Ian Moore Band Continental Club August 11, 2011
Nostalgia has a funny way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. Aftermath suspects the Ian Moore Band would agree.
As the quartet hit the home stretch of its 90-minute set Thursday with "Blue Sky" and "How Does It Feel," Aftermath realized we once spent the better part of a year, maybe longer, thinking those songs were what every Austin band was supposed to sound like: A dash of blues, a spot of soul, a bit of gospel, a whole lotta funk. It took months of going to Emo's before we realized otherwise.
When we moved to Austin in 1993, the Ian Moore Band was huge. Their first record had just come out, and aided by a sizable media push from radio stations KLBJ and KGSR as well as Aftermath's eventual employers at the Austin Chronicle, the band ruled the roost for the first several years we lived in the state capital. It always seemed like national stardom was just around the corner.
That didn't work out, but as Moore, bassist Chris White, keyboardist Bukka Allen and drummer Michael Villegas conclusively proved Thursday, it wasn't for lack of talent. Any kinks left over from their 15-plus-year layoff were gone within a few minutes of slide-guitar stomping opener "Nothing," washed away by Allen's oceanic waves of B-3.
Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix signposted the early going, Allen flicking his fingers over the piano keys in "Deliver Me" and Moore's razor-like wah-wah slicing a sly "Crosstown Traffic" shout-out in "Harlem." Steamrolling, Muddy Waters' "Champagne & Reefer" was a lights-out blues jam on the order of the Allman Brothers' "One Way Out," as was Freddie King's "Me & My Guitar" at set's end. By that point Moore's Fender, incandescent all night, really was glowing.
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It took balls for the band to blast such a bluesy agenda at the high point of grunge, even in Austin, but on the upside the songs felt like they hadn't aged a day. We could have sworn the Beastie Boys sampled the chicken-scratch falsetto funk of "Revelation" on Check Your Head, and they ought to give serious thought to re-releasing "Muddy Jesus." Not only is the subject matter more relevant than ever in these days of cartel border wars and immigration standoffs, but Villegas' drums beat like helicopter blades. Big ups to Chris White for his thick-as-a-brick bass on "Bar Line 99" too.
But it was also easy to see why the band wanted to move on musically. In a nutshell, they were so damn good at the Austin blues/funk/rock thing eventually there was nothing there left to conquer. Enter The First Third, the album that spelled the end of the Ian Moore Band (certainly where Capricorn Records was concerned) but now offers a tantalizing alternate future for the band.
After Moore explained how The First Third came to be on sale at the merch table - a friend sent him the album (no telling where or how he got it), and Moore had to be goaded into listening by his former manager - the quartet played "Coming Around." The shift was definite and immediate, a piece of mystical electric-guitar pop similar to Chris Cornell's Euphoria Morning, which came out about the same time The First Third should have.
But Thursday wasn't about what might have been. If anything, the ease with which the band moved back into the pocket - hitting their old cues with the vigor of kids at their first garage rehearsal - suggested the Ian Moore Band's future might be a little more open-ended than they originally bargained for. So if you're on the fence about coming out for tonight's second show, do it.
And stay for the encore. If the Chris Whitley tribute doesn't get you, the Bob Marley cover will.
Personal Bias: Increasing.
The Crowd: Lots of ladies, and guys dressed like Moore - short-sleeve plaid pearl-snaps, jeans, cowboy boots. Wasn't quite packed, but will be tonight.
In the Crowd After the Show at the Big Top: "It was totally cool four joints ago"
Random Notebook Dump: It probably was.
Nothing Deliver Me Harlem Satisfied Champagne & Reefer (Muddy Waters cover) Revelation Coming Around Society Today Muddy Jesus Bar Line 99 Blue Sky How Does It Feel Me & My Guitar (Freddie King cover)
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Traintracks Carry On Time of Dying (Chris Whitley tribute) No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley cover)
The Ian Moore Band returns to the Continental tonight at 10 p.m. If there are any tickets left, they will be available at Sig's Lagoon.