Shoegaze was developed by a number of UK bands in the late-80s and early-90s and is known for layers of distorted and processed guitar and keyboard sounds used to create atmosphere and mood as background for gently sung vocals. Artists such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Swervedriver were considered part of the original subgenre. Although those are old and have both split-up and reunited the last years, their sound influenced modern artists and can be heard in a wide range of genres today as in the music of Wolf Alice and electronic act M83 – and Sweden’s loudest fuzzbox fury heroes Westkust.
This night is the premiere evening of the club Indie Nights Live with the intention to spotlight bands falling under the radar, bands that deserve more attention, and although Weskust are far from unknown (when you get picked up by Pitchfork you’re not unknown) the opening acts Amaunet and SKULDPADDA fit the concept perfectly.
Pustervik offers strangely participatory atmosphere despite a half-full venue, placing the audience at the centre with the lights emitting from the stage rather than onto it. Instead of playing to the back of the room, the sound seems to gather in the middle like an incantation.
The band took the stage amidst swirling smoke and blue stage lights to wordlessly launch into a fury of loud noise, a sonic landscape for nightmares but a serenade for every shoegaze girl and boy out there. And they were not to be disappointed.
The set was mostly about songs from their second album; the change in band setup after their debut album left front vocalist Julia alone behind the mic which probably eliminated some of their older songs from the setlist and it became even more obvious when they had to restart “Weekends” off their debut album when the guitar riffs didn’t really pan out as guitarist Brian Cukrowski had hoped for; “It was quite a while since we rehearsed it”. However, their second album offers loads of loudness and even though we are huge fans of their first album and how it ties together the songs, their second album contains their best songs such as “Swebeach” and “Cotton Skies”.
Backlit by two freestanding lighting rigs located in each corner at the back of the stage, and standing in a blue haze created by that very same rig, a mood of abstraction, introspection and mystery was effectively set. Aesthetically a shoegaze beauty, photo-wise horrible (yepp, the photographers want the stage to literally be flooded with light) and experience-wise just awesome. Westkust aren’t big on stage movement, preferring to let floods of lights and a reverb-soaked and monstrous sound do the work in getting their songs over to the audience. On the other hand, that’s the concept image of shoegazers; just watch any YouTube video with Slowdive or The Jesus and Mary Chain and you will find Westkust being the Guns N’ Roses of shoegaze in comparison.
After nearly 45 minutes at my fifth Westkust show I certainly had a new appreciation for Westkust. Back when they first came along, they struck me as a band trying to find an identity, and with this latest setup they certainly have cut the ties that made them “only a side project” to Makthaverskan, as some Swedish friends used to say, and ending up in the frontline of the Swedish shoegaze scene.
It’s time to conquer shoegaze’ holy ground, it’s time to reach out for the UK guys!
Photographer: Richard Bloom