RIDE (photo: Patric Carver)
“Well, after this we’re touring with Phoenix,” said Lo Moon frontman Matt Lowell. “Then we’re headed to Europe, with London Grammar.”
Our conversation is interrupted by a woman rapping on Lowell’s shoulder. “You were great!” she shouts. “Totally great!”
I concur. Lowell, a transplant from New York living in Los Angeles, came to the West in search of others that shared his passion for music. “New York…New York is dried up. I needed to leave.” Lo Moon’s sound is a shiny little nugget of smooth, powerful sound that seemingly fell straight to the Fillmore stage from 1987. Guitarist Sam Stewart comes by that honestly; he’s the son of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. The big dares that the Eurythmics placed on their sweeping sound have been doubled down by Lo Moon, with cutting guitars and this charmingly modern harmony. It’s one part the sexiness of Robert Palmer, and one part the cool of the Human League. Their drummer, a recent addition to the band, had some of that great experimental Phil Collins energy, and it really helped define the sound. They were fun pop that was also smart.
Speaking of smart, headliners Ride played a brilliant set. Ride are kind of an anomaly — they cropped up in the ’90s, flooding the shoegaze genre with their loud, expansive sound. 1992’s “Grasshopper” is a nearly 11-minute instrumental that dissolves the listeners’ tolerance for average guitar playing. Once you’ve heard that song, you can’t go back to being satisfied by limp, style-over-substance strumming. You need the big sound from that point on.
After “Grasshopper,” Ride continued to supply innovative rock for a few years before they then went on a seemingly career-ending hiatus. Ride fans expected to see them only in memories, but in recent years they’ve returned with both a completely unchanged lineup and commitment to killer sound. Their latest album, Weather Diaries, came 20-plus years after the previous release, 1996’s Tarantula, and the progression of years certainly shows in the band’s style. However, the quality of their sound remains unchanged. Ride is a simply visionary band.
One of the things I like the most about Ride is that they remind me why I’m so fed up with most of the jazz music I hear being performed lately. This was true of their show at the Fillmore — songs like “Leave Them All Behind” stripped away the pretentious preciousness of weak jazz, where every note unplayed is celebrated with a dignity that is so reserved and stuffy that it is suffocating. “Leave” bellowed with life in this rambling trail of pulverant notes – all these wiry avenues of guitar splitting infinitely in electric fingers that reach out and spark the air above the audience. Freddie Green they’re not, but they evoke that raw spirit that I think is missing from most modern musical improvisation.
“Seagull” was another ramping, renegade song. The loopy, hooky bassline provided an oblique skeletal structure for fleshy, bleeding guitar. You know how when you get a cut, there’s that very moment of staring at your wound to see if blood is going to surface? That moment when you’re waiting to determine how hurt you actually are? That’s what the moments between the sprawling solos embodied in this song feel like. You’re aware that you’ve been affected, but it is not until the song is truly ripped open that the depth of that affect really takes hold.
Similarly, “Taste” had this shaking pulse that realigned all of us in the audience. After the first few lines, our pulses were beating in time. We were whipped into lock-step cardiac conduction by the tremendous sound. It wasn’t all big and brash. “Taste” was tempered by the sweeping harmonies and this sense of real direction that was perhaps more hopeful than the mood of most Ride songs.
Ride provided a visceral experience. Frontman Mark Gardner said few words during the show — occasionally sputtering out a “Thane-kew!” of gratitude in his thick Oxford accent or a line of backstory to a song. It was as if the musicians themselves were just subjects of the music, and the music ruled. I can’t wait for Ride to come into town again.