The Pittsburgh Offensive Part 2
Not only was Moe contributing to and inciting a positive effect for the culture, he was being championed by the press for doing so. Sarah Lolley, contributing writer for the Pittsburg Gazette, set out to cover what she called "Turntable Culture." When she came around the scene asking for a source, one piece of advice kept ringing out: "Talk to Moe." So, she caught up with Moe and picked his brain, and he instantly became Sarah's number-one source. Fascinated by his involvement and influence from behind the scene, she was equally impressed by his vision, his execution, and ability to uplift and reinvent the scene. Sarah wrote articles for the paper about his events, brands, and Moe himself that earned him organically developed press coverage. Her work has informed a lot of what's written in this chapter, detailing much of the minutia that would have otherwise been lost and forgotten, so for that: thank you, Miss Lolley.
Between organizing, sponsoring, hosting events and tours, designing and printing promotional flyers, and owning the Spot, Moe had his finger on the pulse of nightlife and entertainment in Pittsburgh. By 2002, he was feeling the residual effects of all of the work he was putting in, and developed a creative way to tie it all together.
Moe assembled a team of key people to write, photograph, design, publish, print, promote, and distribute Access Magazine. The publication served as a promotional piece for Moe's events, artists, and tours, but it was also a window into the scene through the eyes of the people living it. In a time before social media, this 4x6 glossy was the go-to for information on parties to attend, where to shop the trending styles, interviews about (and articles by) industry insiders, and gushing over photo spreads from the best events.
Luke partnered with Moe on Access, where the two served as co-owners; Sarah Lolley, who was hired as Editor-in-Chief, joined the team; Kevin Peindl was the magazine's Operations Director; and Brian Brick, owner of Timebomb, shot fashion spreads featuring the clothes sold in his street-wear shop. In this grassroots operation, Moe also invited additional contributors to share their stories, opinions on the scene, and publish photos of the scene.
Moe oversaw every aspect of the magazine, which was conceptualized and produced 100% independently. Luke recalls using the living-room floor of their Penn Avenue apartment to physically lay out the tear sheets to create each issue.
The team sold advertising to industry-relevant events and businesses, and the advertisements covered the cost of printing, which allowed them to distribute the monthly as a free magazine. This structure also allowed them to operate without any investors. This gave the team the luxury and power of full artistic freedom, without stressing a bottom line or need to placate investors. The ambitious project proved to be Moe's biggest cult favorite, as people still warmly reminisce about the truly beloved publication.
After all the printing costs were accounted for, any profits were used to throw events. Knowing an event could flop without the stress of needing to pay anyone back, Moe and Luke pushed the envelope with what they were willing to do. From this came some very cool parties.
At this point, Moe's influence was undeniable. He had the attention of, and working relationships with, many of the major players making moves in the scene. When the Spot closed down, Moe lost his outlet for promoting his brand of talent and was hungry to start producing events that he was passionate about around the city. Already holding down and having his influence on the hip-hop scene, Moe was about to go hard in the club scene, kicking his taste of talent and events into high gear and making it more mainstream.
Moe, Luke and Kevin put all of their energy into developing fresh ideas for the clubs, pitching them their ideas and executing innovative promotions for these parties and venues on the Strip and around the city. They hosted weeklies and one-offs at Chrome, Laga, Matrix, and Area 51, among many others.
Moe had a talent for bringing people together, people from different circles with different interests. He built genuine connections between individuals, bridging established scenes, and creating new ones. Growing up half white/half back, Moe knew he was a little different from most. He admits that this was discouraging at times, but it also offered him the opportunity to grow the confidence and thick skin to feel comfortable and thrive in diversity. Harnessing this early on, Moe used this to his - and ultimately everyone's - advantage by uniting people to be a part of something bigger. Pittsburgh was forever changed for the better with Moe's hand molding the direction of the scene, and uniting it in ways no one else has ever attempted.
