A Loud and Hypnotic Night with Ride at Theatre Fairmount

In a Montreal spring, many days you look up, sure it’s about to start raining, the sky dark, and atmospheric pressure pressing down on you so much you almost feel under the weather, but the clouds never open, and that release of rain is never found. This was the case on Monday, May 13th, when Ride came to Fairmount Theatre with its equally pummelling guitars and abrasive sound. 

The Oxford band found early success with their breakout debut Nowhere (1990), which garnered critical and charting acclaim and is still considered one of the most important shoegaze records released. Shortly after, in 1992, Ride released Going Blank Again, another beloved classic of the genre. The band released a few more records before disbanding in 1995, and finally reuniting in 2015, abandoning fans’ nostalgic wishes for them to continue in the shoegaze tradition and embracing broader rock sounds. 

First up on the bill was local band Karma Glider. The band is fronted by Susil Sharma and features Jean-Philippe Bourgeois (bass), Jean-Philippe Godbout (drums), Charlie Neufeld (guitar), and was joined by Wesley MacNeil on keys, who you may know from fellow Mothland outfit Nightlunch. The band played mostly off their excellent 2023 record Future Fiction (#4 most-played release on CJLO last year). Karma Glider makes noisy indie rock, with a bit of a shoegaze bent, that was more on display in their live performance than their recorded music. The set was brash and energetic, with plenty of impressive guitar playing from Sharma. Later into the set, Sharma mentioned the next songs were from an upcoming EP. One of the songs, “Sugarcane” strongly utilized MacNeil for a more synthy sound. 

Between sets, I talked with a local musician who told me that Karma Glider went drastically over their allotted time, which made sense, as it was creeping towards 9:00 PM, with another band to go and Ride set to play at 9:15 PM. With that, Philadelphia’s Knifeplay entered Fairmount’s wide stage, saying they’d be playing a shortened set due to time constraints. Knifeplay ended up only playing two songs, though, as a shoegaze band, both songs were well over five minutes. Knifeplay, which TJ Strohmer started as a bedroom project, now performs as a six-piece, crafting beautiful, slow tunes, layered with distortion. Despite their short set, Knifeplay certainly wowed Fairmount, with their packed stage presence and room-filling guitars. After their second tune, guitarist Johnny Klein leaned into the mic to say “We have merch in the back” and the band promptly left the stage. Ouch… but fair. 

After a brief break, the lights turned down and recorded drum instrumentation began, the LED lights behind Fairmount’s stage lit up to say “RIDE,” and the crowd started cheering. The band entered the stage and launched into “Peace Sign,” the opening track off of their 2024 album Interplay. The band played through a few more tracks from Interplay, solid rock tunes, with less of the drony shoegaze sound the band originally became renowned for. But then, the iconic drum beat started and the venue knew it was time to go back to 1990 for, in my opinion (and that of resident CJLO shoegaze expert, Omar of Hooked on Sonics), the song we were waiting for – “Dreams Burn Down.” Cellphones went up in the air and the crowd started singing along to this classic. When the song finished, guitarist and vocalist Mark Gardener simply said, “That was a shoegaze song,” before going into the next track. 

He did this a few times throughout the show, likely poking fun at the recent renaissance the genre is having. This Fairmount show consisted of mostly the demographic you’d expect for a band that’s been at it since the early 1990s. Unlike the Duster concert of a few months earlier, which was packed with teenagers shoulder to shoulder against the barricade, this audience was around the band's age. However, there was certainly still a fair share of eager high schoolers and college kids packed up front. It’s safe to say that Ride hasn’t hit it big on TikTok the way some of their peers have, which is a shame, as their early output is some of the best of its genre. 

Ending off their set with their most famous song “Vapour Trail” and then the similarly-iconic “Seagull” and “Leave Them All Behind,” the audience came alive again, singing along to “Vapour Trail” especially loud. 

Some highlights off their new album included “Monaco” and “Last Night I Went Somewhere to Dream,” which had the audience dancing to the catchy rock tunes. Interplay sounds almost nothing like the seminal Nowhere and Going Back Again, but live, somehow it works. While, yes, you could tell the audience was rearing up, clamouring to hear their favourite classic shoegaze songs, the band’s no-fucks attitude and technical skill made even the new stuff feel pretty great. 

Aviva Majerczyk is the magazine editor at CJLO 1690AM. She is also the host of The Alley, a folk-rock show airing Fridays at 11:00 AM.