It’s a no-frills little venue, with a bar along the back wall to the right of the stage. Tables for bands merch in front of that. Step down into a modest open area in front of the stage and there you have it. Couldn’t be any simpler.
It is the perfect spot for a night of dreamy noise pop, punk rock sing-alongs trace-inducing shoegaze.
I originally got excited about this show because I saw that Culture Abuse was going to be playing. The timing couldn’t have been better because I had just heard on one of my favorite podcasts that they were a band that was really worth seeing. After checking out the rest of the bands on the list, I was all in.
If you love bands that are able to create a cacophony of noise and mold it into an atmospheric world all its own, then you would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out any of the bands on this tour.
Opening our show was Ohio’s own Smut. These indie rock lovelies are doing their best to bring their own brand of shoegaze noise pop to the masses.
If the idea of a wall of cascading, swirly guitar noise mixed with somber, sweet vocals sounds like your cup of tea, then you need to get a little Smut in your life.
Their set was full of deep moody guitar riffs that while big and expansive never encroached on masturbatory like you might expect from a band with a stage full of effects pedals at their feet.
Tay Roebuck’s moody vocals, that ranged from distant and “over it” to aggressive and edgy, juxtaposed wonderfully with the whirlwind of sound around them.
Nothing quite says “this isn’t the highest energy show you will see tonight” as the lead singer of Smut taking a moment during one song to sit down, do some light stretching and watch the other members of their band play.
Not something you would see at say, a heavy metal or hip-hop show.
Combining jangly chorus and reverb with hairy as a mammoth fuzziness, Big Bite picked up and pushed the tempo forward.
Their sound perfectly mixed the staples of shoegaze’s big expansive riffs and a wall of sound with the urgency and energy of punk rock, all while maintaining that dreamy chorus heavy feeling that makes you want to sway back and forth in a crowd of strangers.
Add in a little bit of “The Smiths” feeling loopy tremolo and you have yourself an idea of what Big Bite is all about.
These California rockers are the odd duck on this bill. They aren’t a shoegaze band. They don’t have that “are they horribly depressed or just really high?” vibe that is so common in atmospheric music.
And that sonic omission is not a bad thing because let’s be honest, shoegaze is great, but a full bill of shoegaze is not exactly what you would call “high energy.”
That is why Culture Abuse is the perfect band to fill the slot right before the headliners.
No shoegaze lead singer is going to have the energy to crack jokes between songs or put the whole microphone in his mouth mid-verse.
But that is just the kind of commitment and showmanship that David Kelling brings to the table!
(Side note, I was totally wondering for the rest of the night if the mic was his or if it was a house mic, because, either way, hoo boy.)
Culture Abuse immediately shot the pulse rate of the whole room up 200% within the first verse of their opening song.
With full-bore punk rock energy, grooves sprinkled with some surf magic but still heavy enough to bang your head too, and lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to and get stuck in your head.
(Seriously, I have listened to their song “Dream On” today a dozen times at least.)
Which set the tone perfectly for our headliners, Nothing.
Nothing took the stage to a full house of cheering fans, the band is from Philadelphia but the feeling in the air was that of a homecoming show.
They wasted no time breaking into their own unique brand of shoegaze, which combines mountains of sparkling guitar tone, deep grinding bass, rock-solid drumming, and haunting vocals together to cultivate a sound that spans the field from ethereal, trapped in a dream, shoegaze to erratic high energy post-punk.
The hardcore spirit clearly hasn’t left lead singer Domenic Palermo, who took a moment during one song to hop into the crowd to sing and pass the mic around.
Did we answer all of life’s questions during this show? No. Did we find out if the shoegaze kids are horribly depressed or just really high? Probably a little of both.
Do we know where the mic that was in Davids’ mouth came from? Again no.
But do yourself a kindness and give each of these bands a listen. They deserve a rotation through your next playlist.
I can’t stop listening to any of them and you won’t be able to either.
Now go get lost in a sonic forest.