The Agit Reader

The Veldt
Boot and Saddle, Philadelphia, May 31

June 7th, 2017  |  by Brian O'Neill

Opening band Mahogany has a backstory as intriguing as the band’s sound. Singer and guitarist Andrew Prinz formed the group while attending Michigan State more than two decades ago, and the band has continued all this time while rotating through a litany of former members as listed on its Wiki page. The current incarnation is based in New York or Philadelphia, depending on who you ask, and includes Jaclyn Slimm also on vocals and guitar and Joshua Ryan Brown on bass.

The trio sounds like the Modern Lovers had they been more post-punk than punk. The guitars shimmer with an otherworldly timbre and vocals by both band leaders are intentionally muddled in the mix while throbbing, stilted bass and sampled drum patterns provide a solid foundation for the fuzziness.

Mahogany made for a perfect opening act for The Veldt, and not because of the way both bands complement each other musically (or that Prinz played on The Veldt’s latest EP). Aside from a hiatus at the turn of the century and a temporary name change, the headliners have also toiled for the better part of two decades, with a fervent cult following to show for their efforts, as well as plenty of frustration from one label after another dropping the ball.

With a soldout support slot with ’80s stalwarts Modern English having vanished when the headliners cancelled the tour due to illness, The Veldt booked a much smaller venue on their own. It is unfortunate the band couldn’t play in front of a bigger crowd, but in many ways the headlining show at the Boot and Saddle was far superior. Having ample time to rehearse tracks from old albums as well as the recently released comeback EP, The Veldt showed why the band’s sound is so unparalleled.

To wit, singer Daniel said from the stage at one point, “We were around at the start of this shit.” It was not said with anger or frustration, but matter-of-factly. The band indeed predates “shoegaze,” the term used to describe the artists in the early ’90s who took to droning tempos, obscured vocals, and lots of swirling guitars drenched in reverb and distortion. Indeed, The Veldt had direct connections with the shoegazers’ forefathers; they supported The Jesus and Mary Chain and recorded with the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. But it wasn’t enough, as no one involved on the label side knew how to promote a black band from Raleigh making ethereal sounds.

This show proved just how unique The Veldt has always been and how their upbringing has everything to do with that. “Soul in a Jar,” from 1994’s Afrodisiac, is genuinely soulful and funky, while “Willow Tree,” from the band’s 1992 debut EP, Marigolds, is pensive and catchy, far more jangle pop than Britpop because they hung out with The Connells, not The Smiths. The one track from the album made under the Apollo Heights moniker, “Everlasting Gobstopper,” was not coincidentally the most Veldt-like cut off that release.

Since reforming as The Veldt, the troupe has released an EP with the unwieldy moniker of The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur—The Drake Equation that came out last year in the UK and just saw a domestic release through Schoolkids Records. Post-reformation material performed included the spiritual “Sanctified,” with a trip-hop undercurrent that was evident even without some of the studio electronics, alongside the sultry and languid single “Symmetry” and its B-side, “Slow Grind,” which lived up to its name.

Even though The Veldt came about just as shoegaze came into vogue, you still can’t shake the feeling they were ahead of their time. Seeing them live in 2017, you can’t help but think that their time is now.

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