As you must know by now, back in the early ’00’s (pronounced: “ooze”) I managed an instrumental trio called nero, an amazing band made up of good friends (of mine and each other) who worked really hard and had a good time working their way up several rungs of the rock and roll ladder. On June 6th, 2004 we drove to Buffalo, NY to play a set at a mini-festival hosted by jamband heroes moe.. Of course my attendance was work-related and thus outside the usual realm of these ticketed anecdotes, however given that I spent the entire day at the merch booth with a perfect vantage point for sets by Xavier Rudd and Galactic in addition to nero and moe. I’ve decided (as judge, jury, and executioner) to allow it.
And now, I’ll execute:
We had played at The Rivoli in Toronto the night before and had to cross the border. We were a sizeable crew – the band and I and two of their girlfriends – and we were travelling in two vehicles. When we stopped into Duty Free we each bought our fill of beer and we arrived on the Buffalo waterfront with six two-fours.
The Pier Festival Grounds was a nice looking venue. It was on the water, sporting two stages and maybe five bars and several food stands. We found the promoter and the catering and spent the next few hours snacking, waiting, and drinking good ole duty-free Sleeman’s Cream Ale. We had picked up an extra case for moe. as we had given the guys a taste for our favourite Ontario beer when the two bands had toured in Canada together the previous autumn. Chris and I presented this offering to the band’s percussionist Jim, a super-nice fellah who welcomed us into the lounge in their super-sweet tour bus for a relaxing hang out.
When the gates opened I parked myself at the merch area with an ample supply of my own Sleeman’s and settled in for the day. A band called Sweating Like Nixon started things off and they were great; two guitars, bass and drums playing whacked out ADD channel-surfing music. If you didn’t like what they were playing hang around for a few bars, things were bound to change. They teased La Villa Strangiato before launching into a full version of Limelight. Gotta love the Rush love south of the border.
Xavier Rudd performing on the main stage was up next. This was my first time hearing him and I was duly impressed. After spending the whole day at the merch area set up next to Xavier’s merch I can testify that the crowd was impressed with Rudd’s set too; his CD’s were selling hand over fist and I was very happy to trade a nero CD for a copy to put on our bus.
Next up was Galactic, who delivered their standard good-time NOLA jamfunk on the main stage. They sounded great but by this time a whole bunch of friends had arrived and lots of them were stopping by the merch area to say hello, leaving me rather (happily) distracted.
Of course the most exciting part of my day was when nero had their turn on the sidestage. There was a great crowd assembled to check them out and they played great. To my overtrained ears the band took a while to really get going, but by the time they peaked with their midset Lemondust people were dancing and screaming their heads off. People seemed to really like the band and it was a fun set to watch. I loved that nero was quite a bit heavier than most of the bands on the scene and my ’80’s metal sensibilities always appreciated seeing people in the crowd banging their heads, if only just a little.
moe. went on next for their first set and during their setbreak Xavier Rudd played again, this time on the second stage. Though I had enjoyed his afternoon set Xavier’s night time show really knocked me out. He’s a one-man band without being even a little bit cheesy, an excellent singer and songwriter with a hyper-dexterious musical ability that is quite uncanny. It’s really quite amazing what he does, and the fact that he plays several instruments at once doesn’t seem to interfere with his playing of any of them. Really impressive stuff, and the CD I picked up was great too.
moe. followed Xavier with their second set and encore and the whole shebang ended around 11:30 or so. The moe. guys kindly invited us to stick around and party for a bit which was a lot of fun that almost got out of hand when our drummer wrestled their bass player, but all was good (and ended in a tie). It was curious to discover that wrestlin’ Rob Derhak and I both had family in the same small New Brunswick village (population like 300 or so) and we both hung out on the same lake as kids. Eventually their tour manager Skip came by and kicked all of us out (moe. included). Good guys those moe.’s. Good band too.
With someone else at the wheel we finally went to our hotel where some friends had booked adjoining rooms. They had all waited up for us; beers got drank, cable got watched, cigarettes got held out of windows, pizzas got eaten, floors got slept on…it was the classic hotel room tour experience.
All in all a princely day in the life of small-time rock and roll.