While life in the big city of New York can be frequently challenging, there are certain things that make you pause and remember why it’s still an incredible place to live. To wit: free concerts. Throughout the summer months, there are a great number of free gigs that take place on a near nightly basis. The House of Vans, which doubles as an indoor skatepark, has for eight years hosted a annual series of shows where all one has to do is RSVP in order to get in for free.
Unfortunately, at the onset of this summer, it was announced that this would be the last for the House of Vans, no doubt having to do something with the real estate value of the property. At least, the venue is going out with a bang, though, with shows from such big names as Blondie and Interpol, and this one from revitalized shoegazers Slowdive.
Touring in support of their superb self-titled comeback album from last year, Slowdive has seemingly been on the road since that album’s release. After a delay caused by some misfunctioning video equipment, the band casually took the stage and began the night as the record begins, with “Slomo.” In both cases, it’s a good way to start as the song seems to take shape out of the aether, its layers of swirling and chiming guitars building atop one another as singers Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell find space amongst the haze for their vocals to seep in between.
The band also dipped into their ‘90s back catalog, first with “Catch the Breeze.” There wasn’t any noticeable shift in the show’s energy, however, as the old material took on some of the cadence of the new songs. “Crazy for You,” off of the band’s under-appreciated phase one swan song, Pygmalion, blossomed into a beautiful swirl of sound. Nonetheless, for me it was still the slowburn of new songs like “Star Roving” and “No Longer Making Time” that shown brightest, although “Alison,” a classic from the band’s sophomore effort, Souvlaki, was also a standout. The pinnacle, though, came with “Sugar for the Pill,” the single from the comeback record. Here everything the band does best coalesced, a guitar hook melding with a melody and vaguely bittersweet vocals. The song is equal parts push and pull, yin and yang, sweet and sour, joy and sadness; like life it’s the contrasts that make it so amazing.
Much like the House of Vans itself, all good things must come to an end, and Slowdive chose to wrap things up with their cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair.” While an encore or two would have been welcomed, it was a nice finale, the band virtually retreating back into the soft oscillation of sound from which it seemingly originated.