moe. and Devotchka play free at Breck |

moe. and Devotchka play free at Breck

Kimberly Nicoletti
summit daily news

The free music just keeps coming, but this weekend is your last at Breckenridge Ski Area.

moe. brings its honest, heartfelt rock from the East Coast to Breck from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, at the base of Peak 8, followed on Sunday (3-5 p.m.) by Devotchka, Colorado musicians with a penchant for Gypsy-style, multi-instrumental shows.

More than 20 years ago, moe. began in a Buffalo basement, with an aim to deliver honest, heartfelt, feel-good music, and the band hasn’t stopped since. moe. is perfect for a free concert at the base of Peak 8, as the artists are unpretentious, viewing the audience as equals and thriving on reciprocal interactions. Three of the core indie musicians have been together since the beginning.

“We never really had the rock star attitude,” said founding bassist and vocalist Rob Derhak. “It was always about – to a fault almost – having a personal connection with the fans on stage. No matter where we play, we want them to know that they are part of the show – like we were playing in a living room. We need their participation to inspire us, and, when we first started, we needed their apartments to sleep in.”

Though they brand themselves as a rock band, their sound ranges from tight, well-crafted songs to extended jams that might spark Jamaican and South African tones. They tout their music as “a compilation that you can listen to over and over again – something your mother might enjoy,” Derhak said. Yet, their early repertoire consisted of punk, new wave, classic rock and pop, strongly influenced by Frank Zappa and Steely Dan.

“(Zappa’s) ideal sort of modeled what we wanted to do,” Derhak said. “That’s what we were emulating, in our own way.”

In 1994, the musicians met and decided to “go for it.” After that, Derhak was able to leave his day job and pursue music full time. As they played more gigs, they realized they had more stage time than they had songs, which is when they began improvising.

“We didn’t have anything to lose then. Very quickly, we discovered your personality comes through your playing. It’s largely this musical conversation, and everybody’s musical personalities are there – some people will interject more in a conversation than others, some may lay back, some may be more dominant,” said Al Schnier (guitar, keyboards and vocals).

Luckily they were jamming just as the movement began growing and bands like Phish arrived on the scene.

After two albums with Sony, they decided to go independent, to remain true to their core fan base.

“There was never a moment,” Schnier said, “when we decided ‘Hey, people really like us – we need to capitalize on this!’ It’s been a very organic relationship that’s grown like a friendship.”

But, they credit the Sony experience with teaching them how to produce a professional album.

In 2000, they launched the first moe.down, which drew 3,000 fans to Snow Ridge Ski Area in New York. Since then, attendance has topped 10,000.

Since their 20th anniversary, they’re still humbly and consistently improving their songs and live shows.

“We’re always tweaking every little aspect of the band – in terms of efficiency, of presentation, of the content,” Schnier said.

“We’re still part of an ongoing evolution,” Derhak said. “Everything comes from learning from past mistakes and past triumphs. We aren’t trained: Our manager didn’t really manage anyone before, our road crew didn’t do what they do until they worked for us. That’s how the band works.”

Denver-based Devotchka is known for its emotionally-charged romantic and celebratory energy. The band has captured worldwide attention with its recent tours to parts of the globe including Istanbul, Belgium, Poland and Paris.

“To connect with a crowd of strangers in strange lands with your music is really a life-altering experience,” singer Nick Urata said to “When you are standing naked up there, in the clutches of an attention-challenged audience, you find out immediately what works.”

The band took that knowledge and incorporated into its latest (and fifth) album, “100 Lovers.”

Urata is also a cinematographer, and the influence of his film work comes out in the opening track, “The Alley.” Music listeners have described his “otherworldy tenor crooning” as a potpourri of genres, ranging from Eastern European folk and German polka to Mariarchi rock. Nevertheless, the Hollywood Reporter named him one of the top up-and-coming film composers, who started with a Grammy-nominated soundtrack for “Little Miss Sunshine” and has gone on to craft music for “I Love You Phillip Morris” (starring Jim Carrey) and “The Joneses” starring Demi Moore.

“We always hoped with this band to not get pinned down by genres, but everyone probably says that,” Urata said. “My ideal way someone would describe us would be romantic, exotic or hopefully just plain good.”

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