Everything changed the night Fishbone’s Angelo Moore jumped off the balcony.
It was 1998 — probably, no one can remember exactly. Fishbone was playing a raucous set to a soldout crowd at the Mangy Moose. Moore was “getting drunker and drunker as the show went on,” Dom Gagliardi recalled, and, at some point, had the brilliant idea to climb up to the venue’s balcony and jump down into the crowd.
Gagliardi was standing on the balcony right by Moore. He was a patron and music lover that night but would soon go on to be a talent booker at the Moose. The decision to pursue music as a career was fueled by Moore’s leap of faith.
“He jumps between my brother and I, stands on the balcony railing and was going to dive into the crowd,” Gagliardi said. “We’re waving to the band, who’s waving to the crowd to look up, and right when the crowd turns around he dives off the balcony. That was it, the ‘Oh, my God’ moment of, ‘There’s rock ’n’ roll in Teton Village.’”
Many have a story, or several, like Gagliardi’s. Opened in 1967 as the Mangy Moose Saloon Spaghetti Emporium and Opera House, the Moose is almost as famous as the resort it sits at the base of. It opened as a restaurant and bar in the Village, and was basically the only place for a bite and beer after coming off the slopes. Over time it evolved into a music venue, a spot known for rowdy shows and rowdier shenanigans, and is now being reinvented again by owner David Yoder as a place for locals to eat, drink and enjoy their apres hours.
Yoder, Gagliardi, Shannon McCormick and Andy Calder are four people who helped shape, and were shaped by, the Moose.
Yoder is the current owner. Gagliardi, McCormick and Calder all took turns as talent buyer for the venerated venue. According to Gagliardi, McCormick was booking first, then Calder, then him, then McCormick again, then him again. But no one can remember exact details, as is normal with these kinds of stories. But the memories are forever fresh in their minds.
Each man has a different, and humble beginning, to his time at the Moose.
‘As bartenders we finished our shifts at 2 a.m. and would grab
a crowbar or chain saw ... ’
Gagliardi: I started off as a door guy when I first moved into town. I went to the job fair at the resort and then got a beer at the Moose and thought this must be the spot. I got talking to the bartender, and she said, ‘We hire door guys.’ I was like, ‘Really? Look at the size of me.’ [5’6”] But then I called her and told her I wanted that job. I got into barbacking and bartending pretty quick.
McCormick: I was a bartender, and we got to build what became the new bar. We got to blow up the wall there and expand the Moose into what it is now, and as workers we got to the building side of it. This was ‘88, I guess. As bartenders we finished our shifts at 2 a.m. and grabbed a crowbar or chain saw, and that went on for weeks. You would grab an ax or chain saw and you’d go to work tearing down that one wall we blew out and then built the new Moose.
Calder: I snuck into the Moose in 1985. I was here on vacation. I came every year. The drinking age then was 19, and I was 16 and definitely didn’t look 19. I have memories of the old bar. I started working there as a sound engineer in 1992. Shannon [McCormick] was the talent buyer at that time. I took over as talent buyer, I’m not sure when, about 1999. What people would remember the most has to do with me being the talent buyer. I had a bunch of random jobs there. For a while I fixed the toilets.
Yoder: In 2001, right after 9/11, Jeff Davies bought into the building. We bought out Pat Mahin’s interest, and Jeff and I both ran the business. Then I bought into half of the Calico. Last year I sold Jeff the Calico, and he has no business in the Mangy Moose anymore. The business is run entirely, officially, by me. Then I have a silent partner, John Cope from San Francisco, who’s awesome.
‘It was time to do something different, You heard the same stuff every night … ’
When McCormick took over as talent buyer the Moose was still inviting local and regional bands to do six-night stands. He decided to change that. He started what would end with a series of shows by bands “way too big for the space,” as all four remember. Each had his own approach to booking.
McCormick: When I started working there all the bands played for six nights straight. The way I remember it, probably a dozen, maybe not even that many, bands, mostly from Denver, [would spend] their summers and winters touring ski towns and play all of them for six days straight. ... They stayed for a week and did four sets, 45 minutes each and every night. As a bartender and a worker there, it was time to do something different. You heard the same stuff every night. I was allowed to change that and book national acts for one-nighters and two-nighters and completely change up the scene.
