MUSIC SCENE: moe. will close out ’23 Borderland Festival – Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

This Borderland Festival in East Aurora kicks off this weekend with headline performances from Goose, Dawes, Organ Fairchild, Trey Anastasio, and Buffalo’s own moe.

Sunday will be a big day in Western New York as it marks the first Bills home game of the season. It is also the final night of the three-day Borderland Festival, which will close with a set from moe., a jam band with strong ties to Buffalo.

Formed in 1989 by a group of University at Buffalo students, moe. debuted at the now defunct Broadway Joe’s on Main Street. They opened for the punk rock band Monkey Wrench, whose claim to fame is that moe. opened for them.

During a recent phone interview, founding member and bass player/lead vocalist Rob Derhak noted that he spent “the best seven years of college” in Buffalo.

“No one from the band grew up in Buffalo, but we were upstate New York, like Central New Yorkers for the most part, like outside of Utica,” Derhak noted.

Nevertheless, Derhak’s time in Buffalo laid the foundation for the band’s national success.

“I was very motivated to start a band while I was in Buffalo, and while I lacked in talent, I had a lot of drive. And (founding member) Chuck (Garvey) was the first guy I started playing with, and he knew a lot more about music than I did,” Derhak said.

“Once I got Chuck on board, it was him and me, and the pieces fell into place. I had never been in a band before. I would sit there in my dorm room, learn guitar, and then switch to bass. My roommate would let me play his guitar for a while, and Chuck would let me play his for a bit; he lived down the hall from me.”

Derhak cites Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the artists that influenced his decision to switch from guitar to bass.

The group gained popularity in the 1990s as the jam band scene began to gain popularity. In the 1990s, moe. began appearing at major music festivals and finished the decade with an appearance at Woodstock ‘99.

For years, they hosted their own festival they dubbed “moe.down”. The festival is on an indefinite hiatus, partly due to medical issues within the band and the onset of the pandemic.

The band has played just about every major music festival over the past 30 years, so they can be selective when it comes to choosing the ones they will appear at. Dehak still likes to check out the other acts.

“When I was living in Buffalo and something like Lollapalooza would come through, I would go to that as a fan. We’ve done any festivals for years, and big or small, there’s usually at least one act that I want to see,” he said.

Like most jam bands, moe. changes their setup each night, and the process has evolved.

“Initially, we did it by committee, but nobody was pleased with the set we put together,” Derhak said. “And then we decided everybody could write their own set, but eventually, some of the guys got sick of writing them and didn’t want to do it anymore, so there are just a couple of us doing it.”

After 30 years, the band shows no signs of slowing down, and Derhak loves the band’s fanbase, which is called the “”.

“So many fans know each other; they’ve met their significant other or best friends at our shows, and it has become this giant sort of family gathering. It’s still what drives the whole thing,” Derhak said.

Ticket information for the Borderland Festival, which begins Friday, is available at

Thom Jennings writes about the Western New York music scene for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal and the Niagara Gazette.

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