I went to my first concert in 1996. Alanis Morissette. South Park Meadows. Austin, Texas. It’s a shopping center now.
Anyways, it was kind of a revelation. After I regained my hearing 2 days later, it became something I’d continue to pursue to one extent or another. Since that summer in 1996, I’ve been to at least 37 proper shows. That shakes out to a modest 1.3 shows a year, but this year has seen me pick up the pace significantly.
Some of it has to do with what music is giving me right now, and a rediscovery of what live music—especially smaller shows—can do for my spirits. Some of it has to do with having such things taken away during the lockdown period of the pandemic, and internalizing the harsh truth that everything can change overnight. Some of it has to do with getting older, and wanting to hold dear what makes me happy as the finish line becomes less and less distant.
I’ve long relied on my Last.fm account to catalog the shows I’ve attended, but it’s pretty rudimentary and—most importantly—not my website. It’s also not a space that lends itself to sharing the experience.
This will probably only ever be interesting to me, but I made a Shows page. It’s a work in progress, but I’m glad to have my own space to catalog the shows I’ve been to and—for the older events—a few notes of what I can remember.
HANABIE., Galactic Empire
September 20, 2023
Trees, 2709 Elm Street, Dallas, TX 75226
General Admission x2, $66
WELL THAT WAS FUN.
I didn’t go into this show with a lot of expectations, but one of the few was that it might sound a bit too thin; HANABIE. make highly-produced music, and it’s always a gamble to take that to a stage where a backing track might make everything sound more full, but kind of tank the authenticity of the show. Still, come what may, I was pretty excited to see them play.
I’m not sure what could have been left wanting from my first proper metal show. The crowd was hyped. The band came on stage waving a Texas flag, which—you guessed it—amped up the room even more. Yukina declared “you dance!” and parted the crowd with a gesture like a metal Moses to make space for a pit. “How can she make her voice sound like that?” asked my wife. No idea. It’s something else. Chika was an absolute animal on the drums; Hettsu’s hair achieved main character status (iykyk); Matsuri’s riffs chugged hard. They played a bunch of songs from the new album plus “We love sweets” and one from their first EP (“Envy”, maybe?). “お先に失礼します (Pardon Me, I Have To Go Now)” tore it up. Yukina crowd surfed. They could not be more entertaining.
Venues always seem to be optimized for the headliner, so the sound was not immaculate, but it was pretty good. The band’s energy more than made up for it. They also played a lot longer than I expected, which was really nice since that’s who we’d come to see. And, yes, there were backing tracks, but they weren’t excessive. That more raw aesthetic ended up suiting them very well.
Galactic Empire were also very good. They cosplay very non-specific characters from the Star Wars universe (chill, Disney lawyers) and play metal versions of John Williams’ compositions from the films. Their performance was super tight and had some very campy elements that made it pretty fun, though I don’t know why anyone would choose HANABIE. as their opening act. They stole the show. 😂
Blushing w/Unwed Sailor, Flowerbed, Echo
September 6, 2023
Andy’s Bar, 122 N Locust St, Denton, TX 76201
General Admission x1, $16
I went to see Blushing play in Denton again last night. I really like Andy’s. This is the same venue where I saw them for the first time back in March. I don’t know if it’s the narrow, shotgun shape of the venue, the PA, the sound guy, or something else, but the sound was once again dialed in really good.
Blushing was great, as usual. This was the last stop on their tour, and they seemed to be in good spirits and having a lot of fun. Just like last time, attendance was pretty spare, with maybe 20-30 people throughout the night, including the bands. It didn’t matter, though; the small crowd meant it was all people who really wanted to be there.
The revelation of the night was Unwed Sailor. Holy crap. I listened to all of the bands’ recent material before going, and Unwed Sailor’s Mute the Charm was a really enjoyable listen; all instrumental tracks hopscotching a space between shoegaze, post-rock, and 80’s alternative. I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy the hell out of their set, but I was not prepared for how true that would be. They played about six songs with minimal stage banter, a projector painting the stage with abstract, trippy footage. Good artists know how to maximize the physicality of live music to their advantage, and this band killed it. The vibe was real. Band leader Johnathon Ford plays bass, and the songs grooved so hard. When they played “London Fog” about halfway through the set, the feeling was so sublime I thought I was going to cry. I mean… what? Took me by surprise. It was so beautiful.
