An atmosphere of fatigue pervades The Factory Theatre. Minnesota band Low are headlining tonight and although support act The Laurels haven’t begun yet fans are already smothering yawns. They coagulate in sleepy circles around seated areas, murmuring quietly. Quiet breeds quiet so it gets quieter still.
The Laurels triumphantly summon shoegaze icons Ride and My Bloody Valentine. It’s a thing of joy when a band is this good at being that derivative. The Laurels are a pure guitar band – no keys, no effects, no fucking around – and it’s refreshing to recall how blissful a well-mixed guitar onslaught can sound. Different guitar tones swirl and marble, at times warped, woozy and ebbing a la MBV, at other times droney a la Brian Jonestown Massacre. Barring their energetic drummer the band appear pale and malnourished, too apathetic, even, to swipe their hair aside. Yep, 100% bona fide shoegaze bliss!
The sluggish audience perk up when Low start with ‘In Silence’ from 2007 record Drums and Guns followed soon after by ‘Monkey’ (both covered by Robert Plant on his new record!). Dressed tastefully in symphony blacks, the poise of the three-piece is striking – the perks of being older and less self-conscious perhaps? Low are renowned for snubbing noisy crowds by dampening the volume rather than increasing it and tonight too is hushed. I head up the front to absorb decibels.
Live and sans effects it’s Alan Sparhawk’s guitar that blesses Low with its soul and substance. His wiry frame moves with his guitar like it’s part of his body in a (damn alluring) manner similar only to Shayne Carter of Straitjacket Fits/Dimmer fame. While Sparhawk channels the songs his wife and drummer Mimi Parker simply performs them and remains aloof throughout: they are the perfect balance.
The only banter comes in an unexpected gush towards the end. “Breaker!” yells one fan. “Dinosaur Act!” Sparhawk squints into the crowd then drawls playfully. “I don’t understand a word you said.” More fans yell favourites. The band seems lost. “Did we do this last time?” Sparhawk asks. “Unravel into indecision? Say something that’s going to change my life.” “Scientology!” yells someone and Sparhawk nods in appreciation. Does the fan know the couple are practicing Mormons? References to religion are apt. We stand at Low’s feet, a sea of reverent faces, slanted up rapturously to the band, straining to hear their wonderful intricacies. A great show.
The Brag version here.