I’m in a dimly lit basement bar, trying to work out the song being performed on stage. The band, Swedish trio Echo Ladies, have run out of their own songs and are now closing with a cover. The song they pick features deliberate feedback, swirling layers of noise, and vocals that sound trapped behind the guitars. These shadowy elements are at odds with the rock-star bombast of the original, which I finally realise is David Bowie’s ‘Rebel, Rebel’.
Well, shoegaze has always been less ‘rock star’, more ‘hide behind a rock’. It’s often associated with a certain kind of pale, floppy-haired, cardigan-wearing guitarist. And, of course, this musician’s head will frequently be directed down. This is partly because that’s where the effects pedals are, which are essential for producing that characteristic shoegaze fuzz. But the journalist-coined term has also come to apply to both the stage and gig demeanour of an awkward kind of music lover: one with arms crossed, a reluctance to dance, and an air of unsociability.
I’ve been that person. I once brought a William Faulkner novel to a rock show to read between sets. I’m not the ebullient, fist-pumping type. But then neither are shoegazers in general.