Blushing closed their set by asking everyone to stick around and say hi to them at the merch table, because it’s their favorite part of the night. I’m never sure what I’m supposed to say when the people on the stage are looking at me from behind a merch table, but the night had felt so good that I decided to buck my social anxiety and stick around. I’m glad I did! The ladies from Blushing were really nice, and kind of marveled that I’d driven almost an hour to see them play. I said I’m happy to do it, and also that’s a totally normal distance to get anywhere in the Dallas area. 🙃 Apparently all of them had to be back at work the next morning, and one of them had been working remotely all day before the show. Show some love for your local artists, people. They juggle a lot to make space for their music.
After that, the drummer for Unwed Sailor caught me taking a picture of the upcoming shows at the venue, and we talked for a minute about which ones we were excited about. (Me: Bully! Him: Speedy Ortiz!) I decided to push my social skills even further by going over to Unwed Sailor’s merch table to ask them about the song that had almost made tears come out my face, and ended up having a cool chat with Johnathon about The Sundays and the beauty of songs written by bass players. And, naturally, I bought Mute the Charm on the spot.
What a great night. Aching back and all, I still didn’t want it to end. 💜
I’ve been sharing my favorite shoegaze songs pretty consistently over on my Mastodon account under the
#ShoegazeSaturday tag, but this is exactly the kind of stuff I’d rather not isolate in a social media account. Bad habits are hard to break!
Who knows how long I’ll keep this up, but as long as I keep sharing over there, I’ll keep sharing over here.
she’s green – “Purple”
Minneapolis band she’s green makes songs inspired by the natural world. “Moss rock”, they jokingly call it. Their EP, Wisteria, is lovely. “Purple” is my favorite track full of all my favorite things: breathy vocals, thick rhythm section, textured guitar, and soaring keys.
Telever – “Today”
Telever is a Thai band that plays a heavy flavor of shoegaze like Looprider or trauma ray. “Today” is a chugging behemoth that even manages to throw in a metalcore breakdown without making it weird.
Glixen – “Moodswing”
Glixen’s EP is hot off the presses, so I’m sharing their smokeshow of a first single, “Moodswing”.
Stella Luna – “Antares”
“Antares” by Stella Luna is an 8-minute shoegaze epic: soft, warbling, guitar picking swerving in and out of shearing power chords. Strong Catherine Wheel vibes all the way down.
Bonus: COLLAPSE – “PATH”
COLLAPSE leans to the heavier side of shoegaze, and their newest release doesn’t deviate. “PATH” locks into a tight groove right away and layers on chiming guitars until it all gets thrown into the most beautiful wood chipper halfway through the song. When the melody to “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat” comes out of nowhere and seeps in under the roar? Hot damn, that’s weirdly nice.
Blood Red Shoes w/Blushing
July 28, 2023
Dada, 2720 Elm St., Dallas, TX 75226
General Admission x2, $36
I’m not one to celebrate my birthday, but something about the past year has made me feel differently. Do I want anyone to throw me a birthday bash? Lol no. But take me to a rock show? Absolutely.
I’d already seen Blushing play back in March, and was super impressed; so much so that I bought tickets to this show even though they were the opening act, and I wasn’t all that interested in sticking around to watch the headliner. I really enjoyed it, though this was my second time at Dada, and I’ve noticed it doesn’t have the greatest sound. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a hole-in-the-wall bar made of bricks and concrete, top to bottom?
Anyways, Blushing played as tight as ever but sometimes it was hard to hear the detail that had blown me away the first time I saw them. They kicked off the set with “Surround”, which may be my favorite song of theirs, starting out slow and gentle, a frenetic drum fill then uncorking the syrupy second half of the song. Closer “So Many” took on a new, more energetic life featuring the band’s signature bassist-and-guitarist-kneeling-on-the-ground power move.
They played about 8 songs. I still don’t know all the titles by heart, so there were a couple I didn’t catch, but I’m pretty sure they played at least these tracks:
- Surround (With Love)
- Sour Punch
- So Many