The band followed a handful of cassette-only releases with 1992's FATBOY, recorded in an apartment studio above Buffalo's Top Shelf Guitars with a bird's eye view of Mighty Taco.

"We liked music, we liked to party, and we wanted to put those two things together," says Derhak. "We wanted to do what seemed like the coolest thing we could possibly do and not have to work a regular job. It didn't even seem like a decision had to be made. It's was like, this is what we're doing and it's happening. The idea that thirty years later I would be a dad, paying a mortgage and earning a living, based on our band, with the same guys no less, that never even crossed my mind."

Finding themselves with an increasingly avid local following, moe. ventured forth, now with master rhythmatist Jim Loughlin among their ranks. The more the band traveled, the more they grew creatively, evincing a remarkable willingness to progress as they went along. moe. quickly became part of a burgeoning scene centered around NYC's Wetlands, a grassroots revolution that embraced freewheeling genre fusion — spanning funk and free jazz, country and classic rock, prog, new wave, calypso, pop and everything else under the sun — fan interaction, and unrestrained improvisation.

"We adapted," Derhak says. "Initially we didn't have quite as much of the same ideal at first. We didn't jam or have long extended solos. But as we went from being an opening act to being a headliner, we didn't have enough material to do two long sets. We needed more material so our songs started to stretch themselves out. We became a jam band."

moe. widened its reach across America, earning new fans and national attention with their ingeniously imaginative interplay and a regularly growing catalogue. The band spent almost as much time in the studio as they did on the road, mastering their delightfully vibrant blend of inventive musicality and genre-blurring reach on now-classic LPs like 1998's TIN CANS & CAR TIRES, 2004's WORMWOOD, 2007's THE CONCH (which reached #1 on Billboard's "Heatseekers" chart), and 2012's critically acclaimed WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LA LAS. As if all that weren't enough, the moe. canon — released largely through their own Fatboy Records, as well as via two label deals, one major, the other independent — further includes a wide range of archival live releases (including 2000's L), a Christmas album, even a re-recorded collection of greatest hits.

2020's THIS IS NOT, WE ARE — the band's 12th studio album and first since 2014's NO GUTS, NO GLORY — includes eight new songs, most of which were road tested over the past two years of touring. In addition, the LP features one song making its first appearance anywhere, the Garveypenned "Undertone." Self-produced by the band, THIS IS NOT, WE ARE sees moe. once again pushing their music forward while simultaneously rifling through their back pages on songs like Derhak's nostalgic "Skitchin' Buffalo" and the Al Schnier composition, "Crushing."

"Our musical paths have diverged so many times," Derhak says. "All of our original influences became part of what we were at the time and then as we played, our sound kind of just grew. It changed with the landscape of the music business and it changed with what we were listening to. For example, some of our albums further down the road reflect a much stronger Americana influence. It's like, all of the things that we've learned in the past thirty years, all the things that we've done, have sort of come full circle."

"We're a better band now," Amico — who came aboard in 1996 and has remained behind the kit ever since — says. "The reality is, you spent thirty years with people doing what you do, you get better. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. Your ears get more trained, your playing gets better and better, your ability to communicate with each other better."

That preternatural interplay was of course honed through night after night, week after week, of on-stage togetherness. moe. is truly a live band, rightly adored by a fervent following for their epic concert performances, each one imaginatively improvisational, rhythmically audacious, and utterly unique. Indeed, the band has spent much of its 30-year career on the road, including innumerable headline tours, international festival sets from Bonnaroo to Japan's famed Fuji Rock, music-themed cruises, and sold-out shows alongside such like-minded acts as the Allman Brothers Band, Robert Plant, members of the Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, The Who, Gov't Mule, and Blues Traveler, to name but a few. As if that weren't enough, moe. has both promoted and headlined at multiple festivals of their own, including snoe.down and moe.down.

"We built our own career," Amico says, "where we are able to play places like Radio City or the Fox Theater in Atlanta, playing SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center), my hometown venue where I saw concerts as a kid. We've played Red Rocks eight times or nine times or however many times we've played it. The fact that we built a career that we've played these places and have sustained playing these places, it's huge."

That illustrious career path has been supported and nourished by the band's ever-growing legion of devoted fans and followers, known lovingly as moe.rons. With their astonishing prolificacy and awe-inspiring longevity, moe. is among the rare bands that somehow manage to transcend time and trend to be passed down from one generation to the next.

