The past few years have been good for shoegaze fans. The genre may have seemed like it had all but disappeared in the late 90s, but the recent reunions of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and more have met with a large amount of enthusiasm, signaling that the world is ready for the genre’s return. Oxford, England’s Swervedriver (one of the groups fitting the “more” bill) were one of the last to break up, in 1998, and also one of the first to get back together, a decade later in 2008. Since then, they have toured the world several times over, proving that the reunion was not just a quick cash grab, but rather that they were back to stay. The band finally cemented that in January with the release of their fifth album, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You.
Wednesday, the band brought that new album to the Rock and Roll Hotel. The opening song form the album, “Autodidact,” filled the room with a wash of guitars, serving as notice that the band has not compromised on their wall-of-sound approach with age. Two tracks from their 1993 album Mezcal Head (“For Seeking Heat” and “Never Lose That Feeling”), and throughout the set older tracks such as “Rave Down” (from 1991’s Raise) and “These Times” (from 1998’s 99th Dream) were interspersed with new songs like “Last Rites” and “Deep Wound.” At one point singer/guitarist Adam Franklin had problems with his guitar pedals and cables, which caused him to quip “this is why I went acoustic a few years ago” (a reference to his post-Swervedriver split project Adam Franklin and Bolts of Melody), but the band, including Jimmy Hartridge on guitar, Mikey Jones on drums, and Mick Quinn (from Supergrass, filling in for Steve George who couldn’t make the tour) on bass, filled the time well until he was back up and running, making it seem more like an extended version of the song than an unplanned issue.
During the encore, Franklin commented, “We were discussing whether to do a really loud song, or a groovy quiet song. Then I realized we don’t have any quiet songs, so I guess it’s going to have to be the loud one after all.” And with that, the band launched into “Red Queen Arms Race” from the new album, followed by yet another track from Mezcal Head, “Duel.” Overall, despite the problems, the band performed a very strong set, proving that they still have life in the present, not just in nostalgia.
Los Angeles psych band Gateway Drugs opened, with a sound reminiscent of bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The band, made up of siblings Gabriel, Noa, and Liv (the children of bassist Prescott Niles of The Knack) along with friend Blues Williams, performed a set of songs from their debut album Magick Spells, released at the beginning of this month. Based on the strength of their set, they’re going to be a band to watch for anyone into heavy but melodic rock. Closing their set with a cover of The Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” amped up with additional noise but still recognizable, they showed themselves to be a band with both an awareness of where they are headed and an appreciation for their influences.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.