Ride brought the magic of 90s shoegaze to NON-COMM - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
2024.05.10 - Ride - NonComm 24

I’m not the first music journalist to point out that Philadelphia is in the middle of a shoegaze renaissance right now. I can’t think of a better time and place to live in if you’re a shoegaze fan. That is, unless you go back to the source of it all, the UK in the 90s. For thirty minutes at Free at Noon, beloved shoegazers Ride brought the audience back to the past. Watching Ride glide through their new singles and then close off NON-COMM with a couple of crowd-pleasing classics (of course “Vapor Trails” ended the whole conference, the first chord of the song eliciting ecstatic screams from the audience), I couldn’t help but compare what I was seeing to the basement shows where I’ve been lucky enough to see some of our hometown shoegaze heroes. Philly shoegaze is ephemeral, transhumanist, obscured by breakbeats and autotune and glitching. Samplers and laptops share the stage with cheap guitars. Ride does none of that.

And you know what? I absolutely loved every second of Ride’s performance. They sound completely unlike any band in the scene right now; their commitment to the janglier, poppier, more accessible side of shoegaze is admirable, genuinely refreshing. Ride doesn’t need to push the envelope forward anymore; they did that in the 90s, and the music was great then and it’s great now. People nodded their heads, raised their drinks in the air, hooted and hollered and sang along. Lovers slid their arms around each others’ waists. The good vibes were palpable, and as thick as the guitar tones that rang out through the room.

The band is no stranger to electronics, though. Their newest record, Interplay, uses them to great effect. But there wasn’t a laptop in sight at Free at Noon. Instead, there were four British guys with two massive hollow-body guitars, a bass drum with their name on it (is it just me or do bands never do that anymore?), and two techs switching out their instruments for them. There were no weird samples, no processed vocals, not even a whiff of an amen break. Their contemporaries like Slowdive might be trying to play catch-up with the new shoegaze sound, but Ride doesn’t waste their time trying to sound like something they’re not. 

Seeing Ride in an intimate venue like World Cafe Life felt like traveling through time. Here were these titans of a genre that, in its modern incarnation, bore almost zero resemblance to the sound they built their career out of. Ride seems more than content with that. They played their hits and everybody loved it; they played their new stuff and it sounded just as great as their hits, so everybody loved it. Ride instilled in me a sense of nostalgia for a time I never lived through, and it felt magical.

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