Beautiful Noise Returns to Mesa Amid a Shoegaze Revival
It was 1993 when Brandon Capps and a few like-minded friends started coordinating the first Beautiful Noise "shoegaze" festivals around Arizona. But 20 years ago, shoegaze wasn't a compliment. It was an insult, a pejorative tossed at the kind of guitarist who stared down at his pedals, waiting for the right moment to trigger the phaser or fuzzbox.
Courtesy Brandon Capps/Beautiful Noise Archives Kimber Lanning of Half String
Twenty years later, shoegaze doesn't carry the same sting it used to. In fact, it's pretty hip these days. Last year, Brooklyn label Captured Tracks re-issued the complete recordings of Capps' old Phoenix-based band Half String to indie-blog acclaim and a series of reunion shows.
And now Capps has reignited the festival to celebrate its anniversary at Hollywood Alley in Mesa.
Half String's history -- as well as that of Arizona shoegaze bands like Alisons Halo, Loveliescrushing, Six String Malfunction, Scenic, and others -- is tangled up in the legacy of the Beautiful Noise festivals. In the early '90s, the festivals attracted attention from music rags like Alternative Press and New Times. In 1995, New Times writer Peter Gilstrap wrote about the new scene, different from "jingle jangle pop" of Mill Avenue and the "bouffant metal" of Phoenix: "There is something else quietly festering out there that you may not be aware of: a handful of bands in the Lush, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine mold, playing atmospheric, moody stuff called noise pop."
Courtesy Brandon Capps/Beautiful Noise Archives Marc Dooley of Dogshow
The festivals ceased in the late '90s, but last year's Half String reunion must have triggered something in Capps and friends. The 20th anniversary show features veterans like Half String, Dogshow, and astrobrite, but also young bucks like Cassiopeia, The Tennis System, and Dead Leaf Echo.
Capps discussed the festival's revival, and the resurgence of shoegaze in the contemporary indie landscape.
Up on the Sun: This festival marks the 20th anniversary of the Beautiful Noise festival. Twenty years on, how would you describe the influence of shoegaze on modern indie rock? At Coachella this past weekend, you could see the genre's influence everywhere in bands like DIIV, Wild Nothing, and others. Does it seem like there's a resurgence or has it always been an undercurrent in indie's makeup?
Brandon Capps: It's a great comeback story, isn't it? Considering the stigma that used to be associated with being called shoegaze, I'm amazed at how the term is embraced today. I count myself as one of those rabid fans that was obsessed with reading the reviews in NME and Melody Maker back in 1990. I remember hanging out at Stinkweeds and waiting for Kimber [Lanning, Half String drummer and owner of the independent record store] to unpack the box of new imports, so I could hear the new bands on Creation Records.
It was a niche community of fans and shoegaze bands in America back then. We managed to ignore and skirt the flak that the UK press dumped on those bands that originally defined the genre. I think many of those records continued to reside in people's collections as "guilty pleasures." Looking at the "Top 100 Shoegaze" lists that show up on blogs, I'm reminded of just how many great records (shoegaze or not) were made in the '90s. There were so much creativity, innovation, and experimentation happening during that time, that it's no wonder that a younger generation has dug it up and found value in the recordings of that era.