Calder: I remember I worked with Blues Traveler when they were big, and way too big to be playing there. That was a theme: We were able to get bands way too big to be playing there because if you wanted to play Jackson Hole it was just us. The owners at the time were kind of committed to having that scene, and I think it worked for them. I wonder if those circumstances exist anywhere anymore, where the owner would let me do my thing. If something came up that was a big deal or expensive, I had to check in with them, but most of the time they just said, “Yeah let’s go for it.”
Gagliardi: I was trying to curate it like a music venue in New Orleans — “Let’s go do show after show.” The second round of booking there, we approached it differently. We didn’t want to overdo it. But we went all over the place with styles of music. The idea was not to stick with one style, but bring in a lot of different things. It was exciting to bring in a lot of the bands and even underground bands and hip-hop and DJs. We pushed the boundaries for sure of what people expected to see in Jackson.
McCormick: I probably knew I had something going after my first Subdudes show. That was probably the moment when I really knew our town was hungry for something, hungry for a music scene. That was a pretty momentous evening. I think they played two nights, and the first night was pretty full and the second night we turned people away. For a time there we turned people away often.
Calder: We got it to the point where the bands were always good even if the ticket price was low. We were able to kind of keep moving forward because people trusted that if there was a band at the Moose, even if they didn’t know them, it was going to be good.
“It took us 11 minutes
to sell it out …”
The list of legendary acts that graced the Moose stage is unparalleled: John Hammond (1978), Widespread Panic (1990), James McMurtry (1999), Drive By Truckers (2002), Keller Williams (2002), Blackalicious (2004), Coolio (2004), Dierks Bentley (2004), Derek Trucks Band (2004), Sam Bush Band (2005), Robert Earl Keen (2007) ... the list goes on.
It seems everyone has a memory of a favorite, which reminds them of another, which reminds them of another. One common theme between all of them is “big.”
McCormick: There are so many stories it’s insane. I remember the Blues Traveler show. We put that show on sale 10 a.m. on whatever day it was. Stevie Ray [then bar manager] handled tickets at the Moose and I handled tickets in town — we sold all of them at Tobacco Row as physical tickets. I went out to the Moose early in the morning, and there were a couple of people sleeping in the foyer camped out to get their tickets. My recollection is I got to town at 9:30 a.m. maybe and drove past the front of Tobacco Row at Teton Theatre, and the line out the door was down the block towards what’s now Merry Piglets, down to Teton Mountaineering and then wrapped around the corner. Between all the tickets, it was time to do something different.
Stevie Ray: I remember Blues Traveler. I beat the guitar player at foosball. But Kris Kristofferson was unbelievably good. The ultimate pro and a great guy.
Gagliardi: We’d get bands that were too big for the place, and that was exciting. With Jason Aldean he was right on the cusp of being a stadium guy, so he comes, he’s a big deal, he shouldn’t play here. And we sold maybe 250 tickets, and it was a lot of people who don’t normally come to shows but listen to country music, and it was awesome we provided that for them, but we were blown away it didn’t sell out. The following year he was a Zac Brown Band-size band. Stuff like that just happened.
Calder: The Genitorturers, they are still playing. You can Google them in all their shock rock splendor. It was like shock rock performance art fronted by a woman named Gen, and it was super-heavy metal. At one point they nailed a guy to the cross and sewed his lips shut and had blood oozing out and used the blood to paste pages of the Bible onto him. I remember that one the cops were there. I asked one of them, “Are we OK?’ The guy looked at me and goes, “I can’t tell you how offended I am right now, but, no, you didn’t do anything illegal. I think less of you because of this, but you didn’t break the law, no.”
Gagliardi: Doctor John brought a baby grand piano that we had to carry upstairs for him. It was such an epic vibe and he was going away at his classics on that piano. That was an amazing one for me, personally.
‘I was dangerously unconcerned with things like safety back then …’
The Moose, however, is about more than music. It’s a restaurant, a classic apres ski spot and, like many local bars in small ski towns, has been the site of some serious debauchery.
Calder: One thing that was popular any sunny day was we had an old bungee cord from someone who did bungee jumping. We would tie it to a tree, and people would harness themselves in and attempt to out-pull the strength of the cord to get a beer we would place some distance away. They almost always got it and would celebrate by standing up and then get launched backwards. I was dangerously unconcerned with crap like safety back then. I just didn’t care.
One of Calder’s creations was the “69 Days Until Tram Opens Party.” Needless to say, it got out of hand. In a Jackson Hole News column from October 2001, the party is described as “a very, very bad decision.”