"We've never been the kind of band where you're one-and-done," Amico says. "People have gotten married and had kids, now those kids are listening to us."

"There are people who have been with us right from the beginning in Buffalo," Derhak says. "Which is insane. But the thing is, we pick up people along the road. There are people who say, I've resisted listening to this band for years and then I finally did — I can't believe I've wasted my time not listening to them for so long. Now they're like, I need more albums, I need more shows."

Impossible to pigeonhole as anything other than simply moe., this one-of-a-kind band has never been easily categorized, their sonic adventurousness and tongue-in-cheek humor distinctly and undeniably their own. Despite current circumstances, moe. is celebrating their milestone anniversary with characteristic self-deprecation and wistful optimism. Here's to the next thirty.

"Thirty years is a long run," Derhak says, "to be with the same guys. I haven't even been married for thirty years. "

"You just don't think about thirty years down the line when you're starting out," Amico says. "I mean, you kind of do because that's what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. Here we are, thirty years later — I've had this job longer than I probably would've had any job in the real world."

Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country

There are a lot of musical influences and sources that Daniel Donato has drawn on during his career and that inform Reflector (Retrace Music), the Nashville guitarist-singer-songwriter-band leader’s first all-original album. But within those Donato has carved out a unique and individualized spot for himself, one that speaks to the deep American music heritage that inspires him — and that he’s pushing towards the future with inspired, intentional vigor.  

He calls it Cosmic Country, a moniker that’s both self-descriptive and a statement of purpose. It’s an organic rock band aesthetic with plenty of roadhouse twang, a showcase for Donato’s instrumental virtuosity and facility for melodically infectious songcraft. Bridging Nashville and the Great West, Kentucky and mid-60s northern California, tie-dye and plaid, it’s a world of his own, and wide world of musical adventure at that.  

“I think Cosmic Country is a tale as old as time, really,” Donato explains. “It’s yin and yang in a musical form. It’s three chords and the truth, and then on the other side it’s exploration and bravery. I really went through a lot of years of grinding, and still am, to achieve this sound which is a vehicle for my personality, and the personality is a vehicle for my soul. So (Reflector) is more that than any other record I ever put out.”

Reflector’s 15 songs offer 66 minutes of ecstatic musical immersion. It’s an album in the classic sense of the word, tracks that are individually memorable but sound even better coming one after the other and make the sum greater than the total of its parts. “We’re touching on a lot with this record, which is also why there’s so many songs on it,” acknowledges Donato, whose stinging Fender Telecaster tone is the strongest glue of continuity throughout — and is positively screaming on tracks such as “Gotta Get Southbound” and “Dance in the Desert Pt. 2.” “If you’re the kind of person who wants to listen to a record and have a record be a companion with you, then Reflector is going to vibrate in your frequency.”

Donato’s own musical frequency was tuned at a young age, while growing up in Nashville. His father “picked around a guitar a small bit;” more importantly, he instilled in his son a discerning taste for quality music, filling his son’s ears with legendary music of all genres. The rock meanwhile, came from Guitar Hero; the game was crucial to broadening Donato’s vistas of listening to JImi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, et al, as well as a particular attraction to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City. “Those players stuck with me and gave me my first foundation of guitar,” says Donato, whose father taught him his first chords on one of his old guitars. “I was a strange kid — still am a strange person. I really didn’t have any friends that got me, but the guitar understood me, and I had a vision for what my life could be.”

It was Papa Donato who suggested the fledgling and industriously minded (even at just 14) artist start busking in Nashville’s lower Broadway area and outside concerts, for eight hours at a time on the weekends. After one of those sessions the two happened by Robert’s Western World, a legendary honky-tonk where local mainstay the Don Kelly Band was onstage – which was also Donato’s first time playing a Telecaster, through a Fender amplifier no less. “I played country songs and fell in love with it,” says Donato, who became a member of the band, playing four hours a night at Robert’s (464 shows in total). “Their songbook was that of my main influences still to this day — Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Bob Wills, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, traditional bluegrass music, Hank Williams Sr. — old-timey music with real stories and emotions that everybody has. It just hooked me right away.”

Another piece of the puzzle came through later in Donato’s teenage years — the Grateful Dead, thanks to a high school American History teacher who gave him a pile of bootleg recordings when he was 18. “When I discovered Jerry Garcia, there’s really never been anyone who writes like that,” says Donato. “From there I went on to discover Bob Dylan and all the great writers and made me want to make that part of what I did as well.”

