Kathy Moore remembers hearing the sound. At the time in the early 1990s, the Midwest-born musician was living in Long Beach, California. There, she was studying jazz. She had an affinity for classic rock and jam bands like Fishbone, but her personal focus was on the music she was learning. But then, one day, while watching MTV, she saw the music video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and something shifted. For Moore, who had spent time already living in Seattle before moving to southern California, she knew something had changed. So, she decided to pack up and head back to the Pacific Northwest.

“I got these shivers all over me,” she says. “I got that great feeling you get when you’re scared of music [in a good way]. Led Zeppelin scared me. Bowie scared me. Just seeing those girls in tattoos cheerleading [in the Nirvana music video]—and the song was so incredible.”

Moore bought a flannel shirt, moved back to Seattle, and has been here ever since. But even then, she didn’t come up to the city to play rock. She was still set on jazz. Still, she felt “Pied Piper’d” back to the Northwest. “It seemed like something was happening that was kind of exciting,” she says of that time.

Kathy Moore Krist Novoselic Tacoma
Kathy Moore, guitarist to the stars. Photo credit: Steve Korn

Today, Moore is an essential player in the region. Known as one of the premier guitarists in a city overflowing with six-string players, Moore has become a guitar player to the stars. Not only has she given Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready guitar lessons, but she has also played with bands like Thunderpussy and Star Anna. Now, things have come full circle, and she is performing in a new group with Nirvana’s former bassist, Krist Novoselic.

What was initially supposed to be a one-off show has now turned into ten gigs. She and the new group—Krist Novoselic’s Bonafide Band—have already played shows at the famed Easy Street Records in West Seattle and the Make Music Day festival in Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, among several others. And on Tuesday (July 23), the group is set to play at the Spanish Ballroom in Tacoma. Featuring Moore on guitar, Novoselic on bass and accordion, Mark Pickerel (who recommended Moore for the band) on drums, and vocalists Jillian Weiss and Jennifer Johnson (who also play in another of Novoselic’s bands, 3rd Secret), the Bonafide Band is hard rocking project that performs songs from Nirvana, Giants in the Trees (another of Novoselic’s musical groups), grunge band Screaming Trees and others.

Kathy Moore Krist Novoselic Tacoma
The band recording with Jack Endino. Photo credit: Jack Endino

Along with performing high-quality music, Novoselic says he created the Bonafide Band to promote the Cascade Party of Washington. Novoselic, who has a history in local politics, aims to gather signatures for the party at the shows to help bring awareness to it and perhaps even get him on the presidential ballot in Washington during the upcoming election in November. “Cascade Party seeks to gather 1,000 valid signatures before July 28 to qualify as a minor party in Washington,” notes a press release for the shows. “[But] the performances are primarily entertainment events.”

Politics aside, though, Moore expects the Tacoma show to be loud—which is one of her favorite words when it comes to live music. Preparing for the events has been a blast, too. “We rehearse a lot,” says Moore. “It’s the most intensely I’ve rehearsed for any project… Then we take time to just hang out and eat and talk. It’s a very positive environment.”

Moore appreciates music most of all these days when she gets to learn something new while doing it. As part of the Bonafide Band, she has gotten to record with grunge icon Jack Endino, a first for her. For Moore, who started learning music by playing piano but later picked up a guitar, fell in love with the instrument, and practiced to the point where she couldn’t stop, music, especially her electric six-string has been a way to navigate and understand the world.

“There’s something about the guitar that made me practice it to the point where I was, like, not taking care of my friendships,” she says with a laugh. “I was just in my room, trying to learn it and get better all the time. Hopefully, now I’m filling in the things that are deficits in my playing.”

Kathy Moore Krist Novoselic Tacoma
The Kathy Moore Super Power Trio. Photo courtesy: Kathy with her KMSPT

The thing is, though, anyone who has heard Moore will tell you there are no discernable deficits. She’s a dynamo, an inferno. She loses herself in a song as if her mind starts to float above her head, mixing like swirls of electric color with the vibrations of what she’s playing. It’s what recently led McCready to seek her out for lessons on theory, scales and finger-picking. In fact, Moore, who plays in other bands, too, like her Kathy Moore Super Power Trio, is currently writing a book of guitar lessons that she soon hopes to publish. And it’s all of this and, well, more that she’ll bring to Tacoma on July 23 with Novoselic and company.

“Performing and losing yourself with people on stage,” Moore says, “I just love that whole part of it. There are so many different ways you can express music that give you absolute satisfaction.”