by Dan Bellek
2017: The Year Shoegaze Broke?
Well, maybe not, but with a slew of first-wave shoegaze/dreampop bands (including Lush, Ride, Slowdive, and My Bloody Valentine, just to mention a few) reforming and/or recording new material and touring over the past couple years, you’d be foolish not to think so. And that’s not to mention the next generation of shoegazers who have taken up the torch, carrying forward the genre’s penchant for loud guitars and hazy vocals, all awash in layer upon layer of reverb and effects.
Although the Veldt have been pigeonholed as a shoegaze/dreampop band (probably due to their past association/collaboration with the likes of Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and A.R. Kane), they are that and so much more, as they demonstrated at St. Paul’s newly re-opened Palace Theater on March 12.
The main thing that sets the Veldt apart among shoegaze bands are the impassioned and soulful vocals of Daniel Chavis, who, along with his twin brother Danny on guitars, formed the Veldt thirty years ago in their native Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Through several singles, EPs, albums, record labels and a brief name change to Apollo Heights, they’ve been at it ever since, bucking musical trends and attempts by the industry to define them (“all the better to market them to the record-buying public”, as they might say).
Even a late winter snowstorm could not stop The Veldt from bringing their own, distinct brand of warm beautiful noise to the Palace. Combining equal parts psychedelia, shoegaze and old school soul, the twin Chavis brothers, Hayato Nakao (guitars & programming), Marvin Levi (drums) and Alex Cox (bass) let loose on a selection of old favorites as well as a preview of their soon-to-be-released single during their all-too-brief set.
They opened with an old favorite, “Everlasting Gobbstopper”, which was originally released when they were Apollo Heights. Daniel’s vocals soared and swooped with a passion hardly seen in a shoegaze act, while Danny, Hayato, Marvin and Alex sculpted a dense, swirling yet fine wall of sound behind him. The crowd, made up mostly of fans of headlining act Phantogram, took notice of the Veldt, proving that they were quite capable of overcoming the dreaded “Opening Act Syndrome”, where you are either ignored at best, or booed off the stage at worst.
The Veldt also played their recent single “Sanctified”, which came out on “The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation” EP last year. The song owes as much to ‘70s-era soul as it does to shoegaze, starting like an updated old-school Quiet Storm track, before climaxing with Daniel’s impassioned cries of “Hallelujah” over and over before crashing into the glistening shimmer of distorted, billowing guitars, really giving Danny a chance to show off what a Vox doubleneck 6/12 string guitar can do in the proper hands (not to mention Hayato’s guitar blasts and the powerful rhythm section of Marvin and Alex holding it all together). It is nothing short of amazing on record, and it takes on a truly ethereal spirit of its own live. It was definitely a showstopper and a highlight of the evening.
The St. Paul crowd even got a sneak peek at two tracks from their upcoming Symmetry 7” single, which will be released on Record Store Day. They played both “Symmetry” and “Slow Drag”, the A and B sides, respectively, before winding down their set. Daniel was quite affable when they finished, encouraging the crowd to stick around after the show and hang out if they were so inclined– which a fair number did, I might add.
After their performance, I spent a bit of time loitering around their merch booth, and noticed a fair amount of interest in their latest single (available on both CD and vinyl) and chatted with a number of fans who had never heard them before, but came away quite impressed, to say the least. Several fans purchased “The Shocking Fuzz…” and had them brought backstage by drummer Marvin Levi to be autographed by the band, which they graciously did, of course.
As a rule, people from Minnesota and its environs tend to not be overly expressive when they encounter something they like (I blame the Scandinavian/northern European heritage many of us share) but I would say that the Veldt not only impressed their diehard fans but won over several new ones as well. And as anyone who has ever had to open for a more well-known act, that’s a victory in and of itself.
Too Close to Home
Daniel Chavis: Vocals, Guitars
Danny Chavis: Guitars
Hayato Nakao: Guitars & Programming
Alex Cox: Bass
Marvin Levi: Drums
ON THE WEB
Dan Ballek got his start as an opinion and music editor at his college newspaper a quarter century ago, and was a first-hand witness to the rise and fall of the first wave of shoegaze in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He now spends his time as a professional bit-pusher for a government agency by day, and along with collaborator Paul Lopez, a member of the shoegaze/dreampop band Angel Falls the rest of the time. You can find them on the web at angelfallsmusic.com.