The whole package of player, singer, writer and band leader was in place when Donato began working on his own during 2018. It was on display via his first album, A Young Man’s Country in 2020 but refined on Reflector, which features all original songs and finds Donato and his band – Nathan Aronowitz (keyboards/vocals), Will McGee (bass/vocals) and Noah Miller (drums and percussion) –honed from playing more than 200 shows during 2022, after the Covid lockdowns had lifted. That allowed Donato to not just play again but also to road test the songs that would comprise the album and expand the audience.  

“We were home for less than two weeks between January and September of 2022,” says Donato. “There was the existential necessity of going through a staggering amount of growth. All those shows and all those hours of experience really curated my values as an artist. That informed my composition, informed my band-leading…everything that goes into making music that has real value and impact.”

Donato had good help in achieving that on Reflector; he enlisted producer Vance Powell, a six-time Grammy Award winner whose eclectic resume ranges from Chris Stapleton and Martina McBride to Phish and Clutch to Buddy Guy and the Jack White universe of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. They’d actually met when Donato was a teen playing at Robert’s, and he remembers Powell telling him that “one day you’re gonna make a record, and I want to work with you,” which made him the perfect candidate to help Donato achieve his far-reaching vision this time out.  

“Vance was on damn near every record I enjoyed,” he  notes. “He seemed like the only logical choice to take a band that has country songs and old-timey folky songs that also jams and organize it into a digestible piece.”

It’s hard to find a more concise summation of Reflector than that. It kicks off with the joyous Southern rock roll of “Lose Your Mind,” a sound echoed in other tracks — especially the harmony-laden “High Country” — and gets high ‘n’ lonesome on “Halfway in Between.” “Double Exposure’s” slinky funk is accented by dueling guitar lines, while “Half Moon Night” and the instrumental “Sugar Leg Rag” feel like a contemporary incarnation of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. “Gotta Get Southbound,” weighing in at nearly eight minutes, dances through its ebb and flow dynamics, and “Faded Lovin'” echoes the organic majesty of The Band. Donato and company get their cosmic on with both hip-swaying parts of “Dance in the Desert” — one more acoustic, the other a trippy electric opus — and the richly melodic odyssey “Weathervane.”  

Reflector — which features Nashville pedal steel legend Paul Franklin on four tracks  — also reflects “the work I did on myself and the work I did on my art” during the past three years, according to Donato. “I really started discovering new psychological and ritual domains I wasn’t really aware of,” he explains. “The whole concept of Reflector is of a duality. The entire world that you see externally is a reflection of your internal world, so you have this internal world you exist in and this external world you exist in, and that’s what this work is about. I like dualities; it allows me to see where each side of the fence post is, and I can paint in the middle.”

The middle of anything has never sounded as engrossing and beguiling as Donato makes it on Reflector. These are songs that prompt a listener to hit “repeat” and that stick with you long after they’ve finished playing. They hit the heart, the soul, the mind — and the cosmos, making it the kind of trip you won’t want to end any time soon.  

moe. with Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country
Best.Summer.Ever
SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2024ROCK THE RUINS AT HOLLIDAY PARK
INDIANAPOLIS, IN
TICKETS AT ROCKTHERUINS.COM

PLEASE NOTE:
‍All tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable. This event is rain or shine. This event is General Admission and seating is not provided. For a full list of permitted and prohibited items, parking and transportation details, information on ADA seating, and answers to other frequently asked questions, visit the FAQ page.

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moe. with Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country

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About Rock the Ruins

Rock the Ruins is a summer concert series hosted by The Vogue at Holliday Park, an enchanting 95-year old park nestled in a gently wooded neighborhood just six miles north of downtown Indianapolis. Perfect for experiencing live music, catching up with neighbors and friends, and connecting with nature, a Rock the Ruins concert is the ideal spot to spend a summer evening. We encourage our all-ages guests to bring chairs/blankets for all Rock the Ruins shows as seating will not be provided for general admission guests. No outside coolers or alcoholic beverages will be permitted in the park as guests will be encouraged to take advantage of a variety of local and artisan vendors selling food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Guests must present a valid ID (and be 21+) to purchase alcoholic beverages while on-site for any Rock the Ruins event at Holliday Park.

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