NEPA Scene Staff

Railroad Earth and moe. jam on Sherman Summer Stage at Pocono Mountain Carnival Grounds on Aug. 25

Railroad Earth and moe. jam on Sherman Summer Stage at Pocono Mountain Carnival Grounds on Aug. 25
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

From a press release:

Jam bands Railroad Earth and moe., who have both played at the Peach Music Festival in Scranton over the years, will be rocking together again on the Sherman Theater’s Summer Stage, located at the Pocono Mountain Carnival Grounds in Mount Pocono, on Friday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m.

Tickets, which are $35 in advance or $39 the day of the show, go on sale this Friday, May 12 at noon and will be available through the Sherman Theater box office (524 Main St., Stroudsburg), online at and, and all Ticketmaster outlets. VIP reserved seats are $44 in advance or $49 the day of the show at the Pocono Mountain Carnival Grounds (20 Murray St., Mount Pocono).

Sometimes, musicians play music and don’t necessarily worry about where it gets filed. It’s the writers, record labels, managers, etc., who tend to fret about what “kind” of music it is. The members of Railroad Earth aren’t losing sleep about what “kind” of music they play – they just play it. When they started out in 2001, they were a bunch of guys interested in playing acoustic instruments together. As Railroad Earth violinist/vocalist Tim Carbone recalls, “All of us had been playing in various projects for years, and many of us had played together in different projects. But this time, we found ourselves all available at the same time.”

Songwriter/lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer continues, “When we started, we only loosely had the idea of getting together and playing some music. It started that informally, just getting together and doing some picking and playing. Over a couple of month period, we started working on some original songs, as well as playing some covers that we thought would be fun to play.”

Shortly thereafter, they took five songs from their budding repertoire into a studio and knocked out a demo in just two days. Their soon-to-be manager sent that demo to a few festivals and – to the band’s surprise – they were booked at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival before they’d even played their first gig. This prompted them to quickly go in and record five more songs, the 10 combined tracks of which made up their debut album, “The Black Bear Sessions.”

That was the beginning of Railroad Earth’s journey; since those early days, they’ve gone on to release five more critically acclaimed studio albums and one hugely popular live one called, “Elko.” They’ve also amassed a huge and loyal fanbase who turn up to support them in every corner of the country, and often take advantage of the band’s liberal taping and photo policy. But Railroad Earth bristle at the notion of being lumped into any one “scene.” Not out of animosity for any other artists: it’s just that they don’t find the labels very useful. As Carbone points out, “We use unique acoustic instrumentation, but we’re definitely not a bluegrass or country band, which sometimes leaves music writers confused as to how to categorize us. We’re essentially playing rock on acoustic instruments.”

Ultimately, Railroad Earth’s music is driven by the remarkable songs of frontman Todd Sheaffer and is delivered with seamless arrangements and superb musicianship courtesy of all six band members. As mandolin/bouzouki player John Skehan points out, “Our M.O. has always been that we can improvise all day long, but we only do it in service to the song. There are a lot of songs that, when we play them live, we adhere to the arrangement from the record. And other songs, in the nature and the spirit of the song, everyone knows we can kind of take flight on them.” Sheaffer continues, “The songs are our focus, our focal point; it all starts right there. Anything else just comments on the songs and gives them color. Some songs are more open than others. They ‘want’ to be approached that way – where we can explore and trade musical ideas and open them up to different territories. But sometimes it is what the song is about.”

So, they can jam with the best of them and they have some bluegrass influences, but they use drums and amplifiers (somewhat taboo in the bluegrass world). What kind of music is it then? Mandolin/vocalist John Skehan offers this semi-descriptive term: “I always describe it as a string band, but an amplified string band with drums.” Tim Carbone takes a swing: “We’re a country and Eastern band! ” Todd Sheaffer offers, “A souped-up string band? I don’t know. I’m not good at this.” Or maybe it’s just simply “rock ‘n’ roll.”

moe. is the preeminent progressive rock band on the music scene today, a quintet of world-class musicians whose creative output equals that of their longevity. In a remarkable career that has touched three decades and produced a discography of 24 albums, the Sugar Hill Records recording artist of Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey on guitars and vocals, Rob Derhak on bass and vocals, Jim Loughlin on percussion and vibes, and Vinnie Amico on drums continue to push the standard for performance art higher and further.

Whether touring around the globe, headlining music festivals, or sharing the stage with such diverse acts as the Allman Brothers, Dave Matthews Band, The Who, Robert Plant, Government Mule, or Blues Traveler, among many others, what keeps moe. at the forefront of the music scene is not only the energy and vitality of their music and songwriting, but the showmanship in which it is delivered. Their music is clever, melodic, refined, filled with “ferocious guitar riffs” and “intricate rhythms” (Relix); their performances are entertaining, mesmerizing, and epic.

From their humble, inconspicuous beginnings as a local bar band in Buffalo, New York to headlining Radio City Music Hall on New Year’s Eve, moe.’s journey has been one of hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Critical acclaim and a solid national and international fan base has resulted in a dedicated following that grows each year. Rolling Stone magazine named Schnier and Garvey among the Top 20 new “guitar gods,” and the pair have been featured in Guitar World and Modern Guitar, while Loughlin and Amico were in Drum! and Derhak was in Bass Player. The renowned guitar play between Schnier and Garvey has become the stuff of legend. The exceptional vibe and percussion work by Loughlin is brilliant. The understated bass play by Derhak is masterful. The seamless, efficiency of Amico’s drumming is extraordinary. Together, the five create a musical synergy greater than the sum of their parts.

By all accounts, for this “legendary jam band,” as Rolling Stone described them, moe. represents rock ‘n’ roll at its best. Welcome news for the moe. faithful and the band’s ever-expanding fan base. Even better news for the world of rock ‘n’ roll, for moe. is just hitting their creative stride.