In the early ‘90s, Ian Moore was one of the hottest guitarists in Texas, who came smokin’ out of Austin with his band, Moments Notice, to rock clubs across the country.
Now, Moore, 50, is back at it again, coming out of his new hometown of Seattle to try to reconquer America’s clubs.
“I’m out to do it,” Moore said in a recent interview. “I’m out on the road the same way a 20-year-old is. I’m out breaking towns.”
Moore will be out to break Sacramento on Saturday when he plays at The Torch Club.
In his youth, Moore did a stint in Joe Ely’s group – the best, hardest rocking band in Texas – and then, in 1993, signed with Capricorn Records.
Twenty-five years and 14 records later, Moore remains a Texas guitar hero. But he now lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he’s got much more going on that just playing guitar.
“It’s funny,” he said. “I’m just doing this juggling thing to a degree I never had to do as a kid. I try to practice guitar every day and write songs every day. I’m really involved with the Recording Academy. I’ve got two kids. There’s a lot going on. It really is a constant state of juggling.”
All the juggling, however, invariably returns Moore to his spiritual center – the stage.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is my church.” he said. “Rock ‘n’ roll is the place where I reach out to people, where I open up my soul, where I try to be not egotistical and cool. It can move your spirit, lift you up. When you find that energy, it can take you to a different place. ... You can’t really explain it. But you feel it and you know its there.”
At the heart of that rock ‘n’ roll spiritual experience is the electric guitar, the instrument that has served that purpose for decades.
“The guitar is really a mystical instrument,” Moore said. “It’s almost like you’re painting an abstract painting. You’re not using your voice, but you’re taking people to another place – and they really connect with it. People want to cheer at the end of a solo. I used to think that was a corny thing. Now I look at it as ritualistic.
“It (guitar) is deeper in my sets than it’s been at any time. I’m a big Hendrix fan. I’m a big Beatles fan. Both of them took that language and expanded the music. Early and mid period Ian, I was trying to do that, expand things and put my voice in it. I think I did that. I think my catalog stands up with anyone’s in terms of bravery, if not quality. Now, when I step on stage, I’m all about playing guitar.”
The guitar is at the center of “Toronto,” the EP Moore released in May 2018. It comes after 2017’s “Stranger Day,” a strong-selling disc of bedroom soul mixed with a little funk.
“You Gotta Know,” the new EP’s first single, a psychedelic guitar laced number that, lyrically, appears to be an old musician ripping the cooler-than-thou hipsters of the contemporary music world.
“It’s funny – not to give away too much of the narrative – I tried to write that from the perspective of a younger person,” Moore said. “The frustrating thing about being an artist is the interaction of the individual voice with the collective voice….
“The greatest things in rock ‘n’ roll are always the voice of the outsider, outside of the mainstream, outside what is supposed to be the thing to do. ‘Pitchfork’ (the indie music website) and places like that, they’re not thinking with the heart, they’re thinking with their heads. It’s all intellectual, trying to be hip. That’s what that song is about.”
Some of the songs from “Toronto” have made their way into Moore’s set which brings in his early staples, songs from his Capricorn albums and a few from “Stranger Day.”
But performances of individual numbers isn’t the point of his shows – he has a bigger, more fulfilling goal in mind.
“My mantra is to provide joy and have everyone there feel like they’ve had a great time, have seen the best show they’ve ever seen,” he said. “I want us all to find unity and one of the best ways to do that is at a rock ‘n’ roll concert.
“I have my own political beliefs that I’ve expressed many times before,” Moore said. “But it’s just not the time to do that. We don’t need anybody else standing up there saying everyone else is an asshole. We’ve got enough of that. We need a unifying thing. Music is a unifier and not a divider.
“When you get up there and you’ve got a room of people that are feeling the same empathy, the same energy, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever felt,” he elaborated. “I think about, like, Bruce Springsteen during ‘The River’ era and how he did that every night, how he opens up and shares his soul.”
As we walked, Moore, who’s been a friend of this writer since the ‘’90s, sounded like the idealistic youngster I met back then, whether talking about the unifying power of rock ‘n’ roll, the magic of guitar or his intention to get his music widely heard.
“I feel more determined than when you first met me,” Moore said. “I feel like what I do is powerful and I want people to hear it.”
If you go
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Torch Club, 904 15th St Sacramento