By Michael Lester
moe. guitarist Al Schnier, 45, grew up on classic rock in upstate New York. He covered Neil Young and Rush tunes in his first band, Cuttin’ Loose, which he launched as an 8th grader.
His musical interest gradually gravitated toward the Grateful Dead. He caught his first Dead show when he was 13. Yep, he and his buddies relied upon their parents for rides to shows, just like the rest of us.
“It was all very cute, for the most part, until somebody was old enough to drive,” he recalled.
Al estimated he caught the Dead about 75 times between 1982 and the early 1990s, including a 1990s show at Rich Stadium in Buffalo with Sting opening.
Here, we fire those five basic probing questions at Al that everyone wants to pose to a rock star
H81R: Which album did you wear out most in high school?
AS: By that time, it was mostly live Grateful Dead. I wasn’t listening to that many records. I kind of moved on from that phase. You know what I used to listen to a lot, actually? If it had to be a record, it would be the (Beatles’) “White” album. Otherwise, mostly live music.”
H81R: What was the last concert you went to not affiliated with you band?
AS: Those are so few and far between these days. It’s been so long. I saw Springsteen last summer. That was probably the last concert. I actually bought tickets to the concert and everything. Vernon Downs in Vernon, N.Y. I’ve seen him the last five years since “Magic” came out. It was the first E Street Band tour after the Seeger Sessions. I saw him at Madison Square Garden for one of those, and I was blown away. A couple months later, I took my son to Nassau Coliseum. I can’t stop going. I’m so blown away. I saw Bruce when I was 12 or 13. “Born in the USA” tour. I didn’t realize how much of a fan I was. I own most of his records. I’ve always liked him. Until I saw him recently, I was like, “Man, I’m passionate about his music.”
His shows are amazing. I have so much respect for what their band does, what he does as a performer. I can only aspire to have that kind of career. He is completely indebted to and grateful for the love he gets from fans. It seems like he would do anything for them. That, I love, how much he gives of himself. I identify with that immensely. I learn a lot from going to his shows.
H81R: Your most embarrassing moment on stage during a live performance?
AS: God, there’s so many. Oh gosh. I don’t even know. I don’t even know where to begin. There are too many. They’re so embarrassing, I hate to recount them. I’m sorry sir, I don’t recall.
H81R: If you weren’t a rock star, what would you do for a living?
AS: If I could get paid to ski, I would be pretty happy. If I could have turned skiing into a job. I would be really really happy if I could just ski.
H81R: What do you do on a weekend for fun when you don’t have a show?
AS: I like running. I like skiing. I enjoy hiking, backpacking, camping — all of those things are kinds of things I enjoy doing. Fortunately, my kids are really into it, too. We get to do stuff together.
It’s interesting. I almost don’t play music or listen to music or go to see music for fun anymore because I do it all the time now. It’s not that it’s not fun. And, when Bruce Springsteen comes to your hometown, you go. Musically, I play for friends all the time.