[DRIVING PSYCHEDELIA] Why does the loosely configured genre of shoegaze continue to provide so much inspiration, some 15 years after many of its progenitors brought it to life? For any sensitive lad or lass who grew up too weedy for punk and too cheerful for goth, the sound of bands like Ride, Pale Saints and Swervedriver hit you right in your emotional center. The lyrics were thoughtful and literary (see: Ride's liberal use of J.D. Salinger quotes in the song "Polar Bear" from the 1990 LP Nowhere) and the heavily processed, overdriven guitars sounded...well, like nothing else on this planet. Shoegaze had its own fashion sense—fitted jeans, suede jackets and long-sleeved tees were a typical uniform—to ensure band members looked incredibly cool standing stock-still onstage and staring at their guitar pedals.
If that weren't enough, the volume that these bands often played at provided a cathartic rush (just ask anyone who survived the "Armageddon" section of My Bloody Valentine's "You Made Me Realise" at the quartet's 2009 show in Seattle). The band members' (and fans') liberal use of psychotropic drugs probably didn't hurt the music's appeal, either.
For these reasons and more, bands like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and A Sunny Day in Glasgow—or local outfits such as the Prids and the High Violets—still mine that rich shoegaze sound for inspiration. And it's why the Shoegazers' Ball, an annual concert that Reverb Records owner Michael Fitzgerald held from 2002 to 2005, was such a rousing success.
"It seemed like every week or so since we stopped doing the shows, someone would come up to me and ask, 'When are you gonna do another one? You gotta do that again,'" Fitzgerald says.
Finally ready to answer the call, Fitzgerald has organized a new event for 2010, renamed the Fuzzy Ball to pay tribute to the influence of psychedelic rock on the shoegaze aesthetic. This Friday's concert features a mind-melting lineup of acts from the Northwest (including the aforementioned Prids, Portland's Pete International Airport and Seattle's Hypatia Lake) all playing short sets featuring three covers of their favorite shoegaze/psych tunes and one original. For longtime fans, a chance to revel in the classics (and perhaps inspire a delicious acid flashback); for newbies, perhaps the starting point for a new generation of loud, sensitive pop. Either way, everybody goes home blissed out. Next year could be even bigger. "We tried to fly some folks in this year that would have been amazing," Fitzgerald says. "But I think that we've sown the seeds for some even better things if we pull it off next year."
The Fuzzy Ball is Friday, Dec. 17, at the Wonder Ballroom. See listings for full lineup. 8 pm. $10. 21+.