It was the early ’90s and I was elbow-deep in the guts of a vintage Prophet synthesizer, trying to repair the damage my main keyboard sustained on the way to the gig the night before. The phone rang, and it was a guitar player I knew.
“Hey, you need to quit that band you’re in and come play for us. I saw this guy from Austin named Ian Moore, and that’s the kind of music I want to do. Have you heard of him?”
“We opened for him last night in Denton.” I replied, “ Nice guy — hell of a player. I think I’ll stay with the band I’m in. We’re obviously going places.”
We weren’t going places, however. That was the high water mark of our little hippie band. And despite my subtle brag, I never got to talk to Ian or even see him play that night. My VW Microbus didn’t have door locks and I had to sit with the gear while the rest of my band watched Moore tear it up. Texas loves its guitar heroes (even if he is originally from Berkeley), and while I missed his show in Denton all those years ago, I try to see him when he comes through town. Friday night he was doing an acoustic set to promote his new EP release at the Shipping & Receiving bar, and I wasn’t going to miss this one.
I’ve been listening to Aerie, Moore’s new EP, for a couple of days now, and it’s not what I thought it would be. Don’t expect anything like his Muddy Jesus (a full-on, driving rock song): both the live show and the EP are more subdued and folksy. Production on the EP is minimalist, with subtle instrumentation and simple harmonies. You can hear the texture in the guitar, and the vocals stand out without excessive processing.
Likewise, the live show was carried by Moore, with an acoustic guitar and a kick drum. The folk-singer strumming often made you forget who was playing, and then he would remind you with some impressive fret-board acrobatics. Moore’s vocals are as clear and powerful as ever, with the occasional texture added when necessary to the plot. He still does more rockin’ full-band stuff, but this performance was a different animal.
Speaking of texture, I’ve been wondering how the rough interior of Shipping & Receiving would work out for a well-executed live show. The place is an old sporting goods warehouse, with lots of exposed brick and steel duct work. Moore’s animated shadows on the brick wall behind him created a show within a show. With Moore playing practically amongst the crowd, there was an intimate, laid-back vibe. Moore interacted with the audience and told us stories about Harry Dean Stanton trolling Micky Dolenz of the Monkees and David Crosby’s indecipherable comments to him about Joni Mitchell. His emotive closing number ended with a powerful version of Will the Circle Be Unbroken that had the people in the room on their feet.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, the sound at Shipping & Receiving was very good indeed. Despite all the hard, parallel surfaces, acoustic reflection and distortion were at a minimum. Having a good sound man makes all the difference in the world. While a full, loud band might be too much for this space, this relatively new bar is shaping up as one of the better intimate venues for solo performers.