Moraine Northeast Tour
Tour: April 2011
Where: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland
Author: Dennis Rea
Moraine is an omnivorous Seattle-based instrumental quintet made up of guitarist Dennis Rea, violinist Alicia DeJoie, woodwind player James DeJoie, bassist/baliset player Kevin Millard, and drummer Stephen Cavit.
Moraine has been enthusiastically received by audiences ranging from jazz aficionados to metalheads to progressive rock enthusiasts.
April 26, 2011 @ The Local 269
The tour kicked off at The Local 269 in NYC, just a few blocks from Dennis’ early 1980s Lower East Side abode – he continues to marvel at the wholesale transformation of this once desperately down-and-out neighborhood into an uber-fashionable enclave, replete with a block-long Whole Foods at the intersection of Bowery and Houston, once the domain of broken-down alcoholic ghosts.
We were thrilled to have ex-Moraine drummer / current NYC resident Jay Jaskot’s band Cham Cham open the show for us. Rounded out by onetime Seattle comrade Mike Weiser on keyboards and Takahiro Morooka on electric bass, Cham Cham delivered a tasty instrumental set that was melodious and exploratory in equal measure, referencing vintage jazz fusion while being thoroughly contemporary. We were also honored by the presence of former Moraine cellist / cofounder Ruth Davidson, who flew up for the show during a break from her graduate studies in North Carolina. The full house at the cozy club also included dozens of friends from various periods and places in our lives, many of whom gathered at an East Village watering hole after the show into the wee hours, topped off by a sumptuous selection of Ukrainian delicacies at Veselka at 3 a.m.
Despite unfamiliar equipment and an oddly configured stage, we played what was by all accounts a roaring set that went down gangbusters with an audience including a number of formidable musicians and people who’d traveled considerable distances from New Jersey, Long Island, and even New Hampshire to catch the show, some of whom had been hooked by our NEARfest performance in 2010. The money quote of the tour came from the Local 269 sound man, who said, “I kept asking myself, “What year are these people from?!”
The show went so well that the club extended an open invitation to return anytime; some ideas are taking shape around having Moraine line up a whole evening of simpatico acts on our next visit . . .
April 29, 2011 @ Rock n Joe
Talk about an unlikely venue for a Moraine gig – at first glance, Rock n Joe turned out to be a Starbucks-type coffeehouse and bistro in a strip mall in ultrasuburban New Jersey, sandwiched between a nail salon and a Subway. We had our doubts about the choice of venue prior to the gig, but since the show was being staged by the stalwart New Jersey Prog House, an organization that has presented a who’s who of progressive rock acts in various NJ venues over more than a decade, we trusted that they had matters well in hand.
Any doubts evaporated once we entered Rock n Joe, a pleasant and spacious music-themed establishment that turned out to be the perfect place for a comfortable and relaxed gig. On hand for the show were two of Dennis’ former musical collaborators from his Taiwan days in the early 90s, and a contingent of 11 of his in-laws and their friends.
We had the evening to ourselves and played two high-energy 45-minute sets that met with a tremendous response from for the capacity crowd of friends and strangers alike. We doff our hats to the great folks from NJ Prog House, especially Jim Robinson and staff members Alan and Amy, for their years of selfless dedication to the music.
April 30, 2011 @ Orion Sound Studios
The band was highly pumped up for this show at legendary progressive-music shrine Orion Sound Studios, host to a parade of top-flight musicians over the years including the likes of Gong and Bill Bruford.
Once again it was a highly unusual setting for such an event, located in a nondescript industrial warehouse in a section of the city right out of The Wire. Once inside, the performance space itself was very inviting and informal in the best possible sense, festooned with enigmatic artwork and years’ worth of of fascinating concert posters that read like a capsule history of progressive rock in the U.S.
Owner and sound man extraordinaire Mike Potter and his staff were the most gracious of hosts, lavishing upon us a refrigerator filled with exotic brews and some knockout Maryland crab dip.
The show drew a sizable crowd that included several friends and family members who live in the Baltimore-D.C. metro area. We again played two 45-minute sets comprising most of our material, and again got a terrific response from the audience. The show was professionally recorded to 24 tracks by Mike Potter, who floored us when he said that it was “high on the list of best shows ever at Orion”; some of this material may end up on a future Moraine CD release. The show was also professionally videotaped from multiple angles by documentarians Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder of Zeitgeist Media; some of this footage, plus an interview with Dennis, will appear in their forthcoming documentary Romantic Warriors – An Avant-Progressive Saga, alongside footage and interviews with Magma, Univers Zero, and other titans; we’re extremely grateful that Adele and Jose consider Moraine an up-and-coming band worthy of attention.
It was indeed a privilege to play at the venerable Orion, and we thank Mike, the Orion crew, and Adele and Jose profusely for the warm welcome and their years of service to uncompromising music.
May 1, 2011 @ The Fire
We were honored to headline a bill at The Fire that also featured two very impressive bands representing opposite ends of the progressive rock spectrum: Philadelphia’s amazing The Red Masque, with their edgy, noise-drenched (in the best sense) art songs sung by riveting frontwoman Lynnette Shelley; and from Los Angeles, the powerful K2, a true-blue prog band in the 70s mold featuring fearsome keyboardist Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard) and a vocalist from a popular Genesis tribute band.
Despite the formidable lineup, this was the least well-attended show of the tour, no doubt due in part to it being a Sunday night, the club’s location in a rather sketchy district of the city, and the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing that arrived just as we were about to take the stage.
Despite epic struggles with substandard borrowed equipment, we cranked out what might have been the most energetic set of the tour, and evidently won over everyone present.
In sum, the tour exceeded all expectations and bodes very well for the band’s future. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that we actually broke even on travel expenses through door proceeds and merchandise sales. We clearly were still benefiting from last year’s NEARfest appearance, with a number of audience members traveling distances of up to 3.5 hours to catch a gig, for which we’re extremely grateful.
Our only regret was that our schedule was too tightly packed to do much sightseeing, in Philadelphia and Baltimore in particular.
In general, judging by attendance and audience response, it’s hard not to conclude that there’s far more enthusiasm and support for the type of music we play in the Northeast than here in Seattle. Evidently we need to get out of town more often . . .
Honors for tour co-MVPs go to Alicia’s sister Alaina Allen and brother-in-law David Gaines (a very accomplished composer in his own right), who submitted themselves to all manner of cruel and unusual punishment while serving as transportation, road crew, merchandise designers and minders, and overall benevolent spirits throughout the experience – we can’t thank them enough!
We’d also like to offer our most heartfelt thanks to Leonardo Pavkovic of MoonJune Records, Matthew Clark, Mark DeForge and Jordan Su, Jim Robinson and the NJ Prog House staff, Margaret, Tom, and Kim Koziol and family, Mike Potter and the Orion Sound Studios crew (including The Gnome), Raffaella and Michael Berry, Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt, Lynnette Shelley and the fabulous The Red Masque, K2, and Joe Feese and Cydney Lewis. The tour only whetted our appetite for more – see y’all next time!
– Dennis, Alicia, Jim, Kevin & Stephen