Area 51, later renamed Deja Vu, was a successful club in the Strip District, known for its upscale VIP service. The club's claim to fame was Monday's Service Industry Night, which Moe worked on in addition to the venue's House of Three event. However, it was his work on what was the notoriously dead Wednesday nights that brought about some major success. Moe launched Taste, a weekly event in the smaller upstairs room that scaled back the atmosphere and created a vibe that was more accessible to a general audience. He teamed up with Brian Mikulan, Brian Krenke, Matty Daniels, and Nate the Barber to produce Taste Wednesdays and together, they developed a party and began booking such DJs as Hank D., Nugget, and Nate. They developed a flavor of nightlife that filled a void in the Strip District scene on a night when traditionally, not much was going on. Despite that, it became the club's biggest night and Taste gave Moe and his team the privilege of rotating up-and-coming DJs, offering them a chance to play the major Strip District club, in turn elevating their careers to the next level. Taste Wednesdays was DJ Nugget's first 21+ gig, and he is currently one of the most successful DJs in Pittsburgh. Owner of the Lawrenceville establishment Goldbar, Nugget largely attributes his later success to Moe believing in him and giving him the platform and confidence to get him where he is today.
Moe's production company, Influential Flavor, was sponsoring an endless number of these events. The name, which originated from Moe's hip-hop crew back in New York, manifested itself into a true representation of its moniker. By influencing the flavor of parties, events, and shows it put on, Influential Flavor was showing Pittsburgh a New York flavor, a hustler flavor, a get down and have-a-good-time flavor.
But this journey was not without its pitfalls. When things were slow, Luke would end up with one foot out of the door, not sure how they would overcome whichever hardships were in their way. But without fail, just before Luke would jump ship, Moe would come up with a new angle, a major breakthrough, or something new to break the mold and change the game.
From hiring girls to come out to a party early to help make it a successful rager to creative marketing campaigns on the radio in which they announced a $500-cash giveaway in the club, to stuffing balloons with money to drop from the ceiling on the dance floor, Moe was on the forefront of innovation.
When Moe and Luke threw an event at Bare Elegance gentlemen's club, they cleared out the tables that were set up around the stage to create the effect of a dance floor, and hosted an event in which guys brought their girlfriends and had a great time getting down dancing. That concept has grown and is a common format within the Strip clubs now, but no one was doing that back then. Moe was progressive, wasn't afraid to do things differently, loved trying out new things, and perhaps most importantly, wasn't scared of failing. This formula created unique, bomb-ass parties while simultaneously earning him as much respect as it did success. Moe truly was ahead of his time. Some of the major go-to gimmicks and trusted industry methods were things that Moe was trying out and running with before they were done elsewhere. These were things of his own invention that became popular years later in markets across the country.
But remember, throughout these different ventures, Moe never let up on his design work. He consistently designed all of the promotional materials for his events and developed a loyal client base around the city. Moe was going to meetings and locking down details for his events by day, going out to his and other people's events by night, then when he got home from the club at 3 or 4am, he stayed up designing the flyers and promotional materials for the upcoming events.
Dave Santa, owner of a number of Pittsburgh nightclubs, had a long-standing working relationship with Moe. Moe designed flyers (and eventually all promotional materials) for Dave's Club Bash and later, Elixir. Inspired by a business trip they took to Denver for a Coors Light event, Dave pursued opening a different brand of club, with a high-end feel: Mynt Ultra Lounge. Moe served as a consultant, offering advice on everything from the ambiance and decor to the talent, while exclusively producing the venue's marketing materials. To this day, Dave rings Moe to runs any business plans or ideas he is knocking around by him for an honest opinion. Club owners looking for the cool factor often consulted with Moe, which speaks volumes for his taste level, clout, and respected influence, and above all illustrates the value of Moe's perspective and opinion.
Accomplishing so much in such a short amount of time left Moe wondering: what's next? He was producing events he was genuinely passionate about while maintaining the support from his peers and fans, all while publishing a magazine that was the visual manifestation of all of his efforts. Moe was nowhere close to feeling satisfied and rather, was on a mission to further elevate his brand. Where would he take it from here?