The shoegaze movement undeniably peaked in the early 90s, and some would even say it died as a genre. Yet, its brilliance lives on in the “shoegaze renaissance,” its legacy manifested in nu-gaze, dreampop, and space rock bands, with new generations drawing influence from its classic distortion and feedback-ridden sound. However, one band in particular has successfully resisted the pull to abandon their shoegaze origins, maintaining an authentically shoegaze sound over 30 years after their debut in ‘89. Returning stronger than ever, Slowdive’s recent release everything is alive incorporated sonic developments such as refined guitar riffs and dreamy synths, while still keeping the same virtues and distinct sound that guided 1994’s Souvlaki. Tonight, they’ve sold out their second night in Los Angeles, the Bellwether packed at full capacity.
With the ironically apathetic, “Hello, good evening, that’s all I’m going to say tonight,” Tommy Graf, frontman of the LA-based opening band, Sun Colony, effectively introduced himself, launching the band into a performance of swirling guitars, and rhythmic synths. Walking the line between dream pop and shoegaze, Graf, accompanied by Derek Mabra on guitar, Brandon Sciarra on drums, and Sam Ribejro on drums alternated between an emphasis on haunting guitar tones and imposing drum rhythms. Graf’s vocals at times seemed almost nonsensical. They were prolonged utterances sometimes devoid of comprehensibility, earthy tones intersecting with comprehensible lyrics. In combination with the melodic work of the band, the overall effect was that of an afternoon haze, fog intermittently replaced by a clarity that spotlighted each member of the talented ensemble.
Further replicating this phenomenon was Krista Michaela, whom the band welcomed onstage in celebration of their collaboration in the recording of Sun Colony’s newest release. Krista’s angelic voice was a breath of fresh air when paired with Graf’s heavier vocal tone, the two complimenting each other beautifully, uplifting one another to achieve pretty harmonies.
As Sun Colony took their exit, attention was immediately directed towards two mic stands brought to the front of the stage, adorned with alabaster feathers glowing bright blue under the stage lights. The boas, the sole adornment to an otherwise conventional setup (besides the plethora of pedals decorating the floor, of course), seemed to encapsulate the impending presence of frontwoman Rachel Goswell, the vacant keyboard lingering in anticipation of Goswell’s touch.
Finally, the lights dimmed, and the band took the stage as the thrilling synth arpeggios of “shanty,” the opening track off of everything is alive, escalated into crashing distorted guitars. Debuting a more dreamier and mature sound, Slowdive’s carefully crafted melodies proved they were capable of impressively refining their iconic sound without abandoning its beloved origins.
After the beginning riff of “Souvlaki Space Station” resonated across the walls of the Bellwether, Simon Scott’s drums launched the band into one of their most introspective songs. This six minute reverb-heavy journey of longing, euphoria, and tenderness culminated in Nick Chaplin’s crunchy bassline that was matched with shrieking tones from Christian Savill’s guitar.
Slowdive perfected the art of metamorphosis, transmuting the Bellwether into an intermediate between reality and imagination. “Kisses,” one of their more rhythmic and upbeat tracks, revealed polished acoustics, with the delicate notes wrapping the audience in a tender embrace.
Almost 30 years after its initial release, fan favorite “When The Sun Hits” was met with cheers erupting from the crowd, seconds after the intro guitar riff pierced the air. This live performance showcased greater depth and sonic improvements from the 1994 studio recording, with textured guitars and crashing cymbals melting together as the strobe lights shimmered behind them. It’s this timelessness that characterizes Slowdive’s nostalgic sound, with audience members ages 15-50 relating to the same sentiments expressed by the band in 1994. The same went for “Alison,” the crowd harmonizing with vocalists Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead: “Alison, I said, “We’re sinking / There’s nothing here, but that’s okay.”
They ended the set with “Golden Hair,” Goswell’s ethereal vocals building suspense before she swiftly exited the stage. The four piece erupted into sonic pandemonium, composing a dreamscape that crescendoed into a hypnotic whirlpool of drawn-out guitars.
Returning for a four song encore, they jumped straight into the instrumental track “Prayer Remembered.” The absence of vocals showcased Slowdive’s ability to craft a narrative without words, with the melancholy guitars fusing into elegant atmospherics.
The stripped down “Dagger” featured only Halstead and Goswell’s words: “The world is full of noise yeah / I hear it all the time / And me I am your dagger / You know I am your wound” layered over simple guitar chords. Speaking directly to the audience, they dictated one of the heavier moments of the show, ending the song with the somber lyrics “I thought I heard you whisper / It happens all the time.”
For the finale of the night, the band played “40 Days.” To no surprise, the fuzz-heavy, classic shoegaze-style riffs swept the audience off their feet, dumping us into a vortex of overdrive. Despite the song being about a breakup, it took a completely new meaning in person, with the lyrics “I said I love the way that you smile,” accompanied by a pop-leaning, almost hopeful sound with Goswell merrily brandishing a tambourine.
20 minutes after the show, the boulevard was still packed with concertgoers. Whether gazing into the sparkling city lights of downtown Los Angeles or sharing a smoke with a friend, every individual was refreshed with the philosophy that everything really is alive.
Listen to Slowdive’s recent release, everything is alive: