Encouraged by his parents, Ian Moore took up the violin at age six and guitar at age 15. By the early 1990s, Moore was a teenage guitar prodigy in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Joe Ely hired him for his touring band, but then Moore started his own bands, first Ian Moore & Moment’s Notice, then the Ian Moore Band. Moore quickly becoming one of Austin’s largest draws, playing blues and rock originals. After issuing 10 studio albums over the past 25 years, Moore’ s most recent recording is a six-song EP, Toronto, released on May 25, 2018. For the past two decades, he has been based in Seattle, Washington.
Although Ian Moore no longer lives in Texas, his set at Coney Island Baby showed his southern roots. His extended guitar solos were bluesy, his singing was soulful, and he added Muddy Waters and Freddie King covers to his set of original songs. Moore was backed by an able keyboardist and rhythm section, but his singing and guitar work were at the forefront of the entire set. The guitar leads were especially impressive in that they were graceful, emotive runs rather than flashy or speedy head spinners. Periodically, as his vocals faded off, he jammed on his guitar, smoothly juggling hard riffs with sweet melodic scales. Given the proper exposure, Moore could become one of modern blues rock’s musical gurus.
Fear/The Gramercy Theatre/September 21, 2018
Lee Capallero was born in Philadelphia, where his mother taught him to play her mandolin at age four. He studied guitar at age 11, and by the late 1960s, under the name Lee Ving, he joined the Sweet Stavin Chain Blues Band. Ving then moved to New York and formed the band Daybreak. In the mid-1970s, he moved to Los Angeles, California, and finally tasted national success with the seminal punk rock band Fear, which he founded in 1977. In 1981, comedian John Belushi secured Fear a gig on “Saturday Night Live”, during which slam dancers caused a reported $20,000 in damages. Fear disbanded in 1993, and for the next two years, Ving led a band called Lee Ving’s Army in Austin, Texas. This band became the new Fear lineup in 2015. In 2018, Ving reunited with two early members of Fear, lead guitarist Philo Cramer and drummer Spit Stix, and added former AFI bassist Geoff Kresge and former Viva Hate guitarist Eric Razo. Ving has been Fear’s only constant member.
Fear’s current tour consists almost exclusively of performances of songs from the band’s 1982 debut album, The Record, plus a handful of additional songs from the 1980s and 1990s. Although more than 35 years have passed since The Record was released, Ving and the band played the vintage songs with the same fire and abandon at the Gramercy Theatre. The difference now was that the new and more professional lineup injected additional precision and clarity to the volatile songs. Thankfully, the evolution did not sacrifice any of the original urgency and explosive energy. The only liability was that with almost the entire performance pivoting on one album, the band seemed stuck in 1982. Could Fear compose new material that would have similar impact? One could not tell. For the audience, living in the present mandated a journey to the past.
Shakey Graves/Terminal 5/September 22, 2018
After high school in his native Austin, Texas, Alejandro Rose-Garcia attempted a career in acting and relocated to Los Angeles. This proved more challenging than perhaps he anticipated; he eventually landed a recurring role in the television series “Friday Night Lights” and the Spy Kids franchise, but only after returning to Texas. He began busking as a one-man band, playing acoustic guitar and stepping on foot pedals attached to a suitcase and a tambourine for percussion. This concept originated after he grew weary of borrowing kick drums and high hats for performances. Over a campfire at a music festival in 2007, he and some friends gave each other fictitious Native American-styled guide names over a campfire. He decided to keep his name, Shakey Graves. Graves won the Best Emerging Artist award at the 2015 Americana Music Awards. In 2018, Graves released his fifth and most recent album, Can’t Wake Up, on May 4, and the Night Owl EP yesterday, September 21.
Shakey Graves started solo at Terminal 5, with his traditional one-man band set-up. The songs were rich with grit and soul, as Graves played twangy folk and blustery blues leads on his acoustic guitar and claimed his percussion via foot pedals on a suitcase and a tambourine. This performance was mesmerizing, as Graves filled the stage with intriguing sound. After three solo songs, he introduced his band, guitarist Patrick O’Connor, bass player Jonathan Shaw, and drummer Christopher Boosahda. The music turned to an entirely different direction. No longer even remotely Americana in flavor, the songs were imaginative and eclectic alternative rock songs. Quite probably, many in the audience were not ready for this 180-degree switch, but he and his band competently performed these new songs that were charmed with intriguing vocals, grungy guitar work and complex arrangements. Graves returned to his better known boot-stomping solo performance for the last three songs before the encores. Graves may have ditched the cowboy hat and suspenders of his previous tours, but he has not totally abandoned his suitcase — at least not yet.
Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives/The Town Hall/September 23, 2018
The Byrds formed in 1964 in Los Angeles, and was leading the folk rock movement in the mid-1960s and the psychedelic rock market in the late 1960s when the band changed direction again in 1968. The Byrds’ sixth album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, became arguably the first full-immersion country-rock album by a popular band. At the time of its release, the album was rejected by both country and rock audiences, but ultimately became a highly influential album, serving as a blueprint for the 1970s country rock and outlaw country movements, as well as the new traditionalist and alternative country genres of the 1990s. The Byrds went through many personnel shifts, with Roger McGuinn as the sole constant member, until McGuinn dismantled the brand when he recorded his first solo album in 1973. Presently, David Cosby owns the name of the Byrds.
McGuinn and Chris Hillman were the principal architects of Sweetheart of the Radio (with Gram Parsons, who died in 1973), so although they could not call themselves the Byrds they did perform a tribute to their former band and the 50th anniversary of the Sweetheart album. Backed by Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, this was the first tour in which McGuinn and Hillman have performed together in 25 years. The evening at the Town Hall, consisted of a first set of the more countrified songs from the Byrds’ early repertoire, a second set replaying the entire Sweetheart album, laced with nostalgic anecdotes, and an encore that included a tribute to one of the Byrds’ disciples, Tom Petty. McGuinn, Hillman, Stuart, Kenny Vaughn and Chris Scruggs switched up on acoustic, electric and steel guitars, bass and mandolin for much of the evening, with drummer Harry Stinson adding to their harmonies. The weakest element may have been McGuinn’s vocals, which often sounded strained, but the frequent gang harmonies overshadowed this challenge. Country-rock has traveled a long way since this point of origin, and the modern context fittingly allowed for a greater acceptance and more suitable reception 50 years later.