When I think of Kalamazoo, the first thing that pops into my head is music. Kalamazoo has an excellent music scene with a wide range of different genres. I’ve attended countless house shows and concerts right here in town. Whether I’m moshing and head-banging with a bunch of college students, or sitting in a crowd full of senior citizens listening to a symphony, I’m never let down when it comes to the local talent we have in Kalamazoo.
I don’t think I’ve been to a show in Kalamazoo that I haven’t enjoyed, but my favorite show I’ve attended thus far is Kalamashoegazer. Kalamashoegazer is an annual music festival in November, which has hosted a wide variety of shoegaze and dream pop bands for 11 years.
The festival was founded by April Zimont, also a member of Kalamazoo local shoegaze bands, including Glowfriends, Vita Eterna and most recently, Tambourina. Zimont first discovered shoegaze/dream pop when she was 11 years old, which was when she first heard Slowdive, and they became her favorite band at the time.“I lived in magazines and looked for references to shoegaze/dream pop and then I’d go to my local record shop and order albums based on articles or reviews I read about them.” Some of her favorite magazines to read were “The Big Takeover,” “Gold Mine,” “Raygun,” “Dagger” and “Spin.”
“My dad was always playing when we were growing up. It was a bit like a competition for us, as for who could find the coolest bands to play for each other,” said Zimont. Zimont was inspired to create and coordinate this festival by her love of the genre, which began in the early 90’s after discovering legendary bands such as Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr. and The Cocteau Twins.
If you’re not familiar with the genre of shoegaze or dream pop, it has a dreamy blissed out sound to it. The music consists of heavy reverb, distortion and effects done with pedals. Shoegaze is a subgenre of alternative rock.
While Kalamazoo has a strong shoegaze/dream pop music scene with local bands such as Crash City Saints and Tambourina, bands from all over the U.S. have performed at this day-long festival. Kalamashoegazer has even hosted Neiv, a band from Italy. The bands I saw play at this year’s Kalamashoegazer include Orations, Tambourina, Dead Leaf Echo, Brief Candles, Whimsical and Airiel. Each band had their own unique sound, but all still in the realm of shoegaze and dream pop.
“My personal favorites were Breif Candles, Dead Leaf Echo and Airiel, who always put on a great show.”, said Zimont.
Previous times that I’ve attended Kalamashoegazer it took place at Louie’s Bar, but this year the show was hosted by Bell’s Brewery.
“We loved hosting at Bell’s for the first time, which was our dream venue for the fest since we started in 2007,” said Zimont.
To be honest, I expected the venue to be cramped. However, I ended up getting to stand right next to the stage and got a great view of all the performances. The show was a very intimate experience all in itself. The acoustics in the Bell’s Backroom are amazing, and the instrumentals surrounded me and filled the whole room.
I could hear each individual instrument along with all the vocals, which is saying a lot. In shoegaze music vocals are generally very soft and overpowered to create a dreamesque feel behind a wall of sound.
This year, Zimont was able to feature Whimsical, a duo from Indiana, which originally was a dream pop/shoegaze band, re-formed thier band just for this performance.
The best part about this event is that you get to meet all the bands at their merch tables. I got the feeling that everyone at the show was there because they genuinely love the music,and that is something I really love seeing, because I, myself have a lot of appreciation for shoegaze and music in general. Compared to shows I’ve been to with extremely large followings, it often seems that a majority of the people that attend are just there because of the performer’s popularity.
I love this event because of the genuine love of the genre the musicians express in the intensity of their performances, along with the welcoming atmosphere the listeners create.
“What I’m most excited about for Kalamashoegazer 12 is that we have Tears Run Rings confirmed as one of the headliners, and I just love them,” said Zimont. Tears Run Rings is another band that inspired them them to start the fest back in 2007.
Kalamashoegazer 12 will be hosted at Bell’s Brewery on Saturday, November 10th. All ages are welcome, so If you enjoy alternative rock and the presence of great people, or just want to explore something new in the world of music, I would highly recommend checking it out. I have attended Kalamashoegazer for the last three years, and I loved all of them. This is definitely a local event that I will continue to love and support in the future.