“It’s kind of like starting to date someone again that you were in love with in high school,” says drummer Simon Scott on the reunion of his legendary UK shoegaze band, Slowdive.
During the first day of L.A.’s FYF Fest last month, Slowdive took the stage as a troop of anxious, sweaty Californians cheered; most of these fans never imagined having the opportunity to see Slowdive in person, much like the band never anticipated having another go-around after their 1994 split.
There were colors everywhere; halos of pink, orange, and yellow, both from the glowing Los Angeles sunset and the sherbet-gelled lights. A girl with rainbow-snowcone hair bawled hysterically from the front row. A kid buried underneath an oversized t-shirt screamed, “You should be headlining!” Bassist Nick Chaplin answered with an acknowledging smirk. Vocalist and guitarist Rachel Goswell’s shimmery, sequined ensemble was the perfect choice to accompany her divine sound. She was luminous on stage, and fans responded in kind with loud cheers.
They opened with two songs off their debut EP from 1990, “Slowdive” and “Avalyn,” followed by “Catch the Breeze.” “Crazy for You” echoed with singer/guitarist Neil Halstead’s rooted vocals: each word rang like a mantra. Next up were the tracks “Machine Gun,” “Souvlaki Space Station,” and “When the Sun Hits”. When Goswell announced “This song is called Alison,” the crowd was overjoyed with sentiment. “She Calls” preceded the closing number, a cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair.” Boos swirled through Exposition Park as Slowdive revealed their final song. “But we’ll be back soon!” assured Goswell. After the show ended she confided, “It felt really good to say ‘We’ll be back.’”
Listening to a Slowdive record is a consuming experience for many audiophiles; the strategic looping song structures, the haunting vocals, the live drumming, the wet reverb and delay pedals, the escalating chord progressions, the supersonic fuzz and distortions. Watching the band perform familiar songs under the big open sky swallowed up all who were present, engulfing the audience in a trance. There was as much ferocity as there was serenity; sometimes it was difficult to tell if we were watching a backyard rock show or a yogi’s meditation ritual. Maybe it was both.
Photos also by Jessie Askinazi.