Right, and I think there's something to be said for that, too. The music does strive to be a bit more adventurous, a bit more of a ride, you know? Have a bit more texture to it. Something that's really going to take the listener some place, and yes, that may be enhanced if you so choose, you know, more so than, I don't know… whatever floats your boat.
Whatever works for you, sure. But do you feel like you have some sort of responsibility for the kind of stuff that does go down? It's kind of like you want people to be free and have a good time, but at the same time you want everyone to take care of each other and not…
Oh, absolutely. And obviously, it's something that comes up, and I'll be totally honest with you; nobody in the band has any issues with anything. We've never had any substance abuse issues, not even any drinking problems in the band. We're very lucky in that regard, and it may be one of the reasons why we're still together after 20 years. In fact, most of us don't, I mean, occasionally some of the guys will maybe have a beer or two during the show, but that's about the extent of it at this point.
But we're well aware of the scene. You know nothing pains me more than to see someone go down during a show. And you know, we've all kind of been there. We've seen people at shows like that. It's a shame to see somebody kind of lose control because everyone's coming to have a good time ultimately, and whatever it is they're escaping from… I mean people come to this thing to enjoy themselves and sort of get away from their lives. Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's a great outlet for everybody. When you take it too far, that's never really a good thing, I guess, and you hate to see it get that far. We have a group called The Happy Hour Heroes which is our sober support group, and there's a table at every show, which is a great outlet for people. I've sort of had a keen eye on the nitrous scene and just been sort of watching it. I've written about it from time to time, and I've blogged about it. I'm just trying to keep an eye on it. That's the one thing that kind of freaks me out. It's one thing when people are coming to the show and sort of do what they do, it sort of stays within the community. But when our community is targeted just by a bunch of thugs from the outside who see this as an opportunity to prey upon the scene and cash in on it, and have really little regard, I mean it's just absolute disregard for the people. Then it starts to get really creepy, and you see the full seedy element that comes in. And I want to have nothing to do with that whatsoever. So, they're a very powerful group, and it's something I want to prevent at all costs. And you see it happening at different festivals and events and I want to make sure that it is not something that enters our world whatsoever.
Sure, I think you guys have been lucky for a long time where that wasn't a part of the scene or it was very minor. And it just seemed like recently it has become more prevalent -- I guess it comes with popularity. Now you're like, "Oh, shit. The seedy people are showing up." I remember kind of seeing that happen at moe.down a couple of years ago where it felt like, "Wait a minute, why are you people here? What happened? I thought we were here for music." I think that's a good thing about the moe. community -- people really bonded pretty well over that, for the most part, of being, "We don't want this shit at our festival or our shows."
And likewise, in terms of music, we were talking earlier about misperceptions about the band, and even criticisms of the band, probably the most honest comes from the community as well [laughter], I imagine. I feel like the fans are the first ones to tell you if you played a bad show, and they actually understand why.
Yeah, that is true. And then with technology today, it's usually during the show [laughter], and usually it's before we finish the song. More often than not, it's from people who aren't there, and there will be a lot of criticisms of the choices we made like, why did we play that song now? And there's those kinds of criticisms, and "That's so lame." We get a lot of that, but it's OK. That's sort of to be expected. There's no way that we can absolutely please everybody, but we'll try. It's sort of in my nature to want to please everybody. It's going to be difficult to please a hardcore fan who has seen us a hundred times, and it's going to be especially hard to please a jaded fan and also to please the newbie. I don't know how you can sort of satisfy everybody. The hardcore fan isn't going to want to hear our greatest hits at a festival set, but the newbie will, and that's how we win. That's how we gain those fans and that's how you become a hardcore fan. You hear some of the classics, but after a while you hear some of the rarities, and so we kind of have to mix some stuff up and keep everybody happy. It has to be a nice mix of that stuff. People want to hear new songs. That's the other thing, and that's something we're going to be focusing on for the rest of the year.
At this point I don't really give a care what you play, I'm more curious to see what you guys do with improvisation. That's the thing that really makes it unique for me. And the journey, I guess too, is there. I'll throw this out to you because I noticed this at snoe.down, and this kind of goes back to the jam philosophy. I love the fact that you guys will play slow. I feel like the past 10 years, everything new in this scene has to be at 10 all the time. It has to be a raging party all the time. But with you guys, especially over the past five years or so, I've notice how well you've become at telling a story over the course of three hours.
You know, if everything is at 10 the whole time, which is really exciting, and it's kind of fun, but once that sets in after a while, that becomes the norm and that becomes your point of reference. So then there is no 10, you know what I mean? That's just sort of the floor and that becomes sea level for you, and now to go to 10 you have to go to like 11 or 12, which moe. does quite often. But then when you don't have any gas left in the tank, where do you go? And people just get exhausted. The fan gets exhausted. If you don't play dynamically, if there's no dynamic to the energy, or the sound or whatever, then the show doesn't feel that way. You kind of have to have those lows to have those highs. And it's really nice to come down and have those quiet passages. I wouldn't necessarily want to go on into a full on "space and drums" moment, but just to have those quieter passages are really nice. To really have that journey, like you said, where the show is going to move like that, I think it really has a much bigger impact than just playing on 10 the whole time. And a lot of bands do, and I know that we were guilty of this in our younger day. Part of it was just the fear of clearing the bar if we didn't play at 10 the whole time, you know? If we started to play a slow song then people started to talk and go get their drink, or leave, even. We just sort of kept playing loud and fast and keep people excited and distracted.
[laughter] Right.
Yeah, because we didn't want to lose them, and it takes a while to gain the confidence to play a slow song and be able to play it well. There are so many bands that can do it really, really well. It's like a lot of people would rag on The Dead for those moments, but sometimes some of those were the best moments in their shows. To hear a really great "Brokedown Palace" or "Stella Blue" that was perfectly played, and the show was great because then you could come back with something else that was just ripping afterwards. And there are others bands. I think of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers who can play a slow song with a lot of space in them and then play a rocker afterwards. And they can do it and do it really, really well. I think we need to work on putting more space in our music, and by space I don't mean the Grateful Dead kind of space, I just mean more air, more room between the notes.
Yeah, I agree, I think those moments add depth to the whole experience. I always talk about "Letter Home," like dropping that on people after they've been melted.
Right, right.
It's incredible to be blasted and then get hit with something that makes it all the more self-reflective. All of a sudden, you could be having this deeper, life affirming moment. Just hearing you say that made me think of one of my favorite experiences with the Grateful Dead--they were playing "Morning Dew" and it felt as if time stopped. They just took things so slow and it felt like 20,000 people just stopped and everyone's in this moment, just hanging on every note Garcia was playing.
That's exactly it, and when they do that build up to Jerry's guitar solo it's just like, you know, it can just be one of those "Holy Crap!" moments if the band is actually on and they play it right.
[laughter] Yeah. Well that sounds like something that comes with just years of doing it, like you said, gaining the confidence. I talked to Chris Wood [Medeski, Martin and Wood] recently --they're in a similar situation as you guys, they've been doing it for 18 or 19 years -- and he was talking about now when they get off stage they laugh at moments when there's miscommunication. I think what he said was, "A youthful mind can be very destructive," and, you know, they used to get really hung up about all this shit about what's going on onstage if it wasn't working, or they weren't hooking up or whatever, and now they just kind of laugh about it. So I'm curious, what goes on with you guys?