On Nov. 17, British shoegaze veterans Slowdive and Los Angeles garage-rock band Cherry Glazerr played at Rams Head Live! as part of Slowdive’s North American tour. The band skipped over Baltimore in their original tour dates for the United States, instead hitting D.C. in May. But, two weeks ago, they managed to make their way here, and the show was great.
Slowdive formed in 1989, becoming a crucial part of the ‘90s shoegaze/dream pop scene that popped in England, known as “The Scene That Celebrates Itself.” Key albums that helped form this shoegaze movement include the seminal My Bloody Valentine album Loveless, the Cocteau Twins 1990s dream-pop album Heaven or Las Vegas and Slowdive’s most well-known record Souvlaki.
Souvlaki came out during the latter portion of the shoegaze movement and failed to make a large mark on the charts or critically. But over time it became a cult classic of sorts, shaving down some of the rougher edges from the rest of the scene. The production comes across as crisp and smooth, which stands in odds with a few of the things that I like about shoegaze.
The influence of bands like early Sonic Youth and Swans — with their hectic, noisy styles that would build slowly to a fever swell — were missing on Souvlaki and the band’s follow-up album Pygmalion. Pygmalion also marked a larger move towards a dream pop sound for the band.
After Pygmalion, multiple members of the band left and the remaining members changed their name to Mojave 3, releasing the amazing dream pop album Ask Me Tomorrow. Mojave 3 released music until 2006 but continued touring for some time after leaving the studio.
Slowdive reformed with its original lineup in 2014, playing multiple festivals before recording and releasing their comeback album, Slowdive, this year. The album followed in the dream pop footsteps of Mojave 3 and Pygmalion.
The show was a huge surprise for me. The band’s sound could be compared to staying in on a sad, rainy day (in the best way possible), but the show featured lighting that wouldn’t have been out of place at an EDM show. It worked well though, the blaring wall of sound mixed with blinding lights helped to elicit an overwhelming feeling that I associate with shoegaze music. The guitar work blared, distorted but clean and with tons of reverb. It was exactly what I wanted out of the show.
The band played songs from across their entire discography, with highlights being their performance of “Alison” from Souvlaki. The live rendition was pretty great, although it paled in comparison to the pitch-perfect studio version — but hey, what can you do? The real standout performance was “Crazy for You” from Pygmalion, featuring Rachel Goswell’s amazing vocals over the catchy guitar riff that lays a foundation for the song.
There was also a really great performance of one of the lead singles from Slowdive, “Sugar for the Pill,” which featured an eye-catching series of images the band produced on the screen behind them (a rotating pill that broke open before reforming multiple times).
Slowdive was supported by the Los Angeles band Cherry Glazerr, perhaps best known for their initial Bandcamp output, from which they moved on to sign with Burger Records. Now signed to Secretly Canadian, Cherry Glazerr recently released their second studio album Apocalipstick.
Cherry Glazerr’s earlier songs caught the eyes of a number of blogs including Stereogum. Their 2014 single “Had Ten Dollaz” was their breakout release and the EP of the same name also garnered plenty of praise.
Cherry Glazerr is growing at a steady pace in terms of popularity, as the band was barely on anyone’s radar a few years ago and is now releasing music videos on their own Vevo channel. They have even made some “End of the Year” lists, a good sign for an up-and-coming act.
Slowdive and Cherry Glazerr make for a weird duo for a live performance, with one being super-serious and mournful while the other is more playful and in your face rock and roll. But the crowd was into it, and truth be told, so was I.
Usually a mix of energetic bands and slower ones don’t make for the best of experiences, and though I loved Windjammer Festival a few years back, I maintain that Beach House should have played before Future Islands and Dan Deacon, as that would’ve built up the atmosphere.
That said, of the recent shows that have been at Rams Head Live!, this was one of the better ones.