News of Barb Moran’s death this week at 56 came as a shock. Not only because she was far too young, but also because she always seemed like such a kid. No one in this town loved music more than she did or was more ready to be a fan.
While she had lately stepped mostly away from booking and promoting, she was not long ago a fixture at Geno’s, especially when it was down on Brown Street (it moved to Congress Street in 2005) and when Geno, himself, was alive (he died a year later, in 2006) to banter with her and see which of them could smoke more cigarettes in a sitting. Geno offered her a job on New Year’s Eve 1983, and for more than 20 years she stuck around, pushing drinks, bar managing, booking, and promoting.
I met her in 1999, when she was already an institution. Along with people like Jim Ahearn, Kris Clark, Bill Beasley, Pete Kostopolous, and Johnny Lomba, she was part of Portland’s late-’90s/early-2000s golden age of musical taste, a time when venues really carved out their niche and the scene’s personalities were large. Listening to her thick Maine accent mingle with her ravaged vocal cords while she read me club listings for bands like Big Meat Hammer and the Lyres over the phone during my time as a lowly listings editor wasn’t the easiest of chores, but I admit I loved it when she called me “Sammy baby” as soon as I hit the bottom of the Geno’s stairs.
Later, she worked with Phoenix “8 Days A Week” writer Josh Rogers on some great articles on the history of Portland’s live-music clubs and record stores (see “Keep On Turning,” August 1, 2002, and “Rock Archival,” March 20, 2003). Barb loved to tell stories, and she was wonderful at it, easy with a laugh and always ready with a little detail that brought a scene to life.
Barb was Portland, through and through, born on Munjoy Hill, and our city will be a little emptier without her.