Ride at Humphreys By the Bay, San Diego | 16 April 2015
As luck would have it, I was in San Diego for spring break during the dead week of Coachella to see the recently reformed Ride, OG shoegazers from Oxford. The dead week is the week between the two Coachella weekends where bands if they’re lucky book shows in San Francisco, San Diego, Pamona, or anywhere but Los Angeles due to contractual restrictions of playing that giant festival in the desert. Having lived in San Diego for 11% of my life I wasn’t completely surprised when I arrived to see that the venue was mostly empty. Shows that routinely sell out places like the Showbox or the Neptune here in Seattle barely fill the Casbah in San Diego which is about he size of the Sunset in Seattle. To be fair, there had been problems with buying advanced tickets through Ticketmaster up until a few days before the show. Humphreys By the Bay holds about 1500 and is a place that usually hosts acts like the Steve Miller Band, Chicago and Boz Scaggs. The venue is nestled in palm trees and sail boats on San Diego bay. I don’t think I’ve been to a nicer place to see a show.
Ride, having recently reformed, had only played a handful of shows prior to this one, but they were in top form. Unaffected by the poor turn out, the band still seemed be energized to be playing for the meager crowd that San Diego offered up. They opened the set with a surprise. Nowhere the title track from their 1990 debut album is a meandering song that closes the album and hadn’t been played yet at one of their reunion shows. It was nearly twice as long as its recorded version and acted as warm up for both band and crowd. It ebbed and flowed like the monster wave on the album cover, creating an ominous feel in among the palm trees that surrounded the venue. Andy Bell and Mark Gardner wove their guitars into surges and then let it go all hazy as the song washed over everyone. They quickly followed with Seagull which sent a burst of lightening into everything. Steve Queralt delivered that sinewy bass groove for everything to wrap itself around while Andy Bell playing a twelve string guitar and made everything go hallucinogenic.
The younger me was always enamored by the guitars of Bell and Gardener, but the older me realized that the reason Ride were so good on their first two albums was due to the drumming of Loz Colbert and Queralt’s bass. Loz resembles Stuart Copeland in his look and style. It’s an adrenaline filled delivery that hasn’t lost a step in 20 years. It’s almost like he’s playing to a different song sometimes, and he’ll seemingly pull the band into the breach with him. Queralt often-times was laying down a guitar like riff with his bass that propelled the songs while Bell and Gardener were left free to make their squalls of noise with no concern for melody thanks to him.
The set list was hard to argue with. They only played one post Going Blank Again Song (Black Night Crash) and hit nearly every highlight from Nowhere and Going Blank Again. I only wish they would have included one or two more from Nowhere like Decay, Polar Bear or Kaleidoscope. That’s a minor qualm when you consider that they played Dreams Burn Down, Taste, Vapor Trail, Chrome Waves, Leave Them All Behind, Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind.
I’m a big skeptic when it comes to reunion shows, but Ride were the real deal. Comparing it to when I saw them on the Going Blank Again tour back in 1992, I would say it was even. Sure, they lacked the youthful bravado of those heady days, and Gardener was missing his rock god locks and sported a fedora to hide the fact. I would argue that they are better musicians today with more attention to making the songs really crack. Bell was playing insane riffs that I doubt he was capable of back then. The rhythm section seemed to own every song, and Gardener’s voice was stronger which gave the often obscured melodies to the songs a bit more sheen than they ever had. During the finale of Drive Blind you could make out a giant grin across Mark Gardener fave. It used to be serious noise that Ride made, now it’s just fun, as it always should have been.
Cool Your Boots
Black Nite Crash
Dreams Burn Down
Time of Her Time
Leave Them All Behind