Words by Marley Lynch
New York City — Talk about eccentric R. Stevie Moore opened his show at Brooklyn’s Cameo Gallery on April 14th wearing a white linen suit over a short-sleeved hoodie imprinted with neon skulls, rubbing a towel over his belligerent grey hair and moaning wordlessly into the microphone. And it only got weirder from there.
Fans who came to see the 59-year old original seemed to know what to expect. They danced to his experimental songs, laughed nervously at his semi-articulate digressions, and played along with his rambunctious antics. Indeed, they seemed pleased with Moore’s delivery of his pop, punk and prog rock songs, which were backed by attractive Brooklyn band Tropical Ooze. Instead of being just plain bizarre, the concert was ultimately mesmerizing and inimitable; it offered a window into Moore’s mysterious world, the man hailed as the “Godfather of Home Recording” who remains lamentably unrecognized.
The son of Bob Moore, revered session bassist who played with the likes of Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline, Moore Jr. grew up in Nashville and learned to play the guitar, piano, bass, and drums as a teenager. This self-sufficient method also extends to his production – the DIY stalwart writes, plays, records and mixes all of his music. He has now released over 400 genre-crossing records over a course of 32 years. Can you say prolific? If you’d like to delve into this indefatigable music catalogue, you can find it on a variety of domestic and international indie labels, as well as through the R. Stevie Moore Tape Club, a home delivery service powered by – who else? – the underground musician himself.
Moore’s releases are enough to send any record store employee into a head-scratching frenzy – what bin should they be placed in? This question is simply impossible to answer as his music captures an incredible range of styles and influences. Present are the sounds of the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Todd Rundgren, 10cc, Talking Heads and the Ramones. Moore is also the pioneer of the lo-fi movement, long before it became popularized by bands such as Pavement, Guided by Voices, and the Radio Dept.
The tightness of last week’s performance is even more impressive when you consider the diverse and formidable material Tropical Ooze was faced with learning (also keep in mind the challenges of working with a musician as idiosyncratic as Moore). On “Irony,” an appealing, poppy song, his characteristically nasal falsetto was expertly backed by T’Ooze’s gentle guitar twangs and melodic keyboard strokes to create a funky, danceable groove.
Towards the end of the show, Moore stormed offstage along with his band, only to return on his own – “totally unrehearsed the way you like,” he assured his audience with a creepy giggle. Tenderly fondling his guitar, which was covered with a peeling sticker of the Virgin Mary, he delivered a solo acoustic session. His diffidence was only betrayed by his wailing lyrics: “Mama I’m at the top of my game // They all in the palm of my hand // What do I do now?”
If you did not catch him at Cameo, Moore will be back in the Big Apple on June 2nd to open for Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza. He is currently raising money for a world tour, so curious non-New Yorkers (as well as NYC dwellers) should donate at his Kickstarter Campaign to be sure to take advantage of his rare forays out of the recording studio (also known as his living room). His value as a live performer is seriously underrated, and he doesn’t leave his audience bored. As one concert-goer aptly put it, “he’s like Santa Claus on LSD.”
TheWaster.com | Cameo