From the Wall of Sound to the Wall of Feedback

From KCRW DJ Marion Hodges:

When I realized that the Glen Campbell farewell tour show I’d been so anticipating was falling on the same night as the Part Time Punks Shoegaze Festival I’d been so anticipating, my heart sank.

I spent the better part of an evening agonizing over which to attend until it occurred to me that it was actually kind of perfect that both were happening on the same night. Especially given how the Glen Campbell show was set to be structured with the first half of the night showcasing other artists paying tribute to both his solo work and the work he did with a group of session musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew.” These were the folks who, amongst many other accomplishments, were responsible for bringing to life Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

The earliest roots of shoegaze are endlessly scattered, and no doubt could be (and certainly have been) argued over for days. Still, an unquestionable piece of the puzzle is the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Psychocandy”.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EgB__YratE[/youtube]

“Psychocandy” offered Spector-esque melodies and production techniques… only with an additional wall built mostly out of the effects of messing around with guitars to get them as loud — and often as unpleasant sounding — as possible. Contrasted with pretty melodies, and a lot of lyrics about love, it  was jarring in the best possible way.

Since that time the term shoegaze has come to signify almost everything with that combination of loud dissonant guitars, buried vocals, and achingly beautiful melodies.

As time and technology have advanced, new artists have come forward with innovations involving effects pedals, synthesizers, and all manner of cool things to keep the genre moving in endlessly exciting directions.

All harking back to that concept of layers upon layers in pop songs perfected by Phil Spector all those years ago.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8hjtFq3vE0[/youtube]

Of course, the Wall of Sound concept has been widely acknowledged, and employed in all corners of the music world. But there’s still something so uniquely satisfying about taking a beautiful song with rich layers that could certainly stand on it’s own, and burying in several more layers of fuzz, or haze, or feedback.

Therefore, it almost had to be that one of the pioneering guitarists behind the Wall of Sound would be playing a stop on his farewell tour on the same night as what I’m told was the world’s first proper Shoegaze Festival. It’s also kind of perfect that headlining the Shoegaze Festival was one of that genre’s best guitarists, Mark Gardener from the band Ride.

This past Sunday I was in awe experiencing two such seemingly disparate nights of musical tribute, and realizing that the one may not have existed without the other.

The night ended with Mark Gardener performing “Leave Them All Behind.” A perfect cap to a day of music that served as a fantastic reminder that, as we say goodbye, and build innovative material on the foundation of classic sounds, there are so many things that can never be left behind.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4JZIfx36Bg[/youtube]

— Marion Hodges