Horace Moore: Widespread Panic’s "Unofficial Official Archivist" Earns His Stripes
Horace Moore first connected with Dave Schools, shortly after they both arrived for their freshman year of college. The two bonded over Grateful Dead tapes and maintained a relationship that eventually saw them bonding over Widespread Panic tapes, with Schools quite literally supplying the music. Recently Moore has dropped the word “unofficial” from his prior title as the group’s “unofficial official archivist,” and is currently overseeing the band’s live release series. Here he talks about how that all came about and what he has planned for the future [Since then, Moore has announced the fourth installment of the series, a show from. With all the details at the archivist blog on Widespreadpanic.com
DB- I’ve heard that your current role began through your relationship with fellow Deadhead Dave Schools, shortly after you both arrived at college. Can you talk about how you first met him and the other guys in the band?
HM- I met Dave on my first day here on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. Someone who ended up becoming a mutual friend of ours, introduced us. The way I heard about Dave was, “You’ve got to meet this guy across the hall because he’s got a ton of Grateful Dead tapes that I’m sure you’d like to check out.” So within the hour I was over there and met Dave and the rest is history. A great friendship over the years and music has been at the core of that friendship.
In terms of the band, after meeting Dave we spent about a year being great friends, struggling with school and what we want to do when we really grow up, traveling around a lot and enjoying a lot of music. Then within about a year we met JB and Mikey and all the friends and family members you never really hear about, the glue.
I never really thought even for a minute that everyone would get together and there would be this huge band thing going on but that’s the way it evolved. It was a very organic process. A bass player meets a couple of guitar players and eventually they get a drummer involved…
The guys always had music on their mind and wanted to do their own thing and it’s been a great ride in the sense of being on the sideline checking it out. And it’s fun being a little more officially involved at this point too.
DB- When was the first time you saw the band perform in some fashion?
HM- The first time would be sitting around their house over at King Avenue in Athens. They were without a drummer at the time, so whoever was there kind of became the drummer. Passing the bongos around just trying to give a little beat to the background for these guys to play on top of. Just friends hanging out.
As far as the first semi-official show, it was not a buy a ticket, go to a show thing. It was really just playing at a party the way parties happen at any college town with a couple of kegs at somebody’s house. The friend that introduced Dave and myself to JB and those guys, had an A-frame house with a few other dudes here in Athens. So in February of 1985, I think, they threw a nice party, had some beverages and had what was Widespread playing.
It was Dave and Mikey and JB and I could put myself right there right now by closing my eyes. They were sitting on the deck and they had the thing going on. That was the first time I remember it being semi-official. Then they did a few more things that year and it got serious for them at that point. I can remember getting ready to go out on Dead tour in the summer. Dave and I were roommates at the time and I just figured he was going like he always had with me and our buddies. But he said, “No, I think I’m going to stick around. I’ve got a couple of things I need to do with JB and Mikey.” And I thought, ‘Whoa, okay, good enough.”
Then by the time the spring of 86 rolled around, you’ve got Todd joining the band in February and their first true ticketed paid admission at a music club type thing. It was The Mad Hatter, which is no longer here in Athens. The Classic Center sits on top of the spot where it used to be. But I was at that show as well and I can remember standing outside with my friend waiting for a couple other people to get there and go inside and how excited we were: “Can you believe they’re playing a real gig? They’ve even got a drummer, it should be fun…” And from there it kind of went on its own.
DB- How many tapes do you have in the archives of that early period?
HM- I’ve got tapes of some of the practice sessions where in the background you can hear a bunch of friends talking and telling the dog to sit down or get off the sofa or whatever. That evolved into the February show at the A Frame House and tapes of that exist.
In ‘85 there wasn’t a whole lot going on, just a handful of things that happened with the three piece. Once ‘86 got rolling around, I taped a lot of the shows at the Uptown Theater and a lot of people who were able to head to the out of town gigs were doing the same thing. Back in the early 90s all those cassette tapes from that time found their way into my house.
I kind of look down the road and see that maybe that material is worth a bonus disc. I don’t know if it’s something that necessarily stands on its own as an archive release. The problem with the 86/87 stuff is it’s a two track format and there’s really not a whole lot you can do to clean it up. You can give it a little bit more bass or a little bit more high end, clean some hiss out of it but there’s not a lot you can do to isolate one instrument over another or push one up and pull one down. And that presents some issues because a lot of the rooms the guys played in during that time did not make for even a good soundboard tape. You get so much bleed coming off the monitors on the stage that gets into the microphones. They’re fun to listen to for people who are totally into it and want to hear everything but I’m not sure we’ll be gravitating towards those to put them out. The meat of the archive series will come from the years when they had multi-track ability and were recording the shows up to 64 tracks, which gives you the ability to go back in and mix the show for a CD and just make it sound awesome.
DB- What year did that begin?
HM- That happened at the very end of ‘94 and really started full charge in ‘95.
DB- Can you talk a bit about the selection of the Huntsville show [Von Braun Civic Center, Huntsville, AL, 4/3/96] which has become the third installment in the series.
HM- The thing about picking the first two, is they’re the toughest ones because you can’t please everybody at once. If you look backwards after your tenth release it’s a little easier to pick number eleven because you have that history and you’ve been able to choose different years and certain shows you know people would be interested in and found that little gem nobody knew about. So trying to get things off on the right track is a little harder, which I guess is true about anything in life.
With Huntsville, one of the things I specifically wanted to do was pick a show that had a lot of support through the ranks of Widespread Panic fans, be it the casual fan or the hardcore. And I knew the performance was there and the desire to have it put on an official archive release was there in terms of the fan side of things. I probably started with about ten shows and for one reason or another I culled some out and finally settled on about two or three. Then I made CDs for the band members and people around the office and we put our thumbs up or down across the board. Then it was left up to me as to what I wanted the call to be for number three. So I just made the call.
I thought it was great show from a lot of different perspectives. I thought it captured the band when they really hit their full speed. You’ve also got the first “Sandbox,” an iconic Mikey tune that I thought was special. A lot of great jams in the second set that tie together real well with great segues and a lot of high energy, along with band and crowd interaction.
I knew that a lot of people had the tapes of this show in their collections and some had soundboard recordings, especially of the second set. However, I also knew that the multi-track process was going to produce something that was better than what people had. That way I thought we really could show what we could do.
Chris Rabold [The band’s current soundman] did a fantastic job on sound engineering and he’s written some blog comments on our archive web page. He basically tried to mix this thing as if we were mixing it at a show.
I thought maybe Huntsville could pull a lot of people on board who maybe hadn’t heard about the archive project to date. I also knew that it would go a long way towards showing the true opportunity of these multi-tracks to take shows from that period of time where people do have tapes but demonstrate that we really can improve on the sound quality that they have in their collections right now.