by Lindsey Hornbeck
Cheer Up Charlie’s hosted what proved to be a stellar shoegaze smorgasbord this past Wednesday. The stacked lineup, consisting of Austin-based bands All In The Golden Afternoon, Bloody Knives, Texas-based Pale Dian, and Portland’s Tender Age, provided an evening of everything from ethereal psychedelia to primal space punk to a revamped spirit of 80s underground.
Husband and wife duo, All In The Golden Afternoon, opened up the show with a pulsating and haunting soundscape. Later launching into a more ethereal, dreamy groove, All In The Golden Afternoon’s key sense of pacing led the audience into a hypnotic tour of just how skillfully varied their sound can be. Seamlessly transitioning from floating ambience to driving guitar to a kind of dreamy, sexy surf rock, duo Rachel Staggs and Carlos Jackson captivated the crowd and never became redundant. At first glance, Staggs had a kind of 12-string-wielding Stevie Nicks of shoegaze vibe, but ultimately proved to be a talented songstress in her own right. Together with the calculated synths and strings of Carlos Jackson and a live drummer, Staggs helped to deliver a great set, both arty and abstract at times while exhibiting a more structured dream pop at others. All In The Golden Afternoon has a new tape out, something that Staggs told the audience was “an experimental thing…we did some weird stuff.”
Bloody Knives played next; forged from raw noise and chaos, they launched into a more visceral, heavy droning wall of sound. A wall of simultaneous melancholy and punk angst, Bloody Knives’ sound was matched by their on stage presence. Their emotive and emphatic guitarist spent more time off stage than on, jumping off stage and playing amongst the crowd. Bloody Knives featured hypnotic and heavy half-time sections, industrial synths and noise feedback, soaring vocals that all came together to create a colossal monolith of sound.
Kicking off their Texas tour, Pale Dian played next. Their sound emerged out of the mist with flowering and sensual female vocals, a symphony of synths, hooky bass riffs, and soaring guitar. Don’t be fooled; Pale Dian proves to be much more than their countless other indie dance peers. Their sound is about so much more than dance synths; their 80s underground revival vibe brings a heavy hitting industrial element to the mix, creating songs you not only hear, but feel too. Dance-y and industrial, but just abstract enough to elude a preconceived structure of style, Pale Dian is a kind of softer side of Nitzer Ebb meets Depeche Mode meets the glitter punk of Bowie plus an element uniquely their own.
Tender Age, all the way from Portland, closed the night out and, thanks to several fans with proper show etiquette, didn’t play to an empty room. A good part of the crowd stuck around for all four bands, and were rewarded with a killer set. Tender Age started out strong, immediately jumping into rhythmic, jamming set that evoked mental imagery of a more pastoral psychedelia–a fitting swift and strong introduction, considering they had rolled into town only an hour before their set due to van issues.
The dual female vocals and three different guitars evoked a hint of the Breeders; several instances in the third song of their set had a “Roi” feel to them. Their sound was intense, but not monolithic. Rather, it exhuded a more enveloping, pseudo ’50s surf rock meets metallic shoegaze feel. A killer rhythm section complimented the lazy Sunday slo-mo surf sound with a quick and tight energy; their drummer kept the energy up while the bass provided a gritty hook over the guitars. They made their versatility quite apparent, as about midway through their set they slowed down to a softer, ethereal ballad and their three guitars allowed for constant unique combinations. While Tender Age is definitely uniquely Portland, they still have a “keep it weird” universality, as fans of Austin’s Black Angels might also find a lighter home in Tender Age’s sound.