“It is hard to describe the sight of two women who stripped to their birthday suits onstage. Or to properly illustrate the mood that is created when other people applaud another person’s body being violated.”
Calder: What I liked to do was to win a ski pass. It started out that we had a big sleeping bag, and people had to get in it and completely exchange clothing. It was two ski passes actually, and ski passes are worth a lot of money. They were $1,800 back in the 1990s. People would do almost anything for that. So people would get in and scramble around, and it was funny. Two people, a guy and a girl, come up and go, “Do we even have to get it in or can we just stand on it?” I said, “I guess you can do that,” and so they just ripped off their clothes right there in the bar and traded them.
Other nights had less nudity but were just as wild.
McCormick: I remember a crazy time Medeski, Martin and Wood were playing, and they didn’t want to do two sets. We always did two sets, so we probably started them at 10 p.m. and they did a 2 1/2-hour set and quit at 12:30 a.m., which was early for us. The bar was open until 2 a.m. We had an hour or so to settle drinks. We had 475 people in there just getting after it. So my sound guy was Jed Frumkin. It was obvious when they finished their encore, Jed knew it was coming, and unbeknownst to anyone, he had Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” queued up to hit the sound system the minute Medeski was done, like their last note. He had it about 110 decibels, and the party just never stopped. It was incredible. I was upstairs at the time looking down at this sea of people that were up there for Medeski, and they never even moved, they just kept getting after it. It was just this wicked soundtrack of dance music for an hour and 15 minutes or whatever it was until closing.
‘It has good food and music
and my friends …’
But times change. When Yoder took over the Moose he was less interested in throwing a party and more interested in running a business. The national acts became less frequent, and the focus became serving the apres crowd and the hordes of tourists looking for a pint and a meal.
Gagliardi: It got more and more difficult to get people out to the Village, and the reality is what we came up with was if this can financially work we’ll continue on. But it was really hard to operate the bar. It was just too hard to do both, that’s how I saw it. It wasn’t a shocking thing when we looked at the financials and said, “This doesn’t work out here.” You could service more people and make them more happy with food and drink.
Yoder: Some of the things we used to do we can’t do anymore because times have changed. For insurance reasons and things they used to do that were fun in the ’80s seem tacky and inappropriate now. I’m just trying to make the place so locals can come and say, “This is the Moose, and it has good food and music and my friends.” I’m trying to change that locals feel comfortable knowing they can get good food and drink and they can hang out for a couple of hours before they go back to town.
‘The Moose is the reason
I’m here today … ’
After 50 years, the Mangy Moose lives on. It might not be as rowdy, but the Old West left Jackson long ago. But if you come down the slopes, the bar is there waiting, with a pint and some food and, probably, some good music.
McCormick: I would say it was incredibly impactful on my career and what I chose as a career and a life path. As a talent buyer and a concert producer, it was extremely impactful.
Ray: The greatest thing about working at the Moose was all the unbelievable characters you met. You’ve got every red-hot skier over the last decade who spent time at the Moose. Every red-hot climber, movie stars going in there. It’s just one of those things. Everybody from every walk of life and from all over the world at one time or another spent time in there. For me it was absolutely fabulous to be associated with the whole situation. The greatest friends I ever had.
Gagliardi: I never thought music would be a career path in Jackson until I went to that Mayfield Jones show. Music was always a major, important part of my life, but I came here to ski and bartend. Then it was, “Wait, I can bring something here and add to the community.” That was huge. It ingrained me into the community and kept me here. This is my 20th season here. I’m super grateful for the Moose. I love it. Every time I go in it brings back memories.”
Yoder: I can’t tell you how many dozens of people have worked at the Moose and met their significant other there. We’ve had two or three kids in the last six months from marriages that started at the Moose. The average bartender has been there 15 years. It’s a crazy business, but it feels like an extended family business. I have an obligation to give them a good environment and make good money and be treated fairly and have a good time when they do it. That’s what’s important to me.
Calder: It totally changed my life. The Moose is the reason I’m here today. I bought my house from the Mangy Moose. The friends I made there are still my best friends. There was kind of a magic about the place. I’m not going be one of those old crotchety Jackson Hole guys who says it isn’t there anymore, I still feel it when I’m there. Times change you can’t re-create what you had. Post-college kids, they can not be any different than I was back then, and I hope the people working there are having as good of a time as I had back in the 1990s. ￼