The second night saw a much larger crowd at the Santa Monica Civic. Spectrum played another great set, and this time seemed to get their due from the appreciative audience. Unlike the first night, Thursday’s bill featured three bands, with Gemma Hayes getting the middle slot. Her mellow shoegazer-tinged pop was pitched somewhere between The Sundays and Lush, and I found myself enjoying it for the most part (although I did spend the majority of her set waiting in line for the bathroom).

Finally, it was time for what we’d all been waiting for: My Bloody Valentine. Their performance Wednesday had left me dazed but slightly unfulfilled, as the sound left something to be desired, and it did not feel like the whole audience was really invested in what was going on. This turned out to be a mere test run for the final gig. When the band launched into their opening number “I Only Said” amidst a torrent of flashing strobes, everything clicked into place. The venue was completely packed, and from my perch in the bleachers I could take in the scope of both the audience and the action on stage.

My biggest gripe with the term “shoegazer” is that it infers a lack of commitment on the part of the musicians, as if all bands in this genre are bored or self involved onstage. I always maintained that the shoegaze bands I saw in the 90s rocked pretty hard. MBV, Lush and Swervedriver all put on intense shows, and while their guitarists may have seemed stoic, you had to consider that they were usually singing while playing and switching between up to 30 effects pedals – that takes some concentration, folks!

With MBV it was always up to the rhythm section to bring the rock, and bassist Debbie Googe and drummer Colm O’Coisog did not disappoint at either of these reunion shows. Debbie remained fixed on Colm’s bass drum the whole time, rocking back and forth in time with the music while throwing her entire body into the rhythm. Colm flailed about on his throne like a madman, as if the ghost of Keith Moon was presiding over the whole ceremony.

The mix was much better on Thursday, although this could have been due to the sheer amount of bodies absorbing the din, or my placement in the back and center of the room. The vocals had presence, the guitars were screechingly loud, and the drums were huge. I could always use more bass guitar when it comes to this band, as I feel that Debbie’s thick, fuzzed-out basslines provide a necessary anchor to all the noise. Still, I had no complaints about the set. Highlights were the lush dynamics of “Cigarette in Your Bed,” the insane hardcore freakout of “Nothing Much to Lose,” and the hypnotic dance groove of “Soon.”

My Bloody Valentine have always ended their sets with an extreme noise barrage during the middle of “You Made Me Realize.” This section of the song can range anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes according to various reports. The sound is similar to an airplane taking off, and the effect is supposed to induce some kind of out of body experience in the listener. It has been lovingly termed “the holocaust” by fans.

Tonight the holocaust was particularly intense, as the whole auditorium seemed to be shaking. I found myself becoming instinctively afraid around ten minutes in, when my senses seemed to be preparing me for an imminent explosion. Eventually the band launched back into the verse, and the song was brought to a thunderous close.

It was an amazing two nights that reaffirmed my belief in the power of layered guitar noise. Now someone just needs to talk RIDE and Slowdive into reforming for a US tour…

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