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Toronto Dives Into Slowdive

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Toronto Dives Into Slowdive

More than 20 years ago today, one of the defining bands of shoegaze – Slowdive – graced Toronto for their final show just a year before they split in 1995. This Tuesday, they came back to Toronto on their North American tour with Low opening. The show was sold out at least a week in advance to a 1500 capacity venue that is The Danforth Music Hall.

Slowdive Toronto - Dagmar Yu

Photos: Dagmar Yu

Who: Slowdive
Where: Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON
When: Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


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The five original members reformed this year after they were offered to play at Primavera Sound, and continued onto a string of festivals. In the burst of early 90s alt-rock, they lived a brief and exciting period producing shoegaze with post-rock and classic pop influences. It was when the British pop and grunge invasion came that their band became “out of fashion”, with the additional negative press, they parted. Unforgotten by many, and picked up over the decades due to the growth of music and media distribution, they are reborn into a second life. This time, with more confidence, new technology, and a progressed sound.

“Music transcends age.” Tom Evers cheerfully stated, “It’s live, dynamic music, it’s not ‘old people music’. I always thought I needed to see young people, but I’m realizing that there are some bands who got it.”

The crowd consisted of fans from both my generation and the older one that lived a childhood influenced by Slowdive. I looked at one of the more mature photographers in the pit and asked him about how people discovered and heard music back in his day. He went down on a lane of nostalgia:

“At that time, you actually had to buy magazines – there was Melody Maker and NME – then based on a review, and maybe one song from the album, you’d order the album for $40-50 which translated from 90s time is $60 now, and then you’d have to wait for two months for it to get imported. And you don’t know if you’re going to like it or not until you get it. So we really had to work for it, haha.”

Sparked with a new level of appreciation, I asked, “How did you discover Slowdive?”

“I was 15 and a friend gave me a tape and couldn’t decide if it was good, so he told me to listen to it and settle it. It was the Slowdive EP, I put it in the cassette player and fell asleep to it, which was perfect. I was 18 when they last played in Toronto at Lee’s Palace, so I wasn’t allowed in. And little did I know that that was their last show ever. So I’ve waited 20 years to see them.”

We were abruptly cut off as Slowdive showed up on stage, captivated by a new, intriguing presence.

Slowdive Toronto - Dagmar Yu

Hypnotic, ethereal, and beautiful – I was stoned by Rachel and Neil’s airy vocals underneath the wall of noise. The dozen tv screens in the backdrop displayed abstract images that flowed with the dream. The lights moved softly throughout the show, with moments of pulsing white strobes. As a photographer who constantly marvels around, the borderline seizure lights helped me shut my eyes and let my mind go. The lights did not take away from the sound, just like how their stage presence remained introspective and focused.

Unsurprisingly, the show took off with Slowdive from their first EP self-titled Slowdive, and every next song weaved into the next. I truly got lost when they played Crazy For You - it was more emotionally demanding live than in the record. Blue Skied and Clear came in at a good time after a few of the noisier songs and cleansed the night away. When The Sun Hits uplifted the crowd immensely, and the champ standing alone on the balcony got more into his dancing than ever. When Neil stepped into the spotlight to sing Dagger, it instantly peaked the night’s serenity and hushed the crowd. After a ghostly cover of Syd Barret’s Golden Hair, the crowd swooned and woo’d in their spots. The band walked off stage as people started clapping on beat, and came back on to perform two last songs. Haunting us with Albatross and closing it off with 40 Days, the night felt like it could last forever.

Slowdive Toronto - Dagmar Yu

A fan’s peace sign remained up in the air the entire show

Slowdive Toronto - Dagmar Yu-4

Shahriar Shiva (photographed above) bumped into Slowdive 30 minutes after the show, and asked them: “What albums is the band listening to on the tour bus?”

Rachel: “Nothing really! Once we are on the tour bus we are asleep and wake up and we are at the next venue. However I listen to a lot of Midlake, who are quite fantastic, and we also listen to The War On Drugs.”

Bands including Mogwai have taken major influence from Slowdive

Bands including Mogwai have taken major influence from Slowdive

Set list:

Catch the Breeze
Crazy For You
Machine Gun
Souvlaki Space Station
Blue Skies and Clear
When the Sun Hits
She Calls
Golden Hair

40 Days


Dagmar Yu