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A really big shoe

Shoegazer's Ball fetes a lingering influence

Leave it to those canny Brits to invent a musical phenomenon that just won't quit.

The 'shoegazer' movement could hardly be called an invasion; it's more like a long-term stealth mission. Instead of bands suddenly appearing and storming the charts, imports from across the pond such as Ride, Slowdive, Lush and especially My Bloody Valentine worked their subtle charms on a relative few.

And yet, even after the movement blossomed and peaked more than a decade ago, the roots of this music continue to flourish in unlikely spots Ñ for example, Portland.

Tonight, a whole press of locals gather to pay tribute to some of the most important and influential bands from the shoegazer movement at a soiree called (what else?) the Shoegazer's Ball.

Shoegazer Ñ originally a derogatory term invented by the British press Ñ is characterized by warm, droning chords that continue to ripple and reverberate well past the three-minute pop song standard. The vocals are sensual and dreamy, more a seductive whisper than a wounded wail.

The 'gazing at the shoe' part of the equation came about because onstage, bands were constantly shifting their attention to a particular pedal or switch that had to be stepped on to maintain or increase the lovely din.

'Over the past couple of years, it seems like so many Northwest bands have claimed some kind of influence by shoegazer heavyweights,' says Kevin Richards of Reverberation Productions, the group responsible for hatching the Shoegazer's Ball. 'The Dandys (Dandy Warhols), Helio Sequence, Voyager One, Kinski, the High Violets, to name a few.

'Once we were really turned on to this fact, the more it started to seem like we were witnessing a phenomenon. Bands started showing up out of the woodwork, and the idea for the cover night fell into our lap.'

As for the musicians themselves, their enthusiasm for the genre is unwavering.

'I suppose I was initially attracted to the shoegaze sound because it seemed so timeless, as if it's post-postmodern,' says Jsun Adams of the Upsidedown. 'There is a local scene that seems to be evolving. Perhaps it could be something in the climate at this latitude that compels musicians to reflect the mood Ñ a 'rain' of sound, a richness.'

'The first time I heard Lush, I was still a skate punk growing out of my Descendents, Black Flag stage,' says Sean Brooxx of Minmae. 'Something about the texture of the guitars and smooth vocals really turned a musical light on for me. I realized that music could be sophisticated.

'Of course, it took the Brits to introduce style into the music. Hasn't that always been the case?'

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