Reunion tours or gigs configured around a particular chunk of back catalogue frequently smack of either desperation or commercial cash-in. But there always have to be exceptions. And not having seen Galaxie 500 during their four year life-span, tonight’s gig was absolutely one of those exceptions.
I missed Rae Morris opening the bill and instead was welcomed into the newly refurbished Ruby Lounge by a punch to the guts delivered by Ringo Deathstarr. Now if Yuck are getting some flak for mining the grunge years what about Ringo Deathstarr? If their name jointly references the 60s And 70s, their music is a power trio bludgeoning of 1991. With added reverb. And reverb so dense it was like a blow to the solar plexus. Once you got past the sonic assault, there was (I think) more to the three piece than just extreme, over-driven shoegaze noise. There was pace, grace and even some Lemonheads style melody to be had. A great reminder of the good things from 1991 but never feeling dated.
Ringo Deathstarr finished their set saying “If you like the music of Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips then you're in for a treat”. A dig at the retrospective nature of tonight’s gig? Because this wasn’t the last three Dean and Britta records or the seven studio albums Dean Wareham made with Luna. Instead it was dedicated to his first band Galaxie 500 that imploded in 1991 (that year again).
The shiver-inducing thrill of recognition upon hearing ‘Flowers’ and ‘Pictures’ dismissed any such negativity: those chugging rhythms, the other worldly vocals and that sublime guitar playing! This euphoria was mixed with a pang of realisation and disappointment: the trio (Dean, Britta plus Jason Lawrence on drums) beautifully and indeed faithfully reproduced the magic of Galaxie 500 but I was hit by the hand-me-down nature of the experience; this was recreation, not reinterpretation or refreshing a decades old sound. For the most part it was easy to dispel this feeling, helped by Wareham’s amusing acid-trip recollections and the rapture-inducing sounds – the sequence of ‘Strange’ followed by ‘Summertime’ which ran straight into ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste’ was joyous.
But I could never quite shake this undertow of sorrow during the set. If I sound a curmudgeon or I am slighting the band I am giving the wrong impression. This was truly transcendental at times and even though only an hour and twenty minutes in duration but it felt a much richer and much longer experience. If you get a chance to see this tour you should sieze it.
But at the same time as I was captivated, I remembered why the ‘no reunions’ rule exists. If you saw a band the first time around, a reunion will never top that initial, original experience (would those tonight who greeted Dean’s recollections of the International gig with warm cheers agree?). But more importantly if you weren’t there, these gigs can never recreate an experience that was never had in the first place. I would have hated myself if I missed tonight - and it could even turn out to be a top ten gig of the year in retrospect. But at this precise moment I feel not how close it came to a unique and special band but how far.
The Set List:
The first encore was ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine’ from the "13 Most Beautiful" album. And the final encore not listed below was ‘Ceremony’.